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Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Smile in the Past

At one time or another, most of us has sat with our parents and listened while they told stories about when they were kids. Times were simpler, people had more compassion and everyone was grateful for what they had. Parents taught, children learned and a house was a home.

I was gazing out the window today, looking at the majesty that is Sunrise Mountain. And for whatever reason, this story played itself out in my head. It's one that my mom has repeated to me several times over the years and sometimes, I'm ashamed to say, while my my mind wandered to other thoughts. I'm sure you know what I mean. We are all guilty of having that generic look of interest on our faces while all along planning what are we having dinner, or how can I get a work out in before I have to run errands? It comes from years of hearing the same stories over and over again, a fate I'm sure we will hand down to our children and them to theirs. But like it or not, these stories do stick with us. And I find on occasion, have a way of surfacing just when we need them the most. I'm not sure why I needed this particular story this morning, but it came to me so I decided to share it with you.

It was New York in the early 1940's. My grandmother was a single mother of two. My grandfather was an abusive vile man whom my grandmother had divorced a few years earlier. He had also seemed to have forgotten that he actually had children, leaving my grandmother to struggle to keep food on the the table by herself. My mom, Joannie, was about seven and her younger brother Frankie, five. Christmas was in a few days and there had been a huge snow storm. The streets and sidewalks were blanketed in white and the temperature freezing. My grandmother had very little money for anything else other than the essentials, but she was determined to give her two children a happy holiday. So she scraped up enough money to buy a tree and together they decorated it with what little they had. Stepping back to look at it, my grandmother thought, it's  almost finished, all it needs is some tinsel. She only had a dollar, but she didn't want to disappoint her children. So she gave the dollar to my mom and asked her to go across the street to the drug store and buy one box. Tinsel was about ten cents and one box would be plenty. So Joannie clutched the dollar in  her small hand tightly, knowing it was her mother's last one. She ran across the street to the drug store and on the way awing at the peace and beauty of the streets covered in snow. She grabbed a box of tinsel and went to the counter to pay. But when she uncurled her hand, the dollar was gone. Panicked she searched throughout the store and then went outside to retrace her steps, but the dollar was no where to be found. Her heart was racing and her stomach sick, she had lost the only dollar her mother had; there would be no tinsel for their tree. With tears streaming down her face she ran home and told her mother what had happened. My grandmother looked at the the pain in her daughters eyes and gently said, "Come, we'll go look together." So together they went checking the sidewalks, the street and the drugs store but there was no dollar. They were standing in front of their house and the temperature was dropping and the bitter cold starting to make them shiver. My grandmother figure it was best to give up the search and get her daughter inside, when she glanced down toward the ground and there, right in front of her was the dollar bill. My grandmother screamed out, "Joannie... I found it!" Together they both started crying and hugging each other. Then they walked across the street holding hands and bought a box of tinsel. I know they say you should never live in the past, and for the most part I feel this is true. But living in the past and learning from it, is an entirely different perspective. Sometimes reflecting on stories like this reminds us that there is strength in us even when the day seems to be at its worse. And everyone of us has the abilty to join together and overcome the hurdles that are thrown in our path. And looking to the past can help us with decisions or trials we have to endure in our present and future. I would like to thank my grandmother and my mother for all of the stories they have shared with me over the years. And for helping me to see that sometimes, the pieces of the past can help to complete the puzzles of the future.

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