“Oh good!” he responded. “I love grapes!” He affirmed this moments later when we reached the vines by popping another and another into his mouth.
Back in the house, the routine began again: wash and stem the grapes, cook and process. As I worked, my young son said dreamily, “Wouldn’t it be cool to have grape stew?”
“Are you kidding me? Grape stew?” I asked in wonder.
“Yup!” he responded, without hesitation.
“Well, if you’re going to have grape stew, why not a walnut milkshake, carrot ice cream, or green bean cake?” I asked sounding just as silly.
“I don’t like carrots,” he said. I’d like that milkshake and Daddy might like green bean cake,” he continued, processing my comment.
“What if we settle for grape jelly and grape juice?” I asked him laughing.
“I guess so,” he said agreeably, “but it still would be cool to have grape stew.” Without another word, he was out the door, lost in his own world of make believe, fighting the bad guys one minute and being a fireman the next.
While pondering what the ingredients grape stew might be, my mind began focusing on how much time and energy we spend caring for the vines and the work involved in harvesting the fruit. There is pruning, weeding, and watering along with the fruit trees in the yard and the garden. This work reminds me that while we enjoy and are delighted with the bounty, there were many hours spent toiling, gathering and preserving the harvest.
Some years it seemed it didn’t matter the hours of labor spent, the garden refused to cooperate. The heat of the sun, along with lack of rain; dried and scorched everything, except the weeds of course, spoiling the otherwise generous bounty. Sometimes it was too much rain and cool weather which caused the garden not to grow. There is no human control over these natural things, of course, but somehow I felt responsible when the harvest was less than plentiful.
Life is like that sometimes. It seems no matter how much effort we spend nurturing our young ones, ultimately they decide how much “watering, weeding and pruning” they accept as they grow older. As parents, we advise, mix it with faith, forgiveness and patience. Add friendship, tenderness, loyalty and laughter, and fertilize with love. Still the choices they make are ultimately their own. They choose the paths they follow. There is little control over their likes and dislikes, friends or interests. Suggestions and counsel is certainly a viable option, but it is they who decide where life takes them.
We all dream of having “perfect” children: polite, friendly, loving, happy, helpful, neat, tidy, etc. The truth is, however, each child will have his unique portion of the “perfect” qualities. No child has all.
It’s much like the grapes I pulled off the vine. Each clump, as a whole, look wonderfully delicious. As I wash and clean them, however, one or two have spots, some are partly eaten by insects, others are dried and shriveled and still others are just plain rotten.
Grape stew, huh? I gathered my small child to me as he came into the house thirsty and in need of a snack; returning the hug in a hurry to be back at play. He’s part of my personal “grape stew” --a family with imperfections but beautiful as a whole. It’s what makes having a family worthwhile. It’s hard, continuous work, never knowing how it will all turn out because life is just that way. But still I know without a doubt, the rewards are as sweet as grape jelly!