Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Three Red Marbles

Growing up in Sibu, my siblings and I had our share of marbles and marble stories. Some kids had plenty. We had plain marbles made from clay, but the most popular ones were the glass ones made in China.

We played the usual "tikam" game with our marbles and won some, and lost some. But all of us have a respectable bag of marbles, and we tried not to lose them. We tried not to spend money buying more. We liked winning them in our marble games.

On the other hand, I also tried my best not to lose the marbles in my set of Chinese checkers. We played a lot of Chinese Checkers.

Then we grew out of the "marbles age" but somehow we still kept a few in the house and remember our childhood.

Recently I received a great story in the email. It is not often that we do receive such diamonds. So instead of forwarding it to all my friends, I will just post it here.

Even if it is neither a Foochow nor a Sibu story.

Here you go.


I was at the corner grocery store buying some early potatoes.

I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily
apprizing a basket of freshly picked green peas.

I paid for my potatoes, but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas.

I am a pushover for creamed peas and new potatoes. Pondering the peas, I
couldn't help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store
owner) and the ragged boy next to me.

'Hello Barry, how are you today?'

'H'lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus' admirin' them peas.
They sure look good.'

'They are good, Barry. How's your Ma?'

'Fine. Gittin' stronger alla' time.'

'Good. Anything I can help you with?'

'No, Sir. Jus' admirin' them peas.'

'Would you like take some home?' asked Mr. Miller.

'No, Sir. Got nuthin' to pay for 'em with.'

'Well, what have you to trade me for some of those peas?'

'All I got's my prize marble here.'

'Is that right? Let me see it' said Miller.

'Here 'tis. She's a dandy.'

'I can see that. Hmmmmm, only thing is this one is blue and I sort of go
for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?' the store owner asked.

'Not zackley but almost.'

'Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way
let me look at that red marble', Mr. Miller told the boy.

'Sure will. Thanks Mr. Miller.'

Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me.

With a smile said, 'There are two other boys like him in our community, all
three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for
peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever.

When they come back with their red marbles , and they always do, he decides he
doesn't like red after all and he sends them home with a bag of produce for
a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the

I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man.

A short time later I moved to Colorado , but I never forgot the story of this
man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.

Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one.

Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community
and while I was there learned that Mr. Miller had died.

They were having his visitation that evening and knowing my friends wanted to
go, I agreed to accompany them.

Upon arrival at the mortuary we fell into line to meet the relatives of the
deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.

Ahead of us in line were three young men.

One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and
white shirts...all very professional looking.

They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband's

Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with
her and moved on to the casket.

Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped
briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket.

Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.

Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of
the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about her
husband's bartering for marbles.

With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.

'Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about. They
just told me how they appreciated the things Jim 'traded' them.

Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size.. .they
came to pay their debt.'

'We've never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,' she
confided, 'but right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in
Idaho '.

With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband.
Resting underneath were three exquisitely shined red marbles.

The Moral : We will not be remembered by our words, but by our kind deeds.
Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our

Today I wish you a day of ordinary miracles ~ A fresh pot of coffee you
didn't make yourself.

An unexpected phone call from an old friend.

Green stoplights on your way to work.

The fastest line at the grocery store.

A good sing-along song on the radio..

Your keys found right where you left them.

Send this to the people you'll never forget.

If you don't send it to anyone, it shows you are in way too much of a hurry
to even notice the ordinary miracles when they occur.

It's not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life
you have lived!

5 memories:

Gaharuman said...


You marble story reminds me of the tv programme decades ago called "The Big Blue Marble".

Sarawakiana said...

thank you. Can you tell me more about it?

Gaharuman said...

The "big Blue marble" was a tv programme for children when I was a kid. It was meant for children around the world to make friends. The programme shows children activities around the world in different countries. There was also an address given based in the US and we used to write to the address and the big blue marble organisation will help to match and find pen friend for you that suits your interest, hobbies and age. I also remember the theme song of the programme ..."Together in the world, we must learn to understand....."

juliz said...

You remind me of one of mhy former lecturers who was always telling us to bring Show and Tell into our lesson plans.

Your illustrations are very helpful in my IT and English classes. Thanks.

By the way, do you also write short stories?

Sarawakiana said...

Thanks Juliz.

Yes, Show and Tell has always been a very significant beginning of any good teacher's lesson.It would always help to engage a pupil's mind. But most important of all, it helps every child to develop his confidence in public speaking from an early age.

I write short stories from time to time. But I have to earn a living from other sources.


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