21
Aug

Daddy's Big Hand

In 1950, I was a first grader, one of the first to attend school in the county’s newest rural school house. Two days a month, the yellow Sonoma County Public Library bookmobile visited the school and we were allowed to select a library book! Without today’s technology of televisions, computer games, videos or CD’s, a book was our gateway to another world of fantasy, imagination, and excitement.

We lined up at the bookmobile door in two rows. Squirming, wiggling and chattering, barely able to contain our excitement, we waited our turn to enter the truck. Finally, it was my turn.

The librarian directed me to the two shelves dedicated to beginning readers, and I made my selection. The librarian lectured me about my responsibility to care for library property, and wrote down my name and the book’s title. She tucked a small card into the back cover. The book was mine to enjoy until the bookmobile returned.

Triumphantly, I carried my book down the steps and flashed a smug smile at the fidgeting children still standing in the hot sun. Their jealous gaze followed me into the shade of a nearby tree where I sat down to read.

The book was a treasure, sent to me personally by the President of the United States, who owned the Sonoma County Public Library System and personally sent out the yellow bookmobiles to rural schools, as a symbol of truth, justice and the American Way. This, I knew, in my heart of hearts.

I walked home from school that day, carrying my lunch pail, sweater and my precious library book under my arm. One of my companions suggested we take a different route home. Though this was against my mama’s rules, the chanting of “chicken” cinched my decision to agree.

Several blocks from the school, our path brought us to a deep PG&E worker’s hole, loosely covered by boards. Our leader pranced across the boards and “double-dog dared” us to follow. Another child crossed the teetering boards successfully.

I was afraid, but due to a “double-dog dare,” I had no choice but to give in to peer pressure. Fighting back tears, I clutched my lunch pail, sweater and library book, closed my eyes, and took a precarious step onto the wobbly boards. Flailing my hands outward to keep my balance, my precious book tumbled down between the boards into the dark hole, and surely, into the pits of hell. Horrified, we crouched over the hole and peered into the darkness; surely at least a hundred feet deep. I could barely see the pages flipping gently back and forth. The hole was too deep, and too challenging for our six-year-old minds to comprehend. My precious library book was gone!

I contemplated the outcome of this catastrophe. The President of the United States had personally commissioned the book into my hands, and I had failed him…. miserably. Someone was going to jail. I felt sure they wouldn’t put a six-year-old in jail, but if not me, then who? Suddenly, it became all too clear. They would put Daddy in jail because I was his kid and somebody had to pay for my grievous blunder.

Tears of regret, shame and panic plagued my walk home, where I hid in the closet for hours, despite my mother’s pleas to discuss the problem. I sat in the darkness, crying, imagining what would become of us. Mama would have to go to work. We would be poor, and everyone would point fingers at me, knowing I was the reason my Daddy was in jail.

When Daddy came home that evening, it took him about four seconds to grab me by the collar and pulled me out of the closet. Then, he whacked my bottom. Daddy always could get to the seat of a problem in about four seconds. He bellowed, “What the heck is going on?”

Between tears and trembling, I confessed my disobedience to come straight home and how I’d lost my library book down a hundred foot deep hole. I decided not to mention the part about him going to jail. He'd know as soon as the library police showed up to arrest him.

After dinner, Daddy drove me back to the gigantic, monstrous hole that yawned beneath the boards at least a hundred feet deep, the hole that had swallowed my precious book, the hole that was the cause of his impending incarceration, the ruination of my family, and my everlasting shame.

“Stand back, now,” He said. Daddy leaned over the yawning cavern, reached down with his long arm…and pulled out the book!

Things were easier back then, when I was six years old. No matter what happened, it seemed that I could always count on Daddy to solve enormous, life- shattering problems with one sweep of his big hand. I remember that I snuggled against his shoulder as we drove home, with my very own library book clutched tightly to my chest.

10
Apr

Lesson of the Apple Boxes

In 1950, I was 8-years-old, and the apple industry was the major industry in our town. My mother worked in an apple-processing factory and Daddy was a carpenter. Our parents felt children should be industrious, therefore, my teenage sister and brother were required to care for me while they picked up worked in the apple orchard, picking up apples for five cents a box. On a good day, they could earn $5.00 to $10.00. This was considered good money for a teenager, and with their earnings, they bought their own school clothes.

Most days, I brought my dolls to the field and spent a good part of the day stacking apple boxes on end to make my house. My imaginary plates and dishes consisted of sticks and leaves and clumps of dirt. Daddy said I should not waste the entire day, though, and required me to pick up at least ten boxes of apples every day.

Being a spoiled and willful child, there were many days I played with my dolls late into the afternoon and no amount of scolding from my sister could make me complete the required task.

Day after day, I fell so short of Daddy’s expectations, that one night he warned if I didn’t meet my quota the next day, he would spank me. Our parents believed in the biblical admonition, spare the rod and spoil the child, which was rarely, if ever, required in our house.

As I had no recollection of Daddy ever spanking me before, I’m pretty sure his threat fell on disbelieving ears. The next day, I played all day in the apple field. My sister’s warnings were of no avail and by the end of the day, I had only three or four boxes to my credit.

We returned home and I began to play. There was no mention of my disobedience to Mama or Daddy. So much for that problem...

In those days, our toys didn’t come from a store with a sound chip and an interactive computer screen attached. We had to use our imagination and made our own toys. On this evening, I tied a string to an empty oatmeal box and found a couple of long sticks to use for drumsticks. It made a fine toy drum and I went about the house thumping out a tune.

Daddy found me pounding away on my new toy. He towered over me as I sat on the floor with my drum and asked, “Did you finish your ten boxes of apples today?”

I gulped. “No. I forgot.”

“Then, I’m sorry, but I told you I’d spank you if you didn’t obey me.” He picked up one of my drumsticks and applied it to my seat of knowledge. Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV

Daddy definitely loved me that day. Using my own toy against me was far more humiliating than the spanking. With the absolute absurdity of childish logic, I screamed, “You’ll be sorry! Tomorrow, I’ll pick up 100 boxes.” That would show him!

I worked all the next day. My sister took pity and helped me late in the afternoon. Together, we finished the last fifteen boxes and completed the goal of 100 boxes (an astonishing accomplishment for an 8-year-old, looking back on it). And I earned $5.00 for my efforts!

Victory! Daddy would be so sorry. He’d regret punishing me. I’d show him! Thus, thought the child. I was yet to learn the lesson of responsibility he was trying to teach.

With great pride and indignation, I announced that night, “I picked up 100 boxes of apples today, so there!”

Did I expect him to fall down in shock and remorse, apologize and vow to never again accuse me of being lazy? Maybe. Instead, he replied, “I knew you could do it. Now you can do that every day…”

I recall this event so clearly, but I can’t recall my response. Disbelief? Shock? Tears? My pride had backfired. Now I’d be required to continue this backbreaking expectation every day? Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV

Of course, Daddy didn’t really mean it. “You did great, honey, but if you’ll just do your ten boxes every day, I think that’s enough for a little girl.”

I still brought my dolls to the apple field every day. I built houses out of apple boxes and made dishes out of leaves. However, I was careful to stop playing in plenty of time to accomplish the required ten boxes of apples. Daddy taught me a hard lesson that day, one I never forgot.

Daddy never again challenged my ability to live up to a required expectation. He claimed this particular victory. With this valuable lesson, I learned about pride, obedience and work ethics; one day with 100 boxes of apples, an oatmeal box, and a stick. Surely the lesson helped develop my character and my values throughout my life. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 KJV

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