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Thanksgiving Treasures



How two jelly beans and a rubber band came to mean so much more

A week before Thanksgiving my six-year old daughter came home from school with a note. She handed it to me to read:

Dear Parents: Your child has a special holiday assignment. He/she may bring several items to school to share with the class. Your child must be prepared to tell why they are thankful for these items.

I knew this would give an insight to my daughter's mind, and I wondered what she'd pick to bring. I hoped it would be something special that would make a good impression on the teacher. I hoped it would be her satin jewelry box, or her musical snow globe -- or maybe even a picture of her room that I decorated in a coordinating fairy princess motif.

She walked around the house deep in concentration. An hour later she put a shoebox, filled with items, proudly on the kitchen table. I took the lid off and looked inside. It consisted of two furry jellybeans, a tiny shell, two pieces of fabric held together with glue, a feather, a chopstick, two nickels, a rubber band, and a plastic baggie of chocolate chip cookie crumbs.

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She looked up and smiled.

I tried to smile back, but all I could think about was the teacher excusing herself from sharing time to call Child Protective Services.

"Are you sure that is all you want to bring?" I asked. "Are you forgetting anything else that you might be thankful for?

"Yes." She paused a minute. "But I kept dropping my Barbie camper."

Great. Her turn for sharing would probably come right after a boy who brings a bagful of family vacation slides and several photos of his mother. Right before his turn ends he'll explain to the class that he is also thankful to his parents for providing a lovely home, and for the many sacrifices they have made to raise a healthy, happy, and educationally successful child. After the rousing applause dies down my daughter will stand up, reach into her backpack, and announce she is thankful for two furry jellybeans and a rubber band.

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"Can you tell me about your treasures?" I asked, hoping she might realize how inappropriate they were.

"OK." She picked up the nickels. "The tooth fairy brought me these for the tooth I put under my pillow." She pointed to the rubber band and the chopstick. "And that was the magic wand you made me when I was a fairy princess last Halloween. Except I can't find the star."

She sifted through her pile and held up the glued fabric. "This is the potholder you helped me make so I could get the Sewing Patch on my Girl Scout vest. Remember?"

I nodded slowly.

"I got the jellybeans in my Easter Basket last year and this is the shell we found on the kindergarten field trip." She paused for a moment and picked up the feather. "And I found this on the way to the park.

Cool, huh?"

I smiled. "What's this?" I said as I held out the baggie of crumbs.

"The cookies we made for the Mother-Daughter tea."

As I helped her put her pile of rotten candy, scraps, and stale crumbs back into the box, I finally understood what her collection of junk really meant: she was thankful for me.