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Lost Marbles


Josh keeps telling me, "Write it, Mom".


He is totally onboard with the whole MomTok/Yakety-Yak thing. That's a story for another post.


I've been considering the movement toward micro-blogging on social media and wondering why I haven't completely gotten on board with it - yet. I think it's because I often wrestle with what needs to be private and what can comfortably be shared publicly. I believe stories can often be a source of encouragement and a balm to sooth weary souls in many cases, but not always. Finding and maintaining that balance could be challenging for me.


Yes, this sweet story (like many) should be written if for no other reason than for my kids and grandkids to have it when I'm gone. But I will likely butcher it or at the very least never do it justice. But isn't that the case with most stories?


In the spirit of the Hope Writers' Manifesto - "We write meaningful words without sacrificing our meaningful life" - can I find a way to write our stories and be okay that my words won't do them justice? I suppose if you consider that question the other way around it becomes clear that it actually should be that way. Would I rather write a more meaningful life than the one I am living? No. That is helpful. I'm just thinking out loud here if anyone is wondering...


So here is one of the stories.


When the kids were younger I had a large mason jar full of marbles I kept nearby. One reason was just because I liked them, but the other was because of the story that I once read about how life is like a jar of marbles. It goes something like this - we each are born with a certain, limited, number of days to live on this earth. Working with some statistical numbers, someone said put X amount of figurative marbles in your figurative jar, represented by a number of tangible marbles in a tangible jar. Now consider that the number of opportunities you have to live a life of your choosing.


The original story...


Early one Saturday morning, a couple of weeks ago, I was walking toward my

garage with a hot cup of coffee in one hand and a newspaper tucked under my arm.

I climbed the stairs into the loft of my garage where I’ve got a cozy little office set up and against one wall ham radio equipment.

I took a sip of my coffee as the radio was warming up. Yeah this is an old one, has the tubes inside that need to heat up before this thing will get going.

As it’s warming up it starts humming so I plug in my speaker instead of my headphones and begin to turn the dial on the front to see if I can get a fix on a strong station.

I’m picking up the usual static and a few weak signals but all of a sudden this strong sounding voice and signal comes up. This guy has a great voice. The kind you would expect to be working in radio.

You could tell he was an older guy.

So he’s talking to someone and sharing his story of a thousand marbles. It caught my attention so I sat back… sipped on my coffee and listened.

“Tom… it sure sounds like you’re a busy guy. You’re working 60 to 70 hours a week just to support your family. It’s really too bad that young people have to work that many hours just to get by.”

The older man continued… “I’m also very sorry to hear that you missed your daughter’s recital. But let me share a story that years ago helped me set some new priorities in my life.”

And so… this older man begins to explain his theory of a Thousand Marbles.

“You see Tom… one day, many years ago, I sat down and did a little math.”

“The average person lives to be 75… give or take a few years.”

“So then I multiplied 75 by 52… 52 is the number of Saturdays you get in one year. The total came to 3900. Three Thousand Nine Hundred Saturdays in an average lifetime… give or take.”

“Now hang in there with me, Tom! I’m getting to the point here.”

“I didn’t really get my head around this idea until I was 55 years old… and by that time, Tom, I had lived through more than 2800 Saturdays.”

“Now Tom… I’m guessing you’re not even close to 55 so you have a bunch more Saturdays to look forward to!”

“So getting back to my story… I figured out that if I lived to be 75 that meant that I have 20 years of Saturdays left to go… or about 1000 more to enjoy.”

“This opened my eyes, Tom. I wanted to do something that would force me to focus and pay attention.”

“That afternoon, I went to a toy store in my area and bought all the marbles they had. I actually had to visit three toy stores until I had enough.”

“I brought all the marbles home and took them down into my basement where I had a room I could just sit down and relax. A place to be alone when I wanted some space.”

“I had a few large glass jars, like the ones you get when you buy pickles. I took one of those jars, sat down, and began counting marbles and putting them into this jar.”

“About 20 minutes later I had counted out 1000 marbles. I put the lid on the jar and sat back and just stared at the thing.”

