A bunch of authors got into the subjects of memories and death. It sent me down a path I try to avoid, my family. But the past is there and I can’t change it. When I wrote A Rancher’s Woman, I realized that Alisa Coleman’s young daughters would have been the ages of my grandmothers and Alisa would have been my great-grandmother’s peer. I never knew the one great-grandmother because she died before I was born, but I had been around the other one on several occasions and I must have stayed with her at some point. I found her fascinating. Even as a an old woman, she had a tiny waist and was very proud of her 21 inches, but whined she’d never managed to get back to her 19 inches.
As a teen, the best I ever managed was 23 inches, and I was in top physical shape. Now I can’t imagine my waist ever being that small. But it was while writing A Rancher’s Woman that it dawned on me why that great-grandmother’s waist was so tiny. Corsets! She’d probably worn them from the time she was young. Her body molded to them. Every night, she did exercises and would brag how she could lie on the floor, reach behind her, grab her ankles, and rock on her tummy. I remember seeing her do it. She could rock from her chin to her knees. I realize now that she was a tough old bird!
I really don’t remember anything much about her death. But I remember asking many years later about going to a house with all the roses. My parents had no idea what I was talking about, then slowly it dawned on my dad. It was my great-grandmother’s funeral. That strange house was a funeral home and yes, it was covered in roses. Putting pieces together, she must have died in the summer because there were roses apparently from her garden and anyone who know her brought roses with them. The place was overflowing with vases of roses. If they weren’t bought from the florist, they were brought by friends and family from the garden. The scent was extremely strong. My memory only consists of the scent, the strange house with all the roses, and all the people crammed into the room.
I was terribly shy if I didn’t know someone, and funerals do bring together family members that I had probably never seen. My dad said he saw me under the casket table hiding behind all the roses. I was quiet and that’s all that mattered. He said he left me there until it was time to go. I’m going to assume it was probably a viewing I attended.
We had a rose bush when I was growing up. It sat by the corner of the house and every few years my father could cut it down and my mom would be furious. It was a thorny thing with a few red blossoms and the Japanese beetles loved it. My father must have hated it. But my mom would cut a few roses, if it bloomed, and bring them into the house. Like my dad, I thought the roses were pretty, but those thorns were deadly! Today, I realize the bush should have been trellised. Those long canes would reach out and grab me if I walked too close.
I lived under the forsythia bush in the backyard. That was my secret place. I could sit there for hours and play in the cool shade. I loved when it bloomed. It was like a giant yellow waterfall. The whole world looked yellow from under that bush. I was safe under there. No thorns!
We had another piece of property nearby and there were blackberry bushes there. My father could never con me into picking blackberries, but I could eat them as fast as he picked them.
At some point before I was born, my father had planted barberry bushes as a fencing. True, they are pretty shrubs, but they are even more vicious than rose bushes. Going barefoot was never allowed according to my mom, yet my dad admitted he always ran barefoot as a child. Of course, the one time I ran barefoot through the yard, I managed to put a barberry thorn into the arch of my foot. I was about eight at the time and I knew I’d be in big trouble. I pulled it out, washed my feet, and put on my sandals. My foot swelled. I had an angry red lump and it wasn’t going away. I had to ‘fess up’ to what I had done. It was infected and I remember my mother doctoring it. At some later date, I was at the doctor’s office and he called it a puncture wound. He cut it open, cut out something, and gave me three stitches. For the next 25 years, I had a problem with that part of my foot. Something in there pulled when I wore heels or moved a certain way.
As a teen, I had a job working for the florist. The owner knew I wasn’t fond of working with roses, but he used to “de-thorn” all roses leaving his shop. He said he never saw anyone who attacked those thorns and removed them with such zeal as I did.
As an adult, I’ve learned to deal with rose bushes, blackberries, and even thorny weeds. But I don’t like them. I’ll never own a rose bush. I’ll sniff the flowers in my neighbors’ yards, but I don’t want one. Life is full of thorns and they aren’t always on bushes.
And just for fun, I decided to join a bunch of friends for the Sizzling Summer Sale! It runs June 24-28 and I’ve dropped my newest novel With This Ring to 99 cents. So grab it quick! It’s going back to $3.99 after the sale.
(Just click on the pictures or the titles.)