Spreading love, joy, peace, faith & unity

Give It Away Now!

I have an old, tattered book end. It’s quite chipped. On it is an old man with a sombrero and a donkey, moulded out of plaster of paris. I think the set probably was purchased by my parents back in the late thirties shortly after they were married. Is that old Mexican fellow feeding his donkey or is he pulling the stubborn animal, trying to get him to go where he wants him? I prefer the latter story. This old piece of “junk” is probably not worth much on the open market. I doubt I’d get a quarter for it in a yard sale. But, to me –  it’s priceless. My sister and I used to make up stories about this old fella when we were kids. It’s place of honor was on a table in the sitting room where the furniture of blond wood and red fabric was a wedding gift from Dad’s best friend. He and Dad had a bet about which of them would marry first. Dad won. The friend bought Dad a red sofa, chair, ottoman, and a table with matching blond wood. My niece has the furniture. My sister, Sally, has one of the book-ends. I have the other.


The book-end sits on the crowded bookshelf in my living room here in Montana. It doesn’t draw much attention to itself in the spot where I have it placed, but yesterday I met the old man’s parents – or maybe his elderly cousins. Made of the same plaster of paris, painted the same hues of yellow and red with touches of green, the elderly couple were front and center on the mantle in a new friend’s home. They were sitting closely on a wooden bench, knapsack thrown to the side where he was sitting, umbrella leaning on her side. Years of living together made them almost look as if they could be brother-sister, but experience told you – no, they were a husband and wife – and if that couple could talk, they’d have 60+ years of stories to share. My eyes were riveted on them as I asked my friend if her honored couple had a story. She didn’t speak. I looked at her. Tears welled up and her voice was husky. She whispered, “Oh yes!”

“Will you tell me?” I asked.

“Do you have time?”

“For this story, I have all the time in the world,” I replied.

We took a seat on her lovely white brocade sofa. “When I was a little girl,” she began… (somehow i knew the piece had to date back fifty years or more, so her introduction didn’t surprise me)… “my dear father used to take my mom every now and then to the local jewelry store and let her pick out a piece of jewelry. My sister and I were not trusted in the store where so many pretty, shiny things were sitting at finger-tip level, so we waited (in good weather) outside the store while they went in to do their shopping. In the window of Severson’s Jewelry Store sat this carving. My sister and I called the old couple Grandma and Grandpa. To pass the time while our parents were inside, we made up stories about them. Our imaginations were wild, and we kept one another well entertained. One day when we arrived at the store, the old carving was not in the window. Mr. Severson had brought it inside. It was in a glass case at the back of the store. He said it was time to revamp the store’s windows. With a promise that we would not touch anything, our parents let us come inside and sit in front of the glass case. By the twinkle in his eye and his occasional chuckle, we could tell the store owner was eavesdropping on our story-telling and enjoying the tales my sis and I created.

“Eventually Mr. Severson retired, the store was closed, and the old couple on the carved bench disappeared. My sister disappeared at about the same time. She was twelve years old when she was tragically killed in a car accident. Mr. and Mrs. Severson came to her funeral to express their condolences. A few years later, we went to Mrs. Severson’s funeral to express our condolences to the jeweler who had become an old friend of the family by that time.

Years went by. I graduated and went away to work. I was home one weekend visiting my parents when there was a knock on the door. Mr. Severson stood there with a wrapped box. Inside was that precious carving – Grandma and Grandpa on the bench. ‘You need this,’ he said. Speechless, I hugged him. ‘It means as much to you as it does to me,’ he explained. ‘It’s time I give it away now.’

“Does it have a story?” my friend repeated my question. “What story would you like to create for Grandma and Grandpa today?”

I came home and pulled my book-end off the shelf. I looked at that old man with the donkey and wondered, is it time to give him away? Should I give it away now? Is there anyone to whom it means as much as it does to me? I wonder…

Comments on: "Give It Away Now!" (19)

  1. What a moving story! How special that your new friend had a similar special ornament with stories, although so sad she lost her sister so young. I love that the old jeweller felt that piece needed to go to her. I cannot imagine you parting with your piece, but maybe there are more stories waiting to be born in someone’s imagination, with the help of an old man and his donkey. Thank you for this heart touching post Jan. Hugs, Gina

  2. Ohhhhh Mom…..I dearly love this story! THIS is how children spent their time before Nintendo and Gameboy! With their imaginations! How can we get this back to our generation now???

    • See my reply below, DeDe. I posted it before I logged into this site, and so replying directly here was not one of the option. Give me time, I’ll get the hang of how to use these features!

  3. Thank you, Gina and DeDe, for visiting my blog and leaving your comments. I appreciate your feedback. De, I have no idea how we get kids back to using their own imaginations rather than feeding off of others’ creativity while they waste away the hours on these games. I am hoping that ultimately some good will come of those – but with the emphasis on such violence and negativity, I don’t know!

  4. I LOVE this touching story so much that I’m reblogging it.Thank you for sharing it, Jan!

    • How kind of you to reblog this post, Russ. I appreciate your visit and your support. Reblogging it sends other visitors to JanBeek and that allows me to get acquainted with new people. What fun! Thanks!!

  5. Reblogged this on A Grateful Man and commented:
    I love this post from Jan. I especially love the ending of the story about Grandma and Grandpa. Thank you Jan, for sharing both stories with the world.

  6. Thanks for sharing this great story Jan. I am a follower now and I am looking forward to your next post. cheers Judy 🙂

    • Thank you, Judy, for becoming a follower. Now I am anxious to visit your blog and see what you’ve been up to!

  7. What a lovely post – your friend’s story kinda reminds me of the “pay it forward” idea. I think you should take a keepsake photo and frame it – then pass it on now while you can enjoy knowing someone else (likely a little one) will love this treasure!

  8. Jan, This is a beautiful story. It reminds me of my childhood and the hours I spent making up stories for my paper dolls. I hope you find a ‘perfect fit’ for your old man and his donkey. Bless you.

    • Thank you. I appreciate your good wishes. My daughter bemoaned the fact that her boys spend their time on Nintendo, Gameboy and other computer games rather than using their imaginations. We were lucky to grow up in the days of storytelling. I hope it doesn’t become a lost art!

  9. I just want to tell you that I am just very new to blogging and site-building and truly loved this web site. Likely I’m planning to bookmark your blog post . You surely have great well written articles. Thanks a lot for sharing with us your website page.

  10. Marti Hoag said:

    Hi Jan,
    I just read your wonderful story about the old man and the donkey, and my memories of the old man and woman. Our lives did indeed become connected through those two pieces of plaster of paris that mean so much to us. Marti

    • I am glad you had a chance to visit my blog and see where your wonderful story took my imagination, Marti. Come again and visit JanBeek anytime… and do encourage David to join our Madison County Writers 1st and 3rd Fridays at 10:30 AM. Thanks. You are such a gracious hostess!!

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