Wearing of the Roses
Mary Jo Vanderpool Grant (1933-2013)
They claim it is a Southern custom — the wearing of a red or white rose to church on Mother’s Day. It might be, because I discovered that some of my Yankee friends have never heard about it.
However, growing up in Oklahoma and Kansas, and being a descendant on my maternal side of a long-line with Deep Southern roots, it was just the thing we did on the second Sunday in May.
Dressed in our pretty, frilly spring dresses (usually brand-new from Easter), we girls wore a fresh rose pinned to our frocks and off we went to church on Mother’s Day.
I was the one constantly tugging at my white socks because mother had a knack for buying me sock-eating shoes — especially those black patent monsters that also rubbed blisters on my heels.
|Jo helping me walk; my cousins, Di and Mita|
Anna Jarvis, a lady from West Virginia, who wanted to have a national celebration in honor of mothers, endlessly petitioned state governments, business leaders, women groups, churches and other institutions and organizations. She finally convinced the World's Sunday School Association to back her —- a key influence over state legislators and congress. In 1912, West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother's Day and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance, declaring the second Sunday in May as
Of course, I didn’t know any of this history when I was growing up. All I knew is that on the second Sunday in May it was Mother’s Day and we wore roses to church to honor our moms. And, I loved and honored mine even if she did buy me sock-eating shoes.
I think I was about five years old when we went to a Baptist church in another town with my three first cousins that I realized for the first time that all of us girls were wearing red roses except my sister, Jo. She had a white rose. So, of course, I asked why. And, received my first lesson in genealogy.
It was explained to me that my sister’s mother was dead. My mother was her stepmother and that Jo was my half sister. Well, I didn’t like her being only a half sister. She was my sister and I adored her. I had difficulty accepting all those grown-up revelations about the past and how my sister’s mother had died when she was only a year old and that’s why she wore a white rose.
Last April I said a final good-bye to my beloved sister, Jo. This year on Mother's Day, I'll wear two white roses -- one for my mother and one for my sister.