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Picking roses

 

Jan Swoope

 

It may be because this is the 100th anniversary of Mother's Day. Or more likely, it's because of the enormous tree felled by recent storms in the backyard of the homeplace -- the house where my two sisters, brother and I were raised. But something has had my mother much on my mind. 

 

I was grown and married when she died; I've now been without her for more years than I was with her on this earth. One might think the memories would blur. But they don't, right? You know.  

 

I remember Mother's Day mornings, when she, my sisters and I would go to the back patio to snip roses from bushes climbing up a tall red brick wall bordering a flower bed -- a white rose if your mother was deceased, a red one if she was living. We each pinned one on and wore it to church in honor of our mothers. 

 

I don't have roses to harvest, but I delight in thinking about the woman who sewed into the midnight hours to finish Easter dresses, stitched our names in sequins on Christmas stockings, dressed up like a hobo at Halloween, and let us have a spider monkey as a pet.  

 

She loved holidays and set beautiful tables for all of them. She hosted wedding and baby showers and led Girl Scout troops. She flicked that porch light more times than I can count to signal boyfriends the date was over. And she took care of her own mother when the time came for her to come live with us for part of each year.  

 

My mother was among the first members of Fairview Baptist Church, and it was a second home. And I mean home. She wasn't loud or boistrous, but instead was one of those people quietly on hand for every church function, bringing food, serving pieces -- even furniture -- from her house. She taught Sunday School and led the youth choir and, at one point, the adult choir. She and Daddy both instilled a love of music in us all.  

 

We butted heads from time to time, as mothers and children do. I clearly recall an impromptu lecture in a hallway at home about not using the talents God gives us. I think it had something to do with piano practice. And I laugh remembering my dear parents' consternation during a short phase of burning incense around the age of 14. The world around us had gone psychedelic; I suppose they worried about insidious influences. The phase was short, by the way, at their decree. 

 

My mother, that patient woman, survived the mild insurrections of my teen years -- sneaking in bedroom windows way past curfew, and going to the Southernaire on group dates in college to dance, to name a couple. When I finally met the man I was sure was the one years later, she was with me all the way.  

 

I am a fan of Sarah Ban Breathnach's book "Simple Abundance," and forever appreciate Doris Ebner for giving it to me years ago. It tells us the difference between feeling as though we're living lives of lack or abundance is gratitude. I believe it. 

 

I'm grateful for my mother. I wish I could be as gracious and unselfish as she was. I'll keep working on it. 

 

The 19th century humorist and author Fanny Fern said, "There are no small things. 'Little things' are the hinges of the universe." I consider it a great gift to be able to remember the little things that first spoke to us as young girls, or boys. Like those roses on Mother's Day mornings.  

 

The tall red brick wall has mostly crumbled, and one of the patios exploded into chunks of concrete when the big tree fell April 28. But for my sisters and I -- we lost our brother in 2008 -- those flowers are still just as real.

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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