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 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."
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 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... 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!