Getting the message

Crimson splashes had just begun to paint the treetops signaling the rise of autumn. Aiden and Ethan had already feverishly initiated the sixth grade in school, joining their favorite after school activities and feeling the swing of unbridled running on a soccer field, inventing new projects for robotics or connecting with friends they hadn’t seen over the summer. Although no one really relished going back to school, the twins secretly harbored covert pleasure in starting the freshness of another school year.
Vicky Timmons didn’t mind driving them from school to practice to classmates’ homes or the library for their participation since they so much enjoyed each activity in which they chose to be engaged. Occasionally, Mrs. Timmons was unable to free herself from her own schedule, so the boys managed to walk wherever they had to go, accompanying each other as some brothers do, but more like friends. School weeks ran hectic for everyone and while Saturdays fared to be a continuation of the Monday-through- Friday routine, time on Sundays were purposefully put aside for family.
Vicky Timmon’s mother had reached her 99th birthday over a summer plagued with close calls. “Namma” ,as the twins called her since their childhood, had fallen on the smooth wooden floorboards in her living room with a nasty contusion across the better part of her leg causing concern for her independence. But Namma remained adamant and feisty. She agreed to a walker, but categorically would NOT move out of her house and into a facility. The family would have to be inconvenienced, but these were Namma’s wishes and inconvenience is no excuse for the debts owed to someone who persevered and sacrificed for almost a century!
Old-World aromas of Sunday dinner wafted in the autumn air – roasted chicken with sage and rosemary on a bed of potatoes, all in one casserole oven – that was Namma’s specialty. Roger Timmons had taken the car to go to the bakery to buy something sweet for dessert – a treat the boys always expected at grandmother’s house. He left the twins in the living room enthusiastically watching and cheering and bouncing on the sofa for their favorite soccer team playing against a notorious rival. Vicky and Namma busied themselves with the finishing touches on dinner. Namma readied the tableware and Vicky poured water into the crystal pitcher with several ice cubes clanging and dancing against the clear glass.
Suddenly a crash of something shattering into thousands of pieces in the living room ruptured the silence of the women preparing in the kitchen. The twins’ bouncing and horseplay wrestled a stray foot or gangling arm into a fragile antique ceramic vase that adorned Namma’s coffee table for years, upsetting its fixed half-a-century position left in shards on the wooden floorboards. Aiden and Ethan sat frozen on the sofa, breathing heavily, wide-eyed, but without moving muscle or limb as Vicky entered.
“What ARE you doing?”, chided Mrs. Timmons in a voice irritated at her sons over the unnecessary loss of a precious piece of her mother’s memorabilia, now in bits to toss away, useless. Before the boys could reply, Namma ambled into the living room and lowered the volume on the television set. Ethan clicked off the remote, awaiting sentence, still with eyes widened. Aiden squirmed away from Ethan, adjusting his contorted sweatshirt.
Namma’s eyes turned towards the floor and absorbed the shards of ceramic for a very long moment. Then her watery gaze floated upward towards the boys, still immobile. Namma spoke softly.
“I know you’re sorry….but I don’t want to hear it. Do you understand what just happened?” Her piercing grey eyes searched for an answer in her grandsons’ stares. You both became so involved in what you were watching, what you were feeling that you disregarded everything and everyone else around you. Nothing else mattered.”
The boys started to speak. “But, Namma…we really didn’t mean….”
“No. First listen, “ she continued gently.
“When people think only of themselves, they lose track of their place, reacting not thinking. Anyone can get carried away in a moment that can create more harm than good. Do my grandsons get the message?”
Ethan raised his head while Aiden ran to his grandmother and hugged her around the waist. “We really are sorry, Namma. We didn’t think that anything would happen. We didn’t mean it!” He nuzzled his cheek into her aproned abdomen not wanting to let her go.
All too often, many of us become so absorbed in our present – our problems, our own issues, our own viewpoint – that we hardly notice the treasures that silently sit around us, many of which have very deep meaning for someone other than ourselves.
By not choosing to notice and run roughshod, ignoring or even worse, denying the value of that which surrounds us, we run a great risk of damaging not only the treasures themselves, but the potential relationship with those for whom the treasure can mean so much.
Being invited into someone’s home, someone’s country, someone’s event or community opens the door to someone’s life, which requires gratitude and respect from any guest. Customs, traditions, objects, styles frequently do not hold the same value for everyone, but they are just as valid and deserve respect.  What a difference there would be if we would would try having more empathy and getting the message.

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