2017-05-11 / Opinions

In the South, Mother’s Day rosebuds tell the story of life’s good times and bad

By KIP BURKE
news editor

One of my earliest memories is picking red and white rosebuds with my father early in the morning on Mother’s Day.

The rosebuds, of course, were part of the old Southern tradition of wearing a red or white flower on the lapel of your Sunday clothes in honor of, or in memory of, your mother – red indicating a living mother, white for those whose mother was departed. We had early-blooming primroses in each color for the occasion, and not to wear a flower was unthinkable. My dad, my sister Becca and I each picked red, and my mother, white.

The flowers were the only solemn part of Mother’s Day, which usually revolved around Dad cooking for and us waiting hand and foot on our Mom like the then-popular TV show “Queen for a Day.” We’d worked all week on homemade Mother’s Day cards and creative hand-crafted gifts only a mom could treasure. “That’s wonderful, Kip,” she’d say. “Just what is it?”

Dad would make breakfast – bacon and eggs, grits, biscuits, and coffee, and we’d serve our Mom with giggles as she admired our presents and breakfast, which we never spilled. Almost.

After church, a service in which the mothers had been honored and remembered, and flowers noted, we’d all come home and Dad would finish making dinner, usually a roast that he’d been cooking all morning. We would set the table, help more or less with dinner, and even clean up without breaking anything. Usually. (I still feel bad about that gravy bowl.)

Becca and I would keep up the royal treatment until our dear mother was tired of it and ready for us to go out and play or go do something with Daddy, so she could take a rare undisturbed nap. We little angels didn’t understand what a gift that was for her.

It’s funny that I remember that one morning picking roses with Dad, because I remember getting stuck on a thorn, and I guess memories of Mother’s Day still can bring a prick of pain.

It was 43 years ago this month that my mother died after a short illness, just a week before Mother’s Day. Three weeks later my father suffered a stroke that left him partly paralyzed and in therapy for the last four years of his life. I went from being a worry-free college kid to a dropout caregiver with two jobs.

But after 43 years, time has worn down those old hurts, and life has gone on. I realize that my mother is with me yet, in the things she instilled in me – and the things she paddled out of me – that still guide me and make me the man I am, the husband I am, and the dad I am.

Elizabeth Rogers Burke still lives on in me, in her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and in all of those who loved her, and I proudly wear the white rosebud in her honor.

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I remember cutting camellias

I remember cutting camellias in our yard in Athens for Mothers and Fathers on their Day. My strongest memory about the ritual was the first summer without Daddy. I was a counselor at Jenny Arnold Edwards YWCO Camp. Uncle John in Pascagoula (Navy man, Kip!,) sent me a white corsage in memory of his brother. It was a big deal to receive flowers at Camp!

This is lovely, Kip. Wish I

This is lovely, Kip. Wish I could have helped you more, but the Army had other ideas.I remember those roses. I may try to find a white one this year. Love you! Becca