Fern’s Rosebush

In 1976, when I was 7 years old, my family and I moved from a house in the suburbs of Clearwater, Florida where we had a tiny yard and noisy neighbors, to north-central Missouri, where we moved into an old drafty farmhouse with 3 acres and no neighbors in sight. My siblings and I reveled in our new-found freedom. Our nearest neighbors were about a quarter mile away, Fern and her brother Francis or “Fransie” as he was known. They lived in a small 2 room house where they had been born and raised with their parents and siblings. Neither of them had married, so they continued to live where they had been born. They farmed and had cows, pigs, chickens, dogs and cats too numerous to mention. For young suburbanite kids like us, their farm was a paradise. We visited often and had many a Sunday dinner where we crowded around their kitchen table to enjoy Fern’s delicious pork roast dinner. We had left our grandparents, aunts and uncles behind in Florida, and Fern and Fransie filled a gap.  I thought of them as adopted grandparents. We kids wandered their farm, played with the cats and dogs, and visited the farm animals. Their water supply was a well in the back yard, air conditioning was open windows, but both of them had ready smiles, deep hearty laughs and plenty of stories to tell about the old days during the Depression. There were stories about local characters, country dances in the open air, scandal, gossip, and troublemakers. When we were at school, Mom sometimes walked up to their house for a cup of coffee and a chat.

Years passed, I grew up and moved away.

Fern and Fransie grew old and their health began to fail. Fransie had a stroke and could no longer farm. Fern struggled to run the house and take care of her brother. Family tried in vain to get them to move into town, to leave the farm. But they were adamant that they would continue to live as they chose, where they were born. My brother Christopher began visiting them every morning to look in on them, take care of chores, and to sit in their kitchen to hear stories about the old days.

One year someone gave Fern a pink rosebush. My brother planted it in her front yard where it thrived.

One long night Christopher was unable to sleep. Looking out the window he noticed a glow on the horizon but was unable to determine what it might be. The next morning, he went up to Fern and Fransie’s as usual to do their chores, but long before he got there he saw that their house had burned. He learned that neither of them had escaped. Shock and sadness rippled through the community. Sometime in the following days, Christopher mentioned that Fern’s pink rosebush had been singed on one side, but was still alive. He took some cuttings and I rooted them.

Fern and Fransie’s funerals were well attended, the family cleaned up the remains of Fern and Fransie’s lives and their land was sold. But one of the rosebush cuttings took root. I planted it in the yard at the apartment where I lived where it bloomed beautiful pink roses.

I’ve moved twice since then, and each time I’ve taken the rosebush with me.

It continues to bloom, reminding me of the sister and brother who lived quiet lives, but made an immeasurable difference in my life and that of my family.


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Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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20 Responses

  1. Joani says:

    That was a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. The rose is beautiful.

  2. Paulie says:

    Definitely a wonderful memory for you! These two people live on in your world because of the pink roses. . . how beautiful is that?

  3. Stephanie L says:

    I agree – beautiful story. Through you, they live on……

  4. Eliza says:

    What a sweet story. Thanks for sharing 🙂 Loved the photo’s too…

  5. Tina says:

    Lovely, lovely story Suzanne and such a pretty rosebush.

  6. Glenda says:

    Flowers and plants are a gift from God and the people that we associate with them are a wonderful memory every time we tend the plant.

  7. Catherine G. says:

    What a beautiful tribute. And so eloquently written. Thank you!

  8. What a beautiful story. I followed it my mind just as if I was there. I really enjoyed reading this. How sad though, how it ended! and tragic! I’m happy that you had such wonderful neighbors to share time with. I think it is awesome that you have her cutting rose bush…that is wonderful. It keeps their memory living on!

  9. Monica says:

    What a story. I’m very sad about the ending, but I like to think that they lived the happy and full life that eludes so many famous and/or wealthy people. And what a background story for a beautiful rose bush! Thank you for sharing it with us.

  10. Kathy says:

    I agree with the others that this is a beautiful story. So sad about the fire, but so glad that they live on through you and the beautiful roses. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  11. Glyndalyn says:

    A beautiful rosebush. How nice to remember Fern when you look at the pink blooms.

  12. Mandy says:

    beutiful flowers and story!

  13. Becky L. says:

    What a beautiful story to go along with this beautiful rose! I have a tea rose that smells like ones my grandmother had many years ago. I love it! So glad you have some beautiful memories of the rose. Hugs!

  14. Lynda in Michigan says:

    What a beautiful story. (sniff, sniff). What beautiful memories looking at the rose bush can bring back.Thanks for sharing.

  15. Becca says:

    I enjoyed this post so much. Of course I cried and cried…happy, sad tears. I am glad you see the beauty around you and it’s value and then take the time to share it with us! Kiss Kitty for me and wave to the cows!
    PS- I’ve lived in Clearwater for the past 4 years. My sweet husband is a native and drug me away from my Old Kentucky Home!

  16. Tracey M says:

    What a sweet, sweet story about the impact some people make on our lives. Thanks for sharing it, and so neat that her rosebush lives on.

  17. Jo Anne says:

    what a sweet (but sad) story. it reminds me of a brother and sister who lived near us when i was growing up. they, too, had an impact on my life and i thank my lucky stars that i knew them. wonderful people!

  18. Kit says:

    I read this and had tears in my eyes….reminds me of the people in the wee Scottish village where I grew up. Thank you for sharing this story.

  19. Euni Moore says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    I have a question about the sweet potato vine you posted earlier in the summer. I have two tubers from the ones in my planter but don’t know how to store them for winter. Can you give me a heads up please? I love the sharp lime green color with the purple geraniums I had in my planter. Thanks a lot.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Euni, I found this answer for you:
      To save your vine, harvest the sweet potato by digging the actual potato from the ground and remove all the ‘vine’ from the potato.Rinse the potato off well and allow to air dry for several days before storing in sawdust, newspaper in a cool and dark place for the winter.Most likely the potatoe will start to sprout again over the winter’s storage.In the spring, replant the entire potato if you choose or cut the potato into section where each section has a ‘sprout’ and let air dry till scabbed over. Once the potato has scabbed you can plant each individual peice to propagate new vines.

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