A hol­i­day candy dish holds a semi-sweet mem­ory

The Telegraph (Macon) - - Living - BY LUCY LUGINBILL

The most de­li­cious mem­o­ries seem to hap­pen dur­ing the hol­i­days.

And like a squir­rel pre­par­ing for win­ter, I tuck them away to sa­vor dur­ing the long win­ter months. Some­times, I en­joy them for years.

Among them are sweet­est recol­lec­tions: my lit­tle girls at the church play and the mo­ment they got their first an­gel wings; a pink dolly stroller wheeled into the bed­room with a tiny voice pro­claim­ing, “Look what Santa brought me!”; or New Year’s snow­men don­ning bright scarves bor­rowed from a grandma’s fra­grant drawer.

But there is one mem­ory that is a lit­tle bit­ter­sweet – sort of like 80 per­cent dark cho­co­late, but still good for you.

This story brings to mind a col­or­ful candy dish and a very lit­tle boy. The oc­ca­sion was some­where be­tween Christ­mas and New Year’s when a few tired striped pep­per­mint canes re­mained be­hind, a bright spot in dreary win­ter gray.

Wrapped in De­cem­ber’s chill, my then 3-year old grand­son, Justin, and I had dashed from the warmth of my parked car into the build­ing where I planned to take care of a few work-re­lated tasks.

A smil­ing sec­re­tary greeted us as we brushed cling­ing snowflakes and rubbed our hands to chase the cold. Then with my grand­child cling­ing to my side, I bus­ied my­self, fin­ish­ing the items of busi­ness that had brought us there. But while his hand re­mained in mine, his eyes strayed to the candy dish sit­ting nearby.

As we turned to leave, the thought­ful and very ob­ser­vant woman be­hind the desk asked the ques­tion all chil­dren wait to hear.

“Honey,” the kindly woman said, peer­ing over her glasses at Justin. “Would you like a candy cane?” her hand push­ing the dish close for an eas­ier reach.

The tod­dler looked up ques­tion­ingly, his eyes meet­ing mine, per­mis­sion hang­ing in the air. A slight nod from me and then a hur­ried bee­line to the hol­i­day dish fol­lowed. With­out hes­i­ta­tion, his chubby hands grabbed one – and only one – and then he be­gan to make his way back to me.

“Justin!” I said from the door­way, my voice some­what stern as I re­al­ized man­ners had been for­got­ten. “What do you say?”

The lit­tle boy turned on his heel, promptly re­turn­ing to the candy dish.

“Get Grandma one, too!” I laughed. The sec­re­tary laughed. And even lit­tle Justin in­no­cently gig­gled at the fun we were hav­ing.

But in the hu­mor of the mo­ment, there was a truth that lin­gered long af­ter the pep­per­mint taste had dis­ap­peared. What ex­am­ple had I set for this lit­tle one while of­ten in my care? Was he learn­ing more about “get­ting” and less about grat­i­tude – that heart­felt “thank you”?

The les­son was dif­fi­cult to swal­low.

In the years since, I’ve en­joyed a chuckle or two rem­i­nisc­ing about that mo­ment. But one legacy I hope we all leave with our chil­dren is the im­por­tance of a grate­ful heart.

Re­ally, what could be sweeter?

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