Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Monday, September 14, 2009


My granddaughter, who is just now starting third grade, is already waxing nostalgic.

Here's what she says. "You remember when we still lived in the old house, and you used to walk me home on Sunday afternoons?"

Sure, I remember. It was a joy, but then so much about grandchildren is.

"Remember that?" she asks. "We'd walk in the grass and I'd find all those golf balls?"

Her grandmother and I would walk her back to her house, cross-lots, through the thick grass of a perfectly manicured field behind a college dorm.

"That was really fun," she says.

That's what she remembers. And I don't know what to feel.

Once upon a time, we crossed that broad lawn, and I found a golf ball. Some college kid must have pulled a 9-iron out of his bag and hit a few, and left one lie there or simply lost it. She was four, maybe. That bright white golf ball picked out of the long grass was like some totally unforeseen Christmas present. She loved it.

So, on a few subsequent walks home, her grandpa snuck down in the basement first, grabbed a golf ball, and set us both up for her joy. You can't blame me, right? We'd walk home--same route--and when she was chasing a monarch or watching robins, I'd flip that golf ball out where I knew she couldn't miss it. Once again, those darling eyes would dance, and all the way home she'd hold on as if that ball were some precious jewel.

And now--wouldn't you know it?--those sweet little walks are in the scrapbook she's already putting together in her memory. There it is, listed prominently in an abundant category titled "Sweet Things": "the-times-Grandpa-and-Grandma-walked-me home-and-I found-all-those-golf-balls."

The truth is, the whole thing was a set up. Grandpa planted that joy. Those precious golf balls weren't there by chance but by determined manipulation. The truth is, there aren't brilliantly white golf balls just lying out there randomly for kids to pick up, just like there is no Santa Claus and no free lunch. The Wizard of Oz is really just as funny-looking as the Emperor with clothes.

In trying to be nice, her grandpa just set her up for a imminent fall.

So should I tell her? She ought to know the truth, right? I can't have her go on thinking that just behind that dorm lies a harvest of Titleists?

Here's what I'm thinking. If I'd tell her now, it jolly well wouldn't matter anyway. If I'd take her aside, tell her that her Grandpa planted all that joy, stuck all those golf balls out there just so that she'd find them, she wouldn't even wince. Wouldn't bother her at all. She wouldn't get cynical or swear never to speak to me again. She's a kid, after all, and her faith is legendary in its simplicity. Even Jesus loved it.

She'd probably just say the same thing she always does: "Grandpa, I'm hungry--got any cookies?"

"Do we have cookies, my dear?" I'd say. "We've got something around here somewhere for you, I'm sure."

And I'm sure we got golf balls.

So the deception goes on, the madness resumes. Truth be hanged. This old man'll do anything to stay in the joy column of that scrapbook.


Anonymous said...

Oh...the depths to which we fall for those little darlings!!!

Andrew said...

Love this story. Reminds me of when I was a kid and my grandpa and I went digging for buried treasure in my sandbox. We found more than a dollar in change, a fortune to a 4-year-old. It wasn't until high school--no joke!--that I thought back on it and realized that I had been duped. So you may be able to hold on to your deception longer than you think.

stacieh said...

Deception? The truth is that you love her and that is the basis for the memory!

janet said...

She didn't say "...and I found all those golfballs --- that must've been hit off a golf club...." She found the golf balls - it doesn't matter that you planted them for her to find. If you tell her now, she won't understand the difference, if you wait till later - she'll see how much you loved the joy of her discoveries - and how much you loved her.... I'd wait to tell and I wouldn't think of it as dishonest in any way...

Meredith Morgan said...

This reminds me of the Easter when my dad and my uncle recycled three Easter eggs for an hour. Every time I bent over to pick up one, they took one out of my basket and rehid it. I had a great time! They had fun.

Now, it's one of our family's favorite stories.

Anonymous said...

Jim, your story/tale/ponderings remind me of when in the 1950's our family came to visit family in Sheldon--taking a little, very yippy dog named Blackie with us. Off to church we went that Sunday evening, only to return to my uncle's house to find Blackie gone (and, eventually acknowledging, lost/gone forever). We called and called. Walked the corn rows and bean fields--with no result. Monday morning was time to head for home/Chicago. For weeks I thought I'd heard Blackie scratching at the back doo in Chicago. But no. She never returned.
Some 30 years later my dad fessed up--my mother couldn't stand that dog and had asked her brother to "take her down" while we were in church that Sunday evening.
Haqd I known back in the fifty's what I know now, I think I'd been pretty ticked.
Some good news (your love) and bad might best be left for later.