Monday, March 05, 2007

Pickle Jar

(Hat tip: The Big Boss)

Just a nice story that was sent to me a while back, and seeing as how one of our contributors uses a pickle jar as their icon, figured it was all the more fitting...

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. 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

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.