Dear Mom,

What is it about autumn? During my last visit with you, by mid-afternoon I was turning on all the lights in your apartment. Overhead lights, table lamps, the kitchen and hall lights, anything to make the day seem brighter, longer.


October is a month that seems to tell us to slow down, to rest and brace for the winter days ahead. October means shorter days with less light, but also mood swings that match color swings. Leaves change from green to gold, red, orange and yellow, brilliant at first, but then they turn brown and fall from the trees, leaving spindly bare branches.

October is one of the SADD months, when less light causes Seasonal Affective Depression Disorder in many people, which causes problems including making them feel less energetic, creative and hopeful. (I learned that SADD is also actually an acronym for numerous situations and organizations, including Students Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Destructive Decisions, Senior Attention Deficit Disorder, and my favorite now that our daughter Molly found this and pointed it out–Same Accident Different Day–which is a real acronym, too.)

Some adults, and many children, might think that Halloween is the only bright spot in October. But there’s another day coming soon that should make us all smile: Sweetest Day. In 1922 Herbert Birch Kingston declared the third Saturday of October as Sweetest Day. Herbert Kingston was a Cleveland, Ohio philanthropist and candy company employee. To show orphans, shut-ins and the under-priveleged that they were not forgotten, on Sweetest Day he gave them candy and small gifts, and he often recruited movie stars to distribute the gifts. For instance, on the first Sweetest Day in 1922, movie star Ann Pennington presented 2,200 Cleveland newspaper boys with boxes of candy in appreciation for their service to the public.

Mom, you were only four years old when Herbert Birch Kingston initiated the first Sweetest Day, and I don’t know if you ever realized that each year the third Saturday in October was the day of this celebration. But I’ll tell you what I do remember you saying about “blue” days, cloudy or feeling-down days that people complained about.  You said that the best way to cheer yourself up was to help someone else. To make your own day brighter and happier, the best thing to do was brighten another’s day.

I remember gray rainy days, not just in October but also in other months, when I’d come into the kitchen and you’d be kneading bread dough or baking cookies or making jam to pour in pretty little jars. It wasn’t just your regular baking. When the project was done, you’d take a jar or a wrapped loaf or plate of cookies and go to visit someone who was ill or was alone or troubled. And you’d send me out, too, with another treat to deliver to someone. As I got older, I could choose the neighbor or friend on my own, because I’d picked up from you the message of cheer or friendship that would be delivered along with the goodies.

Were you doing it for them, Mom, or sometimes were you also doing it for yourself? Is this why I don’t remember you being discouraged or lethargic or sad…because you encouraged yourself at the same time you encouraged others?

Thank you, Herbert Birch Kingston, for your generosity and concern on Sweetest Day.  Thank you, Mary Elizabeth Hoover Shepherd, for your generosity and concern for others during any other days that needed a little sweetness.

This year, Sweetest Day is next Saturday, October 20th.  Friday, October 19th, is “Evaluate Your Life” Day.  Hmm. Not a bad combination. October is looking better and brighter already.

Smiling llama, North Pole (Colorado) all photographs by Marylin Warner

The Yarn Tree: group project at Old Colorado City Library, Colo. Springs west side


Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, neighbors, October glory

39 responses to “THANKS, HERBERT!

  1. You have an amazing way with words, Marylin. And your post are filled with love, affection and admiration for your mother.
    I knew nothing about the Sweetest Days.

  2. Thanks, Julia. Writing this one brought back a flood of memories of my mom before the dementia. Even now when she smiles, I see hints of her life-long sweet disposition and kindness.
    Hey, the good news is that you now know of Sweetest Day, a perfect excuse to share lots of goodies! (And it’s always good to sample them first, you know, to make sure they’re fit to share with others.)

  3. I remember when we first moved to Ohio, and I kept hearing about this “Sweetest Day.” Had no idea what it was!

    I love October–not too cold yet and such gorgeous fall foliage. November’s not too bad either. But then comes winter…

  4. I don’t think anyone will care (or even know) if your choose a winter day as your Sweetest Day. Colorado has many bright, sunny and mild days during the winter, but we’ve also had LOTS of snowstorms on Halloween.
    Hey, with all the candy that doesn’t get trick’or treated, November 1st could become my Sweetest Day! Now that’s a happy, fat thought.

  5. Molly


    I think that Grandma’s DNA really runs deep through our family line!! I remember how you would always go out of your way to have us visit shut-ins, give rides to people without cars, and to take things (meals, flowers, hand drawn pictures, etc.) to to the neighbors who needed a pick me up! I know with me, I am always trying to teach Grace and Gannon to be productive on yucky days. I also try to always make sure that when I know someone is going through some rough spot that I make a point to make contact with them…..

    These are all examples of Grandma glowing through all of us!

    Love you, and Grandma…..

    • I’m so glad you remember those things and connect them all the way back to Grandma. You have a generous and encouraging spirit, Molly, that reminds me of Grandma, and in my mind I see you picking vegetables in the garden with her, baking in the kitchen, making cards and drawing pictures for people who were so happy to have them.
      Grandma’s DNA really is strong in our family…and we’re already seeing it in Grace and Gannon!
      Love you, lots and lots. (And I’m speaking for Grandma, too.)

      • SmallHouseBigGarden

        Your mother (and you by extension) have illustrated one of life’s BIG lessons: when you do something selfless for someone else you feel good about everything!
        Wonderful post…particularly so being that it’s the Lord’s day.

