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% 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 pudgy 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?