My grandmother wore a yellow rose at her wedding to my grandfather. I remember their photo on the mantelpiece, the bright flower standing out in contrast to the black and white of clothing and dull scenery behind them. I do not know why she wore that flower in particular, but when I was first given one of my own, on my thirteenth birthday, I remember making the connection to that photograph. The flower on my birthday was bought from a woman selling them for charity somewhere between the swimming pool and the restaurant. I think it was my father that bought it for me, and I smiled all evening. Yellow roses have been my favourite flower since that day.
There were probably yellow roses on my grandparents’ caskets at their respective funerals, but if I did notice them, I forgot. There were more relevant things happening in that small country chapel on both occasions.
A girlfriend of mine knew yellow roses were my favourite but told me the florist didn’t have any, and she bought me daisies instead. Truth be told, I’m glad for it. Yellow flowers are my favourite, yes, but roses are hallmarked in my mind as a family matter – something my grandmother wore, something that my dad gave me, and as I recently discovered, also a family teacup and saucer pattern called Old Country Roses designed by my great uncle in 1962. But that was all on my father’s side.
It was by complete coincidence that my grandfather on my mother’s side bought his wife the aforementioned teacup and saucer for their wedding anniversary. Apparently, my grandfather bought a new set every year and their kitchen cupboards were a shrine of mismatched crockery. I had always assumed the teacups were accidently alone; that they had been picked up at jumble sales or the rest of the set had been broken somewhere along the way. The unspoken reason of teacups in cupboards is a prime example of our Britishness; how the evidence of emotions are stashed away in embarrassment, and only after the deaths of their owners, is the truth revealed and romanticised.
The Old Country Roses teacup and saucer have been passed down onto me. The beautiful pattern of bright yellow and pink roses painted on gold-rimmed bone china that represents both sides of my family sits on the kitchen table, in view of a real rose outside. The mementoes from my grandparents’ empty houses and all our little family traditions that I clung to seem immaterial now, because although I may be the last of our line, I can remember our family in every rose I see.