THE PICKLE JAR
The pickle jar as far back as I can remember sat on the floor beside the
dresser in my parents' bedroom. When he got ready for bed, Dad would
empty his pockets and toss his coins into the jar. As a small boy I was always
fascinated at the sounds the coins made as they were dropped into the jar.
They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty. Then the
tones gradually muted to a dull thud as the jar was filled. I used to squat on
the floor in front of the jar and admire the copper and silver circles that
glinted like a pirate's treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom
When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and roll the coins
before taking them to the bank. Taking the coins to the bank was always a big
production. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were placed
between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck. Each and every time, as
we drove to the bank, Dad would look at me hopefully. "Those coins are
going to keep you out of the textile mill, son. You're going to do better than
me. This old mill town's not going to hold you back."
Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled coins across the
counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly. "These are for
my son's college fund. He'll never work at the mill all his life like me."
We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping for an ice cream cone.
I always got chocolate. Dad always got vanilla. When the clerk at the ice
cream parlor handed Dad his change, he would show me the few coins
nestled in his palm. "When we get home, we'll start filling the jar again."
He always let me drop the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled
around with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other. "You'll get to
college on pennies,nickels, dimes and quarters," he said. "But you'll get
there. I'll see to that."
The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another town.
Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their bedroom, and
noticed that the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose and had been
removed. A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside the dresser
where the jar had always stood. My dad was a man of few words, and never
lectured me on the values of determination, perseverance, and faith. The
pickle jar had taught me all these virtues far more eloquently than the most
flowery of words could have done.
When I married, I told my wife Susan about the significant part the lowly
pickle jar had played in my life as a boy. In my mind, it defined, more than
anything else, how much my dad had loved me. No matter how rough things
got at home, Dad continued to doggedly drop his coins into the jar. Even the
summer when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to serve dried
beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from the jar.
To the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me, pouring catsup over
my beans to make them more palatable, he became more determined than
ever to make away out for me. "When you finish college, Son," he told me,
his eyes glistening, "You'll never have to eat beans again... unless you want
The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the
holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each other on
the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica began to
whimper, and Susan took her from Dad's arms. "She probably needs to be
changed," she said, carrying the baby into my parents' bedroom to diaper
When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in
her eyes. She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and
leading me into the room. "Look," she said softly, her eyes directing me to a
spot on the floor beside the dresser. To my amazement, there, as if it had
never been removed, stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already covered
I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my pocket, and pulled out a
fistful of coins. With a gamut of emotions choking me, I dropped the coins
into the jar. I looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had slipped
quietly into the room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was feeling the same
emotions I felt. Neither one of us could speak.
Sometimes we are so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count
The Pickle Jar