Remember where you came from

Statistics reveal that family sizes are shrinking around the world. In many countries, families are having fewer than two children—not just one child mind you but, according to the charts, 1.75 or 1.8.

I always worry about those fraction children.

Smaller families mean smaller extended families with many children now growing up with fewer cousins, maybe one here and 1.8 over there. This is hard to imagine as I come from a large extended family with 23 first cousins on one side and 25 on the other, which makes a grand total of 48.

Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I test my mental acuity by trying to name all my aunts and uncles and cousins. Then in the morning I get up and wonder if I should make an appointment with a brain specialist.

Of course, almost all those 48 cousins have married and had children and now their children are having children and we have multiplied faster than cell phones.

With extended family growing so large and spreading so far, reunions have nearly become a thing of the past. One of the last reunions some time ago on my father’s side was at the home of a cousin who has place in the country on top of a hill with surrounding acreage. A tent was set up for shade, a large equipment building held long tables creaking under the weight of fried chicken, potato salad and chocolate cake. A fishing hole waited nearby for the kids. Vehicles poured in from every direction, parking on the drive, the grass, wherever they could find a spot. There was talking and laughing and joking and food and more food. It was pitch black when the last set of taillights disappeared into the night.

While reunions have grown infrequent, funerals have not.

We have just returned from the funeral of a dearly loved man who was married to one of my cousins. He was the oldest of 12 siblings. It was a big funeral with streams of silent tears and muffled sobs.

There was a meal afterward because we are people who share the belief that food is an elixir in times of sorrow.

Although some of us have not seen one another since so-and-so’s wedding or somebody’s father’s funeral, most were still easy to recognize. Three sisters who sat together all have the same beautiful skin their mother had.

The cousin with bright blue eyes who barrel raced her horse as a teen still has bright blue eyes. An older cousin who gave me piano lessons when I was young and flighty didn’t seem to hold any grudges.

A smattering of cousins wore hearing aids and some that didn’t probably should. Being that we share the same gene pool, the future suddenly looks somewhat, well, muted. But we also share a gene pool of people who work hard and laugh often.

As we gathered our things, said our goodbyes and prepared to leave, a cousin called to me saying, “Don’t forget where you came from.”

I never could. And I’d never try.

Surely we weren’t in the same house at the same time

How is it that a group of people can be in the same house at the same time, experience the same event, yet have markedly different memories?

The way I remember it: Five grandkids were here for a long weekend and it was loud. Very loud.

The way the kids remember it: Five of us cousins were together for a couple of days at Grandma’s. We used our inside voices.

Grandpa: A couple of the grandkids spent the night. Maybe two nights. Or three. If it was loud, I didn’t notice.

Grandma: The kids spent one morning crafting at the kitchen table. There was construction paper everywhere, scissors all over the place, markers without lids, glue sticks rolling on the floor, tape that wouldn’t peel off the roll, a jammed stapler and a hole punch that had opened from the bottom and showered the floor with confetti. One kid had marker on her face and another had marker covering the sides of her both hands. The tablecloth we use when they craft was a smidge on the table and mostly on the floor.

The kids: We made art. Wanna see it?

Grandpa: It may have gotten a little wild at the kitchen table. I didn’t really notice. The tape was old and kept getting stuck. I was focused on unsticking the tape.

Grandma: It was time for lunch, so I said, “Clear the table, then go wash your hands.”
The kids: Grandma said go wash your hands, so we did.

Grandpa: I helped with lunch by keeping the kids out of the kitchen. I moved the coffee table out of the way in the family room so they could do cartwheels and somersaults.

Grandma: I cleaned up the crafting mess, boiled water for mac and cheese, made a few sandwiches for the peanut butter-only wing, peeled and cut apples, halved some bananas, cooked the macaroni, set the table, threw in another load of laundry, finished the mac and cheese, iced a head bump that mysteriously happened in the family room, put the milk on and called them to the table.

The kids: Grandma is a good cook and we told her so.

Grandpa: I walked into the kitchen and there was lunch. It’s like magic.

Grandma: After lunch, I said, “Why don’t you kids clear the table and dry a few dishes?” They each grabbed a dishtowel and pulled up a chair next to the kitchen counter. I washed, they dried. I finished washing before they finished drying and went into the other room to pick up some toys. I folded laundry, straightened up the bathroom where they had washed up and cleared a path in the front hall.

The kids: After lunch Grandma went into the other room. We think she sat in a chair. The sink was filled with dirty dishes. We cleaned up the whole kitchen all by ourselves while Grandma sat in a chair.

Grandpa: She looks well rested to me. Those kids are a huge help every time they come.


Easter now trending

Google doesn’t acknowledge Easter. Or at least the Google doodle doesn’t.

For the past 18 years, the “doodle” logo atop Google’s home page – which is cleverly altered to recognize a person or holiday — has been empty of any visual reference to the empty tomb of Christ. The irony is delightful.

Had cyberspace and digital technology been around at the time of Christ, the news of his death and resurrection would have spread even faster, despite certain search engines’ reluctance to acknowledge it.

The women who went to the burial tomb on the third day and found it empty would have been the first to tweet #heisnothere and #heisrisen.

The male disciples ran to the tomb to have a look for themselves. More retweets would have followed: #heisrisenindeed.

Naturally, the opposition would have started a Twitter firestorm with #heisnotrisen #hewasmerelyunconscious and #disciplesstolethebody.

On Instagram, followers would have posted pictures of the empty tomb that had been secured for Christ’s body by Joseph of Arimathea. Quickly, on-line opposition would have rallied, calling for a boycott of Arimathea Tombs and Crypts and all advertisers. Within minutes, mobs would have called for the resignation of Mr. Arimathea.

