Each Mother's Day when I was growing up, my mother would perform her last task of that Sunday morning by walking outside and snipping red roses from the scraggly rosebush outside her bedroom window. She would pin a rose on the shirt or dress of each of her five children, making them ready for church. Dutifully we wore the red roses, signifying that we were honoring our mother, and all the other children at Sunday school would have their red roses, too. A few adults would wear white roses in memory of their deceased mothers. By the time I was 12, both my parents were wearing white roses, too, but I cannot remember where those roses came from; not from our yard.
We had but one rosebush in our yard, and it got no attend throughout the year except for that second Sunday in May when our mother would take five cuttings from the sickly shrub and pin each one on a child's bodice. Our little rosebuds were not large or fancy or even brightly colored. The rosebush whence they came was not properly pruned, fertilized or sprayed for pests, so its flowers were not the best.
And only once a year, on the second Sunday of May, would anyone give any thought to that dull shrub. If it produced five or seven passable rosebuds once a year, it had fulfilled its mission.
By early afternoon of Mother's Day, our rosebuds would look bedraggled; petals would be missing, having fallen away or having been plucked by curious fingers. But it didn't matter; the red roses had been seen. We children had acknowledged our allegiance and gratitude for the woman who gave us life and made sure we had a rose to wear once a year.
A decade ago, I graduated to white roses, to memory rather than honor, and our yard, far away from the little house with the rosebush outside the bedroom window, boasts three rose bushes, two bearing red roses and one with an avalanche of whitish-pink blooms. This Sunday, I won't wear a rose on my lapel; I will skip church to see my wife and my daughter run in a race called "Run Like a Mother" and celebrate the lives of all those mothers in my life and my memory.