Rose Bower

For as early as I can remember in the 1950s, my mother was crocheting squares.  There were white squares with an “x” in them and, my favorite, squares with a three-dimensional rose in them. As a housewife caring for foster babies and having babies of her own about every two years, it took her years to finish the project. I remember watching her crochet needles flying as she seemed not to notice she was doing it.  She also quipped to friends or neighbors that she crocheted to calm herself down so she would not beat the children. I don’t know if that worked or not.  We sure got the paddle often enough.  Though, maybe it would have been more often if she had not calmed herself down with a rose square. What made the beautiful project so thrilling to me was that she would tell me that it would be my bedspread when I grew up. I remember how beautiful I thought it was when she finally pieced it together and put it on her bed.

My mother loved babies.  That is one trait I can say I inherited from her. I was the oldest child, but don’t recall how she loved me as a baby.  When I was a young child, she would tell me that I was an ugly baby.  She told me that, when presented with her newborn, she told the nurses, “Eeewe,  that ugly thing isn’t mine!” I don’t know why she told me this.

As the family grew and the marriage decayed, perhaps my mother viewed her children as the ropes that anchored her to my father. Maybe five rambunctious children would wear most mothers down. Or, maybe she just could not relate to older children as easily as she could to babies.  I know I had opinions and a smart mouth. By my teen years, it was very clear that she hated him and we children, by some extension, were part of it.

My mother and I never had that close mother/daughter bond that many of my friends seem to have.  She was very critical and I never measured up to her expectations. If I didn’t have such a long nose, I might be cute. My fine blonde hair would not hold a Shirley Temple curl no matter how tightly she pin-curled it.  Braids that brought tears to my eyes were pencil thin. Why wasn’t I a cheerleader like Virginia Chaney? I was rebuffed often enough that I learned not to go to her with my problems or share any of my secrets with her. An expression of sentiment was always scoffed or ridiculed. No, we were not close.

Then, as an adult, the first of our lineage to attend college, have a career earning “real money” by my parent’s standards, nothing I accomplished earned me any compliments or accolades from my mother. In fact, her remarks always sounded like jealousy. I have been able to do things and go places she never did.  From her comments, I am sure it was jealousy.

As Mama got older and gained weight, she would often give me some articles of clothing she no longer fit into. One day Andy and I were visiting and she had a pile of clothing she was getting rid of and asked if I wanted any of them.  I saw a pair of shorts and tried them on.  Mama quipped, “That doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would”. She left the room for a few minutes and Andy said, “That is the nicest thing I’ve ever heard her say to you”. I was stunned.  I truly hadn’t noticed. But I could not think of a single thing she had said that was nicer.  I tried for days before admitting he was right.

Sometime in the 1990s, I bought a new bed and Mama gave me the Rose-Bower crocheted bedspread to put on it. I was nearly fifty years old when I got my bedspread. Then, when we sold our house and moved on the boat, I took the bedspread back to my mother’s house for safekeeping. Later still, when Mama put her house up for sale, we took our possessions we had stored there and put them in a rented storage unit. We had furniture and household goods scattered among family and friends and moved things around several times during our boating life.   I lost track of the bedspread.

In 2010, Mama told us she had breast cancer. It had already reached the stage where there was nothing to do about it.  She had never had a mammogram even though both her mother and her grandmother had died of cancer.  Mama had known for six months before she told us.  I thought she was ashamed. We had a small motorhome and parked it in her driveway so we could help her in her last few months of life.  After a few weeks, she told us to leave.  We bothered her. So we left to volunteer in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park for July and August.  I called her every weekend when we went to town for groceries and had a phone signal and asked if we should come back.  My sister Barbara went to stay with her.  I was gratified to learn that it was not just me; Barbara bothered her too. Finally, in mid August, Mama said we could come back even though she was not dead yet.

She was very weak but was comfortable enough with copious amounts of morphine and oxycodone. One night she awoke me with coughing and I went into her room.  We both sat on the edge of the bed for a while and she told me she was sorry that she had not been a better mother.  I assured her that she did the best that she knew how.  You can’t do better than that.

Another night I asked her where my bedspread was.  I couldn’t remember if it was in the storage unit or in her house, along with a stack of homemade quilts made by my grandmother. She told me the bedspread was in the small bedroom on the closet shelf. A day or two later, Mama died.  We knew the time was close so there were children and grandchildren in the bedroom with her.  We were watching the movie “A League of Their Own” on the television. I was sitting on the bed next to Mama with my arm around her shoulders when I noticed that her breathing had changed.  We turned off the movie and paid attention to Mama.  She was not awake.  Her breathing slowed and then stopped.  We called the Hospice nurse who arrived a while later.  Then, in about two hours, people came to pick up her body and take her to George Washington Hospital medical school, where Mama had donated her body. She did not want a funeral or a memorial service.  Poof!  Mama was gone. I noticed that no one had cried.

