A Christmas lesson in forgiveness

As a tiny girl, I remember the unbearable excitement of December.
When the baking began, the house smelled like cinnamon and cloves. And I wanted to eat everything right away—Christmas cookies, mincemeat pies, Parkerhouse rolls, and rich creamy chocolate fudge.
Even in the heart of the Depression, there were dolls, a doll buggy, and Dionne quintuplet paper dolls. And one year, ice skates.
But the most exciting thing of all was our glorious Christmas tree.
When I was very young, my mother carefully hung her treasured glass ornaments—gold-painted balls, dioramas with miniature scenes, and an elegant four-inch ornament for the top.
I always wanted to see the tree from every side, including the back. Unfortunately, my curiosity resulted in disaster one year when the tree came crashing down in a shower of broken glass.
I was much too young to understand my mother’s loss. Those exquisite ornaments were purchased before the Depression—and there was no money to replace them. Still, my mother thought about my feelings and consoled me.
A few years later, my eyes sparkled when I gave my mother five wonderful salt shakers shaped like vegetables. I got them in a bargain basket—all five for five cents.
After gift giving, I climbed up to the top shelf of the china cupboard to compare salt and pepper shakers. In the process, I dropped a china salt shaker my parents had received as a wedding gift.
I apologized, naively saying, “It was a good thing it wasn’t one of the new ones.”
The only thing my mother said was, “It would have been better if it had been one of the new ones.” But, again, there was no scolding.
From then on, that elegant lone pepper shaker was stored in the china cupboard and never again appeared on our Sunday dinner table.
Even now, I am amazed when I think about my mother’s patience. But, it turns out she was motivated by an experience from her early life.
My grandmother was a wonderful person. Still, she had one fault. When her daughters broke a dish, they were scolded. So my mother made a pact with herself that her daughter would never be scolded no matter what she broke.
And she lived up to her word—even when I should have been scolded. Like the time I broke almost all of our everyday dishes in an avoidable accident.
When I grew up in upstate New York, we had a large farm kitchen. The sink was kitty-corner from the kitchen china cupboard, so it seemed like a long walk back and forth.
As a teen-aged efficiency expert, I took everything in one trip.
Fortunately, there were only four in our family—the plates were on the bottom, saucers were next, desert bowls were next, topped with cups and glasses. I put my chin in the top glass and carried the knives and forks in the other hand.
One time I dropped the whole load. Once again, my mother didn’t scold me. She even helped clean up the mess.
Now it’s a half-century later. The salt shakers, the plates and cups, the dolls, the tree, and my mother are all gone. But what remains in my heart forever is a Christmas lesson in forgiveness.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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