The Swedish Word for Joy

Image of maple syrup in Ball jars, lit by the sun.I begged off 2000 Census training and rushed up the windowless stairs of the cheap-paneled church basement. Our rusty pickup navigated muddy roads rutted with sun-gleaming rivulets of melting snow.

My husband boiled maple syrup, pouring barrels full with our family’s gold. Toddler daughter and I napped in our sunny bedroom. Dreaming, she sighed and spread her arms and legs starlike, ruddy cheeks polished with a sugary patina from sugarhouse condensation.

Our tiny girl wore a cousin’s lime-green hand-me-down sweatshirt, kärlek painted in pink over her chest. In those pre-Google days, I didn’t yet know the Swedish word for joy.



Brett Ann Stanciu wrote Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal (Steerforth Press, 2021). She lives in Vermont.

Photo Credit: John Lillis

5 Responses to “The Swedish Word for Joy”

  1. Caroline S says:

    Kärlek actually means “Love” in Swedish

  2. Nicole Bird says:

    This story is so beautiful, each word creating image after image. So well done!

  3. J. Rimmel says:

    An absolutely beautiful story. You’ve touched this reader with kärlek.

  4. Tony Press says:

    Sweet, in every sense of the word!

  5. Elizabeth K Comstock says:

    Beautiful and vivid! I was totally there with y’all.

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