We never outgrow our appreciation for a good story, especially if it’s true!
All of these stories are true in three important ways. First, they happened just as I have written them. Second, each is a snapshot of a teachable moment in my life that tattooed itself into me, got under my skin, and has colored who I am today. Finally, these stories are true because they resonate with the oldest and truest stories I know.
Thousands of years ago, some grandpas began writing down their true stories of life and faith for their grandchildren. Their Bible stories are older and better than my stories, but mine are a kind of modern-day footnote to theirs. In spite of the thousands of years between us, the authors of Scripture and I believe that God speaks to us in our daily experiences. It is this grandfather’s privilege and joy to learn from what He has said and to pass it on.
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About the Author
As the executive director of multiple organizations Ed Ewart has worked with children, youth, couples, seniors, the homeless, and people with developmental disabilities. His titles have included Life Guard, Indian Chief, Harbor Master, and Pastor.
Ed’s undergraduate degree is from Cal. State University, Fullerton. He holds graduate degrees from American Baptist Seminary, Princeton, Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
Ed resides in Laguna Niguel, California with his wife Linda where he serves on the staff of Mount of Olives Lutheran Church in Mission Viejo.
Read an Excerpt
But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked....
When I was growing up, our Christmas tree never came down until New Year's Day. I just assumed that the season of candles, carols, and gifts wasn't over until the final tick of the clock at the Rose Bowl game. If a Western PAC team won, it was celebrated with a final fist pump to the season of lights. If a team east of the Rockies won, taking down the tree felt like you were wrapping Christmas in linens and burying it in the Coliseum for another year. For a child growing up in Southern California, the week following Christmas strangely connected Bethlehem and Pasadena.
It was the early 1950s and I was a lad of eight. I'd never been to the Rose Parade and that year my two favorite TV celebrities, ventriloquist Buffalo Bob and his wooden dummy Howdy Doody, were to be in the Pasadena parade. My parents made arrangements to spend New Year's Eve at Uncle John and Aunt Isabel's home just a block from the parade route on Colorado Boulevard.
Uncle John and Aunt Isabel were in their seventies. Their house was dim and museumlike. It never smelled like Spic and Span® the way ours did after my mom's frequent cleanings. Their living room was furnished with an emerald-green sofa and two matching chairs. The rough dark fabric was stitched in a floral relief pattern. Far from the feel of soft green leaves, this industrial-grade fabric felt like sandpaper against your skin — no wonder those couches lasted forever!
The familiar aromas of the small house wafted through the various rooms and fermented in that green garden of fabric: Aunt Isabel's lilac-scented perfume, Uncle John's cherry-blend tobacco, the fragrance of lemon furniture polish, the smell of countless chicken dinners, and of course, the scent of pine needles from the Christmas tree standing in the corner.
New Year's was the culmination of the season of surprises, and Aunt Isabel loved surprises. After a polite welcome, she went over to the pile of opened presents beneath the Christmas tree. One present remained unopened. She pulled it from beneath the tree. Handing it to me, I pealed the paper wrapping off to discover a box with a picture of dancing dogs in ballet tutus on it. There was also a little boy in a red shirt beating on a blue drum. I lifted the lid and was amazed at what I saw.
Inside the box was a harvest of the tiniest fruit I had ever seen. There, individually cupped in ruffled paper collars, were red apples and orange oranges, purple plums — and tiny yellow bananas. In bold black letters the label on the box read, "Marzipan Fruities."
"What's M-A-R-Z-I-P-A-N?" I asked Aunt Isabel.
"A delicious confection of almond paste, sugar, and egg whites," she read from the box.
"Oh," I said, smiling, as if I knew what almond paste was.
Knowing my love of candy, my mother's watchful eyes were on the box as well.
"You may have one," she said, "but tomorrow is a big day, so one will be enough." She waited for eye contact.
"Do you understand me, Eddie?"
"Yes, Mother." I understood perfectly!
