(In this scene,
the main character, a thirty-something confused first-time
mother, discovers a handmade notebook left on the table
by her grandmother)
The next page was blank except for dots of ink that had bled
through from the page after. Turning the page, I found writing
that quivered like Grandmas hands.
"Time For Tending Roses," I whispered the title and thought of
the beautiful rose garden that bloomed on the lawn in summertime.
It had been there as long as I could remember, carefully
manicured, with every bloom perfect-- just as perfect and neat as
everything else in Grandmas household.
Time For Tending Roses
I read the title again, then dove into the story with a strange
hunger for the words.
When I was a young woman, I seldom owned anything of which to be
proud. When I was old enough to work in a shop in St. Louis and
live on my own, most of my wage was sent home to provide for my
younger brothers and sisters, for my parents had not even their
health by this time. When I was married, I came to my
husbands farm with all that I owned packed in a single
crate. Everything I saw, or tasted, or touched around me belonged
to my husband. I felt as the air in that big house, needed and
used, but not seen.
God sent an answer to me in worship that spring, when an old
woman told me she wanted the gardens cleaned around her house,
and if I would do the work, I might have flower bulbs and starts
of roses as my pay. My husband pretended to think the idea rather
foolish, as I was needed on the farm, but he was patient with me
as I worked through the early spring cleaning gardens and moving
starts to a newly-tilled bed by our farm house. He was older than
I, and I think he understood that I needed something of my
Those roses were the finest things I had been given in my life,
and I tended them carefully all spring. As the days lengthened,
they grew well and blossomed in the summer heat, as did I. Coming
in and out of the house, I would look at them-- something that
belonged to me, growing in soil that belonged to him.
Even passing folk admired my roses, for my work made the blooms
large and full. Once, a poor hired lady came with a bouquet of
roses and wildflowers clasped in her hands. She told me that her
children had sneaked into my garden and picked them for her, and
that they would be punished. I bade her not to scold the
children, for I was proud to give them this gift. She smiled, and
thanked me, and told me that, with so many children, she had no
time for tending roses.
I did not understand her words until my own children were born.
When the first was a babe, I took her outside and let her play in
an empty wash barrel so I could have time for tending my roses. I
was often cross with her cries while I was at my work. As she
grew, and as my second child was born, I understood what the
hired lady had told me-- that motherhood leaves no time for
selfish pleasures. Only time
for tending others.
My roses grew wild and died as I busied myself with feeding and
diapering, nursery rhymes and sick beds. I missed those bright
blooms that had been mine and felt it unfair that I must leave my
hard work there to die. But I did not think of it overmuch. My
mind and heart were occupied with the sorrows and joys of
The day came, it seemed in no time, when my children were grown
and gone, and I again found time to tend the roses. I could labor
over them dawn until dusk with no children to feed, no husband
needing meals, and few passers by on the old road. My flowers
have come thick and full and beautiful again. From time to time,
I see neighbor children come to pick them when I am silent in my
house. I close my eyes and listen to their laughter, and think
that the best times of my life, the times that passed by me the
most quickly, were the times when the roses grew wild.
The sense of sadness in those last words was overwhelming. For a
moment, I glimpsed my own future-- considered a day when I would
sit alone in a quiet house trying to fill my time-- at the end of
things rather than at the beginning. The beginning of a journey
is always uncertain, but with uncertainty comes hope. Never had I
appreciated the value of that. Through all of my adult life, I
had wanted to know exactly where I was going and what path to
take to get there. I had never considered the beauty of where I
was. Sitting there in Grandmas kitchen, holding her book,
I thought of her as a young woman not able to see that something
wonderful was passing-- not missing the noise until she was
surrounded by silence.
For the first time in my life, I was very glad just to be where
Copyright © 2002 Lisa Wingate