Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Memory of Dried Roses

Tucked into the corner of the main room of the old farmhouse were two doors. One led down to the slightly, scary old stone basement…and the narrower one, tucked into the very corner, led up to a third story attic.

The doorway was narrow and the old hand-forged iron latch always stuck a little, generally requiring a thump with a fist and a well-placed kick or two.

To go through the doorway required hunching down a bit, and then maneuvering three, narrow pie-wedged steps before the passage straightened out. The remaining sixteen steps up to the attic were so steep it was difficult to carry anything. Over time, and with many, many trips up and down, I learned how to navigate that treacherous stairway without breaking my neck. But I’ll tell you more about those trips in a little while.

For now, I’d like to tell you about the first time I went up those stairs. When I emerged into the huge space at the top of the steps, I was so astonished I couldn’t move. Two narrow windows inserted beside an ancient red brick chimney helped illuminate the space through their small panes of wavy old glass. Five bare, low-wattage lightbulbs hung in a row from the center beam, each with a threadbare cotton string hanging down from it.

The amber and gold floorboards were incredibly wide and covered the entire length of the attic floor. Worn down in grooves at the top of the steps, you could literally see where hundreds of feet had trod over the years. The dark hand-hewn beams overhead were massive and joined together with hundreds of wooden pegs.

The air in the attic was faintly scented with the fragrance of dried herbs and old woodsmoke. The floorboards were bare and dusty.

I could feel the history of the house in that space. I could so clearly imagine all the other housewives before me drying herbs and storing treasures there.

I quickly learned that the drafty attic space was phenomenal for drying flowers and herbs. I gathered what I could find around the farm before the frost killed everything and filled one of the beams with carefully bundled bouquets. I had plans to sell the dried flowers to help in my perpetual quest for extra money.

The following spring I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of a commercial rose grower in a neighboring town. I had ordered quite a lot of roses for a wedding I was designing, and after I picked my order up on Thursday afternoon I discovered that the grower threw away all the unsold roses at the end of business on Saturday. Threw them away! I was aghast!

I offered to buy all the roses from him each week. He thought about it. “Well,” he said, “I’d have to let you take them away in the rose buckets and how do I know you’ll bring the buckets back?”

Thinking quickly I told him, “Look, I’ll pay you three dollars a bucket for the roses AND I’ll give you a deposit on each bucket!”

He thought for a few more minutes and then agreed.

Each bucket held around ten dozen tightly budded roses neatly rubber-banded together. By recutting the stems and giving each bundle of roses some breathing room, in three or four days I would have gorgeous bouquets of full, beautiful blossoms.

I was careful to hang the roses in the attic right before they bloomed fully. Each rubber band slipped neatly over the nails I had pounded into the low beams. And because the grower had prepared each dozen for commercial sale all the thorns had been stripped from the stems.

Some weeks the rose grower would have four or five buckets of roses for me. Some weeks he would have none.

But over the spring and summer months I dried hundreds and hundreds of bundles of roses in that attic.

It was beautiful and fragrant there. The slight smell of dried herbs and woodsmoke was taken over by the fresh, lovely scent of thousands of roses.

Each beam was a bower of roses in various stages of drying…gorgeous corals, sunny yellows, antique ivory whites, carmine red, pale apricot.

After the roses dried completely, I would slip them into plastic florist sleeves and pack them away in boxes arranged by color.

I made extravagant wreaths covered entirely in dried roses. I put beautiful ribbons around the sparkling cellophane. And every fall I would attend craft fairs and set up a booth filled with hundreds of bundles of dried roses. The colors were so beautiful and the roses were so perfectly preserved that my booth was always crowded with eager buyers. I rarely took any roses home.

Over the years, those dried roses paid for vacations to the ocean with my children. They paid for dentist visits and eyeglasses and sometimes they paid for the electric bill.

I write this memory now with tears on my face.

How blessed I was to have lived so many hours in a house with attic beams bowered in roses.

And how blessed I am that this dear memory has never faded.

This post is linked to Alphabe-Thursday in honor of the letter D. To read other D posts, just click here.

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Lola said...

Great memories - and D post!

Naperville Now said...

Jenny -- a beautiful post. I can smell the roses yet.

