A Rose is a Rose is an Aunt I’ll Never Forget.

The Rose. Photography by J Gerald Crawford, whose artistic work is featured on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.
The Rose. Photography by J Gerald Crawford, whose artistic work is featured on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

“God gave us our memories so that we might have Roses in December.”     J.M. Barrie

This describes my God-given ability to remember and imagine, so I can conjure and relive past events.

A rose bush is not a simple thing.  Neither was my Aunt Rose.

Like the flower,  Rose Antonette Wanninger grew from a seed. From the union of Anton and Maggie, daddy’s sister was born on February 23, 1901.

A rose bush needs water, sun, good soil, care. Without the proper encouragement of irrigation to soak its roots, light and oxygen from the sun, and weed control,  there will be a negative effect on the overall health of the plant.

Sepals are leaves that protect the rose before it blooms. As it blooms, the sepals form a protection from the elements like wind, rain, and sunlight while the flower is maturing. While there are five sepals to a rose, Aunt Rose had two parents giving her family roots, encouragement, nourishment , and protection  while she was developing into an adult.

Aunt Rose
Aunt Rose

Flowers are reproduction centers for plants. Aunt Rose and her husband, Dewey Ernest Miller, had no children.  Perhaps their reproduction was impossible or  it was by choice.   I will assume that they just  enjoyed  being in love with each other.

In honor and because of her love for Aunt Rose, my cousin, Tracie Gafford Owens,  named her daughters  Nicole Antonette and Emily Rose.

Why would God make something so beautiful and then put a thorn on it? One can pick a rose, but suddenly a finger is pierced and a stab of pain is experienced.

For the rose, thorns are a natural defense mechanism for the plant.

Insects and other animals who try to eat the rose are deferred by the pain inflicted by the sharp prickle.

Aunt Rose, also, had prickles.  There were many times when I thought she was cruel to my parents with her sarcasm. She carelessly threw out derogatory comments such as ”  Brother and his house full of children.”

He was proud of his family, and he didn’t like to hear this.

Her abusive words  pierced  his heart with pain when she referred to  Brother’s  handicap.” Daddy would say to us (never to her).  “As far as I see it, everyone is limited  in some way. No-one can do everything.”  I found it strange that every time repairs were needed, Brother  was called to the rescue! His skills were professional, and he took pride in his work. She never seemed satisfied with the free service.  I refuse to think  of him as disabled.  There was nothing he couldn’t do except walk without a limp.

I wonder if  my aunt  had a natural psychological defense mechanism unaware to all , especially to her.  Did her little brother require a large portion of family time and attention after his accident?  Did she suddenly have to adjust to an injured sibling?  As a young adult I observed  a range of emotions- love, empathy, pity, jealousy, anger,  pride, and at other times, support. Her pattern of behavior toward  him could have  resulted in  his  negative self-esteem .

These “put down” inflections were as hurtful as being pricked by a thorn.  The power of her tone of voice hurt them again, and again.  Mother finally decided that listening to her was not worth all the tension she had to deal with.   Mother proceeded with caution at the piercing behavior.  Through daddy’s love for his sister, he reached past the thorns to find the Rose within.

Like the sizzling classic exhibition,  Sassy Rose, Rose craved attention. She fainted at every funeral. Once mother said, “Well, it is time for Rose to faint.” She was right on cue, and everyone ran to her side.  What a character she was!

Roses are one of God’s finest gifts to humanity fashioned by God. A rose is dressed in finery provided by the Creator.  This is much like His creativity in fashioning people!

One of this family’s  finest gifts was our Rose.  She adorned herself with finery. She was lively, spirited, wore large, vibrant accessories, feathers with a burst of bright colors in her red hair, stylish, and chic high heels. Not only was her wardrobe infused with bright colors,  her home was decorated with her  favorite shades of aqua, pink, and purple. Rose and Ernest had a beautiful house in Woodlawn Highlands.

