Is there any other symbol in the world that says “I love you” like a rose does? The delicate petals and gorgeous stemming…the way it’s both soft and tough…a symbol of a woman, really, if you think about it.
It’s perfect in every way.
I’m allergic to them. Terribly, horribly, awfully allergic. If you give me roses I will sneeze until the apocalypse, complete with runny nose, watery eyes, and a pounding headache. If one of those thorns prick me, I will have an immediate rash. Rose oil and all the floral perfumes with rose in them send me into a horrible sneeze fest.
My husband knows my poor allergy. He knows how much I love them and that it was my grandmother’s favorite flower (The Tyler Yellow Rose). He knows that I am fascinated with hybrids and that my great-grandmother had roses so incredibly close to the color blue that it was almost *there*. My grandmother planted red and white roses in star patterns all over her yard. My great-grandmother went for a more organic effect. She loved serendipity in rose generations. My husband has bought me some beautiful fake roses over the years. A shiny metal one is my favorite. 🙂
Every time I visited my great-grandmother she would cut me one beautiful rose from her garden and wrap it in a damp paper towel for me to keep. Once I caught a whiff of that cloying scent my eyes would instantly start to water. She’d assume I was crying (from the beauty of the flower) and I always let her believe that. I never wanted to hurt her feelings.
It didn’t take long for my grandmother to figure it out. She only had to treat me for an allergic reaction twice to pinpoint my allergy triggers. So, instead of working in her garden with her, she handed me a sketchbook and pencil with a suggestion to sketch them. I was devastated at not being able to help but started sketching so I could stay out there with her.While I sat in the chair upwind of the roses, she’d ask me to tell her silly stories of nonsense. I would and we’d end up laughing for most of the afternoon.
As time passed that long summer I got a lot better at sketching, we laughed a lot more, and she got a lot of pictures. One day I drew her prized Tyler roses in bloom. They were gorgeous! I thought I’d really done something special, but was afraid it was just my imagination. So, despite my fear of rejection, I showed it to my grandmother. She looked at my drawing then looked at the roses and gave her secret little smile.
“You’ve done something real special here,” she said in that soft southern twang I remember so well. “When my roses are long gone this winter, I’ll still have this beautiful picture of them to look at.” I don’t have to tell you how very proud I was of it after that. My grandmother had that picture up on her wall for decades. When she passed on, my mom handed me the still framed sketch.
Both my grandmother and great-grandmother are gone now, but these memories still remain. They were both romantic women at heart and their gardens were where they let that love grow. I will never be able to walk through a garden like that without suffering but I can show my love and appreciation elsewhere.
In books and stories. I can keep telling stories. There was only one thing (besides us grandkids) my grandmother loved more than her roses…and that was romance novels. I still sketch and draw but without a comfortable way to sit or strength in my hand, it’s become more of a challenge than ever. But I can still write. And I do. Every day. So if I have a character who has an affinity for roses, you should know it’s definitely not me, but is in memory of two amazing women who taught me that there’s always a way to appreciate beauty.