Lessons from the Pumpkin Bread Incident

Being the matriarch of a large family, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the lot of us can descend into the ‘blame game’ when something goes wrong.


The pumpkin bread incident is a perfect example because, truly (for once!) NO ONE was to blame.  It was that most elusive of events:  The Simple Mistake.  Somehow, in all the finger pointing, the one solution to The Case of the Missing Pumpkin Bread none of us entertained was that none of us had a flawless recollection of what had happened (how many loaves of chocolate bread WERE there anyway?), nor did any of us entertain the unpleasant idea that perhaps, just perhaps, we had accidentally sent a partially eaten loaf to our neighbors.


Which, in case you’ve been staying up at night wondering about it, is exactly what had happened.  The loaf, once retrieved and unwrapped proved to be the missing chocolate chip loaf my son was sure hadn’t been eaten yet.


I love the scene from the movie, K-19: The Widowmaker, where the Russian captain of the submarine (played by Harrison Ford) says, in response to some critical error, something like “I want a name. Give me a name.”


“Give me a name” has become a running joke between my husband and I whenever something goes wrong and we’re in need of a scape goat.  In Asian cultures it is common to protect a person’s dignity by the use of a concept called ‘saving face,’ which is a nice way of saying ‘look the other way and act as though dad didn’t do it so he isn’t embarrassed.’


The concept isn’t half bad.  No one wants the finger pointed at them, even when they are guilty.  But pointing fingers can easily become the knee-jerk reaction when something goes wrong, especially in families.  No one wants to admit he broke mom’s favorite Victorian mirror or Dad’s beer stein.


Which is why I am thankful for the pumpkin bread incident because it made us laugh.  The sheer silliness of how seriously we took ourselves over something as inocuous as pumpkin bread; the he-said-ing and she-said-ing that went on was nothing if not humorous.  Were we really calling down this person’s character and spoiling sweet fellowship with each other over a foiled-covered treat?


Yes, sadly.  We are, after all, human, with all the defensiveness that entails.


I hope that the next time we fall into the blame game (which, by my rough calculations, should be in approximately one hour), we will remember The Case of the Missing Pumpkin Bread and check our responses before we start the finger pointing.

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