It became an indulgence I couldn’t live without—at least I chose not to. During my years as a single working woman in New York, I discovered my reverence for roses. They were dear in price and availability but the joy they brought turned them into a necessity.
When I got paid on Fridays I headed straight for the flower shop. “I know, I know, one long-stemmed rose that will last all week,” the owner, a round little man, with a smile like a happy face emoji, would say when he saw me.
When I got home, I cut the stem at an angle, placed it in my milk glass bud vase and put it on the table-cloth covered card table that served as my dining area.
From there it became a moving exhibition.
My Village apartment had a tiny kitchen but a sizable bathroom where I loved to soak in a bubble bath with the rose perched on the side of the tub. Even Scarlett O’Hara, my eccentric Siamese cat who viewed the bathroom as her home, knew not to mess with mommy’s flower.
Some nights the bud vase lived on the old oak desk under my bedroom window where it was illuminated by the lights of West 10th Street. Every day after work I clipped the stem and changed the water. I took pride in caring for it and watching the bud blossom gracefully into the week.
My reverence for roses followed me to California where I chose to live in a house that had a small rose garden. I still love starting my day by clipping a rose for the breakfast room table.
Without knowledge of my affinity, George brought me a single long-stemmed red rose on our first date thirty-some years ago. And when he asked me to marry him, he included a rose in what he called his proposal kit.
We took our trip down the aisle in the lush rose garden of a good friend and my bridal bouquet was, yes, a single long-stemmed rose.
On this rainy morning, as I look out the window, my roses are bathed in memories.
A few weeks before George died, he was working at his computer one evening when I asked him if I could make him a snack. Uncharacteristically, he snapped at me.
“Can’t you see that I’m busy!”
I apologized and left the room, understanding his need to complete a task without someone reminding him of how sick he was.
About ten minutes later I heard the front door open and close. When I looked out the courtyard window, I saw George wresting a rose from the bush beside the gate.
“I’m so sorry,” he said moments later when he came inside and handed me the flower.
For the next two weeks, I would clip the stem of that rose every day trying to sustain life. I tell the story to the roses in my garden as the rain covers them with tears.
And this week, on his birthday, I will tell the story to George.