When I was a little girl... maybe 10 years old, Kellogg's offered for sale "signature" teaspoons. Spoons looking like famous people, and each cost maybe 10 cents, maybe 25 cents--I don't remember, plus several boxtops. I "sent away" for one--Mickey Mouse. It was shiny, silver plated; I ate my cereal (Kellogg's of course) with Mickey. And I've had it maybe 75 years.
Somewhere along the line Edgar Bergen introduced his Charlie McCarthy puppet. And there were two spoons. I knew who Charlie was.
When my children came along, Kellogg's offered for sale (by that time I'm sure they were 25 cents), and when they emptied enough boxes of cereal we had Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear spoons. There were four children but they could take turns and it was a fun novelty for mealtimes. That would be maybe 50 years of fun. They didn't know Charlie McCarthy but they enjoyed eating with him.
When the grandsons came along they spent nights with Grandmom and each boy could still pick his favorite for breakfast and other meals. That would be 25 years that four spoons hung on the spoonrack.
Now three generations are grown, each one still looking longingly at the old shiny spoons. Each one has told Grandmom quietly that he would really like the spoons when I'm ready to give them up. Memories are important, you know, and we all have 'em.
So now Grandmom is 85, and thought it would be fun to share. There's EBay you know, and Computer Literate Aunt started. More than 10 characters, and in a month we amassed heirloom spoons of Huck and Yogi enough for everybody to have each. And extras of Mary Poppins--mother of the four boys told me how that was her favorite growing-up movie. Campbell's Soup Kid shines nicely. There's Dennis the Menace and Pinocchio that Great Grandsons will get to read about and know. One of the Dionne Quints not familiar to many of us hangs there too.
Four generations. Memories of children and in-laws, more than 10 persons.
First: she is not, and never will be, perfect. She doesn't even hope to be. But she tries, over and over again, just to do her best - and hopes it will all 'come out in the wash.'
She and daddy brought that Little bundle home, in the car seat because it was against the law to hold him/her in her arms, in the back set because that's where the car seat had to be strapped in. She always tried to follow the rules. The Question of the Day was, "what do we do when he wakes up?" (Baby will be named in this blog "She" or " He" intermittently to make it easier to write.)
No answer was forthcoming, because neither Parent could know. No matter how much experience each had with other people's kids, things were different with your Own. First Kid was first in the lineup every time. Every whimper was a scare and needed immediate attention. What do we do, when--?
Every whimper, clean thru graduation. Not audible whimpers, but daily happenings. You gotta share money, belongings, treats, most of all Time. Mother has only one set of hands and a finite set of resources.
Later whimpers sometimes had to wait. She tried but impossible situations sometimes had to wait for slower solutions. Like whimpers from Kid Number Two, or Three, or...
She tried loving. She tried explanations. She tried dividing attention. She tried rewarding. She tried answering the loudest petitions. She tried penalties. She tried punishment. She tried positive reinforcement and using the old psychology. A million times a day. Anything might work. Nothing might work.
But always there was the Need for Mom--for Mom to work it all out. For Mom to figure what needed to be done first, and next, and last.
And it never ends. When Kid Number One is halfway trained, Kid Number Two is there, and so on. Mom dearly loves each one, loves the opportunities each one learns as she faces the world within her family and later outside its boundaries. Mother gives answers and "things" that she HOPES will equip each Kid for Life.
And finally the Kid grows up and moves out, into life. Mother misses each one, but is perfectly willing to let him pay his own way and experience the experiences of his own. She knows how busy the Kid will be, because she has seen it all in her own life and other lives she watched. She knows days' ends will bring satisfaction. And sadness. Loneliness, or too much busy-ness. And pure joy.
She wants to help, so she listens to others' advice--she watches and butts in. Or zips up her lips and lets the Kid suffer his own just desserts.
Does he need money? She "lends" it. Does she need a good meal? Mother's right there with help. Does she need a listening ear? Here's where she better tread carefully, because that's the hardest thing to give, advice.
And does Mom ever have the right to ASK for help? Is time freely given? And the Kid's resources available? Does he answer, willingly? Does he help before he's asked? He is not doomed to ry to repay what his parents shared--that is not fair and is not required.
But please remember. When the Kid is self-sufficient, rolling along in the Happy-Mobile, Mother is behind him, still wishing for him the best, and waiting for her recognition and thankfulness. Then she remembers all the love she shared and just hopes that her best that she gave willingly has filled the bill.
And she waits.
