I told you we were reading the Little Britches series with our girls for summer reading. We are currently reading Man of the Family and last night was the chapter, “We Really Spill the Beans.” We had just had an incident at dinner with a broken dish due to a lackadaisical attitude and then a refusal to take responsibility. Little did we know what a good chapter our nightly reading would be to carry home a life lesson for all of us! For those unfamiliar with the story, Ma has started a cooking business in order to support the family. The family depends greatly on the income they can make selling Ma’s home baked apple pies, lemon meringue pies, doughnuts, bean pots and Injun pudding. Ralph (Little Britches) then delivers (on a rickety homemade handcart) his mother’s wonders to the neighbors who’ve placed orders. During one of Colorado’s hottest summers on record Ma and Grace have spent over 48 hours straight, cooking over a hot wood stove a total of 26 lemon pies, 22 dozen doughnuts, 16 apple pies, brown bread, beans, and 4 pots of Injun pudding. Ralph, Grace, and Philip set out to deliver the valuable labor intensive goods to their neighbors (I’m remembering the time it took me four hours to make 2 lemon meringue pies!). Unfortunately, due to a rickety wagon, not fit to carry such a load, “that load went over in such a way that it spilled every single thing on the wagon–about half of it on Grace and me.” The destruction is complete. The beauty of the story is Ralph’s quick and noble willingness to take responsibility for the accident, “I know it’s all my fault, [he] said. If I’d had sense enough to soak the wheels, it wouldn’t have happened.” His humility is startling and refreshing and begins an outflow of grace that is so sweet and clear. Ralph recalls,
“I don’t know when I ever hated to do anything as badly as I hated to go home and tell Mother what had happened to the cookery.” “She must have seen my face the minute I came through the door, “What’s the matter Son? Did the wagon break down?” she said. She wasn’t cross, and she said it as quietly as she’d have said, “Is it cloudy?” “I don’t think I’d have cried if she’d been cross, but to have her be so gentle when I felt so bad was what did it. I don’t remember kneeling down by her, but I do remember her brushing my hair back with her hand and saying, “Now, now Son.”
Well, I got quite choked up reading this and once again, my kids were puzzled by my tears. “Mom, it’s just food! For heaven’s sake!” Well, you and I know it’s much bigger than that, but some understandings only come with time and maturity.
The story convicts me on a number of levels. Ma’s gracious reaction is humbling, convicting and inspiring. How much I long to be more like her that way! Especially when it comes to broken dishes! How unimportant the dish, how fragile the little psyche that we damage by our anger! The other part I find convicting is the way in which Ma and Pa parented to inspire such honesty and quick willingness to take responsibility for their actions. It reminds me of a time my very young nephew Greg broke a riding toy, ran into our house immediately and proclaimed, “Mom, I broke the buggy (remember those riding toys that looked like little VWs?), it’s all my fault.” How sweet the grace that follows the quick willingness to take ownership of our own brokenness and propensity to error. We all need it, and so we all need to learn to give it freely and without hesitation. “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace–only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”–Anne Lamott