In 1957, Mama and Daddy gathered up their simple belongings, which they had carefully acquired through the diligent saving of nickels, and moved to the little brick house they had built.
The first small clapboard they’d cobbled together was 25 miles to the south. Daddy was particularly proud of that house because he was able to install indoor plumbing for a kitchen and bathroom, something they had both been raised without.
Their first house would have been fine for raising a family, but Daddy wanted some acreage with a good-sized creek.
“Don’t ever buy a piece of land that don’t have water on it,” he said repeatedly.
It took me years to understand that. Besides the fact that we need it to survive, farmland needs water for livestock.
On the Rondarosa, we have a creek that cuts a nice swath through trees — running from north to south — and a stream that bubbles lazily from west to east. We have two wells and county water.
Ever so often, I’ll say to Tink, “If anything ever happens to the paid water or our electricity, we will tote water from the creek.”
No house could have been built sturdier than the small one my parents built with three bedrooms and one tiny bathroom. All these years later, I am impressed by how pretty the red brick is and how handsomely it has held up. The same goe for the porches and steps, which Daddy, with tremendous foresight, poured from concrete and set with black, wrought iron columns that have a fancy design.
Here is the Mother’s Day story about that wrought iron.
Both the porches each have two iron columns. Mama, who always loved flowers, decided to plant red American roses all around the porches. Mama could make anything grow.
One time, she was visiting my house and sauntered over to a maple I had planted years before.
She studied it closely and pinched off limbs.
“That tree is dead,” I said. “I’ve got to cut it down.”
She shook her head, pursing her lips tightly.
“That tree ain’t dead,” she replied, holding out a twig. “Look how much green is in this. It’s got plenty of life left. Get me a piece of string.”
All I could find was some pink hemming lace. This was fine and dandy with Mama because she loved resourcefulness. She took the tiny limb, pulled it upward and tied it to the sickly trunk of the tree. It is now 35 feet high and gorgeous, having poured all its strength into the little twig.
Mama became well known for those American roses she planted. On the side porch, she strung clothesline wire from one iron pole to another, about 14 feet. The roses sprang forth with such heartiness, that by the time I was 4 years old — several years later — they blanketed the porch. Hundreds of them.
Mama patiently trained them to twirl through the columns and over the clothesline.
At the center of the house, she planted one, then another two, on either side of the front porch. There were always simple arrangements of buds scattered through the house and plenty for a bride or a neighbor who stopped and asked, “Would you mind if I got a few roses?”
Every year for Mother’s Day, Mama would make herself a corsage and pin a rose to my dress. “As long as your Mama is alive, you wear red roses,” she’d tell me. “When someone wears white roses, it means she doesn’t have her Mama anymore.”
After Mama died, and I bought her house, I paid little attention to the roses. Yet, stubbornly, they carried on. A while back, someone told me to sprinkle Epsom salts and they’d return to their former glory.
Yes, they did. Amazingly so.
If only I could rightfully wear one of those red blossoms again for Mother’s Day.
Please watch the season finale of “When Calls The Heart,” which premieres 9 p.m. Sunday, May 9, on the Hallmark Channel. It was written and executive produced by John Tinker, Ronda’s husband.
Ronda Rich is a best-selling Southern author. Visit rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.