For some children, it is the sweet allure of oozing sugar that will do them in, having them try anything for a bit of chocolate or candy. For me, however, the pucker of vinegar and the crunch of pickle was all that and more.
One day, when I was merely six, life gave me a pickle opportunity. We kids would run out of our homes right after breakfast and luxuriate in the great outdoors all morning long on Sundays, until the call for lunch herded us back inside. Then, after lunch, it was back to explore and experience outdoors. On that particular Sunday, right after breakfast, I recruited my younger siblings for a mission of mine. I had heard the adults saying that another family living on our property would be away from home.
Having been in that family’s home a few times, I knew that within the recesses of their fridge sat a potbellied, huge jar of super-duper dill pickles. Why risk punishment alone, when I had some younger siblings to share the blame? So, within moments, I had myself and my younger siblings standing in someone else’s kitchen, shamelessly sharing pickles (one for me, one for you…).
When not the slightest gherkin remained, I placed the jar back into the fridge. That is when it hit me, we’d done wrong and would be in deep-vinegar trouble soon as my mom heard of this escapade. My next move was to call for an “everyone go hide” approach. I knew my siblings, though; knew their patience level. There was no way some of them would hide more than two minutes, so I convinced them we all should hide in different locations. Off they ran, excited about this concept of hiding from my parents. Off I slunk, to find the most hidingest of the hiding places.
Yes, my siblings tumbled out of their hiding places mighty quickly. By lunchtime they were all accounted for, but not me. Which is why, over French toast lunch, my siblings ratted me out, telling of the pickles theft and of the fact that I’d hidden too. First my family searched. Then the police were called in.
The hours crept by, but stubborn mule that I was, I stayed put. I had found a dark, deep closet in a closed-off bungalow and curled up there, completely unnoticeable. Search parties trooped through (I heard them), opened the door (briefly) and no one saw one skinny, minny me, all curled up in the back. The police went around with loudspeakers, and I heard them calling me by name “come out, its okay, come out.” But I wasn’t sure it would be okay so I stayed curled up.
At one point, as I was told the story many years later, my father turned to my mother and said, “I’m searching one more time every closet and closed-off bungalow.” He did just that, and this time, when they pulled open the door of the closet in which I hid, my father looked a bit closer than the previous searchers and found his darling (skunky) daughter, curled like a little snake.
“Didn’t you hear us?” I was asked. I lied, “No, I was sleeping,” I claimed. The sun was casting late afternoon shadows at this point, and to deflect any dreaded showdown, I quickly started crying, “I’m so hungry.”
My father carried me to the house, where he fed me cold French toast. I remember it. Remember that I did get punished, but that it was far better to be home on my father’s lap, eating French toast and being punished, then being scared and in exile curled in a dusty closet.
I’ll be sitting here on Shiva Assur B’Tammuz, a fast day for our nation, remembering that lesson. It would do us all well to confront our wrongs, to crawl out from the emotional spaces where we hide afraid to face our sins, so that we can once again be cradled in our Father’s embrace. Yes, we messed up. But coming forward with confession brings us back into normal living, safe and secure.
To read more about today’s events in history and its significance, read here: