YELLOW ROSE

 

She came across the sea

when she was just sixteen

 

Leaving a life in poverty

to find out who she could be

in this land called the free

 

Bethany and her yellow rose

come in every Friday

she’s come to meet her man

though he has past away

 

But they’ve made a date and she’s kept it

she’s wearing the earrings he gave her

She’s sitting watching the door

and she’s carrying a yellow rose 

 

A bohemian man of song and wonder

he brought out a laugh like thunder

and for him there was no other

since the day he saw her there

 

In a cafe she owned with her daughters

with a garden of beautiful flowers

A little place down by the Bay

is where his heart and her heart

found their grace

 

This disease has not been kind to her brain

she’s having a hard time remembering

And nothing is the same

nothing is what it seems

but who can say what’s real from dreams?

 

Because they made a date and she’s kept it

she’s wearing the earrings he gave her

She’s sitting watching the door

and she’s carrying a yellow rose

 

She came across the sea

when she was just sixteen

 

 

Vocals, composition: Maya McNeil

Mandolin: Benjamin Pearl

Cello: Joe Zeitlin

Drums: Reese Bullen

Stand-up Bass: Nick Galotta

Acoustic Guitar: Matt McDavid

Production, Mixing and Engineering: Matt McDavid
Co-Production: Maya McNeil

 

There’s a Burmese restaurant called Pagan on the corner of Clement and 33rd, near the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. It has ruby and gold walls and very delicious food.  A friend and I went in for a lunch one Spring. The only other customer in the restaurant was an elder woman, sitting in a booth near the window. She had a book next to her, and a yellow rose resting between the literature and the edge of the table, with its stem pointing towards the door. The rain outside had changed the city noise and cleared the air, and I felt my imagination whir to life. What was this lady, and the rose, all about I wondered? Was she waiting for someone? Who was she waiting for? Who was she?

By the time we finished our meal and paid the bill, I realized no one had come in to join her. Was anyone coming? She was deep in her book as we walked out the door. 

Around this same time, my ferociously wonderful and wild grandmother, Anna Garland Douglas, was weeding her way through that disease that crumbles greats: Alzheimers, and was moving towards her exit. Her stubborn and courageous partner, the musician and artist Josea Davis, was losing his own mobility to a form of ALS, but was steadfast by her side until the end. They were a complicated, passionate, fickle, and hilarious pair, companions for many decades. He is the bohemian and she is the ‚ÄėBethany,‚Äô a name that has no known origin to me, just the one that came with the song when its¬†spun shape¬†arrived in my mind, soon after that San Francisco day of wonder. Maybe Bethany is yours?

Anna immigrated from the textile mill town of Hawick in southern Scotland when she was 16 years old, coming over via the often exploitive foreign nanny job market. She found her second escape from the seedy job situation through the love and newfound kinship with an older Scottish woman named Elizabeth Doig, who had come over from Glasgow years before. They met in Palo Alto, California, where they both worked in the bakery at the food coop. This is where she met my grandfather John McNeil, who was enchanted by the pretty lass singing on the other side of the bakery counter.

 This song, is spun from both the seemingly unconnected tail of the book reader with the rose, and wanting to recognize the full life my grandmother loved and lived.

I believe the melody and push of the chorus is a heartfelt insistence that we do not let a clouded and limited perception of aging and the ravages of disease and illness, define who we were, are, or what we remember of each other. For surely we are endless realms of story and crossroads, and there is much to remember and honor. May we try to really see each other, so we can be truly present when it comes time for grief and goodbyes, and not be swallowed by the abyss.