A little elementary school was set on a small parcel of land, complete with jungle gym and basketball hoop. From the school playground you could see the front porch of a nearby senior center. The kids were always too busy playing to pay any attention to the center, but many of the seniors delighted in watching the kids frolic in the schoolyard.

One day Ms. Valentine, the first-grade teacher, noticed the seniors watching the children and thought it would be a good idea to bring them together. So early one morning the following week, the children were escorted hand-in-hand out the door of their classroom, through the playground, beyond the school fence, and over to the senior center. The students were allowed to mingle if they liked, and some were introduced to residents of the center. Remmy Evans, an enterprising little boy, was strolling around as if he were sizing everyone up when he spotted an older gentleman outfitted in a checkered flannel shirt and sky-blue baseball cap sitting off in the corner. Their eyes met, and the man waved Remmy over. "Hello, I'm Mr. Royce," said the man, extending his hand as if they were about to engage in a business meeting.

Remmy observed Mr. Royce's hand curiously and said, "Excuse me, mister, but why are you so wrinkled?" Mr. Royce laughed heartily and said, "Now, that is a very good question. Would you really like to know?" "Sure," replied Remmy. "What's your name?" asked Mr. Royce.

Remmy hopped up on a chair and said, "My name is Remmy Theodore Evans. But most people just call me Remmy." "Well, Remmy, let me tell you the story about wrinkles. Most people think wrinkles are a sign of age, but they're really a sign of use. When you're wrinkled, like me, it means you have lived a full life. It means you have more memories than most people do. I'll show you what I mean. How many times has Santa Claus visited your house?"

Remmy scratched his head, and his eyes rolled back before he finally responded. "Well, I'm six, but I can only remember the last couple of years, and Santa Claus came those times." "So you know for sure that Santa Claus visited your house at least twice?" asked Mr. Royce.

"Yeah, that's right," replied Remmy. "Listen to this," announced Mr. Royce. "Santa Claus has visited me eighty-nine times!" Remmy's eyes opened wide, and with his mouth gaping he declared, "Wow! You must have a lot of great toys!" "I did," said Mr. Royce, laughing. "Many of them are old now, like me."

"But when toys get old they don't get wrinkled," remarked Remmy.

Mr. Royce chuckled and said, "That's right. Instead they get chipped paint and broken pieces. It's kind of the same thing. The same way toys get used, people's bodies get used. Toys get old because we use them. My body is old and wrinkled because I used it. Do you have an old toy that doesn't work well anymore?"

"Yeah, a couple of them," replied Remmy. "Well, that's the way my body is now. Do you remember having fun playing with those toys?" "Yeah! My best friend, Ronnie, would come over, and we would play with them a lot," Remmy said excitedly.

"So you have happy memories playing with your old toys, even though they don't work too well anymore?" "I sure do, but I like my new ones, too." "What if you never played with your old toys?" asked Mr. Royce. "They might still be like new, but you wouldn't have fun memories of playing with them, right?"

"I guess you're right." "Which would you rather have, the good times playing with your friend or your old toys looking like new?" Without hesitation Remmy exclaimed, "The fun with my friend! We laughed a lot."

"That's the same way I feel about my body," explained Mr. Royce. "I had fun in my life and did a lot of exciting things. If I wanted to protect my body and try to keep it looking like new, I would have missed out on some great times. The same thing goes for you and your toys. If you leave all your toys in the box and never play with them, they'll never get old and break, but you'll never have any fun with them either. Have you ever skinned your knee?"

"Yeah, look!" Remmy rolled his pants leg up over his right knee, proudly displaying a wound from the playground. "That's okay," said Mr. Royce. "You're using your body and having fun. I had a lot of bumps and bruises in my life. I usually got them while I was doing something I liked. It was worth getting a bump on the knee. The same way using a toy until it breaks is okay, because you enjoyed playing with it."With a concerned look on his face, Mr. Royce asked, "Am I making sense?"

"I get it," obliged Remmy. "I was having fun when I skinned my knee."

Mr. Royce smiled and continued. "When a baby is born, she's soft and smooth because she's new. But she also hasn't had any fun yet. She doesn't have any memories of playing with her friends either. But as she grows, she'll have fun, make memories with her friends, and, sure enough, skin her knee. When she gets old, like me, she'll have wrinkles, too.

"So now do you know why I have all these wrinkles?" "Yeah!" said Remmy. "You're all used up!" Laughing boisterously, Mr. Royce confessed, "Yes, that's a big part of it. I've also got wrinkles because I've lived a long time and had a lot of fun. I like to think of each wrinkle as a great memory."

"You must be really happy," declared Remmy. With a nostalgic look on his face, Mr. Royce responded, "I certainly am, son. I certainly am."

As Ms. Valentine called for the students to say their goodbyes, Mr. Royce reached out his wrinkled hand to say farewell, but Remmy didn't shake it. Instead he gave Mr. Royce an affectionate hug and ran off to join his classmates. A flurry of distant memories flashed through Mr. Royce's mind, and his eyes prickled with tears. He was delighted with the new memory he and Remmy had just created. He hoped it would be one Remmy would think of someday, many --years from then, when he had wrinkles, too.
--Inspired by Anita Hart

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