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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Anger (01/24/05)

TITLE: Trash to Treasure, aka Finding Ferdinand
By Lois Jennison Tribble


Spring fever attacked me -- with snow piling at the door, perhaps cabin fever was more accurate. Whichever, I smelled a garage sale while sorting trash from treasure. With my youngest approaching teens, the bulging bookshelf demanded space for new interests. Tattered copies of Seuss's zingers joined first dictionaries and fairytales in the discard box. I glanced through "Find Ferdinand", then plunked it down on the rest. Some nitwit had ruined it, circling the missing character where he hid inside the intricate drawings on each page. Too bad, it looked barely used.

"Funny about that book, Mom." I hadn't noticed Matt, munching a muffin as he sprawled on the chair behind me. More and more he resembled his older brother, Mark, an eating machine midway through his teens.

"What about it?" I questioned. "Pick up those crumbs, don't --- ." Sigh. Before I could finish he'd brushed them from his lap onto the floor.

"I was so proud that day," Matt continued. "Do you remember the Christmas you gave us that book? Mark gave you a present, and Angie made one for you, too. I was the only one without. I felt ashamed -- sort of left out. I wanted to make up for it; you'd made such a big deal about theirs."

Suddenly I was listening. This was my middle child, the silent one -- getting him to talk was usually like prying a pearl from an anxious oyster. This time, he was volunteering.

Matt grabbed the book from the box. "See on the back cover how they show Ferdinand?" He pointed to the character, circled where he hid. "I thought it was an example of what we were supposed to do. Christmas Day you sat down with us and helped us find Ferdinand on some of the pages. It took so long. Then we'd turn the page and he was lost again. You were so busy, and I wanted to surprise you."

I scrutinized the book more closely, gradually remembering. "What happened next?" I asked uneasily.

"I kept searching for Ferdinand -- I wanted to give you a present. Everywhere I found him, I circled just like the example -- every page, in ink. It was a lot of work, but I did it. I was so proud."

My anxiety grew. There was this expression on Matt's face -- a tension behind the sheepish look.

"I'd made a present for you, just like the others."

He was looking at his feet. A tear splashed onto his hand as he fumbled with his sweatshirt drawstring. "Matt," I said softly, but he wouldn't make eye contact. Quietly, he placed the book back in the discard box and shrugged.

"You made such a fuss. But not like with Mark and Angie's gifts. You were angry with mine. You said I ruined the book; then you sent me to bed. Do you remember? It was Christmas."

"Oh, Matt." The day rushed back at me like a freight train, crushing me in its tracks. "Oh, Matt." I rose from the floor and held him in my arms; my precious, wounded child. "I was wrong. I should have realized." Like Ferdinand melting into the background while begging to be noticed, how often we mistook his appearance. If only he would communicate more often.

"It's okay, Mom. It didn't matter."

"Didn't matter?" His sensitivity amazed me. No more than five at the time, even then he saw how pressed I was between too many burdens and too little time. It was so like him, and so like me to misinterpret. James 1:19-20 admonished me: "Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God" (RSV). What had I accomplished? "Will you forgive me?" I asked, lifting his chin so his eyes would meet mine.

"Sure, Mom. I always do."

Always do? How many times had I hurt him, too busy to perceive the motives for his strange, irritating ways? So sure I knew all the answers without even asking the questions, how many problems had I caused?

On every riotous page, finding Ferdinand was the challenge. I never dreamed the reward was finding my own son revealed there instead. Thank you, Lord, I prayed, as I reached into the discard box to retrieve my precious treasure. Matt smiled at me. Outside, snow swirled against the door. Inside my heart -- it was the first day of spring.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Lee Schab 01/31/05
OK. I don't cry often when reading challenge entries but this one choked me up. Probably because I can see myself in it. I wonder how many times I've spoken words in anger that I'll soon forget but my kids will remember forever. Kinda scary.
Well-written with a message that hugs the heart. Thanks for posting.
Blessings, Lynda
Deborah Anderson01/31/05
Great story...great job. God bless you.
Corinne Smelker 01/31/05
I agree with Lynda - I have a silent middle child too, and so often I have said things that I have later regretted.

If we still had the ability to vote as reader's this would get mine!
Karen Deikun02/01/05
A tear jerker for sure and very convicting. You unfolded the story very nicely leaving the reader hungry for the next line. Very well done.
Linda Germain 02/02/05
It would get my vote too! I wish I could take all my 20/20 hindsight and go back and do it right! I suspect we all have a Ferdinand story somewhere in child-rearing. This is a very well written piece.
Diane Johnson02/04/05
WOW! What a moving story. I could picture everything happening so vividly. It really triggered a lot of emotions. You have a great talent. Hope your story makes it to the winner's circle and publication! Blessings!
Deborah Porter 02/07/05
Lois, you move up to Advanced and show by your 3rd Place win in the Level 3 Challenge Champion Awards that you are definitely in the right place. Congratulations on that, as well as your 7th place with in the Editors' Choice. You deserve it. With love, Deb (Challenge Co-ordinator)
Debbie OConnor02/07/05
Wow! Lois, you brought tears to my eyes. How easy it is not to really listen, to jump to conclusions, to be angry. Like an arrow to my heart. I loved it. Congratulations on another well deserved win.
Sally Hanan02/07/05
Great work Lois. I loved it.
Crista Darr02/07/05
Thank you for writing this story. What a great encouragement for so many of us. The verse you quoted hit a home-run!
Love, Crista
Jeremy McNabb02/07/05
You never cease to amaze me with your stories! Congrats on three in a row!