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Pink roses from my mother

Marianne Virgili
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Someone recently sent me a copy of a Glenwood Post interview that was published on Mother’s Day 16 years ago. It was an interview about me being a working mother, considered something of an oddity at the time.In the article, I talked a lot about my Mom and how she influenced my work ethic. My mother passed away seven years ago, but there isn’t a day that I don’t think about her, and the life lessons she taught me. She was an Italian immigrant, but not a stereotype Italian matriarch. A bride at just 17, she was younger, prettier, and more stylish than the mother of any of my friends. I always thought of her as a kind of Italian Jackie Kennedy with classic clothes and impeccable taste. She loved Glenwood Springs, but going to Aspen for lunch was always the highlight of her visits here, because glitz and glamour were definitely her style. Her favorite expression was, “Thank God for makeup.” She always put on a fresh coat of lipstick before my Dad got home.I was the firstborn grandchild in an Italian/American family and the first to go to college. Not only that, I got to go away to school instead of living at home and taking the bus into the city like any other good Italian Catholic girl. My mother is the one who gave me that opportunity, and to do so she went to work part time at the May Co. I still remember going into the department store to see her for first time – I couldn’t believe the professional lady behind the counter was my mother!My mother taught me that family is the most important thing there is and to be generous with my friends. But most significant to my work experience is that she taught me how to juggle. Even after my mother went to work, she never missed a Sunday making sauce, and we’d prepare homemade meals every night. She was a voracious reader, a fantastic decorator, a great seamstress, a Cub Scout den mother, and the leader of Bluebird and Campfire Girls troops. She had four children by the time she was 25 but never complained about being too busy to cook or sew. I now look back and wonder how she did it.Just before she died, I asked my Mom if she would send me a sign that she’d made it to heaven. My mother strongly believed in signs, so this wasn’t an unusual request. She replied that she would send me a rose and asked me what color I wanted. I answered, “pink.” A few weeks later a good friend called, saying our close friends had decided to plant a rosebush in my mom’s memory. They thought they’d plant it in front of the Chamber building so that it would be there forever and I’d notice it when I drove by. She wanted to know what color rosebush to buy, so I said, “Let’s make it pink.”My husband, John, takes care to prune and tend the rosebush planted near the Chamber sign. It starts to sprout green leaves and tiny buds every May at about Mother’s Day. Sometimes I’ll have a hard day and see a particularly bright and beautiful bloom as I leave the office. I know that’s my Mom reassuring me.Thank you to whoever sent me that old article, because it reminded me that a mother’s actions, even more than her words, make us who we are. Marianne Virgili is president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. Special thanks to the Ackermans, Telindes, Joneses and Fattors for planting the beautiful pink rosebush in front of the chamber in honor of her mother, Mary Grace.


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