I wish I had paid more attention. Not just in American history class, which I flunked and had to take in summer school. (Did you know that Alexander Hamilton invented banks?) I wish I had listened to the stories my parents and grandmother used to tell.
For example, I clearly remember something about my grandmother coming over from Scotland by herself on the boat when she was just 8, after working in a distillery where she was so little she had to stand on a box to bottle the liquor. Looking back, I'm sure the facts were only barely close to that, but that's what I remember. She also worked for two old ladies who offered her $100,000 not to marry my grandfather. She married him anyway, but again, it might be a Lifetime movie I'm thinking of.
My mother had polio as an infant and as a result she walked with a significant limp. She was able to ride a bike and swim, so why do I remember that her brother made her a scooter out of an ironing board? What kind of scooter from hell would that be?
Mom tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me how to sew and cook. She could put salt and pepper on a rump roast, throw it in the oven and it would come out fork tender. She was a great baker and tried for at least 10 years to show me how to make pie crust. I couldn't be bothered, especially since I could just buy it and unfold it.
What I regret most is not paying attention to how Mom grew roses. She didn't grow a lot of them, but she did have a knack for it. Her favorite was the Peace rose, a pretty, pastel-colored flower that, if I remember correctly, had different colors around the edges. She tried to show me how to prune them -- something about cutting just below the first bud near the third thorn from the bottom. Occasionally, she would cut one or two and put them in a vase on the kitchen table. Although they did not have a very strong fragrance (that I can remember, anyway) they were -- and I do remember this part -- beautiful. They didn't last long and they probably stayed on the table past their prime, but who among us hasn't done that?
Mom died 25 years ago. She was only 62, an age I am inches from achieving myself. I still catch myself cutting out magazine articles for her or wanting to call her at night to make sure she let the dog out and is in safely for the night. I find myself wanting to go over and eat M&Ms and listen to her stories about growing up in Canada.
I would give anything to be able to ask her the questions I should have asked decades ago, and not just things like: Why do you have to use cake flour to make a cake?
It's probably human nature to assume there will always be time to ask or say the things we should. I'd love to be able to ask Mom how she managed to get through losing three babies or having her mother-in-law live with her. I'd love to hear the stories again about how, as a girl, she and her sisters actually sang on the radio in Canada. I'd give anything to ask her one more time about how to trim those darned roses and put them on my own kitchen table.
The theme from "As the World Turns" and the newest edition of Ladies Home Journal always remind me of her, and it's a kind of sense memory that never ceases to amaze me, 25 years later.
As J.M. Barrie wrote, "God gave us memory so that we can have roses in December."
Chris Moesch, who lives in Kenmore, is retired and wishes she had paid better attention.