“The Silent Rose”
by Dee-Dee Diamond
More than a few females in my family, (of that last generation), were named for this lovely flower. This was a family fact and dealt with as such.
None were called just plain-old Rose. As we were an immigrant clan with” a bouquet of Roses”, we added unique character descriptions to some.
There was “Zaftig Rose”, (chubby) “The bag of Bones Rosie”, “The Younker’s Rose”, “Moonie’s Rose” and our Italian Rose, “Rowe”.
The Rose I’ll be telling you about is “Shtuma Rosie”. Shtum in Yiddish means quiet and indeed this Rosie was… (in deepest affection), “The Quiet One”. She was born mute.
“Shtuma Rosie” and my mother, “Zaftig Rose”, were first cousins. They were contemporaries and very close. Each lived with their husbands and children in Brooklyn. One lived in Williamsburg, the other a distant subway ride away in Brownsville. It was a joyful reunion whenever my mother’s dear cousin visited. They each had so much to catch-up on. Siblings, in-laws, out-laws, who was fighting, who was expecting, who was having an affair, which had health or money problems.
These talkative Rosies’ had so much to gossip about …but they had a major problem.
“Shtuma Rosie” could not speak, nor was she taught to “lip-read”. Alas, my mother could not “sign”. What to do, what to do?
It was my father,” Sammy the Butcher” who came up with the perfect solution.
While stacking a delivery of large brown paper bags, in his Butcher Shop, he got the idea.
He took out a large pair of shears, cut the bags wide open and brought the entire stack home. With a handful of pens, he offered graciously: “Rosie’s’ now you can talk …your hearts out”!
“The short-stemmed Roses” now armed with these tools, commenced mad venting at our enamel/metal kitchen table.
“So, how’s your Saul and children”? My mother would begin, in her slanted, flowing handwriting.
“The Cousin” would then answer, in her small, tight hand, “They’re all OK, Thanks G-d, except for Louie who has” The Gripe”. He probably got it from that skinny girlfriend of his, Pauline. She doesn’t wear a sweater even if its chilly outside”!
On and on “The Roses” would scribble furiously all afternoon. They would make the accompanying grimaces or smiles to animate the brown paper bag script.
There were chuckles and tears. Mostly the sounds in the warm tenement kitchen were of their pens scratching on the stiff leaves of paper.
I can see myself as a young pig-tailed girl, skipping home from school, pushing our apartment door open, and knowing at once…” Shtuma Rosie” was visiting.
I had to watch my step so as not to trip over the clutter of used brown paper, floating on the waxed linoleum floor, as I ran to kiss both Roses.
When evening grew near, my mother, “Zaftig Rose” hugged her cousin, “Shtuma Rose” and loaded her with noshes, for the long ride home…in a brown paper bag.