Jilly D.

Smell the money, honey

In Holidays, Pictures and memories, Time and seasons on October 19, 2011 at 3:46 am

October smells like evergreens. When the long afternoon sun hits the woods and I walk through the pines and maples along Six Mile Creek, I suck in the scent of autumn. The corn stalks blew dry and brown in the past few weeks and everything rustles in the breeze.

Years ago I spent most of my Octobers and Novembers making Christmas wreaths for the Trumansburg Tree Farm. Tina Podkaminer started the wreath-making business from the scraps cut from the trees destined for New York City’s green markets. Her husband, Joel, continued to hire local women during the pre-holiday season for many years after Tina began her own successful catering business, called Word of Mouth. Hmmm. For many years she and her business partner, Katie Crumm, served our my yellow and green beans in season to distinguished Ithaca guests, including Toni Morrison, and private wedding ceremonies. Eggs from our chickens made up in some of their baked goodies makes me proud years later when they continue to buy local and produce quality cuisine.

The intoxicating fumes of fresh evergreens gives me a bad case of ‘wreather madness’ every year around this time. We had such fun, six or more of us at a time in the heated garage, singing along to the radio’s holiday sound track and cutting up evergreen boughs, bunching green bouquets, and crimping bunches of greens together into wreaths. It felt like working in Santa’s workshop.

I’d kept incredible notes and sketches of my work as a wreather. The various species of evergreens and their habitats and cutting instructions to highlight the beauty of these greens. My pride in this work astonished me. I worked diligentlyone day with my team of wreathers to produce a twelve-foot in diameter wreath of breathtaking beauty to hang on the World Trade Center. One of three. I can still remember how beautiful the juniper berries were in the mix of white pine, blue spruce, douglas, frasier…. An intoxicating mix of deciduous cuttings.

The best day of the week was Friday. Payday. We worked hard all week to build up a pile of wreaths in various sizes to take down to New York City on the Thursday night run. Friday morning we worked just as hard knowing the cold wet weather would keep our rounds of green fresh and fragrant.

Mrs. Burr had worked for Joel many years and enjoyed earning her gift monies for her friends and family. Married to a dairy farmer, she liked working so she could spend her own money on store-bought things.

“Did you ever notice the smell of cedar on your twenty-dollar bills, girls?” Mrs. Burr asked us one Friday mid-morning. “I’m serious.”

I looked at her. I looked at the rest of us around the L-shaped workbench where we stood cutting up branches into bunches and crimped them into place onto a metal ring. I started to smile. Sue burst out laughing. So did I.

“What? What?” Stephanie said. “Smell of cedar?”

“You better smell your money, honey,” said Mrs. Burr. “I think Joel keeps his money in a cedar chest. That’s what I think. ”

I looked around and we all started laughing, gut busting hard. Smell the money.

Funny thing is, I did smell my money that week. It didn’t smell like anything. I checked every week and never noticed any cedar scent.

Now Blue Spruce and Juniper have their own odors. The firs have real fragrance and the pines have distinct scents: green, white, red.

A bed of needles turns orange in October. A fragrance of memories. Do you smell money, honey? Cedar knows.

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