Jed and Patrice
Once, there was a little boy whom at birth was given a very long name. Jedidiah Demitrius Remington. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Remington, named him this because they thought that if their son had a big, impressive, important sounding name with lots of syllables, it would inspire him to grow into it. So that one day he might also become big, impressive, and important.
And so they called him Jedidiah Demitrius Remington every day, even thought he was just a little boy with large eyes and a habit of giggling when things were serious.
The only person who saw him for who he really was, was his Grandmother Patrice. She was a smart, sensible, I’ll-do-it-myself sort of woman, who firmly believed that giggly six-year-olds shouldn’t be addressed as Jedidiah Demitrius Remington. And so she simply called him Jed.
One day, Jed was over at his Grandmother Patrice’s house, helping her pickle the cherry tomatoes she grew in her garden. They stood in her earthy work room at a wooden counter, yellow sunshine invading in beams through the dusty windows. Jed stood on a bench, Patrice tall at his side. She let him fill long glass jars with tiny, round, bright red tomatoes, along with a few basil leaves, and then she would pour in the brine. The brine was a mix of water, salt, sugar, vinegar, and black pepper berries, and, given enough time, would cause the tomatoes to pickle. Then she screwed on the cap and let Jed wipe the jar dry before moving on to the next one.
Suddenly, the phone rang in the next room.
“Jed,” said Patrice, “I must answer this. I won’t be long. Please do not touch anything until I get back. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Grandma,” said Jed.
Patrice then stepped into the house, leaving Jed all alone.
At first, Jed made funny faces at himself in the gleaming glass of the jars, enjoying the way his cheeks flattened and his eyes elongated.
But one jar was still only half full. It occurred to Jed that he could fill it up to the top all by himself. He thought about what Patrice had said; not to touch a thing. And he had said that he wouldn’t. So, he shouldn’t.
But, he then thought that maybe Patrice would be so proud of him, she wouldn’t mind.
Standing up on the bench, Jed plopped the tomatoes into the open mouth of the jar, until it was completely full. He smiled, greatly pleased with himself.
Next, he knew, was the brine, then the cap, and finally the wipe down.
Reaching for the pitcher of brine, his six-year-old muscles strained to pick it up. Wobbling, he tried to pour the brine over the tomatoes, aiming as well as he was able. But it was just too heavy. It slipped out of his hands and fell on the jar.
Both the jar full of cherry tomatoes and the pitcher of brine then fell to the floor with a spectacular crash, breaking into a thousand pieces. Tomatoes bounced in all directions and the salty, vinegary water splashed everywhere, soaking the old floor.
Jed stood frozen on his bench, shocked and horrified and very scared. For a second, as was his habit, he started to giggle. However, he stopped when he thought about what Patrice was going to say when she saw what he had done. She was going to be so mad at him! And maybe even say things like,
“You didn’t listen! You made a mess! My beautiful tomatoes! How could you do this to me, Jed? How do you expect to grow into your name if you do disgraceful things like this? Clearly, you don’t deserve such a name. I’m going to talk to your parents about giving you a different, less noble one!”
Just the thought of her certain fury made Jed’s lower lip tremble. What if he jumped down and hid from Patrice? But, no, he couldn’t. There was too much sharp, broken glass all over the place, surrounding his bench. He was trapped.
Abruptly, he heard the sound of Patrice’s shoes, and his heart raced. He couldn’t even giggle.
Walking in, Patrice at once saw the disaster on the floor and gasped, her hand flying to her mouth; then to her heart; then to her hip.
“Jed!” she cried. “What happened?”
And Jed, unable to bear it any longer, burst into tears.
“It was an accident!” he sobbed, and told her how he was trying to pickle the tomatoes all by himself, but the pitcher was too heavy.
Patrice listened closely, and then asked, “Why didn’t you obey?”
Jed’s whole mouth shook.
“Because,” he whispered, “I wanted you to be proud of me, and think I am growing into my name by doing big, important stuff. I’m so sorry. I’ll never do it again. Please don’t tell mommy and daddy to change my name.”
For a moment, Patrice said nothing, and just stared at his large, pleading eyes. Finally, she said, “Jed, obeying IS big and important. I told you not to touch anything to keep you safe. Not because I cherish my tomatoes. I cherish you. I am just happy that you didn’t get hurt.”
Jed stared at her, his eyes swimming with unshed tears.
“So,” he croaked, “you’re not mad?”
“I am a little disappointed,” said Patrice. “But I’ll get over it.”
“You-” he stammered, “you’re not going to ask mommy and daddy to change my name?”
“Of course not! Why would I do that?”
“Because, I disappointed you.”
“Oh! I see,” said Patrice, smiling. “You think I want retribution for your actions against me?”
Jed, though puzzled, nodded.
“Well, no, Jedidiah Demitrius Remington. I, in no way, wish to get even with you.”
“Why not?” he asked in wonder.
“Because, my dearest little Jed, I forgive you.”
“Forgive?” repeated Jed.
“Yes, my love, forgive. It is what Jesus wants us to do for each other, because He will always forgive us when we’ve been wrong and are very sorry about it. You know that you’ve done wrong?”
Shamefully, Jed nodded.
“And you are very sorry?”
Vigorously, Jed nodded again.
“Then I forgive you. Just remember this day the next time you’re tempted to disobey.”
“What if I forget by accident?” Jed asked. “Will you forgive me again?”
Patrice’s lips twitched. “Yes, love,” she said. “I will. Again and again. As many times as it takes.”
“Because, that is what Jesus does for us.”
Patrice then found a broom and rescued Jedidiah Demitrius Remington from where he stood on the bench. He helped her clean up, and afterwards they sat on her couch and ate pickled cherry tomatoes smeared on toast.