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Submitted by: Carrie Kholodov

It’s funny how the little things in life can make such a big impression. Like the ripple from a pebble thrown in a pond, a small gesture can reach far beyond that short moment of contact. But this story isn’t about a pebble; it’s about a chocolate covered cherry, or rather, a whole box of them because that’s what we used to give my grandfather for Christmas every year when we were growing up.

 Photo by Evan-Amos

Personally, I love a good chocolate covered cherry. I’m alright with a bad one too. You’d be hard pressed to find a more concentrated form of sugar. And most importantly, what other type of chocolate can you get an entire box of for only a dollar? That’s why we bought them. I was a child of the ‘80s who received my allowance for some time in the form of a two dollar bill. Remember those? You can still get them at the bank, but you’ll get funny looks when you try to spend them. When Christmas time rolled around, my sisters and I were delighted to buy gifts for our family, but there was a necessary element of frugality. So each year, we bestowed upon my grandmother a Jean Nate gift set and proudly gifted a box of chocolate covered cherries to my grandfather.

The joy of giving is greatly enhanced when you have a recipient like Grandpa. He’d open them instantly, with what we assumed was great excitement over the contents, and generously offer one to everyone in the room. I don’t think I ever took one . . . it’s not nice manners to give a gift and then eat it yourself. My lessons from him in generosity were certainly not reserved to this small gesture, but I never forgot how happy and thankful he seemed.

I honestly don’t recall when it was that we discovered Grandpa hated chocolate covered cherries. It was sometime many years after we had tried to step up our game from cherries to more ambitious gifts. I wonder if it was after the Alzheimer’s set in, because if he had remembered that we had given him those candies without fail, he would never have let on that he didn’t love them. He was much too kind. We all laughed about it and marveled at the act he had put on for all those years.

And now every year, when the cherries hit the shelves at the store, I think of him. However, each year the lesson from the cherries shifts a little, from generosity to kindness to this year when it finally dawned on me that his act wasn’t an act. He truly was happy with the gift. The fact that he didn’t want to eat them was irrelevant. The cherries meant we cared enough to buy a present and to share the holiday with him. We all know intellectually that it’s the thought that counts, but I still feel disappointed with gifts at times. Not because the gift itself mattered, but because someone didn’t know me well enough to know what I would like or not like. However, I have learned the gift matters not at all, and the inaccuracy of choice doesn’t equal thoughtlessness. I can assure you that if you had a magical X-ray machine that showed you the love contained in that box of chocolates, the volume of our affection for Grandpa would have filled his heart.

I guess the years give you the magical X-ray vision, for he seemed to have it. I see it now when my own children are so happy to give me a package at Christmas. I’ve learned to see the love that went into selecting a pink mug with a photo of a bunny on it and the love that made a beaded bracelet, held together by a scrap of tape, that won’t last the day.  kids with giftI accept the gift in the manner in which it is offered: with unbridled love and affection. I know that accepting it with enthusiastic joy is giving a gift right back.

This is just one tiny lesson from a truly remarkable man. From bus driver to dance instructor to Church of Christ preacher, my Grandpa was one of a kind. He suffered from Alzheimer’s disease which ultimately took him from us but reunited him with the love of his life, my Grandma. I miss them both.

One of Grandpa’s favorite songs:

“I’ll fly away”


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