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It’s still the thought that counts

It's the thought that counts — I remember the very day and where I was when my mother taught me this lesson.

My father was a locomotive engineer, and so we rode the train for free. We were going to visit some aunts in Oakland and were boarding the “milk train.” Dunno why it was called that, but it actually was just a train that had a couple of beat-up passenger cars included that were less than white-glove clean. It was plain Jane train transportation without accouterments, so to speak. But the price was right.

I was maybe 5 at the time and was in the process of going up the stairs to board the train when I was approached by a gruff conductor who demanded to know where was I going? And being a sensitive little girl, I started to cry as I tried to answer through the sobs, “up there.” He obviously meant what destination, but the question was wasted on me. Well, the poor guy was so devastated, he apologized profusely to me and my mother, who stood by watching and felt bad as the whole thing unraveled. I wouldn’t accept his comfort and I couldn’t stop crying. I was crushed.

I remember that it was a Sunday. The poor man seemed powerless to make amends, when he came up with an idea.

The train station was on the bottom of a steep hill that led to the Main Street of town. On it was a bakery, aptly called the Canyon Bakery. They didn't bake on Sunday, but the conductor trudged hurriedly up the hill and bought what they had, which were sugar cookies.

We loved sugar cookies from the bakery, but these were day old, and we knew it. But after he had made the trip and the huge effort to please us, he met with our misgivings and I’m sure we weren’t too gracious about it, because my mother took me aside and explained what he was trying to do. And she told me, “It’s the thought that counts.”

To my astonishment, my stepson bought me a Mother’s Day card about 10 years ago. It wasn’t a sentimental one, but a lighthearted remembrance. I was moved. Every year I bring it out and have him sign and date it, and I tell him, “It’s the thought that counted that you thought about me then, and it still does.” It is a lesson well learned, and I hope that I have passed it on.

It gives me a warm feeling recalling my upbringing in the small community of Dunsmuir, California. It was with such love and guidance that helped me become who I am. It was about what affect we would have on other people that would in turn affect our immediate lives and the world. It came from unselfishness and a genuine devotion to well-rounded teaching.

It took time, forethought, a commitment to decency, values and was done with love. My life is filled with joy, gratitude and good fortune everyday because of it. Thank you, mom. I love you.

Marilyn E. White lives in Medford.

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