A Memoir in Color

Ellen B. Marshall
7 min readJan 23, 2021


Photo by Ellen B. Marshall, 2021. All rights Reserved.

The price of silver goes up and down but that does not affect the value it has added to my lifeline. In the January that I was born, silver cost $.85 an ounce. Today as the birthdays of my siblings Emily and Tom finish out the same month now in 2021, the price of silver is $27.18. I guess that demonstrates the time value of money, the wisdom of investing in silver, and what my parents were up to in the deep winter months in our village in southwest Ohio.

Wherever you see this shiny white, semi-precious element, please know that second-best has always been good enough for me.

I used to have a silver-plated baby cup, but it wasn’t mine. Tarnished, it sat in my hope chest, something I found at a thrift shop, or that was handed down in our family but never engraved.

Silver was the color of a bright new dime, found in the toe of my Christmas stocking, along with some Hershey’s Kisses and a small hematite stone.

Our family only polished the good silver at Thanksgiving. So I labored with the ammonia-based creamy liquid to prepare the forks and knives we kept in a wooden chest. Also the large platter, engraved with fruits and vines. To hold the 20 pound turkey that was slow-cooked all night. Always before the cave explorers came to join our table.

I scavenged the tinsel on our Christmas tree over the years from the town’s pile of discarded trees. Boy scouts collected and burned them after the holidays, a gathering with cocoa, right across the street from our house. Tinsel was precious to me. Although Mom only allowed a little bit, at the bottom of our tree where it did not show, because we were not that kind of people. We had a few silver balls that once had glitter words on them, JOY, PEACE, LOVE. But those broke when the cat played underneath the tree. Or when it fell over — until we learned to suspend the seven foot white pine by its leader with picture hanging wire.

“One is silver and the other gold,” I remember the Girl Scout song, Mom led her Brownie troop singing it. I sat in the back of the basement room in the stone-built Presbyterian church. I thought they were dumb. Group activities never appealed to me. I’m the quiet type and I rarely sing.



Ellen B. Marshall

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