He learned to eat most everything. He was hungry, and when we threw away the baby bottle we ate all kinds of things. My parents taught me to eat what was put on my plate; my child's father had been in the Army during World War II and after serving in the jungles of the South Pacific he ate most everything except fried grasshoppers (which I didn't know how to cook anyhow.)
He had younger siblings and we were busy young parents so he learned to amuse himself. Played with the cook pans. Spilled milk and things from his plate. Fed the cat on the floor. He learned where food was stored and cooked, learned to use spoons, helped stir cookie dough and cake mix.
When Mom started to teach school, the children were old enough to want allowances, so they were hired to work at home. In addition to homework and their own "room work," one would set table, one would cook, one would clean up the kitchen. Everybody had favorite foods, so our diets weren't too varied, but nobody complained about the menus. They knew their turn was coming and everybody wanted to enjoy the good stuff.
"Box mixes" were new, and they could read. Instructions were clear and mom was there to help interpret. Each could cook whatever pleased the appetites; sometimes they'd try new recipes from the cookbooks.
Great fun were the church "homecomings" and frequent covered dish dinners. Son loved the ethnic dishes that were new to me. He asked for recipes, oral and written, and followed them carefully. Vegetables were plentiful in our southern rural location, and again everybody learned their favorites. Stewed tomatoes, raw oysters and fresh fish, veggie casseroles, thing that his dad and I weren't familiar with. Fresh huckleberries, strawberries, stewed tomatoes, fruit cobblers, wow!
So it followed that cooking was not a chore. (Cleaning up was no fun, but that was a chore that was necessary and everybody learned to not mess up ALL the pans in the kitchen.)
So when he moved into his own apartment he was no stranger to the drudge of cooking and had the fun of learning about the microwave and convection oven, and oriental spices and regional dishes.
I didn't teach him to cook.
You'd better give the quarter back. It would be wrong to keep it.Then he thought
Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter. Who would worry about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a 'gift from God' and keep quiet.
When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, and then he handed the quarter to the driver and said
Here,you gave me too much change.
The driver, with a smile, replied
Aren't you the new preacher in town?
Well, I have been thinking a lot lately about going somewhere to worship. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change. I'll see you at church on Sunday.
When the preacher stepped off of the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light pole, held on, and said
Oh God, I almost sold your Son for a quarter.
Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read. This is a really scary example of how much people watch us as Christians, and will put us to the test! Always be on guard -- and remember -- You carry the name of Christ on your shoulders when you call yourself 'Christian.'
Watch your thoughts ; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits..
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
The communist scheme did not work.
During days of sunshine, the sphere shows a reflection of a cross. This is said to be God's revenge, on the secular socialist State, for having removed the crosses from the churches.
Personally I don't think that God takes revenge on any person or thing. I think is just a reminder how God set up his world. He made rules that each of us is to follow--Communism did not work, and Christianity leads us to a better world. When we break any of his rules, chaos results. Bad things happen.
And so the representative of communism planned a beautiful and wonderful structure for us to see each day. But he disregarded God's sun shining, and there is a reminder to be seen that is entirely different from when he planned.
Where H. G. Wells, Sir Conan Doyle,
Margaret Mitchell and Clarence B. Kelland
Got their stuff?
And now I know.
Psychology told me
They transport themselves to another world.
This explains where H. G. Wells got his ideas
Tf the world of the future.
He went there and saw it and came back
And told us.
And yet it isn't.
We know personally and intimately
Folks who have transported themselves to
These wonderful new worlds
On a one way Pullman ticket
But who don't have guts enough
To hitchhike their way back.
They are called "neurotics"
And end up in a mental hospital
Because they went away
And couldn't get back.
We also know of folks who went away
And couldn't get back
They still haven't returned
And will probably die that way.
Nobody calls them anything
Because they don't cause a stir.
They, like the neurotics,
Have taken a one way ticket
To Pleasant Place
To avoid tremendous problems of
And social contacts
Now the Maker
Probably figured on producing a certain set
Who would retreat from these challenges
Into a super-fantastic land
Of his own making
So that there might be books, pictures, music
It is our opinion
That He figured on a round trip ticket
But Adam forfeited his rightful power
For a measly old apple
Which probably had a worm in it
And as a result of the loss of this capacity
Fully seventy-nine percent of those
Who make the trip into the land
From which the "best sellers" are drawn
Don't have what it takes to come back
They are the people we call neurotic
Because they are nervous
And have to drink Ovaltine
In order to get to sleep
They "take themselves too seriously"
And are conscientious
They, in short, are defeatists.
Because they feel unable to stand up
To the terrors of
And social contacts.
