The bricks on our two-story Georgian style home were painted white, and so were the windows and the heavy cast iron table and chairs on the small front porch. Drifts of knee-deep snow covered the entire block. Every front yard, every tree limb, every hedge, every porch railing was hidden under domes of white.
The only color showing was the black of the lampposts, standing sentry beside the blacktopped street. Oh, and the shutters on our four bedroom house were black, as was the front door, and the hanging mailbox beside the black side door, and the bell that hung above the mailbox.
Everything was black or white except the icy cement sidewalks that crisscrossed the ground, with heaps of piled snow at their sides.
I stood on the shoveled stoop of the family entrance, looking up at a row of icicles, some the size of a small child’s arm. Except for my face, my entire little-girl-self was bundled, from my knitted hat and scarf and mittens to my zippered black boots.
It was almost dark as I hopped off the steps and headed down our driveway. I’d been sent on a mission two doors down to borrow an item needed for our supper. Our aproned neighbor was expecting me and she smiled warmly as she handed me a bottle she’d fetched from her pantry. Holding it firmly by the neck I trudged back down the sidewalk and up our curved drive.
Why I decided to toss that bottle of Heinz ketchup up in the air to try to catch it, remains a mystery. But the result of my playful, unwise decision ended up spattering the white landscape, the sidewalk, the driveway, and the heaps of snow with bright, guilty red. The only witnesses were the icicles and the dog watching from our picture window.
This error had no cover; no explanation or lie would have satisfied. I had to come clean and admit the truth.
My hungry family laughed and the neighbor had another bottle, which was carried with the greatest of care the second time on that cold night.
And the hamburgers were good.
I think this might have been the first time I remember feeling remorse for something that could not be undone. Yes, it was instant, messy remorse. I know the feeling well. Remorse is that healthy, God-given reaction to wrong-doing that leads us to change our ways. It is one of the many blessings that is not pleasant. Remorse, like ketchup-spattered snow, is evidence that change needs to occur. It is one of the invisible layers underneath our visible cover that sends me running to my Savior, the author of second chances.