Story by Julia Steele
Photos by Jack Wolford
Kay Ebesugawa is cranking. It’s two days to New Year’s, and Kay is crafting one bouquet after another that will celebrate the arrival of 2010. Her one-woman production line is perfectly honed: Fill the bottom of a white bowl with green foam, add bamboo stalks and leaves, gnarled juniper branches, chrysanthemums (yellow and white), paper fans, origami cranes. Repeat. When the phone rings, she answers; when a customer needs help, she helps. Otherwise she stays focused, expertly crafting arrangements of elegant beauty.
None of which would be unusual in a flower shop—except that Kay is 92 years old.
A countertop over, her sister, Ann, is working on bouquets for graves. Ann’s got her own system down: Fill a large green can with folded ti leaves, add ginger, heliconia, sunflowers, anthuriums. Repeat. Ann, too, has a great eye: Each of her bouquets is a knockout. Like her sister, she works at breakneck speed. She estimates she’s made fifty bouquets this morning, and she’ll make another fifty before the day is done. Ann’s age? “I never tell people my age,” she says dryly, “because it makes me feel sick.”