July 19, 2017

Dear Mom,

I used to hate roses because they reminded me of you: beautiful, with dangerous thorns. But when I planted your favorite flower on your 100th birthday, you sent me a sign. Now, I embrace you completely, Mother Dear.

I love you, Mom, thorns and all.

If you were still alive, you would’ve adored shopping for rose bushes at the garden center. Even I enjoyed checking out dozens and dozens of varieties. Inhaling their perfume opened up the old wound of missing you. Has it really been eight years since you passed on from this world?

You were a brave Chinese immigrant. Of course, you were also a control-freakish diva who made me nuts. I get it, though. You suffocated your two daughters with your needs because we’re all you really had. It must’ve been tough, being married to a cheating, drinking husband who popped prescription meds like candy.

As I wandered among the roses, I suddenly saw the purpose in your thorns. They kept hurtful people from getting too close. Thorns defined your boundaries. They kept you safe. Thorns can be a good thing.

I love you, Mom, thorns and all.

My mom

My plan was to get one rose bush. I ended up with five. I chose them based on their scent and looks. But at the check-out, I paused to read the labels with each of their names. The symbolism left me speechless. And I felt your presence. I love you Mom, thorns and all

You’re the Europeana, the double-petaled blossom in deep red, your favorite color.

The name suits you, given the years you spent in Belgium, working on a PhD in chemistry. Your exquisite French accent and elegant dresses made you such a pretty, intelligent snob.

I love you Mom, thorns and all.

Of course, the two pots of wild, climbing roses are Dad. They’re exactly the kind he grew when we lived in Jersey, before moving to Chinatown. How fitting — they’re called Don Juans, named for a famous Spanish guy who seduced women.

Since I’ve been in therapy a million years and am all about self-care, you know I needed roses in my favorite color, too. Can’t make everything about you and Dad, right?

So we have the deep orange Fragrant Cloud. It smells like pure sensuality, spicy and sweet. It’s there for me and Sis.

Then, there’s another purchase just for me. Pale orange petals, streaked in red edges. I was shocked to see that they’re called the Betty Boop. This has to be a sign from you, I’m sure of it.

The Betty Boop

The shopping spree led to a hot, sweaty afternoon of digging up the front yard. And that’s only the beginning.

Planting a rose garden

Like you, roses need pampering. Not too much water or they’ll rot. Lots of sun, around six hours a day. Plenty of space for aeration. Rose care is my new meditation, a way to show I love you Mom, thorns and all.

Guess this means I’m learning to smell the roses.

Happy Birthday, Ma!


I love you Mom, thorns and all

Want to wish my mommy a Happy 100th Birthday? Let her know she’s beautiful, that we embrace the message of her thorns. It’s a hug that celebrates having boundaries, and the belief that we deserve to be loved — and loved well.  Thanks for stopping by!