    • SmallHouseBigGarden

      Such a lovely illustration of how children model the behaviour of their parents. This post and your comment have brought a tear to my eye.

      • Thank you, Karen. And at our house, very often the Lord’s Day included bringing home guests for Sunday dinner after church. Sometimes it was new visitors at church, but often if was someone Mom already knew but she sensed might want to join us at the table. She always made extra of everything–like a big roast slowly cooking in the oven while we were at church, and a pie ready to bake as soon as we got home–just in case we had a special visitor or two.

  6. Beautiful! I’m going to have to tell my daughter about that Same Accident Different Day — she might not like it, but she has definately earned it 🙂

  7. dianabletter

    I never knew about the Sweetest Day! That is a terrific concept and a reminder that it only takes one of us, just one, to help make the world a sweeter place. Thank you, Marilyn!

    • Thank you, Diana. You’re right, it only takes one person to make the world a sweeter place. But then if it gets passed on–the recipient doing something sweet for the next person…and so on–it can make a big difference!

  8. in your calender there seems to be many days to remember. I like the moods are frequents as the door swings 🙂 how interesting.

    • Actually, there are so many designations for each day on the calendar that I pick and choose from the possibilities. For instance, next week has Bold and Bald day, too! I still don’t fully understand how days are selected, but they are interesting.

  9. Marylin, just started looking at blogs again after being a bit run down (still am, truth be told) and guess who was first up? ‘Sweetest Day’ What a genius day. I think you need to get this going WORLD WIDE. My days are a bit grainy but someone turning up even with a cookie would bring a cheery smile for a while xxxxxxx

    • I’m glad you’re on the mend, Tom. What you need is a cookie AND a special cupcake–I’m thinking Maple with bacon-sprinkled icing: really good!–and you’d be back on your game. If there were some way to quickly deliver cupcakes and cookies from Colorado to London (without financing it through a bank) they’d be on their way to you now. Good to hear from you, Tom, and get well soon!

  10. what a wonderful heritage you share with us. To share sweetness with someone is such a gift, to both giver and receiver. Let’s follow your family’s lead, and do it often,shall we?

  11. Don’t know why this brought tears to my eyes. Maybe because it’s a grey October day. Or maybe because you are asking a question of someone and can only answer that question for yourself. Dementia takes the answers to the little questions away from us, doesn’t it?

    • You’re right. Dementia claims so much more than just one person’s memory. And Alzheimer’s (which my Dad suffered with the last seven years of his life) destroys even more since it often comes with rage. So when we share insights and memories with those who also knew our loved ones, sometimes that’s the only way we have to get answers.

  12. Alice

    A lovely reminder of Sweetest Day–thank you!

  13. Hmm. I have a meeting that day. Maybe I can take some sweets to make it better. What a neat idea.

  14. That’s a great idea, Ellen! Meetings take our time, sometimes cause conflict (or boredom) and often make us feel stressed or unappreciated. What better way to sweeten things up than tell them about Sweetest Day…and follow it up with some goodies!

  15. Can’t wait to tell our students tomorrow about The Sweetest Day — and I’ve scheduled a tweet to share your blog with my followers. I love reading about your mom.

    • I hope your students have fun with it, Darla, and thanks for the tweet connection. I don’t know how I missed your “Soul Sisters” post about your sister. It is so beautiful and heartfelt, very touching. That, to me, makes for a Sweetest Day!

  16. hello Marilyn — nice to meet you — I love the name of your blog!

    And Sweetest Day — how delightful. Thanks for shining some light on my October morning — it’s still dark out. There is also another highlight in october here in Canada — our Thanksgiving Day falls on the second Monday of the month!

    I am grateful you came by to visit and lead me here.

  17. Marylin, I love how you wove in the Sweetest Day, and your vivid description of October in with talking to your mom. Very sweet indeed! 🙂
    The photos were great too!

    • Thanks, Tracy, the smiling llama makes me smile back each time I see it.
      Think how much fun it would be if Sweetest Day became a REAL national holiday…followed by “Lose Those Extra Pounds” day, maybe, but still worth it.

  18. Lovely memories of October! I wish I could feel the same about October in San Diego but with September, it is one of the hottest months of the year. It finally cooled down last week after about 4 months of heatwaves, so we thought we were down. We’re having 95 degree weather this week, argh… I’d love to start baking apple pies and cookies, and soups, but I have no interest in turning on the oven and heating up the house. Send some coolness our way, will you?

    • But when we’re in ice and snow, San Diego will be wonderful…and you have the zoo! My dad’s parents and sister lived in Vista while I was growing up, and they had orange and lemon trees in their back yard, and an amazing zoo in nearby San Diego.

  19. Marilyn, your Mom’s take on life is right. I know I feel better when I help someone else. That act is a win-win for giver and receiver.:-)

  20. Hi Marylin thanks for leading me to your space, I’ve learned a lot just by reading one post. There’s really something more than Halloween on October, the Sweetest Day is a great idea. Well, we don’t have that in the Philippines but I can certainly teach my daughter about it and make it like a tradition. Visiting the orphanage really does make me feel happier with my life. Your a great writer, your daughter Molly’s right, its in your blood 🙂

    • Thanks for visiting, and for the nice comments. I’ve been enjoying your blog, too, especially your answers to your nephew’s questions about Noah’s Ark. Like you, I wondered how Noah fed the carnivores aboard the Ark…

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