A black baby grand piano  dominated the room. Its reflection dazzled in the wall-sized mirror. In front of the  mirrored wall  was  a pink couch with  a long planter between. The wall-to-wall drapes and carpet were aqua.  Daddy painted the fireplace bricks pink with aqua mortar.  I was told many times, “I am going to will my piano to you.” Well, that didn’t happen. It was sold when they downsized  on the Cahaba River.

rHer decor probably influenced my pastel color choices.  I have some of her belongings in my house; a lavender vintage wing-back chair that I admired all of my life, a lavender frame with their picture in it, and her gold, oval locket with a pink rose on the outside and a picture of the two on the inside.

On a shopping trip with her at Pizitz Department Store in downtown Birmingham, Freddy (my brother ) and I were told to buy anything we wanted. I bought a purple dress with elaborately colored buttons.  Now, I wonder if I picked it out or was it her choice? Either way, I liked it, I  and can still envision it.

Uncle Ernest loved his wife, Rose.  He had a passion for roses, so he ordered them from the “city of roses,” Tyler, Texas.

His hobby was a  backyard rose garden. In the middle of their rose garden was a pond which was filled with goldfish.  We could distinguish the Shubunkin by their slender , red, brown, orange , and yellow colors.  While watching  them and the bright shimmering white, black, and yellow and red Kio, Freddy and I became very curious about the  vigorous fish. We  tried to catch them with our hands.  With her back to us while she hung wet clothes on the rotary clothesline, Aunt Rose said, ” When you fall in, don’t call me!”  We replied, ” If I fall in, I’ll just stay in and play.”  Well, guess who did!” It was me, the know-it-all nine year old!

The pond was probably only  three feet deep, but the floating plants, the scared fish,  slimy stones, and my fear of the water, projected me over the smooth concrete masonry that surrounded the pond!

Aunt Rose never turned around. She just let out one of her loud laughs, and continued hanging the clothes on the line.

At this time, she reminded me of the yellow rose which is an expression of exuberance that evokes sunny feelings of joy, warmth, and welcome.

Roses are a symbol  of love and the most popular choice of flowers for the purpose of gifting across the world.

Rose enjoyed giving.

When Freddy and I were children, we heard a knock on the door every Valentine’s Day. We ran excitedly  trying to see who always left a heart-shaped box of chocolates. We never saw anyone, but we were sure  that Aunt Rose had knocked, left the box , and had run to hide in the bushes.

She enjoyed giving nice Christmas gifts. Although my parents appreciated what she gave, they were embarrassed because they could not afford to give in return. Rose and Ernest enjoyed a party. Every Christmas Eve, was celebrated at their house. The basement had been dug out and remodeled by daddy.  The ping pong table was covered with a Christmas cloth, and  abundantly  weighted  with a feast. Freddy , Bobby ( my cousin)  , and  I knew that we could drink her eggnog because the whiskey was not added. (Uncle Herman included it in his eggnog. We knew not to drink it.)

Rose and Ernest  lived their last years in East Lake Nursing Home where they shared the same room until Uncle Ernest died at age 93 on February 12 , 1991.

After his death,  the nurse said, ” Mrs. Miller refuses to talk to us.” Well, I knew that she was always ready for a good argument, so I said, ” Papa Wanninger was from France.” She pounded her fists on the tray of her wheelchair and screamed loudly, “NO, HE WAS FROM GERMANY.”  Mother, who was visiting a friend on the other side of the building, heard her!   I think that she was her father’s  ” little German furstin.”  (Princess)

The life expectancy  of a single rose is not long, but a rose bush can live

for years. Because a rose has done its job of  adding fragrance  and beauty to all around , it begins to wither.

During my last visit , I noticed that she was  fading. No longer was she capturing attention with her flamboyant  personality and radiant beauty.  She was existing with little notice.

Rose died at the age of 92 on June 17, 1993.  She  outlived her husband, her five siblings, and her friends.

Human life is like a cycle of a flower.  Its birth and death do not diminish its worth.

God created thousand of varieties of roses. Each one was unique.

I have told you about the Aunt Rose that I knew so that you may  perceive the unique rose of our family.





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