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"Other Colors"
by Orhan Pamuk

by Nathaniel Philbrick

April 4, 2009

Sweet Peas

Neighbor Alice brought over a bunch of sweet peas. I love sweet peas. I can remember my mother picking sweet peas and ferns that grew beside the house and making a bouquet to take to a funeral service in our little country church. Mom had a gift for arranging flowers – actually she had a great many gifts. None of us can do flowers like she did. Of course the smell of the sweet peas brought back not only that memory but others as well.

Sweet Peas

One year I was visiting Montana during the Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman. Some of us were sitting and eating breakfast, I think, when we began brainstorming about retiring. The sisters said that they thought it would be a great idea for us all to retire together. We talked about how we would be able to care for each other and about the logistics of how this would all work. We would need a place that would provide both community and privacy, both autonomy and cooperation. We even began to actively look for places. I looked in Southern California, we took a girls’ trip to Sequim Washington, which is, incidentally, the lavender capital of North America. I would really love that. But that wasn’t quite right. We investigated, via the web, a geodesic dome house in Yuma Arizona, but none was quite right. We finally decided that it wasn’t the building, it was the location.

Women are nesters and as we were looking for a communal home, we were each bringing twigs and leaves and pulling down from our breasts and building up our own nest. Actually, I think it was the idea of leaving the familiar – especially the grandchildren for those who had them. Then Anita married and she had a nest to refurbish, and the grandchildren kept coming and the great grandchildren and the idea sort of died on the vine, even though we still, every now and then, wistfully speak of it. I am sure the brothers-in-law heaved sighs of relief, thankful that they don’t have to live with all of us.

We do say that it would have been wonderful for us all to have been with mother the last year of her life. It would have been wonderful to have been with Eunice during her last years. We could have helped Marlyn through her multiple hip surgeries. It would still be wonderful to be with Lyla and Clifford and to have the pleasure of each others’ company during our declining years, but we are content where we are

There is an old gospel song that has been running through my mind lately. It is This World is Not My Home.
This world is not my home
I'm just passing through
My treasures are laid up
Somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me
From Heaven's open door
And I can't feel at home
In this world anymore.

I feel this way more and more. Maybe that is what we were all feeling. Do you think there will be sweet peas in heaven?

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