I was watching the severed heads of roses fall one by one in my Grandmother’s basket when I asked her why it was she had to prune them back so viciously. She looked up at me, put down her pruning scissors and took my hand, walking with me to the woods that crawled hesitantly but certainly up to the back of her home.
Grandma pointed out the wild roses which smelled so sweet, and said “No one waters these roses, nor feeds them, nor cares much about them at all; yet they still thrive.”
“Lydia, wild roses need neglect to thrive, and the roses I raise need cruelty to survive.”
My Mum’s approach was much different. She too wanted rosebushes that bloomed as profusely and smelled as sweet as my Grandmothers roses, so she started her own. Mum talked to them, mulched them, watered them daily, and in every conceivable way gave them the care only a less hardy plant would need.
Her rosebushes never bloomed, despite her daily and loving care.
Mum and my Father separated later that year; I was quite happy with this development, as my father was often to be found either beating my Mum, or out at all hours while she waited at home, worrying about his safety.
Father stayed in our childhood home while Mum moved to a tiny apartment in our nearby town.
During the following year they stayed apart, my Father did not look after the roses; he never watered them, nor lavished them with love, caring, mulch, or any of the other daily habits my mother had made during her time with them.
Mum eventually moved back into our home while Father moved to his own place near where the “action” was; though what action a town of about 13,000 people can hold, I don’t know; as I’m sure you’ll understand, I didn’t make a pretense at caring, either.
I visited Mum shortly after she had moved back in our childhood home, and as she ushered me out the door to show me around, she stopped by the rosebush she had dedicated so much time to in the past.
I stared in shock; the lovely, delicate scent danced through my nose as my Mum looked on proudly. The profusion of blooms beat anything I’d ever seen at my Grandmothers, and while my Mum chatted on at her ease, I thought about how much her life had changed since she left my Father and her roses.
Plant and human had been treated with neglect and cruelty.
It brought out the best in both.