Friday, August 31, 2012
Don't touch my pickle
My older sister has a daughter named Jenny. It's really not important to the story that you know that my sister is older than me. I just like to point it out. And now, on with our tale ...
Back during my college days, when I had no clue on how to work a can opener or much less a microwave, one of my favorite meals consisted of a hamburger constructed of "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun." One day, between classes at Northern Illinois University, my parents, my sister and her two small children, stopped by and wanted to take me out to lunch. They asked me where I wanted to go, and I replied that I wanted to go where I could get a hamburger with "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun." I think that Mom and Dad probably wanted to have more of a "dining" experience, but I used my sister's kids to help me get my way. Happy Meals are very convincing.
As we sat down to eat that day, I got the privilege of sitting next to Jenny. She was just a slobbery toddler at the time and quite honestly, if I remember correctly, kind of disgusting to watch eat. I let her have a couple of my french fries which, if you ask my wife, is a huge humanitarian gesture on my part.
Now, when a person eats one of these particular hamburgers, things tend to get a little messy. Items want to slide around in the special sauce, and they come sliding out the side of the bun. Evidently one of my pickles made an appearance. Legend has it, Jenny spotted the pickle and pointed to it saying, "Mine! Mine!" My much older sister then proceeded to inform me that Jenny really liked pickles, and that everyone in their little family always gave their pickles to Jenny to make her a happy little girl.
At this point, I informed my elderly sister that I, too, like pickles. I also suggested that if one were to take the pickles out of "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun," technically, you are no longer enjoying that particular kind of hamburger. Besides that, I'd already given the little pink beggar a couple of fries. Get off my back.
So, as I sat there calmly and contentedly consuming my delicious meal, Jenny sat her little diapered hind-end on the floor of the restaurant, experiencing a meltdown the likes I had never witnessed before. As my doddering old sister tried unsuccessfully to calm her down, she looked at me and exasperatedly asked, "Why couldn't you just give her your pickles?" I belched out the response, "It's a tough world out there. Kid's gotta learn sometime."
That is the earliest memory I have of my niece. Through the years, Jenny has always been the girliest of girls. Pinks and purples have always been part of her feminine fashion statements. I have seen her run from second to third during a game while wearing flip-flops because, and I quote, "My softball shoes just didn't match my uniform."
She has always done crazy girly stuff. I don't know how many different ways she has spelled her name. There were periods of time when she was Jenny, or Jennifer, or Jen, or Jenni. My personal favorite was when she spelled it Jeni, but the "i" was required to be dotted with a heart.
I always remember that kind of stuff, so I really hadn't noticed that she has actually grown up over the years. I still picture her as the little pony-tailed girl who I could get to crack up just by pulling on my finger.
Last summer, Jenny went on a mission trip to an orphanage located in Romania. She spent a couple of weeks there. I had seen some of the photos from her trip, but hadn't really put a ton of thought into just what she had done.
Last Sunday, she made a presentation in our church sanctuary about her trip. She gave a touching speech and showed two DVDs set to inspirational music featuring the Romanian kids. She told us about going into 8-feet-by-10-feet rooms without electricity or running water, that housed six or seven people. She told about overcoming language barriers to make connections with these kids. Basically she had the whole congregation on the verge of tears. She also told of how, if given the chance, she would do it again in a second.
It's kind of tough to admit that my silly little girly girl of a niece has become a better person than I am, but I'm coming to grips with it. I should probably mention what her 9 to 5 job is – she's a junior-high teacher for autistic kids. Maybe the future of the world isn't in such bad hands after all.
I'd like to take some credit for how she's turned out. Who knows what would have happened if I would have caved-in and given her those pickles? Isn't it funny how things work out?
For those of you who are interested in finding out more about the Another Child Foundation, the group who sponsored my niece's mission trip, please check out www.anotherchild.org.