On Facebook, people would have been posting, “I can’t believe that Christ has miraculously risen from the dead. This is a picture of the heart in my latte when I heard the news.”

Technology or not, the outcome would have been the same. Some would have believed; some would not.

The questions then are the same questions asked now — How does a man rise from the dead? Can a man honestly claim to be the Son of God? How can one man’s death forgive the sins of others? How can a good God permit evil?

How hard do we search out answers today? Google “Did Jesus rise from the dead” and you have 55,900,000 answers in .51 seconds. Click and done.

Highly respected archaeologist Sir William Mitchell Ramsay spent 15 years trying to prove the historical inaccuracies of the New Testament. Instead, he was convinced of the incredibly accuracy of the book and converted to Christianity.

Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton portrays a man earnestly reading, searching and growing in faith through his middle years until his death at 49. Christianity was a foundational aspect of his thinking, yet entirely absent in the smash musical.

The road to C. S. Lewis’s conversion was lined with much reading and reflection. He was heavily influenced by the writings of G.K. Chesterton and George MacDonald. Lewis wrote in his autobiography, “In reading Chesterton, as in reading MacDonald, I did not know what I was letting myself in for… A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”

A life of faith is not a once-and-done moment, like a tweet or FB post. Maturing faith requires the things we are least willing to give — time for reading, reflection, quiet, conversations and prayer.

Seek and you shall find. You may even find that he is risen.

Two tickets for the matinee nap, please

For the most part, going to the movies is the equivalent of an expensive nap for us. We are both on the move most of the time and usually sleep-deprived, so when we slow down and sit completely still our brains signal our bodies that it is time to sleep.

We were glad to see that our local theater understands this. Their seats used to be big puffy chairs with huge cup holders that would hold a 2-liter of soda, but they have remodeled and now the big puffy chairs that hold 2-liter drinks also recline.

We found the recline quite by accident.  I saw a button on the arm of my chair and said, “I wonder what this is?”

The husband said, “Don’t touch that if you don’t know—”

WHOOSH! I was in recline position. Totally reclined.

If there had been skylights, I could have been stargazing.

If a dentist had appeared holding that crooked little wire tool that makes that scratching noise, I would have instinctively opened my mouth.

“How did you do that to the chair?” the husband asked.

“I just hit this button on the arm. Look, you have one right —”

WHOOSH! He was reclining, too.

“Well, what do you think?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I may have vertigo.”

“I feel like I’m about to be wheeled off to surgery. All that’s missing is the IV and an anesthesiologist calmly insisting I will wake up when the surgery is over.”

Others around us are reclining as well. I can’t see a chair that isn’t reclining. My maternal instincts want to check on the younger people in recliners asking if they’re comfortable, need their favorite stuffed animal, a blankie or a drink of water.

The husband says to stay put. If they’re old enough to buy a ticket, they’re old enough to bring their own blankie.

I have no choice but to stay put. Finding how the button works to get the chair upright is not as easy as getting it to recline.

The recliners are so comfortable they are not exactly conducive to alertness. We don’t always stay awake when we’re upright in a movie theater, let alone in nap position. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car chase, buildings exploding or double-agents cliff jumping, at some point both of us will probably doze during key plot developments. We put the story line together on the way home in the car.

The theater fills and moviegoers are clearly relaxed and enjoying the new recliners.

“They’re sitting on a gold mine,” I say to the husband. “I’ve read about businesses that set up nap rooms where employees can catch a few winks on a cot. Think how many hours this theater is not showing movies and the recliners all go unused. They could rent them out for naps. Great idea, don’t you think? Who couldn’t sleep in one of these?



Grandma’s every move under surveillance

If I’ve told those grandkids once, I’ve told them 100 times, what happens at Grandma’s, stays at Grandma’s.

I just received a frantic text.

“The girls say you fed them ice cream for lunch!”

“And?”“And nothing else. Just ice cream. Is that true?”

“Does that sound like us?”


“Ice cream is in one of the major food groups. We got you covered for dairy today.”

“Right, thanks.”

“Btw, technically it wasn’t lunch. We didn’t feed them until almost 2, which made it more like an afternoon snack.”

The week before that, we had kept a crew for a few hours and after they were picked up, we had another series of texts.

“I can’t find the pants the baby wore to your house.”

“What color were they?”

“Orange. The girls say you threw them in the trash.”

“She had a blowout. The pants were beyond redemption. If you’d seen them, you would have agreed. You have better things to do with your time.”


“I’m sorry I threw them the trash.”

“That’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, I mean the entire garage smells now. We should have burned them.”

We’re the ones watching the kids, but we’re also being watched by them. They’re stealth. They silently track our every move, make mental notes, then blab everything they see to their parents.

Overheard in the backyard:

“Grandpa got in trouble with Grandma while you were gone.”

“What did he do?”

“He bought two more tricycles at the thrift store and then hid them from Grandma and pulled them out when we got here and Grandma says he doesn’t need to keep buying tricycles, that four tricycles and three wagons are enough for us kids and the garage is full and a mess, but we like it when Grandpa keeps buying things.”

“And then Grandma went back in the house and Grandpa said, ‘Don’t you kids worry, I’ll keep buying fun things for you,’ and then Grandma stuck her head back out the kitchen door and yelled, ‘I heard that!’”

“Yeah, we hope Grandma doesn’t make Grandpa go to bed early tonight.”

A phone call after an overnight:

“The kids say you let them watch a show with wolves with sharp teeth and they were chasing small animals.”

“It was a nature video. I turned it off before the wolves started devouring their prey. Do you know the difference between a wolf and a coyote?”


“Ask the kids how to tell the difference between a wolf and a coyote.”


“They say a wolf is bigger, but a coyote has longer ears with sharper points.”

“Then I guess they learned something and you did, too. It was educational at Grandma’s house.”

It always is.