The Color of Remorse


The Color of Remorse The bricks on our two-story Georgian style home were painted white, and so were the windows and the heavy cast iron table and chairs on the small front porch. Drifts of knee-deep snow covered the entire block. Every front yard, every tree limb, every hedge, every porch railing was hidden under domes of white.

The only color showing was the black of the lampposts, standing sentry beside the blacktopped street. Oh, and the shutters on our four bedroom house were black, as was the front door, and the hanging mailbox beside the black side door, and the bell that hung above the mailbox.

Everything was black or white except the icy cement sidewalks that crisscrossed the ground, with heaps of piled snow at their sides.

I stood on the shoveled stoop of the family entrance, looking up at a row of icicles, some the size of a small child’s arm. Except for my face, my entire little-girl-self was bundled, from my knitted hat and scarf and mittens to my zippered black boots.

It was almost dark as I hopped off the steps and headed down our driveway. I’d been sent on a mission two doors down to borrow an item needed for our supper. Our aproned neighbor was expecting me and she smiled warmly as she handed me a bottle she’d fetched from her pantry. Holding it firmly by the neck I trudged back down the sidewalk and up our curved drive.

Why I decided to toss that bottle of Heinz ketchup up in the air to try to catch it, remains a mystery. But the result of my playful, unwise decision ended up spattering the white landscape, the sidewalk, the driveway, and the heaps of snow with bright, guilty red. The only witnesses were the icicles and the dog watching from our picture window.

This error had no cover; no explanation or lie would have satisfied. I had to come clean and admit the truth.

My hungry family laughed and the neighbor had another bottle, which was carried with the greatest of care the second time on that cold night.

And the hamburgers were good.

The Color of Remorse_ Lesson 1The moral to this story: (and why I think it is in my memory all these years later)

I think this might have been the first time I remember feeling remorse for something that could not be undone. Yes, it was instant, messy remorse. I know the feeling well. Remorse is that healthy, God-given reaction to wrong-doing that leads us to change our ways. It is one of the many blessings that is not pleasant.  Remorse, like ketchup-spattered snow, is evidence that change needs to occur. It is one of the invisible layers underneath our visible cover that sends me running to my Savior, the author of second chances.

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11 Responses to The Color of Remorse

  1. Jude says:

    It is often hard to imagine a real winter when living in the subtropics but your writing really made me sense how deep snow would be feel and look, as well as the clothing you wear. I enjoyed the story line and the clever title.

  2. milestones says:

    What a picture – painted in black and white – and the splash of red! I could see the snow and feel the cold – and the fear that came with the broken ketchup bottle. A beautiful picture indeed of guilt and remorse – and freedom found through admission of guilt.

    • becky_n says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I’m glad the images and feelings came across. Translating these memories into words is a challenge, isn’t it?

  3. Memoir Writer says:

    How true that those things we can’t undo because we don’t get a second chance become regrets and remorse, particularly poignant for old people because we’ve used my most of the chances we’ll ever get, at least in this lifetime. The saddest words ever spoken: Too late. My color for remorse is a leaden gray, pewter, dull and heavy on the heart. Really like your writing!

  4. freckles says:

    What a beautiful piece, your words painted a scene, I can see you tossing the ketchup bottle and seeing splatters of red seeping into the white snow! 🙂 great job.

  5. smyrnami says:

    Love the picture of you as a little girl you included. Great story, very vivid. Look forward to more.

  6. Hana says:

    Becky! Wow, I can really see the black and white world you described so vividly and then the red of the ketchup stain on the snow. How iconic. Very well done!

  7. Ann-Marie says:

    Great description ! I could swear I was at the picture window with the dog watching you toss that ketchup! AHH! Now this is something my youngest boy would have done- Great writing! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. Laura says:

    The title brought me in, the description of a yet un-named bottle of something kept me there. Nice job, and a great memory for morals. Well written, I really enjoyed this story!

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