To mum or not to mum? For many Texans, the answer to that question is an enthusiastic yes.
From its more humble start in the mid-20th century as a real chrysanthemum flower given by a boy to his homecoming date, similar to a prom corsage, the homecoming mum of today is supersized.
The flower, or flowers, are now silk to serve as a keepsake. Ribbons and bells cascade from a cardboard or Plexiglass backing. The mum is a personal reflection of its owner. And there’s no way you can pin it on. You carry it or wear it around your neck during spirit week and to the football game but not to the dance. Boys also have the option to wear a garter around their arm.
For many high schoolers, like Shepherd Park Plaza’s Camille Smith, who goes to St. Agnes, a mum is a homecoming must.
“We had homecoming at our middle school but having mums and garters wasn’t a big deal, like it is in high school,” Smith said. “It was something to look forward to. It’s cool that you can personalize it to the girl’s interests.”
Smith’s mum, a gift from her date, was purchased by his mother from a Strake Jesuit group who makes them and sells a limited number online. The mum had dance figurines to reflect Smith’s dance team membership and football stickers because her friend was a football player. Smith, with parental help, made her date’s garter.
Making mums is a time-consuming endeavor and for that reason, many florists don’t do them anymore.
“We quit doing mums six or seven years ago because it takes forever,” said Wally Nobles of Heights Floral Shop. “The kids wanted to add so many things. We do everything else, though.”
In the place of florists, a number of do-it-yourself mum makers have emerged – and they are very busy this time of year. Oak Forest sisters Donna Webb and Debby Hobart burned the midnight oil all week to fulfill a lot of last-minute orders from St Pius X High School.
“Our biggest clients this year are freshman from St. Pius,” Webb said.
The sisters started making mums about 10 years ago for their Waltrip High School kids after the sticker shock of the $85-$100 price tag they saw elsewhere. Their mums start at $50 for one with everything else included. More mums, though, mean more money.
“The biggest one had around 17 mums,” Webb said. “The dad said he wanted it as big as Texas for his daughter.”
Webb and Hobart have their system down now – as well as a giant ribbon rack built for them by Randy Stuart of Stuart’s Home Improvements.
“She’s very crafty,” Webb said of her sister. “She glues it (and) I do the pieces.”
They purchase their supplies at craft stores early and each mum takes them about three hours of combined work. Still, they enjoy it. Webb says that after this week, they have more mums to prepare for Heights High School’s homecoming.
Ashlee Garcia is another mum maker who has been at it since high school.
“I started making for them for myself and friends,” Garcia said. “I preferred to make them myself because when I would order them I was never happy with the outcome and would always add more.”
A few weeks ago, Garcia hosted a mum-making party for St. Rose of Lima middle school students.
“It was so great to see the school show so much spirit,” Garcia said. “The great thing about mums nowadays is that you can add so much individuality to them. Mums provide a lasting memory for homecoming and not to mention it is a Texas (tradition). So to keep these little traditions going like this is really important to me.”
Barbara Pilato started making mums for family and friends and now takes orders from high schools as far away as Atascocita, Summer Creek, Humble, Klein Collins and Katy.
“My biggest clientele come from St. Pius, Waltrip, Lutheran High North and Heights High School,” Pilato said. “I enjoy making mums. It is good seasonal money for me, but I love to see the smile on the face of a young man picking up his mum for his date or the parents buying their daughter’s first mum. Just the look on their faces is priceless. I get to be a part of all that year after year.”