Of course, I was thinking to myself, How silly of Mother to think that eating too many of these tiny morsels could make a person sick. My parents said so many foolish things when I was young; things that were obviously untrue:
"Don't pick at that scab; it will never heal."
"If you cross your eyes, they'll get stuck and you'll be cross-eyed forever."
"Don't tease the cat; it makes her nervous."
"Marzipan will make you sick!"
I was eight years old — I knew better than to believe all of that foolishness!
I saw my uncle sneak a second piece of candy; I think it was a pinkish peach. I watched closely as he savored it. He stopped chewing as he noticed my stare. I guess he didn't want me to suffer while he enjoyed himself.
Why is it that adults think candy will make children sick when they themselves eat all they want when the children are out of sight? I watched without his awareness as he swallowed his second piece. He still seemed perfectly healthy. My entire family was older than me, but I knew they were less knowledgeable than I was about the effects of Marzipan. I reasoned that what was good for Uncle John would be just as good for me.
The tiny sample I had been given, a banana, was delicious! How could more of this delight make me sick? Even if I did start to get sick — all I'd have to do is just stop eating it! Besides, this candy looked like produce. It was less like eating candy and more like eating fruit, or even vegetables. What kid ever got sick from eating too many fruits and vegetables? Mom's warning was like saying: If you eat all your apples and carrots you'll get sick! Son, take it easy on the carrots — not too many!
Sure, maybe if you ate a ton of marzipan, you'd get sick. I could understand that, but these little yellow bananas were so small.
The adults resumed their conversation, and I began playing with the electric train under the Christmas tree. They were busy in conversation, so they didn't see me open the colorful box at the base of the tree again. I quickly picked all the randomly placed bananas from each layer of the box and removed their telltale paper collars. I figured that if there were no bananas AND no paper collars remaining in the box, no one would even notice that they'd been harvested. I stuffed the plucked fruit into my pockets, blowing the train whistle now and then to distract from my real agenda.
I was pretty sure I knew the real reason Mother delighted in denying me marzipan. It was because my parents loved to say, "No." As an eight-year-old, I knew that whenever a parent can say "No," they feel powerful! Just saying "No" to a kid gives a parent a sense of purpose. Show me a mother who says "Yes" to a kid and I'll show you a parent who feels weak and useless. A good stem, "No, and that's final," makes a parent feel like God put them here for a reason! Kids don't carry the Ten Commandments around with them on those tablets, so God gave kids parents to say "Thou shalt NOT." If everything was "Yes," I reasoned, parents would be unnecessary. If everything was "Yes," kids wouldn't even have to ask. But as it is, every kid knows the drill.
Dad, could I ...
No, absolutely not! Your chores aren't done and I'll bet you're not done with your homework! When you graduate from high school, get a job and have a family, then you can have fun like me. Until then, the answer is NO!
That's just how parents are; they figure saying "No" is a way to stay in charge so they put "No" on autopilot. What eight-year-old truly believes their parents have ever once had a good reason for saying "No"?
Of course that was the best reason Mom could have had for saying "No." She wanted to play God and limit my fun. But then I reasoned — maybe the real reason was that the adults wanted ALL the marzipan for themselves! I thought to myself, They'll wait until I go to bed and when I am sound asleep, they'll have a marzipan banquet. They'll gorge themselves with MY CANDY, like bullies stealing lunch on the playground, and in the morning when I wake hungering for one tiny piece, they'll tell me it has vanished or that the marzipan is just for adults — like all the best stuff in life! Power makes adults so stingy.
Perhaps the adults would even try hoping that I would forget about marzipan by putting it on a high shelf out of my sight for my own good, saying it was for later, but I would smell the faint scent of marzipan on their breath in the morning and I would know the truth! As we all once knew — parents cannot always be trusted and they have little understanding of how smart their children are!
