Jan. 21st, 2006 | 07:57 am
Being a nine year old in Waverly,Tennessee in the 1950’s was a great experience. The setting was perfect for an adventurous kid. Roaming the country side, exploring with few restrictions or fears, was a daily experience. The small town setting was idyllic in my memory.
There were opportunities of all kinds. In particular, I remember the small general store next to the post office, separated by an alley. It was a great place to browse. Reading the comic books and occasionally buying one. Soft drinks, especially NuGrape, were a special treat. The owner was tolerant of kids and the store was a warm and inviting place.
The lure of comic books and the scarcity of money were a toxic combination. I had, on numerous occasions, supported my addiction with money from the return of soft drink bottles for the five cent deposit. Unfortunately, the supply of bottles at my disposal was limited. The overwhelming desire for comic books generated, with the help of a friend, an elegant solution. The store owner, being a trusting type and short on storage space, stacked empty soft drink bottles in their wooden cases along the outside wall of the store in the alley next to the post office. To a comic book addicted nine year old, the opportunity was obvious. Thus began the regular and profitable process of retrieving bottles from the alley and selling them back to their owner. Because we were careful not be seen and judicious in the quantities of bottles returned at any one time, the operation continued without any complications.
My memory is not clear as to how long this enterprise continued. What I do remember is the day that I was sitting in the living room of our small house. Mother was there with me. She was quietly sewing. I recall thinking about her and what I had been doing. The sense of guilt was overwhelming; not so much out of fear but out the realization of how wrong I was and the disappointment it would bring to her and my father, not to mention God. I began to cry uncontrollably. I poured out my confession to my mother.
What happened in the moments and days that that followed would stay with me for the rest of my life. My mother, without sign of anger, embraced me and comforted me. I knew how disappointed she was but she did not condemn me, she only loved me. She did not offer to rationalize or minimize my wrong. Only when the affirmation of her love was assured did we talk about consequences. Later my father heard the story, accepted my confession (I am not sure that he didn’t whip me, but if he did it was a relief) and took me to the store owner. When confession and restitution had been made we went home. I have no remembrance of those events ever being discussed again by either my mother or father. There was mercy. Forgiveness was real. Love was unconditional. They cared more about me than the fact that I had wounded and embarrassed them. In that brief experience I gained a glimpse of God; for children are introduced to God, for good or ill, through their parents. That experience prepared me for the journey ahead.