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Chicken Soup for the Parent's Soul
Stories of Love, Laughter and the Rewards of Parenting
By Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Kimberly Kirberger, Raymond Aaron
Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC
All rights reserved.
THE JOYS OF PARENTING
What gift has Providence bestowed on man that is so dear to him as his children?
The Pickle Jar
His heritage to his children wasn't words or possessions, but an unspoken treasure, the treasure of his example as a man and a father.
As far back as I can remember, the large pickle jar sat on the floor beside the dresser in my parents' bedroom. When Dad got ready for bed, he would empty his pockets and toss his coins into the jar. As a small boy I was always fascinated at the sounds the coins made as they were dropped into the jar. They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty. Then the tones gradually muted to a dull thud as the jar was filled. I used to squat on the floor in front of the jar and admire the copper and silver circles that glinted like a pirate's treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window.
When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and roll the coins before taking them to the bank. Taking the coins to the bank was always a big production. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck. Each and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad would look at me hopefully. "Those coins are going to keep you out of the textile mill, son. You're going to do better than me. This old mill town's not going to hold you back." Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled coins across the counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly. "These are for my son's college fund. He'll never work at the mill all his life like me."
We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping for an ice cream cone. I always had chocolate. Dad always had vanilla. When the clerk at the ice cream parlor handed Dad his change, he would show me the few coins nestled in his palm. "When we get home, we'll start filling the jar again."
He always let me drop the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled around with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other. "You'll get to college on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters," he said. "But you'll get there. I'll see to that."
The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another town. Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their bedroom and noticed that the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose and had been removed. A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside the dresser where the jar had always stood. My dad was a man of few words, and he never lectured me on the values of determination, perseverance and faith. The pickle jar had taught me all these virtues far more eloquently than the most flowery of words could have done.
When I married, I told my wife Susan about the significant part the lowly pickle jar had played in my life. In my mind, it defined, more than anything else, how much my dad had loved me. No matter how rough things got at home, Dad continued to doggedly drop his coins into the jar. Even the summer when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to serve dried beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from the jar. To the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me, pouring catsup over my beans to make them more palatable, he became more determined than ever to make a way out for me. "When you finish college, son," he told me, his eyes glistening, "you'll never have to eat beans again unless you want to."
The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each other on the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica began to whimper softly, and Susan took her from Dad's arms. "She probably needs to be changed," she said, carrying the baby into my parents' bedroom to diaper her.
When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in her eyes. She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and quietly leading me into the room. "Look," she said softly, her eyes directing me to a spot on the floor beside the dresser. To my amazement, there, as if it had never been removed, stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already covered with coins.
I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my pocket, and pulled out a fistful of coins. With a gamut of emotions choking me, I dropped the coins into the jar. I looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had slipped quietly into the room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was feeling the same emotions I felt. Neither of us could speak.
A. W. Cobb
Geraniums of Love
Thou are thy mother's glass, and she in thee calls back the lovely April of her prime.
As the fifth of seven children, I went to the same public school as my three older sisters and brother. Every year, my mother went to the same pageant and had parent/ child interviews with the same teachers. The only thing different was the child. And every child participated in an old school tradition—the annual plant sale held in early May, just in time for Mother's Day.
Third grade was the first time that I was allowed to take part in the plant sale. I wanted to surprise my mother, but I didn't have any money. I went to my oldest sister and shared the secret, and she gave me some money. When I arrived at the plant sale, I carefully made my selection. I agonized over that decision, inspecting each plant to ensure that I had indeed found the best geranium. Once I had smuggled it home, with the help of my sister, I hid it on the upstairs neighbor's porch. I was very afraid my mother would find it before Mother's Day, but my sister assured me that she wouldn't, and indeed she did not.
When Mother's Day arrived, I was bursting with pride when I gave her that geranium. I remember how bright her eyes were, and how delighted she was with my gift.
The year I was fifteen, my younger sister reached third grade. In early May she came to me full of wonder and secrecy and told me that there was going to be a plant sale at school, and she wanted to surprise our mother. Like my older sister did for me, I gave her some money and off she went. She arrived home full of nervous excitement, the geranium hidden in a paper bag under her sweater. "I looked at every plant," she explained, "and I know I got the best one!"
