We had just moved into our first home. It was my husband’s childhood home; his parents had retired from the farm and moved to town and we had taken over where they left off.
In a matter of 2 months I had graduated from college with my teaching degree, married, and landed a job just 3 miles from where I was going to live with my new husband. Life was full of excitement and possibilities.
School had been in session for just a few weeks. I was still adjusting to having a full-time job… my very first real job. Things were still in boxes, some of my in-law’s belongings were still waiting to be moved and I was adjusting to many new things.
I was writing thank-you notes for wedding gifts. As I sat at the kitchen table one Saturday afternoon, trying to come up with an original note for each wedding gift we had received, there was a knock on the door.
An older gentleman was standing there with a brown paper bag in his hands. He was dressed in what I guessed to be his Sunday best. A dark pair of trousers with a crease neatly ironed in the front and back. Black shiny dress shoes. A white shirt and tie and a suit jacket that didn’t match the trousers but was clean and pressed. As I opened the door I glanced again and noticed that the suit jacket was frayed a bit as were the cuffs of his trousers. His shoes, although black and shiny, were well-worn. He also had on a fedora-styled hat. His hair was peppery gray and white and neatly combed. His hands were hands of a working man. Short nails and calloused. His smile was genuine, his skin was crumpled.
“Welcome to the neighborhood, Mrs. C____”, he said as he presented me with the brown paper bag. ” I am Mr. Raymond Mallow and just consider this a late wedding present for you and Roger. My wife would have come along but she was not feeling well today “Thanks. Would you like to come in?” I replied.
I still wasn’t sure who this old fellow was but I had already figured out there were many people around these parts that knew my husband and his family; I would probably never get them straight.
“No, no I don’t want to bother you. I just wanted to give you a little something since you are newly married. Roger is a good boy.. .a hard worker. He used to bail hay for me. I wish you good luck.”
He turned, walked away and slowly slid into an older model pickup truck and drove away.
I took the brown paper bag inside and placed it on the kitchen table. As I opened the bag, I was expecting perhaps a gift-wrapped box or maybe a home-made pie, but instead I found…… a dozen eggs. They were the most beautiful cinnamon sugar-colored eggs I had ever seen. They seemed to glow against the grey paper egg carton. No card. Just a dozen eggs.
I smiled. That was a sweet thing to do, I thought. I carefully put the eggs away into my new double-door refrigerator, and returned to composing thank you cards. I added Mr Mallow’s name to the list of wedding gifts and reminded myself to ask Roger about him.
A few days passed and one morning as Roger grabbed a gallon of milk from the refrigerator, he stopped and said, “Where did you get the brown eggs?” I told him the story (because in all the day-to-day stuff that fills up our lives, I had forgotten to mention the visit to him.) Then he told me a story.
Raymond and Laura Mallow lived a few roads over from our farm. They were typical small farmers with a few cows and chickens. They had lived there as long as Roger could remember. Raymond was 80 years old and his wife a few years older. They had a son, Robert who was their pride and joy Robert was a good student, a Grange member, a 4H member, went to Sunday School and was just an all around good kid. He was ready to take over the farm someday, start his own family, and continue what his parents had started.
When World War II began, Robert enlisted and was ready to serve his country as many boys his age were so willing to do. He became a Second Lieutenant.
He was killed in action at the age of 24.
What a blow that must have been for his parents. Their only son.
That dozen eggs took on a different meaning for me. Not just a wedding gift. More than just a bit of cash tucked into an envelope. More meaningful than a shiny toaster or cookie jar. A lovely gesture from a couple who had lost their most precious possession.
True of most gifts we receive, it is not the actual gift that pleases. It is the thought behind the gift, the intention of the giver, the action that triggered the gift giving…. It all makes a difference in how we accept and how we cherish or reject the gift. Gifts from my children, handmade or expensive hold a special place in my heart. Well thought out gifts from a friend who remembered a passing conversation and went with it. An impulse gift to make me laugh.
A simple gift of a dozen eggs. Eggs gathered by tired but skilled hands. Gathered and cleaned to be given away as a wedding gift.
I didn’t share this story to any of my friends when it happened. They wouldn’t have “got” it… they probably would have laughed and forgotten about it.
I remembered it just a few years later when Mrs. Mallow passed away. Then again ten years down the road, when Mr Mallow followed her. Through the years it stayed with me. Most recently, the memory was triggered by another neighbor. He asked me if I could use some eggs. A few days later eggs appeared in my refrigerator. No note no card, but I knew who they were from. A dozen beautiful brown eggs.