Maggie's Roses


Maggie’s Roses

I admit that there are times when I enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS.  It is interesting to see what treasures people bring in.  It is also a good reminder that the value of something in cold hard cash is relative and even short-sighted at times.  I have seen paintings, jewelry, furniture, vases and the like that were valuable to the expert collector that I wouldn’t give you a nickel for.  Cash is not necessarily the bottom line in determining an object’s true worth.  That’s certainly true for Maggie’s roses.

Maggie’s roses are painted on a ceramic serving plate.  There are a handful of lovely pink roses amid some green leaves.  They don’t crowd the plate – just the perfect balance of subject and open space.  They look real enough that you can almost smell their subtle fragrance.  On the bottom right there is a simple signature: M McKeown.  That is my grandmother’s signature.  Her given name was Margaret.  When she died, I wrote a poem called An Elegy for Maggie.  My mother told me that the poem was beautiful, but she wasn’t sure what Grandmother would say about me referring to her as Maggie.  My mother was brought up to always give others, especially your elders, proper respect.

Mc Keown was Grandmother’s maiden name.  So, when I look at that plate and I see her as a young lady – perhaps just 16 or 17 years old - old enough to be dreaming about marriage, but still with a young girl’s laughter and smiling eyes.  This is the way I like to picture her – the way she looked in the late 1800’s.  I think that is why she is Maggie to me.  She is too young in my mind for the formality of Margaret.

Did Maggie look back as well as forward when she painted that plate?  She was first generation American as both her parents had come over directly from Ireland.  Were those Irish roses that perhaps her mother had told her about – the kind that she would have enjoyed on an early summer day in her youth on the Emerald Isle if they hadn’t left and sailed to America?

Did Maggie dream of the Sunday cakes that she would serve to her own husband and children as well as family and friends one day?  Did she use the plate, or did she perhaps prop it up on the kitchen cupboard where the roses would always bloom and never wither – constant color for a constant love in the home?

When Grandmother was old and alone, because her husband died twenty years before her, did she look again at the roses and remember her young dreams?  Did she feel in her heart that her dreams had come true?  I pray that she did. 

When Grandmother passed away my mother brought Maggie’s roses to our home and placed it on her own kitchen hutch.  I am sure that she thought of her mother often whenever she had a moment to gaze at Maggie’s roses.  I am also sure that she prayed for her often because my mother always wore her work apron and her rosary was always in her apron pocket.    

I have Maggie’s roses because when my father passed away in 1984, he made me the executor of his estate.  As the youngest child I still don’t understand why he put me in that position, but he did and I handled things as best I could.  When my siblings and I met one evening to divide up the truly personal possessions before the rest was sold off, they explained that as executor that I could charge the estate for my time.  I certainly wasn’t going to charge my brothers and sisters to do something that I was asked to do by my father.  So, as a compromise they all agreed that they would reverse the order the first time around so, even though I was the youngest, I could pick anything I wanted first, and then they would go back to birth order for the rest.  The choice for me was easy.  I asked for my parent’s rosaries and Grandma’s plate.  I knew they thought I was too sentimental and perhaps a bit silly.  Afterall, there were a number of things with more cash value.  But it was a good choice for me. 

Maggie’s roses still bloom, now in my kitchen; constant color for a constant love in the home. 

His Peace,

Deacon Dan