My grandmother’s house has sat uninhabited since she died twenty years ago. Restoring it and bringing it up to modern standards will be our retirement project (yes, I do enjoy the convenience of central heating.) In the meantime, the wood shutters remain closed except when we visit or when my sister checks in with my nephews during school breaks.
Grandma’s days were packed with all the typical activities of a small farm: tending to the chicken and the rabbits, picking and canning vegetables, working in the vineyard, fetching water from the well, stoking the fire in the cantou, preparing meals for the family, washing clothes and sheets by hand, sewing her own dresses and aprons… all essential tasks to supplement my grandfather’s modest pension.
And yet, she always found time to take care of her beloved flowers. She was especially fond of the three rosebushes planted by the front door and the kitchen window. One plant produced roses the size of small cabbages, or so it seemed when I was haute comme trois pommes. They were an unusual blend of pale yellow and delicate pink; I couldn’t escape their heady scent when I walked by. The other two were pourpre, that deep blackish-red color of luxurious satin or velvet. They produced tight buds like the ones sold in floral shops; their beauty was only matched by their intense fragrance.
Lack of care and a few harsh winters were fatal to a couple of grandma’s rosiers but the scraggly red rosebush by the porch still manages to produce a few flowers every May. What a treat to see and smell these beautiful roses! That plant is a sexagenarian, a true survivor. I hope it will hang on a few more years so I can lavish it with the TLC it deserves. And continue to feel grandma’s benevolent haunting.
Le cantou: large fireplace in a country kitchen
Haut(e) comme trois pommes: literally “high like three apples;” of short height, referring to a young child
Pourpre: cardinal red
Le rosier: rosebush