Embers from the Fire
A weekly blog by Deacon Dan Wagnitz for the Quad Parish Community
Maggie’s Roses – 8/7/2020
I admit that there are times when I enjoy watching Antiques Roadshow on PBS. It is interesting
to see what treasures people bring in. It is a good reminder that the value of something in cold
hard cash is relative and even short-sighted at times. I have seen paintings, jewelry, furniture,
vases and the like that were valuable to the expert collector that I wouldn’t give you a nickel
for. Cash is not necessarily the bottom line in determining an object’s true worth. That’s
certainly true for Maggie’s roses.
Maggie’s roses are painted on a ceramic serving plate. There are a handful of lovely pink roses
amid some green leaves. They don’t crowd the plate – just the perfect balance of subject and
open space. They look real enough that you can almost smell their subtle fragrance. On the
bottom right there is a simple signature: M McKeown. That is my grandmother’s signature.
Her given name was Margaret. When she died, I wrote a poem called An Elegy for Maggie. My
mother told me that it was beautiful but she wasn’t sure what Grandma would say about me
referring to her as Maggie. My mother was brought up to always give others proper respect.
Mc Keown was Grandma’s maiden name. So, I look at that plate and I see my grandmother as a
young lady – perhaps just 16 or 17 years old – old enough to begin dreaming about marriage but
with still with a young girl’s laughter and smiling eyes. This is the way I like to picture her – the
way she looked in the late 1800’s. I think that is why she is Maggie to me. She is too young in
my mind for the formality of Margaret.
Did Maggie look back as well as forward when she painted that plate? She was first generation
American as both her parents had come over from Ireland. Were those Irish roses that perhaps
her mother had told her about – the kind that she would have enjoyed on an early summer day
in her youth on the Emerald Isle.
Did Maggie dream of the Sunday cakes that she would serve her own husband and children as
well as family and friends one day? Did she use the plate, or did she perhaps prop it up on the
kitchen cupboard where the roses would always bloom and never wither – constant color for a
constant love in the home?
When Grandma was old and alone, because her husband died twenty years before her, did she
look again at the roses and remember her young dreams? Did she feel in her heart that her
dreams came true? I pray that she did.
I have Maggie’s roses because when my Father passed away in 1984, he made me the executor
of his estate. As the youngest child I didn’t understand why he put me in that position, but he
did and I handled things as best I could. When my siblings and I met one evening to divide up
the really personal possessions they explained that as executor that I could charge the estate
for my time. I certainly wasn’t going to charge my brothers and sisters to do something that I
was asked to do by my Father. So, as a compromise they told me that they would reverse the
order and, even though I was the youngest, I could pick anything I wanted first, and then they
would go back to birth order for the rest. The choice for me was easy. I asked for my parent’s
rosaries and Grandma’s plate. They thought I was too sentimental and perhaps a bit silly.
Afterall there were a number of things with more cash value. But it was a good choice for me.
Maggie’s roses still bloom in my kitchen; constant color for a constant love in the home.
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