As I lay in the dark that night, I reached into my pants pockets nearby and snacked over-and-over on the succulent sweets. I never gobbled them to gorge myself. I carefully savored each morsel like a prize-winning fruit in a county fair. I rolled the delicate pieces over and over in my mouth, enjoying the syrupy finish as the flavor poured over my tongue. I thought to myself, If you just wolfed them down like a glutton who didn't appreciate almond paste and egg whites maybe you could get sick — but enjoying a little fruit at bedtime couldn't harm anyone. How could anything that looked so good, smelled so sweet, and tasted so delightful be bad for a person? In fact, I reasoned it's probably good for you to have a little nibble of fruit before sleep. Why, Mom herself used to put bananas on top of an evening bowl of cereal. How could this possibly be any different (EXCEPT, there was no milk, or cereal, or real bananas — otherwise, it was exactly the same)!
I woke up New Year's morning feeling a little woozy. No problem, a little breakfast will clear this up, I thought. I popped a few more candies into my mouth. Strangely, they did not taste as good as they had the night before.
We bundled up in the crisp morning air and began our short hike to the parade. As is often the case in Southern California, my sweater became nothing but a burden after 8:00 AM. When the warm sun rose and the parade began, I felt as though I was smothering in my sweater. Curiously, I didn't seem to have the energy to take it off.
It's amazing what happens to an eight-year-old boy who stands sweater-bound in the sun for a three-hour parade with less than the usual amount of sleep and quarter of a pound of almond paste and egg whites in his stomach. My head began to ache. My palms were sweaty. My stomach felt like the electric train under the Christmas tree was running circles inside it.
I took my sweater off, but it was too late. I was sick! I had no interest in the parade. If Buffalo Bob and Howdy Doody rolled by, they were completely upstaged by the rolling that was happening in my stomach. I was deathly ill, but I couldn't admit it.
Mom spotted my pale stupor and knew immediately something was wrong. We left the parade early. I staggered and bumped my way through the crowd on our way back to the house; Mom no doubt wondered what it could be ... a flu bug ... the onset of measles ... too much excitement? But I knew what it was. The churning deep within my inmost being told me it was MARZIPAN POISONING!
When we finally got back to Uncle John's house, Mother gently laid me on the dark-green sofa. Now the ripe essence of lilac, cherry, lemon, chicken, and white pine began to heavily season the already potent gastric curse. I lay there motionless — trying not to breathe — staring at my electric train on the floor — surrounded by toxic fumes.
Soon after, the others returned telling of the wonders of the parade which I had totally missed. Sympathetically they tried to interest me in the football game but by now my eyes were rolling back in my head as I silently prayed, "Dear God, take me home!"
It was about that time that Uncle John decided to indulge in a little snack before kickoff.
He plucked the box of candy from beneath the Christmas tree and generously passed it around to the others. As it passed by, I could see the hideous fruit staring up at me with their disgusting little shapes and grotesque colors. The smell of marzipan filled my nostrils. I could feel the almond paste and egg whites within me, churning for liberation.
"Hey," Uncle John said, "where're all the bananas?"
They arrived with a flourish — like a real life-size train bursting through the living room — I sounded two short warning blows before delivering one long and decisive blast. Innocent bystanders scurried for cover. My mother bolted toward the arriving disaster, hanky in hand.
A new fragrance now dominated the bouquet of perfumes that filled the house — forbidden fruit! There it was, in all its naked splendor. There I was, sick as sin with nowhere to hide. Mom had been right all along.
I don't remember being punished. I think Mom knew I'd already experienced divine retribution and there was no need to pile on more. She lovingly administered the antidote, a bowl of good-tasting chicken soup.
That New Year's Day, planned as a special experience for me decades ago, instead ruined my taste for marzipan for life. The mere thought of marzipan (and certainly the smell of it) to this day gives me a sour stomach.
Surprisingly, I'm not altogether cured from overindulgence. Old as I am, I'm still tempted from time to time to devour too much of something thinking that sound warnings are irrelevant. What I have learned is that often, what is secretly indulged in as, "a delight to the eyes ... to make one wise ..." often turns out to be not much more than an excess of almond paste and egg whites in clever disguise.
Thank God for a merciful mother and chicken soup!CHAPTER 2
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly ...
But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.
