From the Relief Society Magazine, August 1956 –
A Rose Without a Thorn
By Irene McCullough
Mollie heard the door slam as Jim left the house. What’s the use, she thought, he’s all wound up again, and when he is that way everything I do is wrong as far as he is concerned. She was too angry to cry. She felt all tied up inside.
If only she could discuss her problem with someone, it might help. It would be useless to talk to her mother. She invariably took Mollie’s part and Jim did not stand a chance. Aunt Margaret was just as bad. There was Millie, across the street, but she had so many cares of her own, it would be unfair to burden her with any more. Besides, she did not want her affairs discussed around the neighborhood.
Suddenly she thought of Aunt Rachael. Aunt Rachael never gossiped. She was over eighty years old, and the town had practically grown up around her. She had had many ups and downs in her life – mostly downs – and yet she had come through smiling. Surely she could advise her.
Mollie hurriedly cleaned up the house and started out to see Aunt Rachael. It was just a short distance, and the cool, damp air felt refreshing against her flushed cheeks.
“Come in and sit down,” called out Aunt Rachael as soon as Mollie opened the door. “It’s so nice to have someone drop in and chat with me. I don’t get out as often as I used to.”
Mollie could not hold back her pent-up emotions any longer. She dropped into the nearest chair and burst into tears. Aunt Rachael did not say a word – just let her sob it out.
“Oh, Aunt Rachael, I’m sorry; I’m really ashamed to act this way.”
“That’s all right, dear, that’s all right. It’s just nature’s way of easing the pressure when you are over-taxed. Now, what’s troubling you?”
“It’s Jim – he is so cross and irritable lately that I can hardly stand it. No matter how hard I try, I don’t seem to please him. Maybe I never was meant for him; maybe he is tired of me; maybe I should leave him; maybe …”
“Maybe,” interrupted Aunt Rachael, “he is working too hard. I heard he got the contract to put in the new road down in Fairview. They say that is a pretty tough job.”
“He has been working hard, Aunt Rachael. It’s nearly impossible to get dependable help nowadays, and every time he leaves the job, something goes wrong. He never gets home until late and has to leave early in the morning.”
“Ruth came in to see me yesterday,” softly said Aunt Rachael, artfully trying to change the conversation. “She said she had just been over to see your new living room set and that it was the prettiest one she had ever seen.”
“It is beautiful. I didn’t want Jim to buy it because I felt it was too expensive, but Jim could see I preferred it, so he had them send it out.”
“I want to run in and get a peek at it myself as soon as I can,” said Aunt Rachael. “These new sofas are surely attractive. But, speaking of Ruth, she looked so tired and thin yesterday, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for her.”
“She does look worn out,” replied Mollie. “Her husband is a good-natured man, but he can’t seem to hold down a job for long. Ruth tends the neighbors’ children, takes in sewing and does all her own work. No wonder she’s tired and thin.”
Aunt Rachael sighed, then began slowly and thoughtfully: “I think I understand her problems pretty well. You know Frank, my husband, was the kindest man that ever lived, but he just could not seem to get out of low gear. I decided to leave him once. I had three children then, and John, the eldest, was only six years old. We had one of the best farms in the valley, but our farm never produced as much as the neighboring farms. Each time it was our turn to irrigate, we lost a portion of the water because Frank was always late opening up the headgates. We could have raised twice as many chickens, pigs, and cows as we did, but Frank never seemed to get around to it. But he could always find time to sit down and tell the children stories, or whittle them a whistle or a flipper, go fishing or pick berries with them. I had scolded him so much about his inability to get things done that I was beginning to have an awful disposition.”
Aunt Rachael leaned back in her chair and seemed to be looking back through the years.
“One day I decided that we could no longer go on the way we were. I put on my bonnet and went to see mother. She lived about a mile down the road. Mother was one of the first pioneers to settle in the valley. Her life had not been an easy one. She had walked across the plains in 1854. She lost her first three children with diphtheria. Father was away from home a great deal of the time, and mother had to shoulder the responsibility of the farm and home. I walked into her living room and sat down. I told her I was going to bring the three children and come home to live; that I just could not struggle with Frank’s careless ways any longer. She listened until I had finished my story, then took me by the arm and led me out onto the front porch and said:
“‘Rachael, you married Frank for time and eternity. You go straight home and don’t come back. You will never live to find a rose without some thorns.’ Without more ado, she walked back into the house and closed the door.
“I walked slowly down the steps and toward home. I thought about Frank. Would I trade him for anyone else I knew? I couldn’t think of a soul I would rather have married, even a very ambitious one. How about the children – would they want to leave their father? They went to him for everything. It was Frank who took time to hear their tales of woe, bind up a stubbed toe or cut finger, and comfort and advise them. When they were sick, it was Frank who got up at night and watched over them with tender care. They didn’t call for me – they called for Frank. It dawned on me that I, too, had my thorns. Surely I could fill in for the weaknesses in Frank as he was filling in for me … When Frank died the meetinghouse was filled to overflowing – everyone loved him. He was the kindest man that ever lived, and I miss him more every day.”
Aunt Rachael’s trembling old hand wiped a tear from her eye, then she managed a smile and said, “Mollie, you will never find a rose without a thorn.”
Mollie got up and went over and kissed Aunt Rachael goodbye and hurriedly left for home. The children would soon be there for lunch and maybe Jim would run in for a sandwich. With a thankful prayer in her heart, and a new humility, Mollie spoke softly to herself: “I, too, never expect to find a rose without a thorn, nor am I one,” and she resolved to be a more understanding wife and count her blessings.