With a sweet sense of déjà vu, I helped my little sister hide that geranium on the upstairs neighbor's porch, assuring her that our mother would not find it before Mother's Day. I was there when she gave my mother the geranium, and I watched them both bursting with pride and delight. It was like being in a dream I had already dreamed. My mother noticed me watching, and she gave me a soft, secret smile. With a tug at my heart, I smiled back. I had been wondering how my mother could pretend to be surprised at this gift from her sixth child, but as I watched her eyes light up with delight as she was presented with that most precious gift, I knew she was not pretending.
The Tooth Fairy
Children are God's apostles, sent forth, day by day, to preach of love and hope and peace.
Jane Russell Lowell
He held out the little red felt pillow and pointed to its tiny pocket, which held a quarter, instead of a tooth. "Look, Mom! Look what the tooth fairy left me. Twenty-five cents!"
I shared his excitement, and we chatted for a few minutes about the purposes to which he would put his new wealth. I returned to my kitchen activities, but he lingered, silent, a thoughtful look on his face. "Mom," he hesitated, "is there really a tooth fairy, or do you put this money in my tooth pillow and take away my tooth?"
Of course I knew I would have to answer such questions, but in spite of seven years of preparation, I hadn't really thought through a suitable reply. I stalled for time by asking, "What do you think, Simon?"
"Could be either," he reasoned. "It seems like something you would do, but I know some things are magic, too."
"What would you like to think?" I continued, still uncertain about whether or not I was about to break his heart.
"It doesn't really matter," he said with confidence. "I like it either way. If there is a tooth fairy, that's pretty exciting, and if it's you, that's pretty nice, too."
I concluded that no disappointment would result from my answer, so I confessed to being his benefactor, and he smiled contentedly. I then cautioned him not to say anything to his younger brother, explaining, "Each child is entitled to the magic until he or she is ready to ask the question that you did today. Do you understand that?"
"Yes," he said, nodding. He took great pride in his older brother role, and I knew he would never spoil anything intentionally. I considered the matter closed, but still he lingered in the kitchen.
"Is there something else, Simon?" I asked.
"Just one more question, Mom. Does Dad know?"
Let's Go Fly a Kite
Dads are stone skimmers, mud wallowers, water wallopers, ceiling swoopers, shoulder gallopers, upsy-downsy, over-and-through, round-and-about whooshers. Dads are smugglers and secret sharers.
When my son was very small, about five or six, I traveled a lot. I worried all the time about what that absence might mean to him later in his life, not to mention how hard it was for me to be away and miss all his milestones. But I knew how important it was for a boy to have his father near. My own father, although very present in my life, was quiet and mostly kept to himself, and the times I loved the most were the special moments we had together, occasions when we would connect apart from the rigors of everyday life that put such a heavy demand on his time. I cherished those specialmoments and still, to this day, hold those memories dear. I decided that if I couldn't be with my son as often as I wanted to, I would make a concerted effort to create those kinds of special times for us.
One year I had to be in Europe for most of the summer—one of the hardest times for me to be away. My son was out of school, and it was vacation time for families. My wife eased the separation by sending me little care packages from home. They contained pictures and cute little notes and drawings from my son. He once sent me a candy bar with a bite taken out of it, with a little note saying, "I'm sharing my treat with you."
In one of my letters home I promised my son that I would teach him how to fly a kite. We could go to a nearby beach and fly it as high as it would go. Through my travels I would pick up things for our kite adventure and send it to him. I bought a couple of blueprints on how to make your own kite, and I sent those on. I found special balsa wood for the frame that I sent him one piece at a time, carefully packed. Bit by bit, in each letter or package home, I sent something for our kite. Toward the end of my trip, I had to go to Japan. There I found the most beautiful blue silk with gold threads woven through it. Perfect kite material. I sent it home. I found some multicolored, heavily braided material that would be perfect for the tail. I sent that home, along with a small Buddha figurine that would serve as a weight. I told him it wouldn't be long; I was on my way home.
I arrived home very late one night. I crept into my son's room to find him sleeping soundly, completely surrounded by all the items I had sent him for our kite.
For the next week we worked on creating our masterpiece. I loved every second of it. We had our exclusive time together, in the garage, after dinner.
