This is not a story about a couple who were friends with my parents, but it might seem to be. I’m sure they had real names, but I only knew them as “Red” and “Swede”. Red (because he had red hair) worked with my dad, and Swede (because she was Swedish) had a ceramic studio in the basement of their home.
When my mother began taking ceramic lessons from Swede, it didn’t take long for them to build a friendship as strong as any I’ve ever seen. I found it interesting they were friends since they were nothing alike. My mom was petite, and Swede was… well, NOT! She had a deep, husky voice and a big, booming laugh. Her eyes squinted shut every time she smiled, and I remember wondering what color they were. I never knew because she always smiled when she looked at me!
We often found ourselves at Red and Swede’s house on Saturday nights. My sister and I would watch TV in the living room while the grown-ups sat at the kitchen table in scintillating conversation, smoking cigarettes, and drinking coffee. I loved their living room! A pair of massive recliners faced the TV and were separated by a dark wooden end table. At Christmastime, a white ceramic Christmas tree Swede made sat on a round lace doily in the middle of the end table. It gave off the most amazing light when the room was dark! I always sat in Swede’s chair and my sister sat in Red’s.
That’s where my mother found Swede one day when she stopped by for supplies—in her chair. It was as if she had fallen asleep while watching television, only she wasn’t sleeping. My mother wept for what seemed like forever, and that’s when I learned what grief is.
My mother’s love for ceramics grew to a passion after Swede’s death. What was once a hobby became a business when she opened her own ceramic shop in the basement of our home, just like Swede had done.
I have many memories of Mom’s ceramics, but one of my favorites is of the white Christmas tree she made to look like Swede’s. At night, when the lights in our house were dim, that Christmas tree radiated the same amazing light I remembered. I found it comforting and familiar.
So, while this may seem like a story about friends of my parents, it’s really a story about memories. We don’t know what might spark memories in another person. Whether it’s a word, an object, or a shared experience, memories are a bond. Whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you spend it creating valuable new memories with family and friends. And please, take a moment to step back in time and dust off an old memory or two!