You can tell the holiday and the season by what's hanging from the side of the Roses' house in Harundale.
That was a moose, not a reindeer, at Christmas. A red Cupid flapped in February's winds. And this month's green shamrocks have taken a walloping from the weather. Any day now, an Easter design will replace them.
Thousands of Ritchie Highway travelers see the 3-foot-by-5-foot flags. They hang from the East Way side of the house on the corner of Lansing Road.
"I've had people stopping by and taking pictures. I've had people leaving notes in my door," said Jackie Rose. An unsigned postcard that arrived the other day reads: "Hello! Just a note to say my family often drives down Ritchie Highway and we always enjoy your banners! Thanks for the beauty and celebration."
Mrs. Rose, 52, bought her first flag, a basket of flowers, about five years ago on a visit to her native Massachusetts, where such banners are popular.
Decorative outdoor banners are gaining popularity around the country, said Stan Gorski, archivist at the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Design.
They have their roots in the flags that identified castles in medieval times and ships in later days, said Harold Langley, curator of Naval History at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History. The symbols were important for commerce to populations that were largely illiterate. But now, he said, people have turned to using them to personalize their homes.
For Mrs. Rose, hanging decorative flags became habit-forming.
But at about $100 apiece, it was a pricey addiction, said her husband, Buford "Boots" Rose, 63.
She first tried making her own flag in 1990, when her son John, a Marine, was being shipped out to serve in Desert Shield. She wanted something special and fashioned a light blue banner with a huge yellow bow edged in tan. It caught the eye of dozens of people, some of whom stopped by to tell Mrs. Rose about sons they had in the Persian Gulf.
Last fall, as her store-bought banners faded, Mrs. Rose tried again. Since those Halloween ones, she's fashioned at least 50. She's working on about seven for Easter and spring, with bunnies, eggs and flower designs.
To do the job, Mrs. Rose has replaced the sewing machine she used to sew clothes for her four children with a larger model, invested in a cutting table and bought special scissors. Patterns -- some bought, some homemade from stained-glass patterns, children's coloring book designs and freehand drawings -- fill a half-dozen loose-leaf books. Yards of trigger poplin, the flag fabric, in an array of colors, rest on shelves. A table is piled with spools of thread. The ironing board is always up. The hobby has eaten the room.
Once she's picked the design, Mrs. Rose cuts the fabrics. On a 2-foot-tall white bunny, for example, she sews a black eye and a pink ear. Then, she carefully snips away the white material so the colors are visible on both sides. On the big panel, she creates a sleeve for a pole to slide through. At last, the design is stitched onto the panel and the panel fabric behind it cut off. A small tag tucked inside the sleeve notes that Mrs. Rose, "the flag lady" has crafted the item.
Mrs. Rose sells banners to friends and co-workers at St. Agnes Hospital, where she is employed as a secretary. Her banners go for $30 to $55, "which probably isn't nearly enough for the amount of time I put into it," she said.
Each banner represents a day's work, she said. To keep her nerves from fraying under pressure, Mrs. Rose doesn't make flags to order.