Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Pickle Jar...

Here is a story that was sent to me by one of my friends. I just had to share it with you because it reminded me a lot of my Dad and his money 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. 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.'

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 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.

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 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 one of us could speak.

This truly touched my heart. Sometimes we are so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count our blessings.

Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life, for better or for worse.

Now, my friend, let's go share a fresh cup of coffee...


meltcat said...

That was a beautiful story, Jim. To teach important life lessons without really ever saying a word...just by your actions. They really DO speak louder than words.

But I have to say, too, that I am thankful for words...without them I would not have met you!

Have a cheerful day,

HermitJim said...

Hey Cat...thanks for the nice comment and for your visit. I appreciate it very much.

My friends dropping by to read and comment makes my day more complete.

See ya...

Big Sis said...

I am sometimes glad I live alone. I couldn't speak for a moment after reading the story. I do remember Daddy saving coins, especially dimes and quarters. Didn't he have a chalk bank (donkey or something) from Mexico? Mom makes fun of me because I still save all of my change. It has been used before, more than I would have liked, but it has seen me through more than once over the years! Keep up the wonderful work but please try to publish at least short stories! Love you very much.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sis...glad you could drop by today. Dad used to spend hours sometimes rolling his change...don't remember what he used it for, but I remember I used to buy some of the dimes and pennies to look through when I collected coins.

Funny what you can remember sometimes when s story sparks the memory a bit.

Love ya...

Lydia said...

Nice story Jim, very touching. I have a water bottle which I use for the same reason.(the pickle jug we use for pickles, my daughter and I eat them like candy.) Like your sis, the change in the water jug has added up many times, and many excited smiles from my kids when we cash it in.
It is very true that we affect the lives of others in so many ways...

thanks for the smiles.

HermitJim said...

Hey Lydia...thanks so much for stopping by. We sometimes don't realize just how much our actions can affect others, both good or bad.

Better to err on the side of too much good deeds than in the other direction, don't you think?

Thanks again for dropping by...

Manu said...

Hi Jim...that was a very beautiful and touchy story, it did bring a tear or 2 into my eyes. Thank you for sharing:o)... hope you are having a great day.

See ya,

HermitJim said...

Hey Manu...the story touched me as well, maybe because my Dad used to have a jar or bank he collected his change in. The fact that sometimes memories like this are shared by everyone and are meant to be brought up again if only to remind us how alike we are.

Thanks for stopping by...