My Life As A Ten Year Old Paratrooper


When I was just a lad of ten, my father said to me,

Come here and learn a lesson from the lovely lemon tree.

Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet

But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.

(‘Lemon Tree’, Peter Paul and Mary, 1962)

Although the song, ‘Lemon Tree’, is comparing the fruit of the Lemon Tree to the sour taste of unfulfilled love, my experience with this song took on a meaning of greater significance when one summer afternoon, as young boys,  my next door neighbor Dale and I spent hours listening to the smooth sounds of Peter, Paul, and Mary as they sang the sad tale of a father’s advice regarding love to his son.  To eight year old boys the message of the song was meaningless. We just liked singing the chorus of the song as we both jumped up and down on his living room couch.  That summer afternoon Dale’s parents we gone and we had the house all to ourselves. We jumped and jumped singing that song. It was a joyous afternoon as that lemon tree catapulted us to the heights of his living room ceiling.  I can never hear that song without good feelings coming back into my mind as a reminder of that wonderful summer afternoon. For Dale, the afternoon took on a darker side when his parents came home to discover that the living room couch had become our personal ‘trampoline.’ Our afternoon of singing the song of the lemon tree truly turned sour as it became apparent that our afternoon diversion led to the ruin of an expensive piece of furniture.

Back in the 1960’s it was not unusual for Father’s to follow-up a verbal reprimand to their disobedient children, so I found out later that not only had Dale been grounded for weeks but according to reports, his rump turned a deep shade of red when his Dad administered the proper physical punishment for his careless disregard for their expensive couch.  I of course escaped any consequences of my youthful indiscretion. As far as I know my parents never knew about this incident, and perhaps my confession, now some fifty years later,  regarding this matter, would make my now deceased Mother, turn over in her grave.

Yes, I had escaped to jump another day. And so it was that months later my brother and I were found playing “paratrooper” onto our new beds. As one side of our basement bedroom was not finished we climbed up onto the framework and leaped off for hours one night. We would call out a number as we leaped into the imaginary darkness of the skies over Germany. I’m not sure how many times we jumped into Germany,  but I do recall yelling, “Paratrooper 857!” at some point during the night.  It was a wonderful night as my young mind was filled with the excitement of living in the middle of WWII and fighting the Nazis.

My brother and I learned what ‘corporal’ punishment was all about when my Father found out the next day that our war games activity had broken both of our new beds.  After that experience my jumping on furniture days ended. I have wonderful memories of the “Lemon Tree” but when I see paratroopers on TV I find that I subconsciously protect my derriere!  My ‘lemon tree’ jumping, without a fixed consequence had taught me little, but my paratrooper activity and its resulting punishment had taught me that it wasn’t proper to jump on furniture.

“How could there be a law save there was a punishment? Now, there was a punishment affixed, and a just law given, which brought remorse of conscience unto man…And also, if there was no law given against sin men would not be afraid to sin. And if there was no law given, if men sinned what could justice do, or mercy either, for they would have no claim upon the creature? But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment…and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead…For behold, justice exerciseth all his demands, and also mercy claimeth all which is her own; and thus, none but the truly penitent are saved.” (Alma 42)

Often we don’t like accepting the consequences of our actions, but it is needed and a part of the great plan. Otherwise we would learn little. Yet I am grateful, that through the mercy of God, the full consequential weight of my sinful actions can be passed on to one who is willing to take upon himself the punishment affixed. I just need be ‘truly penitent’, change, and then call upon the  grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be saved.




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