THE ROSE GARDEN
by Corinne Copnick
(Reprinted from How To Live Alone Until You Like It...And Then You're Ready for Somebody Else, copyright by Corinne Copnick, Toronto, 1994. All rights reserved. Also printed in Jewish Life, Toronto, 1994).
Going to Paris barter-style marked a changing point in my life. Everyone had cautioned me about trading my house. What if the visiting people wrecked it? Various friends regaled me with horrible situations they had heard about. I decided to take the chance and have some faith in human nature. I left everything "as is" and simply asked the visitors to replace anything they used. Some few items I did put away in a locked cupboard.
In Paris my hosts in absentia had done the same, even leaving out their liquor supply for our use. (We don't drink hard liquor.) My daughters and I purchased wine ($1.50 per bottle) each night from the local grocery for a festive dinner. Since our funds were limited, we decided early on to make all our meals at home and visit restaurants only for citron pressé (lemonade) and coffee. From the local stores we bought our groceries, crusty bread and cheese and other supplies, and had delicious meals each evening. Janet and Shelley, my daughters, knew several young people visiting France, so we invited them, too, along with the young doctor. Every night we had a full table.
Every night our table was beautifully set with a vase full of roses in the center. One of the most moving experiences of my life had to do with the roses.
It had been such an effort to get to Paris. It was the thought of making the trip that had sustained me through that last year in Montreal while I was waiting for my divorce to become final.
In my reduced circumstances, I was racking my brains to think of how I could use every resource I had to maximum advantage. The idea of using my house in that way was comforting. It gave me a project to concentrate on. At the beginning, I thought of it as a way of giving my children a vacation. I wasn't sure I could manage the airfare for myself.
The kindness of a friend was a real motivation. He offered to lend me the money for the fare. I refused his offer, but promised to take it if I couldn't earn the money. So I went ahead with planning my trip, and I earned the money to go.
When I arrived in Paris, my children (who had preceded me by flying there the week before) picked me up at the airport in the car we had also exchanged with our French hosts. Then they drove me to the house in a green and beautiful suburb of Paris. The house was gracious, walled with wrought iron gates in the Parisian manner; but when I walked through the house and into the garden, I gasped in shock and pleasure. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
"Oh," I whispered. "Nobody promised me a rose garden, but it's here."
The garden was blooming everywhere with quantities of magnificent roses. It was, indeed, a rose garden.
When we left Paris, I filled little boxes purchased from the holographic museum with tiny rose buds and sealed them. I was able to bring the rose garden home to my friends.