Uncovering the beauty of time

Sitting on the patio of an aging stucco home, shadows on the lawn begin moving as the wind threads through the trees. A leaf floats to the ground, alluding to the coming of fall. This wide patio, or porch as they often call it, was built as the centerpiece of the home. The rest of the house wraps around it on both sides, like huge stucco arms extending a hug.

The chairs have been here for some time. So have the potted geraniums in wrought iron stands. Only the people are recent arrivals. They are snacking on cheese, fruit and fresh veggies, enjoying conversations and sharing stories.fading geranium

Countless stories have been shared on this porch. Perhaps a few of them even true. Others were no doubt embellished to the delight of listeners. This is a family that puts a premium on reading, books, poetry, the classics and the Scriptures.

Screen doors on either side of the porch lead into the house. The doors are wider than today’s standard doors. They are made of drying wood, heavy screen and scrolled metal work. They were crafted long ago with an eye to durability, detail and beauty. The family that has grown here was crafted the same way, with an eye to durability, detail and beauty.

They enjoyed everyday pleasures—singing in the car, laughter at mealtime and football games on Sundays. Even the girls. The youngest, now on the verge of being an empty nester, is inside taunting some of the fellows about past games. Bursts of laughter fill the air.

When the father hit 55, his wife insisted he quit playing Sunday afternoon football with the kids. The mother never played. She was stricken with polio after the birth of their second child and before their next three. Never able to walk again, she often managed by dragging herself across the floor. She never complained. He never complained either, not about the challenges of polio, not about growing up poor, not about being a Marine on Guadalcanal, not even about being shot and bringing home a recurring strain of malaria. They were cut from a cloth that faces life head-on, all the while acknowledging the goodness of God in both joy and sorrow.

There is something familiar upon entering the house. It is the scent of time passing—stacks of old books, piles of magazines, sheet music on the piano, figurines on a shelf in a window.

The homeowner is gone today. He went to be with his Maker.

And yet, both he and his wife linger like ripples in a pond. Their lives are still evident, woven into the laughter and hearts of family and friends. They weren’t rock stars or celebrities and they won’t be remembered in history books. Yet they made a history of their own, creating simple beauty in the everyday and living faith amid the challenges of life.

That is the best remembrance of all.

 

 

 

 

It all adds up for numbers people

As I have noted before, we are all about numbers, dates and anniversaries at this house. Well, technically not “we,” more like “he.” My beloved numbers guy recently mentioned that this is the 75th anniversary of Irving Berlin writing “White Christmas” and proceeded to clip an article to that effect from a USA Today.

If you are married to a numbers person, or are a numbers person yourself, you know that any number, date or anniversary is never the end of something but merely the beginning, because all numbers, dates and anniversaries lead to more numbers, dates and anniversaries and subsequent rabbit trails that are beyond number.

Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” in 1940. But because Bing Crosby recorded the song (in 18 minutes!) on May 29, 1942, the husband proceeded to tuck the clipping into the May 29th page of his 1992 journal, thereby commemorating the 50th anniversary of the recording. As he did so, he read one of the notations in his journal from May 29, 1992 that our daughters had dinner at a friend’s house. When they came home, the youngest, then 6, claimed the mother had tried to poison her by serving something called wilted lettuce.

I am assuming USA Today will update their historical archives to note the Wilted Lettuce event in addition to the writing and recording of “White Christmas.”It all adds up for numbers people

Because numbers people tend to aggregate with other numbers people (why yes, that was a numbers pun), my brother-in-law (a total numbers/dates/anniversaries guy) emailed to remind me that it was 10 years ago that Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet.

I emailed back to let him know Pluto’s reclassification was nothing compared to this also being the 75th anniversary of Berlin writing “White Christmas” and the 23rd anniversary of the Wilted Lettuce event.

And now you, the reader, are probably wondering why in the world I am writing about things that happened 75, 50, 23 and 10 years ago. Because this is a warning – a warning about what eventually happens to every people person who marries into a numbers-person family. We, too, become consumed by numbers, dates and anniversaries.

Stay tuned. Next week I plan on noting the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and will hopefully be able to link it to a specific date and fascinating family event, such as when one of us purchased our 500th pair of socks.

Oh, one more thing. Bing Crosby’s recording of “White Christmas” remains the best-selling single worldwide, having sold an estimated 50 million copies. There. My numbers guy was concerned I’d left a number out.

 

 

Does a minivan make you look like a wimp?

