She Wore Scarlet Begonias Tucked Into Her Curls

My mom, and many others, feel that you should choose a mug that speaks to you.

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It’s true. I have one at her house, that is one of a few that she also favors. It’s cream-colored, soft around the edges, and smooth to your lips and tongue. I do lick that mug. I lick the whipped cream around the edges, as well as the remnants of brown or raw sugar. And I can feel it now – curved under my palm – smooth, cool, and comforting. The coolness is a contrast to the hot liquid. The whole experience is heightened from that one mug.

I promise you that.

At home, we have two “Scarlett’s Country Inn” mugs that made it in one piece on a cross-country flight – no doubt wrapped and padded with baby clothes and socks in our suitcases. I won’t even go to Google to try to link up a website for “Scarlett’s Country Inn” – just in case it doesn’t exist anymore. That, I couldn’t bear. I invite you to go see if it still exists, but you don’t have to tell me the results. My favorite mug is the light blue one above.

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

This post is for two people, no longer here. Connected by grace and strength, and the fact that they both impacted our lives enough to contribute to the naming of our firstborn – Scarlet Bella. This post is for FTSF and for these women. This post is part naming convention and part belated eulogy. And it’s partly for our firstborn.

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When people ask me how we came up with Scarlet Bella’s name, I hesitate because there’s no one clear answer. It’s like our “how we met” story. I don’t know when I first thought of Scarlet as a name but I know it was somewhere around ten years ago and that once it came to be, it felt like it’s been there all along this journey.

And maybe it has. I have always thought I’d have a daughter. Sometimes you’re trying to remember or create something, like the name of a movie star or an idea for work, and you can go through your daily life normally while your brain sub-consciously gets closer and closer to it and the – LIGHTBULB – the answer seems to come out of the blue? And you know it’s not coming out of the blue and that your brain has been on auto-pilot all along.

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

“How about Scarlet?” I blurted out one day. I can’t remember when this was, whether it was by email when we still lived 3,000 miles apart or if it was when we were sitting together in our San Francisco apartment. Cassidy agreed to it like that. And I know this was before any talk of babies, or even a wedding. Even after we had discussed this name and held it secretly close to our hearts, this name that had followed me in my past and was circling us in our present, it was still to creep up in our future – actually right when Scarlet was conceived.

Here’s a list of a few of the ways in which “Scarlet” has played into our lives. This is why we called her that:

1 – I went to Rutgers University (Douglass). So did my father, my dad, my sisters, my grandfather, and probably more family than I can remember have all gone to Rutgers University. Their mascot is the Scarlet Knight.

2 – When I was in fifth grade we did a unit on rain forests and I became OBSESSED with Scarlet Macaws. It’s part of my rainbow obsession!

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

3 – “Scarlet’s Walk” is a Tori Amos album and a song on the album. Nothing could replace “Under the Pink” for me – but this album did heavily influence how I look at lyric writing, America and road trips.

4 – Different shades of reds have been my favorite colors for as long as I can remember. I love reading different red descriptions in catalogs like Victoria’s Secret and Land’s End. I most would want to buy a Scarlet dress.

Linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week's topic is

5 – In our wedding vows, I vowed to explore the magical realm of the Grateful Dead. Before that, I had only known “Touch of Grey.” So a lot of my schooling happened on our two and a half week road trip to move back East. We listened to the Dead something like 80% of that trip and they calmly sang us through one of the most harrowing moments of our lives – getting off of a giant mountain during a freak blizzard in the Rockies.

“Scarlet Begonias” is a favorite song.

6 – When Cassidy and I got back together, we stayed with our friend Scarlett at Scarlet’s Country Inn in Calistoga. Our Scarlet’s name has one “T” but we dream that she will grow up to be as elegant, kind-hearted, dream-catching, timeless, and as wise as Calistoga’s Scarlett was. I think it was Cassidy’s mom, Ruth, who first found the B&B. We went any chance we could – to celebrate our engagement, to get away from the city, to say hello and goodbye. The first time I was there, Scarlett made us the most delicious french toast I’ve ever had and gave us advice about running a B&B. She had a boisterous new puppy – a Pomeranian named “Chewbacca of Kashyyyk.”

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The second time I went there she had rescued a beautiful bird that had been left for dead that she believed to be a Stellar Jay. She named him Stella. She nursed him back to health but he always hung around, eventually becoming wild enough that she couldn’t always tell him apart from other Jays. He still hangs around there, I’m sure. The third time I went there, I believe she had two more dogs than the previous time. Her mother had recently passed and she had inherited the dogs. Her mom must have been 110!

The fourth time I went there she revealed, rather shyly, that she had rescued a tiny field mouse that had been left for dead. She kept him in the house and fed him with an infant dropper. She held our Scarlet in her arms and we told her she was part of the reason we gave our baby that name. Then we talked for hours over strawberries dipped in sugar and sour cream. I’m so glad we told her about the naming inspiration. She knew!

Scarlet Begonias

A year later, Cassidy excitedly called her up to make a reservation for a wine country wedding. We found out the tragic news that she had JUST passed away three weeks earlier in a car accident. I found it near impossible to wrap my head around the news. Scarlett was one of a kind and I always wished for an annual Scarlet/Scarlett get together. At least they did meet once. I know she had a long life that must have dramatically touched the lives of everyone around her. I’d only seen her four or five times in my life and I believe I’m a better person because of it.

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7 – Scarlet’s middle name is Bella. That was my grandmother’s name. No Isabella – just Bella. She was magic. I could write on and on about her with tears streaming down my eyes but I think I’ll just post the few paragraphs I wrote about her in the “We Remember…” dedication section of our wedding program:

“When I think of Bella Klein, I always think of the phrase, “larger than life,” because she lived life so big and true. There was not enough room in this world for her huge heart; as well as there is not enough room in this world for our pain at losing her. The quintessential perfect Jewish grandmother, she taught us how to dip bowls of ice cream into rainbow sprinkles and how to be properly tucked into bed at night. This involved yelling “Alley-oop!” and throwing blankets well over our heads as we shrieked with laughter.

I went to college quite close to her home and when I first started as a freshman, I was so nervous that my throat closed and her magical salad was the only food I could get down. I wish I had known then that my time with Grandma Bella was limited because I would have screamed to the sky and been around her 24/7 just to say, “I LOVE YOU” a thousand times. It would never have been enough. Luckily those were my last words to her anyway, thought I didn’t know at the time that they would be. Her funeral was on a clear, dry day in December.

We were all dying a little that day…until someone said, “Look up in the sky” and brought the ceremony to a standstill. I’m no scientist but vivid, full rainbows with arcs do not appear on clear, dry, wintery days yet there were two in the sky directly above our group. We all became believers of magic that day. However to know Bella alive was to be a believer anyway.”

Scarlet Begonias

I’m linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s topic is “They Call Me..” You can link up HERE.

What do they call you?