Nothing is as sweet as picking a rose from the garden and breathing in its scent. But as beautiful as roses are, I have always had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the flower. It is no accident of nature that the loveliest of flowers has thorns, and to pick one can sometimes draw blood.
By Rebecca Johnston
The war of roses has come to mean many things to me. But most of all it signifies the dichotomy of roses at Mother’s Day.
When I was a child my father would always get up early on Mother’s Day and pick red roses along a fence, climbing roses that spilled over in profusion, but were night and day different from the lush red roses some of my friends would wear to church in corsages from the florist.
We didn’t have corsages from the florist at my house. Looking back, I am sure it was because money was usually tight in our household. But that didn’t stop my father from making sure we had red roses to honor our mother.
One of the most wonderful things about my father was his ability to infuse each detail of life with fun, no matter how simple or mundane. He would come in laughing and joking, his hands clasped around an abundance of those sweet blooms. His mother was alive in those days, she lived to be 96, and he would always pin a red rosebud on his lapel in a jaunty fashion.
We children would proudly pin those old-fashioned blossoms on our Sunday outfits and march happily into church at Canton First Baptist, pleased to be able to let the world know how much we loved our mother.
My mother’s favorite flower was always the red rose. They were profusely displayed at her funeral several years ago. As lovely as those red blossoms were, they were still bittersweet to me.
And then the first Mother’s Day came following her death and I could not bring myself to wear a white rose, used nowadays to commemorate a mother who has died.
Red roses traditionally honor a living mother. But that wasn’t always the case. In the early days, white flowers were used to signify the special day for all mothers. The holiday has its roots in a woman from West Virginia, Anna Jarvis, who is credited with organizing the first Mother’s Day in 1908. Her mother had died a few years before, and she wanted her church to have a recognition of mothers and how much they meant to their children.
The holiday was designed for children to celebrate their own mother as the best mother in the world, something almost every child feels. In 1914 the second Sunday in May was officially set aside by President Woodrow Wilson to honor mothers.
Mother’s Day is one of the most observed holidays on the calendar, with the third most cards purchased and probably almost as many roses sold as at Valentine’s Day. No matter that some say it is too commercialized, Mother’s Day is a sweet time of showing love and appreciation to one of the most important people in our lives.
In the language of flowers, red roses say “I love you,” and symbolize unconditional love, as well as courage and respect. White is the color of purity, reverence and perfection.
My mother was all those things to me, and so perhaps a blend of red and white roses best speaks to my feelings about her. The Wars of the Roses refers to heraldic badges associated with the two royal houses, the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster who fought for control of the English throne, but out of that battle came a rose that was both red and white.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, a rose by any color smells just as sweet, and symbolizes our love of our mothers. My reminiscences of my mother still linger in my heart and a bouquet of garden roses elicits sweet memories of our happy times together.
There are many ways to celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in Cherokee County. May and June are beautiful months for a drive through the countryside, a visit to Gibbs Gardens, a trip to Lake Allatoona or a hike in the foothills of north Cherokee.
I hope you enjoy this special season in the sun.