“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Years ago my late father told me a story, a story that most kids today wouldn’t understand. It was from a time long ago, a time of hardship and poverty that most of us cannot begin to comprehend today.

My dad grew up the youngest of seven children, the son of Sadie and Royal Shoemaker. Grandpa was a carpenter and a blacksmith, and he and Grandma somehow raised every one of their kids to be a part of independent and successful families. The oldest was Myrl who ended up in the second most powerful position in the state of Ohio, serving as its Lieutenant Governor and Director of Natural Resources after 24-years as a State Representative. Brothers Hester (Deck) and Leroy were also strong figures who raised amazing families, and sisters Alice, Ruth and Millie were the matriarchs of great households as well.

Dad? His name was Ralph and he graduated from Ohio University and rose to the Head of Purchasing at the Mead Corporation, a large paper company here in Southern Ohio.

Bottom line, Grandpa and Grandma did an amazing job of raising seven children, most of whom grew up during the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in the history of the industrialized world.

Which brings me to my father’s story.

It was a Christmas morning, probably sometime in the 1980s, and we were all sitting around watching the grandkids open their myriad of gifts, just tearing through the presents and tossing them aside with barely a glance. It was apparent that Dad was amazed at the sheer number of gifts the kids were getting, and he and I were chuckling about it. At some point we found ourselves in another room and he asked me this question:

Do you want to hear about the best Christmas I ever had?

Well, sure. Dad was never one to share a lot of his personal feelings so I wanted to hear what he had to say. Then he began the story. I’m paraphrasing but I remember it well . . .

“It was, I don’t know, maybe 1933 or 1934. It was Christmas morning, although we didn’t have much of a celebration or anything. I think I was in 1st or 2nd Grade. We didn’t have much at all back then, and we all had chores to do around the house each day. One of my jobs was to get up and shovel coal into the furnace. It was cold in the house, so the first thing I did when I awoke was to put my shoes on. They were always right by my bed. When I put one of them on, I felt something inside. I reached in and there, with a white ribbon tied to it, was a red pencil. A red pencil! Some of the kids at school had their own pencils but most of us did not. I was so excited. I cherished that red pencil more than any present I ever got. I promise you I appreciated that gift more than kids today appreciate theirs. And I made that one pencil last the rest of the school year.”

As he recounted the story I could see the excitement in his eyes, even after all the years that had passed.

You see, back then in that space and time for that little boy, getting a new pencil was special. So special that he remembered it vividly decades later.

I guess we should just appreciate and be grateful for what we have, right? And it’s not always the quantity or the price of the gifts, sometimes it can be something very, very simple.

Like a red pencil.

 

Comments
  1. Cheryl Eyer says:

    Crying a bit…can’t tell you what that glimpse in time, in our parent’s childhood means to me.

Gimme a holler.

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