Most people who know me well, have at one point or another, stumbled upon my obsession with yellow roses. They are a tradition in my family, started (as far as I know), by my parents. I wish I knew the genesis story there. That’s one of those questions I never got around to asking and so the origins and the meaning they ascribed to this personal symbol, sadly, died with them.
I carry on the tradition. In my life, nothing denotes love like yellow roses. For some they symbolize friendship, this makes perfect sense because that color is so wonderfully life-giving and joyful. I read that they used to be a symbol of jealousy, but that meaning has fallen away over the centuries. Yellow roses can also mean, “remember me.” That is the personal meaning I ascribe to them. I see these flowers I instantly think of my Mom and Dad. Such is the power of traditions. Every experience ties into every other experience creating a long chain of meaning and depth.
My Dad always sent my Mom yellow roses. Valentine’s Day, Secretaries Day (she was in admin), Mother’s Day, their anniversary, her birthday — those were the obvious days that the staff at the Garrard County School Board knew they could expect a delivery of a huge bouquet of yellow roses. As soon as they saw him coming, someone would always sing out: “Sylvia…delivery for you.” Every one of them knew, yellow roses were for Momma. He also liked to hit random days with no particular meaning or regularity.
I’ve seen a lot of the cards they sent each other. Many are signed “Always in my thoughts.” (This is another tradition that my brother and I keep going — a way we honor their memory.)
This week I’ve been struggling. Job hunting and uncertainty and not really knowing what road I’m meant to go down next are causing me stress. A friend of mine knows this and showed up with three bouquets for me. Yellow roses because she knows what they mean to me. Wild flowers because they are her favorite. And Baby’s Breath because they were a favorite of her mother. I put them all together in a mesh of yellow, pink and white, and now they sit in my window box warm and safe and enjoying the winter sunlight. The sight of them reminds me that I am loved.
What’s the point of all this rambling?
1. Flowers are for more than just Valentine’s day.
2. Flowers are for more than just romance.
3. Put the effort into making some traditions for you and your loved ones, because the chains of love runs deep and winds around the heart in ways that are so rich and filled with meaning. I am hesitant about the word chains because of the images that come to mind, but these are the good chains of connection and belonging, and anyone would want those.
Words and emotions and even memories are fleeting. Something real and tangible can serve as an echo. My friend, who came over with the flowers and the hug, the warmth of that moment has already faded away. I think of her and smile because I know she has a long drive ahead of her as she heads back to her new home. But the flowers will last for weeks to come. And when they are ready to fade away, I’ll pull off a few petals and press them into my journal. And years from now, when I am “old and gray and full of sleep” I’ll take down my books and will still be touched by this show of love and concern. Traditions make fleeting moments last.
These bellow are my new flowers. The image at the top of this page is from a few years ago. I took a bouquet of roses up to Glacier National Park and photographed them on the banks of Lake McDonald. Truly, yellow rose are a leitmotif running through my life and through my photography. And with each instance, the warmth in my heart grows.