Maggie said...

Loved this post, Miz Jenny, so evocative of another time and place.

storybeader said...

So description! How beautiful all the colors must have been! Fun story! {:-D

Rachael West said...

I swear as I was reading this, I got a whiff of roses. Thank you so much for taking me down memory lane with you :o)

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for sharing Jenny. The sights, smells, and hope are alive in your post.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

Sweet memories and the sight and smell of all those roses must have been amazing. I do love your writing Jenny. Hugs, Linda

21 Wits said...

Oh thanks Jenny now you have me in tears as well....a very dear piece.

anitamombanita said...

I used to dry all the roses I got, even if I got them from myself...but then I ran out of places to put them. I had forgotten about that quirky phase until you reminded me.

You always write so beautifully..makes me want to visit the places found in your words. :)

Viki said...

Beautiful memories. I grew up in a house with a big attic like that but it wasn't used for roses. I do remember in the winter when I was young hanging up the laundry. Not such a fond memory, ha.

Anonymous said...

I think it would have been wonderful to sit in attic for hours and just smell!

To the Toy Box and Beyond said...

what wonderful memories I can just imagine the smell of your attic

Sarah Marie said...

Hey there! Found you through some other blogs I read. I am really excited to do your Alphabe-Thursday! I would love if you would follow me, for I am your newest follower! Thanks in advance! I can't wait to see what all you've got here!

Susan Anderson said...

And how blessed WE are that you have shared it with us.

Thank you, Jenny. I feel transported to another time and place, and I like it there!


Gattina said...

I like to imagine this attic where you dried the roses. What a nice idea and it even helped to round up the budget !

Caroline said...

Such a lovely post! You were lucky to have an attic that provided you with extra jingle in the pocket as well. I would love to have an area like that just to have it. :) I love the beautiful buildings of days gone by. It's a shame so many people just let things go to waste. I loved your story it was very heartwarming. :)

Pat said...

Oh - oh - oh - don't know how to comment on your is just too wonderful for words.

Simply love this kind of story - it touches the heart in so many ways. Thank you for sharing this memory.

Ames said...

Jenny I loved this story. Is it true? And Jenny, who is the person in the window? There's a face looking in the window.~Ames

Anonymous said...

This is such a beautiful piece of writing. You've created a wonderful memory for each of us.

Ms. A said...

I've always longed for a large roomy attic, the kind I've only seen in movies. While I may not have dried roses in mine, I would have a place to store the memories of the years gone by, and not have them taking up so much space in my house.

Neabear said...

Lovely D post with such special memories. Your roses must have been just gorgeous. How neat that you were able to work out a deal with that guy!


Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

Ya know I have a soft spot where roses are concerned anyway!!! I do have 38 rose bushes here on the Ponderosa.

They are all brown and pathetic lookin' right now but come spring baby...they sing!!!

I can't imagine the beauties you have made with so many roses. That wreath is simply amazin'!

I could almost smell the rose filled attic you described so vividly.

God bless ya and have an amazin' weekend sweetie!!! :o)

Robin Lynn said...

Jenny! I loved this post - the whole wonderful story. What a treasure to have the attic at your use but how fortunate for the attic to have you! so, it can still have life! Beautiful life for the roses too - you are such a creative, lovely person, I'm glad I found your site. Thanks for hosting Alphabe-T.

Betty said...

I've always wanted to live in an old house with an attic and a basement. You were so clever to come up with that business. I'm wondering how long you lived there? I know I would have loved it too.

The Poet said...

Jenny, your tears are my tears. Now you see why I love flowers & what they represent. You told this so vividly, it's almost like I was there inhaling the scent of the roses. Robin Lynn said it the best...that attic was fortunate to have you & today, we are fortunate to have you.

A wonderful, nostalgic entry.
Thanks so much for sharing Jenny. I appreciate the heartfelt comments wife understands she is the bride of my heart & that will never change no matter how many adoring fans I have! See you later in the week!

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Splendid Little Stars said...

Oh! I can imagine this space, the scent, the selling booth. such a lovely memory!

Steph said...

Blessed. Yes. With a rose filled attic and active hands, creativity, and a beauty filled heart.