Granny Did Not Garden

Rosa 'Peace':
Rosa 'Peace'

Granny's favorite rose was 'Peace'. Not because of the color, or the fragrance, or anything but the name.

She survived World War I as a young girl behind the German lines in a village in Belgium not far from Ypres, site of two of the most horrific battles of the twentieth century.


Her father was a Teamster--not the Jimmy Hoffa kind of Teamster, but a man with a team of horses for hire, moving furniture, taking beer barrels from the brewery to the railway station.   As a child Grandma's job was to bring buckets of water for the horses after their long day of labor, moving under and around the hooves, the horses towering over her large and heavy, but always gentle. 

Here is Grandma's Father and his favorite horse.  When the photo was taken, Grandma's Father was 95, and Grandma's Father's favorite horse was 40. 


Grandma's family was prosperous. Her father paid for a rare and wonderful thing: he had her taught to read and write.  Then the War came.  German soldiers came and lived in their house because they had a fine house and fine stables.  The soldiers took the horses.  Grandma and her sisters and her father lived in the shed with the tack and the tools.  As the war dragged on and people began to starve, the soldiers ate the horses.  Great-Grandfather screamed and shouted at the soldiers killing his horses.  The soldiers pushed him to his knees and  the German officer held a gun to Great-Grandfather's head.  Grandma and her sisters begged the officer not to shoot their father.  He did not. 

Grandma and her family were very, very frightened and hungry for four years.  Grandma saw groups of German soldiers marching and singing through the village on the way to the trenches, the morning sun glinting on their golden hair. And then late in the afternoon, bodies of dead soldiers in wagons returning from the trenches, their golden hair now mixed with mud and blood. Four years of it.

The German soldiers finally left, quickly and in the night as the Canadian and American and British armies drove the Germans out of Belgium.  The only thing the soliders left behind was this silver fork.  It belonged to the officer who had lived in Grandma's house and held the gun to Great Grandfather's head.  She would see the officer eating with that silver fork, Grandma yearning not for the fork but for the food it held.  She kept that fork for the rest of her life.  Why?


Grandma did not garden.  She left Europe by herself, right after the War.  At war's end, her father took her to Brussels to hear the King speak, and the King said there would be another war, and Grandma believed the King and came to the New World, where there would be peace. 

She played cards, did fine needlework, had many, many friends, and a shrewd and successful husband.  Then she outlived them all, and outlived all the money her successful husband  left her, and finally she outlived her memory.

She had no interest in gardens, but I remember her with a 'Peace' rose in her hands, her hands cradling the rose as if it was water from a magical spring, the yellow of the rose glowing warm in her pale hands.  A rose named for the end of a different war.

"Peace," I remember her saying, "Peace is the most beautiful thing there is."    I was a small child then--I thought she was talking about the rose.



  1. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I also love roses. They are my favorite flower.

    There's something about them. They are so beautiful, but if you aren't careful of the thorns you could get hurt.

    Peace is the most beautiful thing there is.

  3. Made me want to cry and smile and the same time.


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