Light Notes

A semi-sweet candy cane story

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.

They’re the sweetest recollections: our little girls when they got their first angel wings at the church play; a pink doll stroller wheeled into the bedroom with a shout, “Look what Santa brought!”, or New Year’s snowmen donning bright scarves borrowed from a grandma’s drawer.

But there’s one memory that’s a little bittersweet — sort of like dark chocolate, but still good for you.

This story brings to mind a candy dish and a very little boy. The occasion was between Christmas and New Year's when a few striped peppermint canes remain behind. In the winter cold, my then 3-year old grandson, Justin, and I dashed into the building where I planned to take care of a few work-related errands.

A secretary greeted us as we brushed away clinging snowflakes and rubbed our hands to chase the chill. I busied myself with the items of business that had brought us there, Justin clinging to my side. And while his hand remained in mine, his eyes had strayed to the candy dish.

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

“Justin,” Delores said kindly, “would you like a candy cane?” her hand pushing the dish closer to the edge for him to reach.

The toddler looked up questioningly to see if it was all right with me, and then made a beeline for the holiday dish. His little hands grabbed one, and he turned away to come back to me.

“Justin!” I said with a somewhat stern tone, realizing that he’d failed to say thank you. “What do you say?”

The little boy turned on his heel and returned to the dish, “Get Grandma one, too!”

I laughed. The secretary laughed. And even little Justin giggled at the fun we were having.

But in the humor of the moment, there was truth. What example had I set for this little one while he was in my care?

Was he learning about “getting” and failing to say “Thank you”? The lesson was difficult to swallow.

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

Really, what could be sweeter?