A Rose So Blue

My grandmother Emma would sit me on a kitchen stool and tell me stories while she cooked. I can still hear her voice, low and level, moving with her work, smell the cornbread in the oven, and see the plopping pot of beans on the back of the stove.

She told me how she jumped rope with her sisters, about the tomatoes her grandfather grew, and she’d tap her spoon on the side of the sink to make a sound like sudden rains on a tin roof: “Rat-a-tat at first,” she’d say, “Then so loud you had to shout to talk.” She also told me about roses so blue they made the sky look like it had no color at all.

“Gramaw,” I’d say in my most grown-up way, “roses are red! Or white. Miz Stevens has some white ones. And I saw some yellow ones in the store. But roses aren’t blue!”

Emma would smile and tend to the stove. “Oh, you are such a smart girl!” she’d say. “But you’re not as smart as your old granny. Some roses are blue, but you ain’t gonna to see ‘em in Loris Stevens’ yard, and you ain’t gonna see ‘em in the store. The only place blue roses grow is Africa, on the Mountains of the Moon.”

She told me that where the blue roses grow, the east wind from the sea air keeps the mountains clouded against the sun, but at night, when the north wind comes down from desert sands, the skies clear, the moon shines her white, white light on the grey-green slopes, and roses with blossoms blue as a gas flame climb to the stars.

When Emma died, my heart broke into a million pieces, but my heart healed, and I remember Emma, it’s warmed. When I find blue roses for sale, I smile because I know blue roses only grow in Africa, on the seaside slopes of the Mountains of the Moon.

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