Our whispers in the silence of the strangers' bedroom echoed in our ears. Although we hushed our voices, we feared we would awaken our hosts who slept across the hall. Or were they already awake listening at the door to our conversation?
I eased up on my elbows to check our sleeping nine-month-old daughter lying on a blanket on the floor. Her usual baby snores assured me she was comfortably sprawled out within the make-shift fence of pillows to prevent her from rolling around in the unfamiliar room.
I shook my head in amazement how she could sleep so peacefully while my husband, Ted, and I had not slept a wink juggling the pros and cons of our next step that would affect her future and ours.
I snuggled back under the sheet against my husband's bare chest. Even if the bedroom was warm on that August night in 1975, I needed to be close to him for reassurance that the choice we had made during the long night was the right one. This decision was key to fulfilling the dream for our life's work. The life-changing decision for us hinged upon our host's acceptance of our proposition.
We had met Nellie and Jack yesterday afternoon for a tour of their small flower shop and greenhouses in the quaint town of Fremont, Michigan. The older couple was ready to retire and give up the business, so Nellie had placed the ad in the horticulture magazine to attract buyers. We drove 300 miles from our home to check into the business and property for sale.
In 1975 there was no GPS to help guide us to our destination. Instead, we only had printed maps to find our way through the rural countryside. Ted, ever the adventurer, had decided to take a short cut from Hamilton, Michigan, to Fremont. When we drove through an area with a bar, car dealership, and grocery store, we turned to each other and said, "Is this Fremont?" Relieved when we saw the sign that did not say Fremont, we motored on. According to the map, we had to be close. I was so excited my heart kicked up the rhythm as if I were running there instead of sitting in the passenger seat of our Ford Torino.
We followed the highway into the west side of Fremont and within a few miles, we spotted the Fairview Floral sign in the distance. With the anticipation of seeing this next greenhouse operation, my stomach felt like a feather pillow had exploded inside me.
Ted pulled the car into the parking lot and we just sat there taking in the enchanting two story chalet-style building that housed the flower shop. A small greenhouse was attached on the east side of the chalet and another one joined the west side.
Delighted with the appearance of Fairview Floral, I announced, "It doesn't look as rundown as what we've seen at those other places." This building was different. I actually was impressed by its welcoming charm.
Ted's smile widened. "I think we've arrived at the right place," he said. We'd followed the map's directions to find our destination. But was this place the right direction we should take for our future?
We found the owners, Jack and Nellie, waiting for us in the flower shop. Nellie was a short, plump woman with a large face made larger by jowls that moved when she talked. She greeted us in a gruff, business-like manner instead of the warm and friendly way I'd expected. Jack, a tall, slender-at-one-time Dutchman, with a pot belly accentuated by his tight shirt, had retired after working many years in a factory. He puttered in the greenhouses and, after spending the day with them, we realized he did what Nellie told him.
After touring the premises and driving around the charming town and scenic Fremont Lake with Jack, Nellie suggested we stay overnight with them to think about buying the place. I was shocked at the invitation, but she explained there was only one small motel in town and she didn't think we'd like it. I suspected she probably didn't want to give us a chance to leave to think twice about the idea of becoming business owners. And with her offer of dinner and a free place to stay for the night, we couldn't refuse to buy the place!
The thought of purchasing the operation was not an impulsive one. Instead, Ted had circled greenhouse businesses for sale in the magazine for greenhouse growers and florists. At first, the search for a business was an adventure for us. Ted was off work at AT&T for several weeks after surgery, so as a lark (to me and serious for him) we drove around the Midwest looking at places. We had already looked at greenhouse operations in our home state of Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan before arriving at Nellie's doorstep into Fairview Floral, the final stop on our list.
Ted's hobby greenhouse at home in Marseilles, Illinois, gave him a taste of growing plants and selling them to local residents. He derived so much joy from working with the plants, he decided he wanted to quit his dead-end job at AT&T and own a greenhouse business.
I was supportive of his aspiration, but I'd never planned to work in the greenhouse or considered managing a floral shop. I'd pictured myself adding to the family income by teaching in the elementary grades as I had done for the past five years before having our daughter. But his excitement about owning and operating a greenhouse was infectious. I began to feel like I wanted to join him in the adventure. This floral operation, this town had caught my heart.
We had so much to consider, you can probably imagine why we were up all night discussing the decision. Could we trust Jack and Nellie? Were they telling us the truth about the business?
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