[Rosie. Photo is mine.]
My mother passed away in her sleep on a quiet Easter Sunday morning in 1992. A sad event indeed. Just days before on Holy Thursday, she sat in the living room of our home and told the priest that she was tired and was prepared. She was ready. She also told him she wanted to depart this life on Easter. She got her wish. This event put into motion a series of events, a journey of sorts, in my life, that of my wife, Mariam and Cracklin Rosie.
A day later my wife and I drove to Tioga Gardens Nursery to pick out a spray of flowers for the funeral home viewing. The nursery was owned, I believe, by my high school classmate, Ed Kuhlman. He commiserated his sorrow at my mother’s passing and took an order for a floral display.
“Wait;” he said as we were leaving. “I have a gift for you, Pat.”
He disappeared into the depths of the greenhouse and emerged a few minutes later with a small potted plant.
“Here, this is from me. No charge. It’s a Begonia and I’ve named it Cracklin Rosie. I love Neil Diamond. Take care of her and she will bring back memories of you mom.”
[For all my botanists readers: Begonia x corellina hybrid. The plant scientist who created the hybrid named it after the Neil Diamond song. For years I thought it was Ed Kuhlman’s favorite song.]
We took the plant and departed. After the funeral and all the necessary things that had to be done, we headed back to New York City. I was a teacher and my wife was a nursing administrator at a major city hospital. We had to go forward to our lives. We put Cracklin Rosie in a nice place in our one bedroom apartment.
The years passed. We grew older and Rosie (we dropped the Cracklin part) grew up and out. Then up and out some more until she became as prominent a part of our home as a sofa or a library.
In 2000, we bought a lake side house in Rainbow Lake, NY. We rented it out on a weekly basis for several years. It helped to pay the mortgage. Then in 2005, I retired from teaching. Over thirty years of pushing chalk was now to become a memory.
In 2011, we let ourselves be bought out and left the City for our home in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York State.
We brought Rosie with us. By now, she was the size of a china closet. Every time we travelled abroad we had to find someone to watch over her. It was like having a pet; but one that never crawled on to your lap or wagged a tail. In our dining room, she became a presence…a conversation starter…a center of attention. It was like having the skeleton of the Elephant Man watching you eat your pasta primavera.
Sadly, an era is about to close for us. My son, Brian and his fiancee, Kirstin are coming for a visit over Columbus Day weekend. They have agreed to take Rosie back to Queens and become her new owners.
I’m sitting here as I type this and staring at her in her floppy green glory. She has witnessed dinner parties, made way for a Christmas tree or two, watched us having a candle-lit dinner, an argument, a deep philosophical discussion and all the events of life that come with a happily married couple who live in the North Country.
Knowing how this plant/human relationship will eventually end, we gave cuttings to many of our friends. There are baby Rosies in many homes. And, when Mariam and I visit Brian and Kristin, we’ll meet up with Rosie and talk about old times.
She has felt us brush by her as we haul luggage out to the car or back into the living room from our travels. She sensed us. She welcomed us. I think she’ll miss us.
I’ll miss her just like I’d miss an old friend.
Just like I miss my mother.