By Donna Tobin Smith
My memory is not as good as it once was. I guess that should be expected as we “mature,” for lack of a better word. And although I can’t remember what I did yesterday, it amazes me that some of my earliest memories are so etched in my memory that to think of them is like reliving the events all over again
One such memory is of something that happened to me when I was just a young child. My sister was with me, but she has absolutely no memory of the day at all. In fact, she has a hard time believing me when I tell her what happened. Maybe she doesn’t want to remember because we got in trouble with our mother that day. Big trouble.
It was a beautiful sunny morning on that day in the early 1960s. My mother had three preschool children at the time and another child on the way. She was busy with our little brother that morning and had encouraged my sister and me to play outside.
Playing in the front yard, I soon spotted the milk truck. In those days, Mama stayed at home with the children while Daddy drove our only car to work. With a house full of children, our family went through a lot of milk and since Mama had no way to go to the store, the convenience of having milk delivered was very important to her. I had often heard Mama tell the milkman to just “put it on our bill” if she needed an extra quart of milk that day.
I had also seen the milkman deliver ice cream to the children in our neighborhood. Mama never ordered anything but milk, and I sometimes wondered why we never got ice cream like some of the other children.
So that morning when I saw the milk truck stopping and starting on our street, I had an idea. “Go ask Mama if we can get ice cream from the milkman,” I instructed my sister. She ran straight toward the house while I kept my eyes on the milk truck.
“She said yes, she said yes,” my sister shouted as she ran around the corner of the house. Quickly I waved the milkman over and proceeded to order our treats. “Just put it on our bill,” I mimicked my mother, as he handed my sister and me our ice cream.
The minute we stepped inside the house and saw Mama’s face, I knew that something had not gone according to my plans. “Where did you get that ice cream?” Mama demanded.
I’ll spare the details of the rest of our conversation and the tales of swats with the flyswatter on our legs, although I remember that like it was yesterday, too.
It would be a long time before I learned the word “consequences,” but my mother taught me about suffering them for my actions that day. The Bible says, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
There will be people who excuse our little girl actions by saying we were just children, that we didn’t know better. But we learned from our mother that day, among other lessons, that it was wrong to tell lies and that you should never even think about taking something you are not able to pay for.
One look at the adults in our world makes me think that some parents may have neglected to teach their children lessons like the ones my mother taught my sister and me that day. But if we start now, maybe it’s not too late to start teaching our own children and grandchildren those life lessons that will shape their lives and help them make responsible decisions as adults.
After all, the most important lessons in life are the ones that yield the fruit of righteousness instead of painful consequences.