One-Eyed Teddy is not your average bear. In fact, One-Eyed Teddy is far less than average! Usually teddy bears are adorable, soft, and cuddly. One-Eyed Teddy is really none of the above. One-Eyed Teddy is too threadbare to be adorable. His fur looks like the moths have been at him for many winters. He has only one eye and nothing but a patch of fuzz where the other one should be. His fur has grown a little too rough over the years for kids to find him huggable. And — I hate to admit it — but if you put your nose right up to him, he smells a little musty. One-Eyed Teddy is pushing seventy-five now and there's no question that his days as a cub are long gone, but there is a special place for him in my study — and in my heart.
I can't remember if he ever looked any different from the way he looks today — although maybe that's just love talking. When my aunt Ann gave him to me, I'm sure he had two eyes and a fuzzy-feel. I was told that she laid him in my crib as I slept — from the looks of him — he received a bear hug from me every time I opened my eyes from that day on.
I'm sure there was a time when I was young when those stitches from his neck to his bellybutton (that now resemble open-heart surgery) were just fluffy fur, when that bare patch on his side and his half-smile grin were more baby-friendly. There must have been a time when both his ears stood up straight. The truth is I don't remember him any other way than he looks today with his nose a little off center, as if he had been a boxing bear in his youth.
Today he sits in the corner of my study at home, which has become a museum of memories. To look at him now you'd think my aunt got a deal at a garage sale, or more likely rescued him from a trash can. But I'm sure that on his day of creation he was "very good ..." and well suited to rule the toy box. Spending twenty years in secret hibernation in the attic of my home in Northern California probably further contributed to his decaying condition.
The truth is, as a child, it was love at first sight between me and Teddy, and he is no less lovable to me today. Teddy has taught me that some things are loved because they have value — but some things have value because they are loved.
I loved my first car because it was a stick shift, three on the tree, with a red racing stripe and red upholstery. I got a lot of high school girls to ride in my car. Other guys in my high school thought that was pretty valuable too.
My childhood love for Teddy was different. There were lots of other toys but I invested my affection in him. My love for One-Eyed Teddy poured value into him. I loved my first car, and so did my buddies, because it was valuable. I loved Teddy for no reason apparent to others. I just loved him. I'm guessing the bond began the moment I opened my eyes in my crib and cuddled him to myself the very first time.
Who knows what makes a thing lovable to one person and not to another? My mother's parents didn't care for my dad much when she first started dating him. He was an orphan with no visible means of support. In fact, the first time she saw him she laughed out loud. She was watching him from her living room window. She saw him walking on the other side of the street on a cold Pennsylvania day. He was strolling down the street in the middle of winter without a hat on. He had rather large ears and looked kind of like the dancing movie star Fred Astaire (not plain, but not particularly handsome).(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Marzipan Bananas"
Copyright © 2018 Ed Ewart.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Author S Note, xi,
1. MARZIPAN BANANAS Our actions have consequences., 1,
2. ONE-EYED TEDDY We are valuable because we are loved., 9,
3. PACKARDS AND POP GUNS Life is a gift., 15,
4. TROUBLE AT THE BALL CUPBOARD Wrestling makes you stronger., 23,
5. HOME BEFORE DARK Wrestling makes you stronger., 33,
6. DONNIE MCCOY Lead from the chair you're sitting in., 41,
7. GHOST HIKE God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love., 47,
FIRE ON THE HILL His Light shines even when we lack brilliance., 57,
9. LASER TAG Confession is good for the soul., 65,
10. ANGELS AMONG US Don t judge a rider by his bike., 73,
11. THE CHEER OF THE CLOUD Be a cheerleader., 81,
12. KEEPING THE BIRDS FROM THEIR MISSION Don t give temptation a foothold., 87,
13. UNREST IN THE REST HOME Suffering is a choice., 95,
14. HURRICANE VAN Listen for the Whisper., 105,
15. GRANDMA'S COOKIE JAR A common life can hold extraordinary treasures., 115,
16. THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT EVER Love covers a multitude of sins?, 121,