During the process of handling Mama’s estate, beginning with clearing out the house, I saw that the closet shelf in the small bedroom only had one quilt on it.  No bedspread.  It must have been in the storage unit.

In the ensuing years, I looked in the storage unit several times, but it was so full of boxes and furniture that it was impossible to know where the bedspread was.  But Mama had said it was in the small bedroom. What happened to it?  Did she sell it?  Did she give it to someone else?  Did someone visiting simply take it while Mama was sick?  Was it safely in the storage unit and I just forgot where it ended up?  The questions nagged me for years.

Now it is near the end of 2017. We sold the boat and moved into a motorhome for six years.  And now we have moved into our retirement house.  Busy as I was during the emptying of the storage unit and the loading of the truck, I kept looking for the bedspread.  I thought I may have gotten a glimpse of it once.  When we unloaded the truck at our new home, I watched for the bedspread.  I searched plastic bags as I recalled putting it in one with a zipper, one a bedspread might be packaged in at a store.

These past few weeks have been stressful.  Even good things can be stressful and I have been working very hard, exhausting myself trying to get the house organized.  What I thought was the bedspread turned out to be some lace curtains I took from Mama’s house.  I told myself the bedspread is probably in one of the many boxes filling half the garage. But I wasn’t sure.

My back has been telling me I was working too hard.  I told Andy that I was not going to do anything today.  We went to the Orlando Friends meeting this morning.  Andy said that I would at least sit still for an hour there. I did.  While I was sitting there in silence, I realized that I had been overdoing it and it wasn’t just sore muscles.  I had a heartache that was eating my insides. I had become obsessed with the Rose Bower bedspread.  It had been nagging me for years now.  I recalled visiting an old Florida farmhouse a few years ago and seeing a small Rose Bower cloth draped over a chair.  My heart ached when I saw it. It was just a bedspread.  I had to let it go and get over it.

After rise of meeting, I was telling a man how stressed I have been with the move and the missing bedspread. We agreed that, until all the boxes in the garage are opened, the mystery will not be solved.  I shed a tear as I told him, it wasn’t just a bedspread; it was the one, nicest thing my mother ever did for me. Then at lunch, I told Andy about spending my whole meeting for worship focused on the bedspread.  I cried all the paper napkins wet. Andy was moved to put an end to this bedspread thing once and for all.  We would check the boxes in the garage.  If we didn’t find the bedspread, we would call any family member who might have taken (or been given) it.  My niece Jessica loves vintage things.  Maybe Mama gave it to Jessica.  Or maybe to my Aunt Jane.

Andy went straight to the garage as soon as we got home.  I went outside to plant my herb garden just outside our bedroom sliding-glass doors.  First, I had to push the mulch around to find the plastic irrigation pipes.  A light rain began to fall as I set out dill, Rosemary, mint, and chives.  Andy came to the door with a mattress pad.  No, that not what I wanted.  It is white with red roses on it. Can’t that man tell a bedspread from a mattress pad? I dug more furiously and was soaking wet from the rain.

The next time Andy came to the door, he held up a clear plastic case with the Rose Bower bedspread in it.  I burst into tears and went in the door with the trowel in hand.  I was sobbing so hard I was shaking. Bewildered Andy said I was crying when I didn’t know where it was and now I was crying when I did. I could not tell him I was relieved.  I had to calm down first. I wasn’t happy that he found the bedspread.  I was happy to know that Mama had not given it to someone else after she told me it was for me when I grew up. I didn’t want to think she had, but I didn’t know.  Maybe she sold it.  Maybe she didn’t want me to have it after all. I was such a disappointment to her. Was that her way of telling me so?

NO.  She really did want me to have it.  I did have it all along.  All these years, I have been fretting for no reason other than I couldn’t remember storing the bedspread in the storage unit. Maybe Mama is somewhere laughing at me right now. Ridiculing me for being so stupid.

I kicked some of the stuff on the floor under the bed to put a white blanket and the bedspread on it.  She made it for a full bed so it does not fit my queen size mattress.

Some squares are coming apart in a few places so I will have to do some mending.  Otherwise, it is in pretty good shape and still vibrant white.

It’s not just a bedspread, Mama.