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Poems   and   Stories

Martha's Secret Ingredient It bothered Ben every time he went through the kitchen. It was that little metal container on the shelf above Martha's cookstove. He probably would not have noticed it so much or been bothered by it if Martha had not repeatedly told him never to touch it. The reason, she said, was that it contained a "secret herb" from her mother, and since she had no way of ever refilling the container, she was concerned that if Ben or anyone else ever picked it up and looked inside, they might accidentally drop it and spill all its valuable contents.

The container wasn't really much to look at. It was so old that much of its original red and gold floral colors had faded. You could tell right where it had been gripped again and again as the container was lifted and its tight lid pulled off. Not only Martha's fingers had gripped it there, but her mother's and her grandmother's had, too. Martha didn't know for sure, but she felt that prehaps even her great-grandmother had used this same container and its secret herb.

All Ben knew for sure was that shortly after he'd married Martha, her mother had brought the container to Martha and told her to make the same loving use of its contents as she had. And she did, faithfully. Ben never saw Martha cook a dish without taking the container off the shelf and sprinkling just a little of the "secret herb" over the ingredients. Even when she baked cakes, pies and cookies, he saw her add a light sprinkling just before she put the pans in the oven.

Whatever was in that container, it sure worked, for Ben felt Martha was the best cook in the world. He wasn't alone in that opinion--anyone who ever ate at their house grandly praised Martha's cooking. But why wouldn't she let Ben touch that little container? Was she really afraid he'd spill its contents? And what did that "secret herb" look like? It was so fine that whenever Martha sprinkled it over the food she was preparing, Ben couldn't quite make out the texture. She obviously had to use very little of it because there was no way of refilling the container.

Somehow, Martha had stretched those contents over 30 years of marriage, to date. It never failed to effect mouthwatering results. Ben became increasingly tempted to look into that container just once, but never brought himself to do so.

Then one day Martha became ill. Ben took her to the hospital, where they kept her overnight. When he returned home, he found it extremely lonely in the house. Martha had never been gone overnight before. And when it neared suppertime, he wondered what to do--Martha had so loved to cook, he'd never bothered to learn much about preparing food. As he wandered into the kitchen to see what might be in the refrigerator, the container on the shelf immediately came into view. His eyes were drawn to it like a magnet--he quickly looked away, but his curiosity drew him back. Curiosity nagged. What was in that container? Why wasn't he to touch it? What did that "secret herb" look like? How much of it was left?

Ben looked away again and lifted the cover of a large cake pan on the kitchen counter. Ahh...there was more than half of one of Martha's great cakes left over. He cut off a large piece, sat down at the kitchen table, and hadn't taken more than one bite when his eyes went back to that container again. What would it hurt if he looked inside? Why was Martha so secretive about that container, anyway? Ben took another bite and debated with himself--should he or shouldn't he? For five more big bites he thought about it, staring at the container. Finally, he could no longer resist.

He walked slowly across the room and ever so carefully took the container off the shelf--fearing that, horror of horrors, he'd spill the contents while sneaking a peek. He set the container on the counter and carefully pried off the lid. He was almost scared to look inside! When the inside of the container came into full view, Ben's eyes opened wide--why, the container was empty...except for a little folded slip of paper at the bottom.

Ben reached down for the paper, his big rugged hand struggling to get inside. He carefully picked it up by a corner, removed it and slowly unfolded it under the kitchen light. A brief note was scrawled inside, and Ben immediately realized the handwriting as that of Martha's mother. Very simply, it said:"Martha--To everything you make, add a dash of love." He swallowed hard, replaced the note and the container, and quietly went back to finishing his cake. Now he completely understood why it tasted so good.

Submitted by Dot Abraham Reminisce magazine

Thngs that make you stop and Think.

If I had my Children to raise over again... I'd finger paint more, and point the finger less. I'd do less correcting, and more connecting. I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I would care to know less, and know to care more. I'd take more hikes and fly more kites. I'd stop playing serious, and serioulsy play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I'd do more hugging, and less tugging. I would be firm less often, and affirm much more. I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later. I'd teach less about the love of power, and more about the power of love". ( If all that fails, Just act like them.)

THIS ONE SURE TOUCHES THE HEART "Daddy, how much do you make an hour?"

With a timid voice and idolizing eyes, the little boy greeted his father as he returned from work.

Greatly surprised, but giving his boy a glaring look, the father said: "Look, sonny, not even your mother knows that. Don't bother me now, I'm tired."

"But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour, " the boy insisted. The father, finally giving up, replied: "Twenty dollars per hour."

"Okay, Daddy. Could you loan me ten dollars?" the boy asked.

Showing his restlessness and positively disturbed, the father yelled: "So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Go to sleep and don't bother me anymore!"

It was already dark and the father was meditating on what he said and was feeling guilty. Maybe he thought , his son wanted to buy something. Finally, trying to ease his mind, the father went to his son's room.

"Are you asleep, son?" asked the father.

"No, Daddy. Why?" replied the boy, partially asleep.

"Here's the money asked for earlier, " the father said.

"Thanks, Daddy!" rejoiced the son, while putting his hand under his pillow and removing some money.

"Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!" the boy said to his father, who was gazing at his son, confused at what his son had just said. "Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?"