Often, the last day of our four-day Wreath Week is a frenzy as everyone races to finish the final orders in time for delivery. This year was much more mellow. Most of us only had one or two wreaths to make and, by lunch time, things were wrapping up.
Even so, it was an exhausting week. It always amazes me that I can get so tired and sore all over just from standing and decorating wreaths for 9 or 10 hours a day. I must be terribly out of shape. While my arthritic thumb joints were protesting, my back, legs, and shoulders were equally upset with me. Even though I look forward to Wreath Week for months, Day 4 makes me glad there is no Day 5.
My last assignment was a matched pair, "designer's choice," for a building on Marlborough Street, I chose a light gold bow for visibility from the sidewalk and then privately resolved to out-do myself by incorporating a wider variety of materials, including using up just about everything I'd been "hoarding" since Monday.
I used: gold pinecones, pine sprays, magnolia leaves, holly, yarrow, yucca pods, lotus pods, more golden jingle bells, clusters of little gold glass balls, some kind of dried ivory buds I can't identify, protea, eucalyptus berries, some sort of little woody flowers, and the last of the very delicate, fluffy greens I'd never seen before.
The wreaths took a long time; I was the second-to-last decorator working while everyone else was eating lunch, packing up tubs of stuff to take back to the storage area 'til next year, sweeping, and folding up tables.
There wasn't much left on my table to clean up when I was done. I put my tools in my bag and I peeled the medical tape from my finger tips, which hand been pricked by thorns and holly in spite of it. Then I went to the kitchen and scooped up some Crisco from the package we keep by the sink to clean our hands. We rub in the Crisco, scrub our nails with plastic vegetable brushes (which doesn't help but feels useful), and then wash our hands with dish detergent. Most of the pitch comes off, but not all of it.
I still have grimy-looking cuticles a week later. Showering and doing dishes isn't enough to help. What I need is a few days of soaking in a nice hot tub with a pile of old New Yorkers that can get soggy. Alas. (I finally finished the October 10 issue this morning. It took me about six weeks. An article about Karl Marx almost did me in.)
I went upstairs, where all the finished wreaths are kept until they are delivered by our volunteer drivers or picked up by customers. There was an unhappy customer surveying her wreath, which had a pretty burgundy bow. It had been a new decorator's maiden effort and, since it was supposed to be an indoor wreath, she had used a lot of dyed burgundy grassy material to coordinate with the bow. But the customer had decided to hang the wreath outside instead and found that the red dye would run when it got wet. It also smelled fishy.
I took the customer and the wreath downstairs to our quality-control team. They promised the customer that we'd fix the wreath and she agreed to come back later for it. We pulled off the grass and there wasn't a lot of decorating left — just some big heads of yarrow, a few pinecones and lotus pods and sprays of cedar.. I was asked to redecorate it with whatever I could scavenge.
We were almost done emptying the basement and packing everything in cars to go to the storage unit. But someone gave me some pinecones and someone else handed me magnolia leaves, probably fished from a trash barrel but still in good shape. I found blue eucalyptus pods lying under a table, and there were a few yucca and lotus pods sitting around, along with the last of someone's rose hips. Someone produced some florist picks, just enough that I could attach everything to the wreath. I worked as fast as I could.
When I was done, there was a mix of plain, gold, and glittered pinecones and lotus pods. It looked odd and not up to our standards. Everyone was putting on their coats to leave. I did the unthinkable: I grabbed a can of glitter paint, since the spray paint hadn't been packed away yet, and sprayed all the plain materials right onto the wreath. It did the trick. I like this woodsy, wild wreath a lot.
Then I slowly walked home, still in my apron. Another Wreath Week was over . . . and soon our beautiful wreaths would be all over the neighborhood adding our signature holiday style. We can all spot our wreaths instantly since they stand out from the rest with their perfect bows — we can even tell when a former customer has recycled their old bow onto a new wreath.
Now it was time for me to reconnect with my cats and husband. And decorate our apartment.