Red was Mamma's favorite color. That's why I cut all her red flowers that day. The day that I started hating the color red. The day Mamma died.
At one time, my mamma was the picture of joy. She was also the perfect mamma. That's why I never stopped loving her even when she didn't seem to love anyone or anything anymore. I knew my Mamma, and this wasn't her. I knew there was something wrong with her.
In those last days, if you wanted to see Mamma smile, you brought her something red. Aunt Claire brought her a red leather journal one day, little enough to tuck away in some private hidey-hole, but big enough to really write in. Mamma kept touching that red leather cover, stroking it, with this quiet smile, and her eyes had a light in them that made me grin.
She kept that journal with her, wrote in it all the time. I don't know where she kept it when she wasn't writing in it, but I know it made her smile.
I was only a kid, a nine-year-old girl who missed her Mamma, but I still knew made her smile. In those last three months, I gifted Mamma with white lace handkerchiefs I'd painstakingly outlined with red embroidery stitches; red candies of all varieties: peppermints and redhots and licorice; elaborate drawings that wore my red crayon to a nub; a collage of leaves I'd pasted on cardboard - the redest of the red maple leaves I'd plucked from the seea of orange and yellow.
Those things all made her smile, but the thing that made her eyes smile again was the red leather journal from Aunt Claire.
On that last day, Mamma couldn't barely open her eyes when I came into her room to tell her good morning. I patted her hand and kissed her cheek and said, "Ill be back. Love you," and skeddadled before I cried. I went straight to the back porch and got Mamma's gloves and clippers. I fought crying again when I realized how stiff and dusty they were. amma used to love her rose garden. Shed cut a fresh red rose bud every Sunday morning for Daddy's lapel, and smile that smile that warmed her eyes as she fastened it into his buttonhole.
I grabbed the basket Mamma uses to gather flowers for the ever-fresh arrangements on the table. My eyes are blurry from unshed tears, so I step gingerly down the porch steps then dash to Mamma's rose bushes. I frantically grab stem after stem with my left hand and slash at them with the shears held in my right, filling mammas flower basket with only the red roses and leaving all other colors behind. I wiped away unwilling tears trickling over my cheeks.
In the kitchen I stopped to make some order of the bouquet, then I lugged it to Mamma's bedroom. I made a place for it on her dresser where she could see it. The water glass in the bathroom made a great vase for a little arrangement for her nightstand.
I wanted to forget that Mamma wasn't my Mamma anymore so I started chattering trying to be like it was back whan she was my Mamma.
"I think yellow is my favorite color, but I really like pink too. Mamma, why do you love red so much? " I wish she could have said more than she did, but I'm ok with her answer.
A blossom of roses bloomed across Mamma's bed sheet. Red red roses. Mamma's favorite color.
I begged her to open her eyes; to answer me. I had to lean in real close to hear her whisper.
"Pocket. Red book. Read. Love you"
Those were the last words I heard Mamma say. I like to think she still heard me though when I spilled my love out to her, crying on her bosom.
And I knew what the red book was. Before I went to get Aunt Claire and tell her about Mamma, I dug the little journal out of Mamma's robe pocket and tucked it inside my shirt. Afterward, after Mamma was gone and I'd told Aunt Claire I just wanted to go lie down, I read Mamma's journal.
It was one long letter to me.
And when I finished reading it, I understood a lot more than why Mamma's favorite color was red.
Red was the color that saved her. The red blood of Jesus. She wrote to me her plan of telling me all about it one day, but how it just got to be too late. She didn't want it to be too late and that's why Aunt Claire's red journal was the perfect gift. When I finished reading it, reading all about Jesus' love and his sacrifice, red was my favorite color too.
What a beautiful story! Maybe I relate to it so much because my mother, whom I lost many years ago, planted a red rose bush that I have moved with me to each new home. It has never been happier than it is now.