I received a phone call a few days ago from the woman who previously owned our house. Her husband died over a year ago and her health was in decline so late last summer she had to sell the house she'd lived in for decades. We bought the house on the last working day of 2011. She loved her house. My husband and I could tell just by walking through it. They had customized the house to fit their needs to an extreme degree.
It has six small bedrooms, a dark room and his and her separate work/craft rooms. There was a rose motif throughout the house, the back door with roses etched into the glass, the trash compacter with a wooden rose stenciled on the handle, rose address tiles and actual roses, roses everywhere.
I counted over 25 rose bushes just in the small garden in front, probably 20 in a similar garden in back and another 20 at least throughout the yard.
We decided not to do anything with the roses until we had seen them bloom. I wanted to see and smell them and I am glad I did. We were in for an extravaganza of rose variations and boy oh boy, do they ever smell good.
I've been trying to discern the types and it looks like we could have, Alba, Austin, climbing, floribunda, hybrid tea, miniature and roses that have gone to root stock, to name a few. I wish I knew the exact varieties --I am pretty sure there is a Peace Rose and my particular favorites are a yellow rose that smells faintly citrusy, a deep red with a wonderfully saturated heavy sent and the cabbage style roses that look like peonies.
Anyway, back to my conversation with the woman I now call Rosie (real name withheld because it's not near as fitting). She thanked me for sending her roses. Unbeknownst to me--my very thoughtful and non-communicative husband had told the neighbors who are still close friends with Rosie that if they were going to visit her in the retirement home that they were always welcome to take roses to her. They did.
Our conversation was very nice. She of course talked of her love for the house and we had a discussion on the cultivation of roses. I spoke of a recent infection of aphids that is now under control. She spoke of the things she loved about her historical home. I knew she had not been ready to leave, but circumstances forced her out. The conversation made me both happy and sad.
I was happy that I shared the love of the house. It is simple, useful and charming. It is smaller than we were used to, but it feels right. It is slightly run down and we've been ripping out wallpaper, painting and putting in new light fixtures. We found beautiful wood floors under carpet and we sanded and waxed them back to life. The list is long of other repairs that need to be done--but nothing is urgent. It has a view of my beloved Mount Olympus and of our neighbors beautiful gardens. It is a family neighborhood with a strong community feel and one we are familiar with. My son can run and play with his friends at a moments notice. So much of what I love about the house is what she had loved about it too.
I was sad because life marches on, children move away, husbands die and our bodies fail. I was sad because we've already made changes to her beautiful cottage that I know would make her sad. We took out the kissing dove bird bath in the front rose garden and other small statuary. A neighbor approached me at church and asked me what I had been doing inside the house and I just mentioned that we are updating it a bit. She must have been a friend to the previous owners because she made the statement that "some day someone was going to do the same thing when you move out," like I had personally offended her by making changes. Even though it hurt my feelings it also made me feel good that the family who lived there previously had made an impact--were thought worthy of defending.
The phone conversation ended and I was left with an overwhelming feeling of love for the woman. She just had to connect with us and check on her roses.
We've left pretty much all of the roses in front untouched. We had to remove a couple that had gone to root, a few that were crowded against the house and crowding other bushes. The back has been a different story, we have removed quite a lot and I've said a silent prayer asking for Rosie's forgiveness.