The following post was written by my sister, Paula. It recalls an often told family story. Paula, Brian, and I had a great childhood. Our family did not have any material wealth, but we had much more in terms of fun, laughter, and memories. Even as we have poked gentle fun at each other over the years love and smiles underscore the stories shared. I hope you enjoy this post.
Did I ever tell you the story about jumping the utility ditch? One summer when I was about ten years old, I visited my grandparents for several weeks. They were selling their farm, and building a new home for retirement. We spent hours at the new place every day because my grandparents were doing as much as they could themselves. I remember painting molding, picking up rocks in the huge yard, and helping out as best I could. They kept me busy!
One of the things I loved to do every day was jump the utility ditch. It cut across their front yard on a diagonal from the lane to the house. It was wide and deep. Or at least it is in my 10-year old memory. It required utter feats of courage and physical ability to gracefully leap through the air to land on the other side. I had done it about a thousand times before my parents arrived with my brothers in tow. They had come to collect me and take me home.
As they arrived that day, I remember coming around the corner of the house. And much to my dismay, I saw that my two little brothers were poised to jump “the ditch.” My ditch! How dare they casually and carelessly attempt such a thing without instruction?! And so, ever the bossy big sister, I stopped them in their tracks. No matter that their feet were poised on the edge of the ditch to leap! “I need to show you how to do it!” I exclaimed. I proceeded to give them instruction. And then, I told them to watch me do it. I would show them how. Only then could they master it. And so, my brothers backed away to watch me demonstrate my amazing, graceful, gymnastic-like skills in ditch-jumping. My family would be talking about this leap for the rest of our lives! It was going to be awesome! Did I mention that I am not gymnastic-like or especially graceful by any stretch of the imagination?
Lo and behold. The next thing I knew, I was on all fours in the bottom of the ditch. I still don’t know how it happened. Frogs and other such things jumped every which way. Mud slopped up around my wrists. My face was splattered. My clothes were wet. And as I stood up with my grandmother’s old sweater on, the sweater sagged and drooped pathetically.
My mother helped me climb out. I wish I could say that everyone was generous and sympathetic, feeling sorry for this unfortunate calamity that had befallen me. But they just laughed. Out loud. And the harder they laughed, the harder I cried. Oh, the indignity. Oh, the wretchedness of being brought to your knees when you thought you would be flying through the air like someone on a flying trapeze. Life can be so . . . . cruel.
To make matters worse, my little brothers promptly began jumping back and forth over the ditch as if it was nothing. My mother took me back to the farm where she helped me climb out of the sweater of disgrace. And it has somehow become one of our favorite family stories. Even my children love this story. And I tell it on myself. Although surely, it’s still rather disgraceful, isn’t it?
I guess it reminds me of the proverb, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.” But even more importantly, it reminds me of grace. I was able, with my mother’s help, to get cleaned up. The mud was washed off, and even my grandmother’s sweater survived. Perhaps never the same, but it survived. I was able to move on and begin afresh . . . . even though my family will never let me forget it. And that’s really one of the most important parts of faith and God as far as I’m concerned. We may never forget our mistakes. In fact, we can learn from them. But best of all, we can trust in God’s words, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not see it?” With God, we can begin each day anew.
Thank God for new days, fresh starts, clean sweaters, and memories that make for laughter!
by Paula Ziegler Ulrich - Greenville, OH