Today, I am going to tell you the story of mother’s roses.
Not the kind that grew on a bush. Not the kind that had thorns or came in a bouquet.
No, these roses were made of chocolate. They came in a box and were made by Cadbury’s.
They’re hard to find here in the US. You might be able to find them in specialty sweet shops, usually marked up and overpriced.
This is why, when she came back from Belfast from visiting family, she always came with a box of Cadbury’s Roses that she purchased at the Duty Free Store, either at Belfast International Airport or at Heathrow.
They come in a somewhat oblong box; tapered at the bottom. There are different varieties of milk and dark chocolates each shaped like a rose and with a unique filling or flavor.
And my mother would always come back with a box of them. Prior to my sixth birthday, those roses were for her. After that, they were for me. And I am going to tell you why.
The thing you have to understand about our household is that it was not heavy on the sweets or other unhealthy food. My mother is very health conscious, and was very conscientious about keeping high sugar foods, such as chocolate to a very minimal moderation, even for herself.
To that end, when she came into possession with any of these items, be it a Whitman’s sampler, or a box of Cadbury’s Roses, she was not the type to sit down and gorge herself on the whole box. Not in nutritional philosophy and not in general philosophy.
No, that box was to be shared with the family, where it would last a week, at least. After dinner, she would produce the box. Each one of us, including my dad were invited to select a chocolate. Then the box would be returned to it’s place until the next night where the ritual was repeated until al the chocolate was gone.
When I was five or six, my mother went to Belfast, and, as pro forma, returned with her box of Cadbury’s Roses. And as per family ritual, the roses were doled out one at a time. After dinner, she would produce the oddly shaped box, we would each choose a chocolate rose, and she’d return the box to the top of the high dresser in my parent’s bedroom. The highlight of the evening was getting to savor that rose after dinner.
One day, however, my mother discovered that somebody had been at her Cadbury’s Roses.
She flew out of the master bedroom light lightning, brandishing the box.
“Who has been at my roses???” she demanded!
My sister was immediately ruled out as a suspect. My mother knew my sister wouldn’t dare.
My brother was only about two, there was no way he could reach the top of the high dresser.
Which left one and only one possible suspect.
And who do you suppose that was?
“Robert! Have you been at my roses?”
“No!” I answered
“You are telling fibs!” she wagged her left index finger at me!
“No, I’m not!” I insisted
“Yes you are!” she exploded, enraged that her son would tell such an obvious lie.
And then she deployed the ultimate salvo.
“No more roses for you, Robert!”
So now, every night after dinner, my mother would take a rose. My father would take a rose. My sister would take a rose. And even my brother would take a rose.
Was I allowed to take a rose?
“Robert had his roses when he took them without permission!” My mother announced: I being the cautionary tale and the example for my brother, and I guess my sister.
My brother seemed to enjoy my punishment as much as he was enjoying the rose.
Because the roses were divided among four people instead of five, they lasted longer, and extended the number of evenings I went without a rose.
However, a few days later somebody had been at the roses again.
My mother was furious.
“Have you not learned your lesson?” she fumed.
“But I didn’t!” I insisted
“Stop telling fibs!”
Of all the things. To take her roses a second time and deny it a second time! A head was going to roll like a bowling ball, and guess whose head that was going to be?
Until later in the day.
Until she walked into the bedroom and what did she see?
She saw my brother (aged two) with his hand in the box of roses. He had scaled the dresser drawers, and was balancing by his toes on the edge of a drawer, going to town on my mother’s chocolate roses. Just like he had been doing at least those past two times.
Why, the thieving little bastard!
The only problem is that the roses were all gone. Except one.
My mother felt horrible.
My mother felt so bad she gave me the very last one of her Cadbury’s Roses on the spot.
And ever after that, every time she went to Belfast, she brought me back my very own box of Cadbury’s Roses. Now of course, in the tradition of our family, the roses were to be doled out, one by one to every member of the family after dinner. But it was me who was doing the doling. And me who would keep the roses in their place. And me who fixed my brother with the fish eye when it was his turn to select a rose.
My mother did this for years; every time she went to Belfast, I would get a box of Cadbury’s Roses. It became kind of a long standing joke until about ten years ago I said, “You know, Mom, you don’t have to get me roses every time you go to Belfast. You are forgiven. I am absolving you. You are off the hook!”
When Mary and I were married in 2012, we honeymooned in London. After that, we visited family in Northern Ireland. We flew home out of Belfast International, and had very long layover at London Heathrow before our flight back to New York.
The International Terminal at Heathrow has an amazing duty free store. It practically rivals a department store in size. So during our long layover, we went to the duty free store and bought two boxes of Cadbury’s Roses: one for my mother and one for Mary’s mother. We also bought a bottle of Bushmill’s Single Malt whiskey for us.
Shortly after our visit, my parents visited us, and I presented my mother with the roses. She graciously accepted the roses, but also saw the Bushmill’s bottle and observed, “I get the roses and you get the whiskey?”
Order has been restored in the world. My mother gets the roses now again.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. When I come upstate to visit you, I will have Roses for you. Not the kind that grow on a bush. The kind that come in a box.
And I promise the next time I go to Belfast, I’ll bring you back both Cadbury’s Roses AND Bushmills!