Our son and his wife just bought their first FUV. No, that’s not a typo. According to our son, an FUV is a Family Utility Vehicle.  It looks like a mini-van, drives like a mini-van and parks like a mini-van. It even says Toyota Sienna on the back—but he’s calling it an FUV.

Clearly, he is in denial. He is experiencing the first step of the four steps of grief.

Many young men today consider driving a mini-van to be an assault on their masculinity. Sure, a lot of them are particular about the scent of their deodorant and aftershave and may own as many hair products as their mothers, but owning a mini-van is an assault on their masculinity.
When we ask to take a picture of our son in front of the FUV, he exhibits signs of the second step of grief, depression. He slouches, hangs his head, looks up with a sad puppy face and says, “Go ahead and take a picture. This is me being happy.”

Click.

Our son and his wife bought an FUV because they are expecting their fourth child. Until recently, they managed by cramming three car seats in the backseat of a Toyota Camry, a remarkable feat in itself. But now they will need room for four car seats. Today, children are legally required to remain in car seats until they reach the age of 21 or 210 pounds, whichever comes first.

We help our son advance to the third stage of grief— anger—by saying, “Hey, buddy, remember when you had a Ford F150 pickup? Remember that rickety stick shift and loud muffler?” And then we have a good laugh. Hey, what are parents for?

 Still, we should probably keep that idea about getting them little stick figure family decals for the back window to ourselves. Ditto for the Baby on Board sign.

 John minivanParenthood is a continual series of adjustments. You find yourself doing all kinds of things you never dreamed you’d do before you had kids—wiping  snot with your bare hands, sniffing diapers, letting someone gum the side of your face and calling it a kiss, catching vomit, fishing toys out of the toilet and scooping doo-doo out of the tub. And maybe, one day, even driving a mini-van. Oh, the things you do for love.

 They stopped at a farm sale on the way to her parents and scored a huge tractor tire that the kids can use as a sandbox . They hauled it on their roof rack.

The fourth stage – acceptance.

 

 

Tight pants reveal more than others want to know

For being an advanced nation of theoretically intelligent people, we seem to have an inordinate number of problems with our underwear and backsides.

In recent years we have endured thongs exposed above the waistbands, sagging pants and exposed boxers and, most recently, yoga pants, which appear to have an extremely tight and long-lasting shelf life.

Yoga pants are no longer loose fitting workout pants. Today, yoga pants are like second skin – second skin that clings to your first skin revealing every contour, curve, crease, bump and ripple. In many cases, yoga pants are like a bad accident, a visual spectacle from which there is no turning away.

Yoga pants are the ultimate “Made ya look!”

Less than 3 percent of the population can pull tight yoga pants with the full behind on full display and 2.9 percent of those people are toddlers under the age of 3. If you single gals are unaware, the last person who thought your bum was adorable – and had honorable intentions – was your mother. And she was changing your diaper.

Recently, students at Cape Cod Regional Tech High School in Harwich, Mass., staged a protest over rumors the school was going to ban skin-tight yoga pants. Rationale for the protest was revealing.

Girls protesting the ban said yoga pants are comfortable.

So is belching.

Students said the ban is like women in the Middle East not being allowed to drive.

Still laughing.

Students said the ban promotes body shaming.

No, it might actually help prevent body shaming.

The classroom is a place for showing brains, talent, skills and fortitude, not every curve of your pelvic region, front and back.

I am not a fashion maven, nor do I play one on TV, but let me offer the following for females of all ages:

Just because you can fit in it doesn’t mean it fits.

A well-endowed female walking away in pants too tight looks like two pigs fighting in a sack. (Farm humor intersects fashion advice.)

Never leave home without checking your rear view.

The beauty of clothing is that it can provide an illusion of what might be, not reveal the harsh reality of what is.

Skin-tight yoga pants are a classic representation of wanting to have our cake and eat it, too. Some females wear second-skin yoga pants and leggings with their backsides, and more, fully revealed. They slink in them, strut in them and work them for attention, then spin around and scream at any male who ogles them, “You sexist pig! How dare you create a hostile environment?”

Ladies, ladies. It is only natural that shoppers assume what is on display in the meat case is for sale. Don’t market it if you’re not selling it.

Being a well-dressed man or woman is about context, knowing the appropriate time and place for particular modes of dress. How we dress is also a way of demonstrating respect and consideration for others. Of course, having a mindset that thinks of others before thinking of ourselves requires getting beyond oneself—a fine lesson for any school to teach.