Peggy is taking off this week, so in place of her usual column we're featuring one of her previous efforts from the fall of 2008.
When my two children were young, growing up, they were taught the magic words. Those words are please and thank you.
Now grown, they visited with me this past weekend and I noticed they are still practicing those magic words. I was pleased those lessons took root. The grandchildren, too, are using those words taught to them by their own parents.
My children learned that using those polite words at home, got results.
For example, if one of them wanted something passed to them across the dinner table, they knew they would get results by first saying the word "please". There were times when they momentarily forgot. Then I would have to ask, "What are the magic words?" Recognition would cross their face and they would respond with the appropriate words.
It was nothing but a lesson in manners, a training in politeness.
I wonder if those lessons are taught in families today.
Are children learning and using those magic words?
Sunday as my family reminisced about the magic words and other memories, my daughter recalled the special plate.
The special plate was nothing more than a fluke that was used as another lesson in life.
I had a set of Melmac dishes that were used when serving meals. It was a four place setting with just enough plates to go around. It was the only set of dishes I had.
One day one of the plates was accidentally left on the kitchen stove under the pilot light. Before I discovered what was happening, a small brown scorched spot was in the center of the plate. It was still usable but the plate was marred forever. No amount of scrubbing would remove the brownish circle.
At mealtime whenever one of the children was given the damaged plate, he or she would protest. They did not want the burned plate. They wanted a good plate.
Overtime, I came up with an idea. The plate would be special. When the table was set, the person who received the tarnished plate would be special too.
Soon the plate was honoring the child who received an A on a test, or had received special recognition at school that day. Eventually the plate was given to the child who was "having a bad day." Perhaps my son or daughter was just feeling low and needed sympathy and support from the family. Thus, the special plate to bring a smile to that child's face.
Soon the children were vying for the special plate, eager to see who would receive it.
No one knew who would be privileged at mealtime. The decision was mine, indisputable. But sometimes they had some input. I would ask, "Who do you think should have the special plate today?" They would discuss it and offer their opinion.
For several years, the plate was used as a special reward or incentive.
But eventually, the Melmac dishes became old and scratched. I bought new dishes and the burned plate was relegated to the basement among discards.
The children don't know it, but I still have the special plate, although all the other Melmac dishes are just a faded memory. I just couldn't throw it away.
My children have not forgotten the magic words.
Or the special plate.
It's a family thing.