“That’s all the Saturdays I got left.”

“Every Saturday since then, I’ve taken out one marble and thrown it away.”

“It became very apparent that time was running out and it was very important for me to prioritize my time. No one has forever, Tom.”

“Now before I go and take my lovely wife out for dinner I just wanted to add that this morning… I took the last marble out of that jar.”

“If I get to see next Saturday, well then, I’ll have been blessed with a little extra time.”

“We all could use a little more time, son. Think about it.”

“This is 75 year old Jack Parker signing off at K9GDI wishing you all a good morning.”

Nothing but silence… as I sat there. You could have heard a pin drop.

I was going to go up on the garage roof this morning and work on my antenna but I decided to do something different.

So I went back into the house and walked upstairs and gave my wife a good morning kiss and said…

“Get up sweetheart. Let’s grab the kids and go out for breakfast.”

She smiled at me and asked…

“What’s gotten into you?”

“Nothing really. It’s been a while since we’ve spent a Saturday together.”

“And Oh Yeah… we need to stop by the toy store too. I need to get some marbles.”

-Author Unknown



Josh recently purchased a motorcycle, and he was very excited and wanted us to come see it at his house. He wasn't driving it on the main roads since he had not yet completed the safety course and obtained his license. So John, Rachel, and I drove over to his house where we gathered in his driveway to see the two-wheeled beauty.


Josh approached me and asked, "Mom, did you lose your marbles? I found them for you." He handed me an old, dirty draw-string bag containing a few marbles. We smiled at each other, knowing the story and the significance of the marbles. I gladly accepted the marbles with a hug.


We turned our attention to the reason for the visit - the motorcycle. John and Josh took turns sitting on it and trying it out, but it wouldn't stay running. It had just worked - Josh had driven it out of his own garage into the open area of his driveway. John tugged and pulled at wires and plugs and all manner of things. I gently suggested he leave it alone since it was brand new and if there was a problem the dealership would be responsible for repairing it and him screwing with the wires might cause a problem with that. He continued, a little less aggressively, but determined he could fix the problem. After all, it had just been working and they'd done nothing to cause it to falter.


I sat the bag of marbles on the roof of the car and walked around the side of the motorcycle and noticed that he still had the kick-stand down.


"Wonder if it's because the kick-stand is down, maybe a safety feature for new bikes?"


Taking my suggestion, he put the kick-stand up and voila, the bike fired up and he was able to switch gears with no further problem. I received adequate pats on the back for my genius observation and we all enjoyed a few more minutes of chatting and watching Josh drive a few trips up and down his little neighborhood stretch of road.


We finished our visit and said our farewells, got in the car and drove away. We pulled onto the main road outside of his neighborhood and we heard something roll down the top of the car and into traffic.


"What was that, did you leave your phone on the roof of the car?" Nope, we all had our phones. "Was it your drink?" Nope. Assuming it was something of no importance we continued a short distance.


"It was my marbles! The bag of marbles that Josh gave me!"


Knowing its importance to me, John turned around when he could and headed back in the direction we'd just come from. We all three searched for the little bag of marbles until I found it and pointed at it in the middle of the road - and traffic. John turned into the next possible road and turned around, again, parking on the side of the road as close to the bag as possible. I got out and ran up and down the road chasing it as the draft from traffic in both directions tossed it about. Just as traffic was letting up one last car drove by and ran over the little bag. Marbles scattered in all directions, leaving the bag in the middle of the road for me to retrieve. A little broken-hearted I grabbed the bag and smiled a sigh of relief discovering that there was one lone marble left in the bag. At least I had the bag and one marble. That was enough. It would have to be enough.


I had forgotten to tell Josh about it until he asked me this week about my bag of marbles. As I told him the story, I realized how ridiculous and desperate I must have looked to people driving by, but I didn't care. Those marbles were more than a child's toy to me, they were a symbol of a bond I'd been fortunate enough to forge with our children while they were growing up, one that meant enough to tell me - write the story, Mom.



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