Red the Color of Wintergreen Berries

Here’s a post, by request, from back in 2003. More than 15 years ago. Lot has changed since, and so much is still the same. No recipes back then, but I’ll make up for it next time around.

Listened to the show on Saturday and it was not bad. I was really quite taken with Inga Swearingen’s name alone, and kept saying it to myself as I listened from the green armchair in the living room. The kids were playing outside and I had nearly forgotten about them when they came stomping in all covered with snow, peeled off their snowsuits and threw them on the kitchen floor, and ran upstairs to read ghost stories to each other in the big corner bedroom with the door that opens onto a balcony. I’ve told them that balcony is off limits. They may fall through, or at least weaken the ceiling of the sun room below. They’re in a ghost story phase which gives them another excuse to scream.

So they stayed up there a while, reading and eating the popcorn I left for them and I turned down the lights and lit a candle and thought hard about Thanksgiving and how we all got so drowsy after the turkey at the in-laws. Inga sang “My Favorite Things” — a song I know from The Sound of Music and I went and made a mental list of my own: homemade bread pudding served up with green apples, and twilight, and the crackle of burning pine needles. I love my wood rolling pin and how the kids leave their footprints in the bath towels after a shower and how it feels to sleep under heavy quilts. I love to hear Mr. Sundberg laughing somewhere in the house, and I love silence, and those flour sack towels my mother embroiders along the edges with words like “Believe” and “Life isn’t fair and the sooner you realize it, the happier you’ll be.” She buys them in packages of five down at the hardware store. After she stitches the words in, she spray starches and folds a towel and sends it Priority Mail. The last one she sent arrived Saturday morning. It had just two words on it — in a red the color of wintergreen berries — followed by three tiny knots: “Remember when . . .”

It wasn’t until after the show when the kids were in bed and the candle was still lit and Mr. Sundberg had called from Wyoming to say goodnight that I got some of that precious silence. And the answer, Mother, is yes. I do.


  1. KimberlyD
    February 7, 2018

    I had the song Sound of Silence play through my head after reading your post. Silence parents miss and lonely people dread.

  2. gail in northern California
    February 7, 2018

    Oh my. A promise kept. That could have been embroidered on one of your mother’s dish towels. A promise kept. Thank you. This time I will print out a copy to save forever. Who but you would write “…how the kids leave their footprints in the bath towels after a shower…”? Now that I think about it, I’m going to print several copies and share with friends. Thank you again. I wish all of your columns could be reposted. I’m reminded now of one where you talked about taking a still-warm cake to a friend’s home, a loving memory because the two of you talked away the afternoon and it would be the last time you would see Esther, ever. Beautifully written, it was titled “It’s going to be a fine week”, October 16, 2006. It might sound strange but over the years, I have enclosed copies with sympathy cards. Bless you, dear lady.

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