The Pickle Jar

This was sent to me via email from my mom on July 20, 2001.

Subject: The Pickle Jar. . .

This was in my mail box this morning.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


THE PICKLE JAR . . .

The pickle jar as far back as I can remember sat on the floor beside the
dresser in my parents' bedroom.  When he got ready for bed, Dad 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." he would say.  "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 got chocolate.  Dad always got 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
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 as a boy.  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 leading me
into my folk?s bedroom.  "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 one of us could speak.

*   *   *   *   *
The above story truly touched my heart.  I know it has yours as well.
Sometimes we are so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count our
blessings.
Sorrow looks back.  Worry looks around.  Faith looks UP!

Last Updated: 072001