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Roses Are...

by Kathryn Ptacek

Every June I throw open my garden gates to my neighbors. I am especially fond of the younger people coming to see the fruits of my spring labors. And in June, of course, my roses bloom. What started out as a handful of bushes years ago now numbers dozens and dozens. Tangerine and pink, crimson and ivory, butterscotch and coral, as well as every hue in between. Hybrid tea, floribunda, ramblers, miniature, species, and shrub ... I have them all.

I use these fragrant flowers for so many things, and I delight in rose hip tea on a cool summer's eve. And of course, in the language of flowers, roses whisper love.

Some people are meant to be together, no matter what.

My young neighbors tolerated my little prepared speech about the many uses of roses ¬ although one girl fidgeted ¬ and then I said that my roses, though, were even more special.

“How?" one teen demanded. Debbie was her name, and she'd been in trouble with the cops in one way or the other since her family moved in several years ago.

“You'll see,"¯ I said.

In answer she snapped her gum.

Oh, how I hate rude children.

Anne, the girl from across the street, gazed around at the riot of color. "Antiqua," ¯I said as she paused in front of the apricot-colored hybrid tea rose.

“I've never seen a color like that ¬¯ and what a wonderful scent! It smells like fruit!"¯

“It's the soil," I said, although I knew it was more than that. “And roses are in the apple family, you know."¯

The other girl tittered. “Talk about fruity." She snapped her gum again and resumed her bored expression, but not before I saw her gazing hungrily at the boy from the corner house.

“What are you looking at?"¯ Mark asked as he joined us. “Cool. Must be a new one, huh?"¯ he said to me.

I nodded. Mark had been here a number of times.

“The petals look so soft. Do you mind if I ...?"

“Go ahead."

A visible jolt shot through Anne as she touched the velvety petals. Her lips opened partly, and she smiled, even though her eyes filled with tears. “Mom, I miss you so much! What are you doing here?"¯

Anne's mother died not long ago of cancer.

She nodded once, then twice, and said, "I do too," and there was such a sadness in her voice that I wished I could bring her mother back to life. Alas, I could not; I could, though, bring back the spirit of a lost one.

Anne continued to talk to her mother, then slowly, reluctantly, released the rose petals. She leaned into Mark, who put an arm around her and stroked her hair.

"Who did you see?" Anne asked finally.

"My granddad. He died when I was twelve. He said he'd watched me try out for soccer, said he knew I'd make that goal in the first game." Mark chuckled at the memory.

"Would I see my mother again with another rose?"

"Any time you want to come over here ..."

Anne sniffed once, twice, then nodded, her hair curling against her cheek. Gently Mark tucked the strand of hair behind her ear.

The mothers of these two visited me when their children were toddlers and asked for a potion. These two good friends wanted their children to love each other, and I nodded, but I knew even then that a potion wasn't needed. Some people are meant to be together, no matter what. To satisfy the hopeful mothers, though, I sprinkled rose petals around their sprouts, and over the years I watched as the children grew and their love unfolded like the petals of a rose.

"Yeah, right," Debbie said with a sneer. She grabbed a rose and recoiled as the petals turned grey. I stepped away so I did not feel her pain. There would be no good memories for her, no visions of a loved one. Oh, I supposed I could brew a potion for her. But truly some people are meant to be unloved, as harsh as that may seem. Some people don't have a soul. They are as empty as a new flower pot, and no matter what seeds you plant, nothing grows. She touched another rose ... dust. She wiped her hands against her jeans and fled, but not before I saw tears spilling down her cheeks.

I watched the young couple, now openly holding hands, as they examined other roses. Anne touched a white floribunda, and Mark rested his hand on hers.

And sometimes, seeds bloom into something even more spectacular than you expected. It's the soil, I told myself, and chuckled.

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published May 31, 2003

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