Finally, it was finished. It was beautiful. The blue silk made it so elegant, more like a showpiece than a toy. It was all I could do to keep my son from sleeping with it that night. "You don't want to roll over on it and break it, do you?" He tried patiently to explain that he couldn't possibly do that because deep in his mind, even though he was asleep, he would know it was there and he would sleep carefully. Finally we agreed to keep it on a chair next to his bed. "We'll fly it tomorrow, right, Dad?"
"If the weather's right." I explained to him that you need wind to help lift the kite off the ground. Quite frankly, I was afraid we had passed our window for good weather. It even looked like it might rain.
"We'll fly it tomorrow 'cause I'm going to pray with all my heart for the best kite weather." When I checked on him later that night, he had pushed the chair with the kite on it up against his bed. He was sound asleep, with his hand resting on his kite.
The next day, the weather was iffy. There wasn't even a breeze. My son came into the living room with kite in hand, "Let's go, Dad!" We walked outside. I was doubtful, but he was ready. As we walked down to the beach, it was still as calm as it could be. By the time we got on the sand, a robust wind kicked up, and we were able to launch it without a bit of difficulty. The wind held, the day was beautiful, sunny and clear and we flew that kite all day long. "I told you, Dad." He was right. I will never underestimate the power of a child's prayer again.
My son is grown now, with children of his own. The other day we met for coffee. Even though the world spins quickly around us, we still try to make time for each other. While having our coffee he mentioned that he had some new pictures of his daughter that he wanted to give me. When he reached into his wallet to retrieve the photo, something fell out. I reached over to pick it up and hand it back to him. Suddenly, it dawned on me what it was that my son was keeping in his wallet, and I began to well up. He smiled as I handed it back to him. A flood of memories washed over us as he tucked his treasure back into his wallet ... a small remnant of blue silk with gold threads woven through it.
Robert Dixon As told to Zan Gaudioso
The Photograph Album
A dad is man haunted by death, fears and anxieties. But who seems to his children the haven from all harm. And who makes them certain that whatever happens—will all come right.
It was a lazy Sunday morning, the type of day that getting out of bed requires an effort and when you finally put your feet onto the floor, your impulse is to slip them back under the covers and bury yourself under the blanket. Reluctantly, Marilyn and I left the warmth of our bed and made our way downstairs for a late breakfast. When we entered the kitchen, Lori was already at the table doing her homework.
The conversation between us was sporadic and general. Marilyn and I finished our breakfast and with the three of us engrossed in our own preoccupation, the room was relatively quiet. Marilyn was drinking coffee, I was reading the newspaper and Lori was busily scribbling in her book.
From behind my newspaper, I heard Lori close her textbooks. Glancing up, I watched her stand and start to walk out of the kitchen. Suddenly, she turned and faced me. "Why are there more pictures of Lisa than there are of me?" she asked. Lisa is our older daughter.
I stared back, not understanding the question. Lori turned and left the room. Caught off-guard by the question, I looked at Marilyn. "Are there more pictures of Lisa than of Lori?" Marilyn shrugged and raised her eyebrows in a motion of puzzlement. "Are you aware that there are more pictures of Lisa than Lori?" I added.
Marilyn said, "I've never counted them. I don't know."
"Kids!" was my immediate response. "They drive you nuts with dumb questions," and I proceeded to raise the newspaper and continue my reading. "There can't be that many more pictures of Lisa than of Lori," I mumbled behind the newspaper, but I was having difficulty focusing on the words.
Marilyn's answer was the same as my thoughts, "I hadn't realized that there was any significant difference." I lowered the newspaper again and continued, "Now why would Lori ask such a question?" I asked.
Marilyn just shook her head and stared back at me. After a few minutes of thought she said, "When Lisa was born, you were taking photographs. You hardly went anywhere without a camera. When Lori was born, you were involved in colored slides. There must be hundreds of slides of Lori somewhere in the house that Lori has never seen or doesn't remember."
After digesting Marilyn's remarks, I agreed. "After Lori leaves, we'll look for those slides. Who knows, we might find more slides of Lori than pictures of Lisa," I joked.
Excerpted from Chicken Soup for the Parent's Soul by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Kimberly Kirberger, Raymond Aaron. Copyright © 2012 Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, LLC.
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