It’s easy for me to look back on my childhood as a time of want. A time when I didn’t have many of the material comforts and benefits other children in my class did. But when I’m tempted to see my childhood glass as half-empty, I’m reminded of a toy teacup…
I grew up in the days before cell phones, beepers, color television, and two-car families. Before talk of global warming and global terrorism. The biggest danger my younger sister and I faced occurred when we talked back to our parents.
New York is a big city, but it didn’t feel that way to us in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Here, everyone knew everyone else. We couldn’t afford much, but neither could most of the other families who lived on our block. Since none of us kids knew any better, we grew up content.
School imparted the necessary three R’s, and provided a few extra touches as well. Our elementary school offered weekly, after-school piano lessons. We learned on a battered old upright in the kindergarten classroom. My parents couldn’t afford a piano. I practiced at home on a cardboard diagram of the piano keyboard.
Most of the time we traveled by school bus. On the days of our piano lessons, Mom came to pick us up by public bus and we made the return trip home together, again by public bus. The mile-long hike from the bus stop to our home seemed even longer for my short, seven-year-old legs. A lengthy and wearisome walk in any weather. But trudging through snow and slush, and slipping on icy patches made little girls even more tired, cold, and grumpy.
We each carried our school briefcase and lunch box, and still managed to grip Mom’s hand as we plodded from the bus stop. We arrived home chilled to the bone. Mom usually stuck to her rules about having homework completed before playtime. But on those days we anticipated an exception. That’s when we learned the importance of something as simple as a cup of hot cocoa.
Mom heated cocoa in a chipped saucepan on the stove while we ran to our room to retrieve our toy tea set. Then she filled our teacups with the steaming drink. Somehow, the cocoa tasted even better when sipped from the petite cups. They barely held a mouthful or two, but her ready hand always provided a quick refill. When I swallowed the hot drink I could feel the liquid warmth spread through my body, traveling all the way down to thaw my frosted fingers and toes. At that moment, all felt right in my little world.
Even now, in the midst of a busy schedule in sunny Florida, a cup of hot chocolate on a cool day warms more than my body—it warms my heart. And it reminds me to be thankful for a Mom who worked hard to ensure a childhood glass not just half-full, but filled to the brim. Even if the brim belonged to a tiny plastic toy teacup.
What are your childhood memories? Do you find yourself focusing on the negative? Or do you look for positive recollections, even if they happened to be rare occurrences? When you’re tempted to view life as half-empty, remind yourself that half-empty glasses are also half-full.