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Touring with Towheads and Petersons

(written by Dave)

I’m surrounded by Towheads and Petersons.  For the most part, this is ok.  First about Towheads.  Towhead is a term often used to describe young blond haired kids.  Somewhere, Nancy’s mum has a photo of Nancy and her four siblings as children.  There is nothing but blond locks as far as the eye can see.  Here in Sweden, that’s about the only way kids come.

As we’ve made our way north and now to Sweden, we’ve been seeing more and more towheads.  This got us thinking.  What is this towhead thing anyway?  Both of us thought that it was spelled “toehead” not “towhead”.  We were not sure if it was a slight or put down, so we decided to look it up.  It turns out that “towhead” is the correct spelling and generally accepted meaning is as follows:

In colonial times, families grew their own flax to make into fabric for clothing. Transforming the flax into thread was a complicated, involved process with many time-consuming steps. After the flax was harvested, it was soaked in water for several days to soften it so the inner fibers could be removed from the stalk. To separate the long, thin fibers from the shorter, coarser ones, the flax was pulled through a bed of nails or combed in a process called “towing.” The shorter fibers that were extricated were of a lesser quality and were called “tow.” This led to the term “towheads” to describe people, particularly children, whose hair resembled these strands.

Having a mop of spindly blond hair is pretty common here in Sweden.  In 5 minutes while I was waiting for the Peterson girls to exit yet another Swedish icon souvenir shop, I snapped the towhead kids in today’s slideshow.  Now you know why they are called towheads.

Speaking of waiting for Peterson girls…  So far travelling with three of them has not been too bad.  We are only just 24 hours into it so time will tell.  They do like to give orders though.  Last night while grocery shopping, I was sent to the produce section to get dinner pasta toppings by one of them, then sent back again to get more of the same for brekkie today and then finally sent back one last time to return some of the toppings because we were having fish for dinner, not pasta.  At one point, I gathered all three together and told them that I am happy going to the produce section but one or two trips should be more than sufficient.  They settled on fish for dinner.

Today we took the recommended Lonely Planet walking tour of the city.  We took in quite a few of the bigger sights and saw some really nice buildings.  As noted above, we also stopped in many Swedish icon souvenir shops.  It seems like they all have the same things.  But that could be just me.  The girls may have their own view.  They came away with a few small packages but mostly just looked.  Kathy noted that “it was only the first day of the trip”.  She was intending to tell everyone that we will be shopping more, I think – gosh, that sounds fun!

At least the weather was good, lots of blue sky and a few clouds.  And Stockholm is a great city to just stroll around.  So long as I’m back in front of the right Swedish icon souvenir shop when the girls exit, I can wander wherever I want.  I’m in charge of the map so they do need me if they want to find their way home at the end of the day…

After today’s shopping, I think we have some culture planned for tomorrow.  We may hit a museum or two.  There is always the risk that the museum souvenir shop will also catch someone’s eye.  But then again, there is also almost always a museum coffee shop where I can take refuge as well – I’m sure that I’ll survive…

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4 responses to “Touring with Towheads and Petersons

  1. So is there any recognition from the local Swedes that the Pedersons are their kind?

  2. Great information on the towheads! I knew it was spelled that way, but I didn’t know why! Good history/word lesson for today! Have fun with your towhead friends!

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