The first house we ever owned was a little three bedrooms, one bathroom, brick and tile house right next to a main road. Mum had spent years working hard and saving her money to buy her own house. We moved in just before I started kindergarten. The backyard was surrounded by the old asbestos fencing. It was a boring rectangle of lawn, from corner to corner of the yard.
On one side, we had the main road, which used to keep us up at night, especially when we first moved in. On the other side was a house similar to ours, I don’t remember our neighbours very well, but I think they were foreigners, because I remember their English wasn’t very good. At the back of our house lived an old lady and her house faced directly onto the main road.
I have no idea what the old ladies name was, but I used to call her Lady Rose, because her garden was full of rose bushes. Every day she would be out the front, tending to her rose garden, rain hail or shine, you could be sure to see Lady Rose, wearing her apron and garden hat, clippers in hand.
Whenever I was in the back yard and I spotted Lady Rose in her garden, I would drag my trampoline over to the fence line and pop my head over to say hello. She was a friendly lady and she always had time to chat with me. I would bounce up and down and look at her lovely garden with envy, since our garden was so bland.
Every time I talked to Lady Rose, I would mention her garden and how much I liked it, and she would cut a few roses from their branches and hand them to me. The first time she did this, I raced inside and gave the flowers to mum and she put them in a vase in the kitchen.
Shortly after that I broke out in a terrible rash, all over my hands, up my arms and on my face. I also got what we thought was a cold. I was sneezing constantly and my eyes were red and puffy. It took a while, but eventually the rash disappeared and the sneezing stopped. Until the next time I talked with Lady Rose and got some more flowers.
It took a while for mum to make the connection that I was allergic to roses. Every time I touched them, I broke out in the terrible rash and if I smelt the flowers, the rash would clog up my nostrils and my eyes would go red and puffy to the point where I could barely see.
Mum told me that she thought I was allergic to Lady Rose’s garden and told me not to bring home anymore flowers.
The next time I talked with Lady Rose, I once again commented on how lovely her garden was, and she once again clipped off a few flower heads and handed them to me. I took them with a smile and told her I would take them inside. On my way back to the house, I remembered mum telling me not to bring them home anymore, so instead of taking them to mum to put in a vase, as I usually did, I snuck them into my bedroom and hid them in the drawer beneath my bed.
Later that night, I was so sick, I could barely breathe and mum had to rush me to the doctors. She had no idea what was going on and when the doctor told her I was having an allergic reaction, mum spent days trying to figure out what it was I had reacted to.
I didn’t learn my lesson though. I continued to collect flowers from Lady Rose until mum found all the dead flowers in the drawer beneath my bed. Since I was not able to refuse the offer of her flowers, mum had to go and tell Lady Rose herself about my allergies and asked her not to give them to me anymore.
I thought Lady Rose would be upset that I was allergic to her garden and so I didn’t go out and talk to her anymore. I often wonder if she thought the allergy to flowers was an excuse for us to stop speaking to her, especially since mum married my step dad not long after that and we ended up moving house.
I still think rose gardens are pretty, but I can never get close enough to them to really appreciate them, since I have now decided that the flowers are better off kept away from me.
I remember Lady Rose being a sweet old lady who adored her garden. The fact that she was willing to cut off the heads of her beautiful flowers for me, made me feel obligated in keeping them. How could I tell her I no longer wanted them? They were her pride and joy and it was a privilege to be offered such a gift. I considered it to be rude to refuse such a generous offer.