Come in four speeds
High, low and in-between
Then, of course, the reverse
Which fill our asylums and bread lines.
Most occupy the "second" or in-between position
They are the steady, hardworking class
The solidifying element
You will find them
Exercising mental and physical capacities
On assembly lines, behind counters and desks
And digging into mechanical units.
The "low speed" type is interspersed
With the "seconds" as helpers and common laborers
They have their function
and their physical capacities
Could not be successfully dispensed with.
Such men as Willkie, Churchill, Roosevelt and Hitler
Not to mention scores of artists, writers, musicians
And other assorted famous men
Occupy high gear position
These are the "gifted"
According to popular opinion
But the truth of the matter is
They are gifted only
As the fish are gifted to swim
And the robin to fly
Their highly geared position
Demands every bit of extra power
They can muster
And if they can't produce it
They will slip past second and low
Into reverse. Hitler did.
All creation, like your Ford
Was started in low gear
Men lived in caves
And dragged their wives
By the hair of the head
Gradually as knowledge grew, speed was built up
And soon second gear took over the load
More and more speed, into
Pff / Something happened
Nero fiddled and Rome burned.
And the reverse gear dominated.
After much backward driving
Man finally got into low and started forward
And in twenty-ten are tearing along in high
With a heavier load and more rapid pace
Many gear wheel teeth have snapped off
and others are showing the terrific strain
Thrown upon them by the failure of others.
Other students, if they needed to, had had summer jobs, but my summers had been spent "keeping house" for my working mom and my disabled dad. This summer I had applied for a non-paying job with the Methodist Church at a work camp. There were several camps, and I wanted to go to New York City because that would be a new place--to live there and see the Big City sights. Nineteen, a place to live, lots of time, new experiences, what else could one want?
But I was sent to a college town, in hot Iowa (before air conditioning, you know) with 27 other students. I went on a train to Chicago where friends took me to see the sights, then to another Big City, Des Moines.
Actually the location really didn't matter--our goal was to make the world a better place, and we spent two months enjoying every opportunity. We girls lived in a dorm, the guys in a frat house across the street. We did our own housework and laundry, ate in the college dining room and sometimes packed our own lunches to eat wherever we worked. Really a new experience for me, with a whole bunch of brothers and sisters.
For two months we painted and repaired churches, recruited new church members and taught in summer Bible schools (children and adults.) I had a part time job in a real estate office for a few days and tried to recruit teachers and church workers.
But there was one guy--he had applied to go to the Mexican work camp, because he'd never been to Mexico. Soon we realised that God's Plan was different from ours; we wanted to spend our life working together. He went back to his school, I returned to my college work in Virginia and we graduated. the next year he went to seminary in Atlanta and I taught there. We were married in 1950 and celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, as minister and wife.
We volunteered in four different states in summer camps and visited our church mission headquarters. We cruised the Aegean Sea one year, I went to Russia and Brazil. We traveled, volunteered our time and talents, but my favorite trip was that in 1948.
Could one ask anything better?
Crooked trail wandered, left the crick, and we saw two tipis (you call 'em teepees) and when we went to them we naturally wanted to go in. Twice as tall as me, and later I learned 20 feet wide, our entrance to the nearest one was blocked by two deer. They watched us and just looked questioningly "Do you really want to come into our house? Best you walk around and don't bother us." So we said hello, walked around their home shelter, back to the clearing with stones in a circle for the night campfire.
We walked sometimes beside the crick, and pretty soon it was too wide to walk back across. Sometimes it was sticky and muddy, sometimes clear and rocky. But when I went back to the first planks, I stuck my hand in and it was COLD! Too icy for wading like I'd done at home in Virginia years ago, and we learned of course that it came from the mountains. Right through the Retreat Center driveway in some spots and formed a ford which cars had to cross. Impossible, as swift as it came, to divert.
Narrow at first where we crossed it, it was my life. Easy to deal with, easy as a child to see life's problems cross-able and forgettable as we left it behind like yesterday. It curved around to where somebody had placed small rocks, but the rocks were easily washed away and the small pond which might have been simply disappeared and the crick like a child's life flowed on undeterred. Pretty soon there was a large rock dam, and there was a large pond for throwing sticks in. Sticks lodged in the rocks and made the pond large. And it was deep! Would have been hard to wade it with its speedy flowing water but soon the water overcame the sticks and flowed. That's life--the unsurmountable problems may disappear, right over the rock dams that we build. And if we don't keep working, the debris will be impossible to overcome.
In the middle was a huge flat rock; some little boy could jump across the water and stand triumphant to survey the world. For a little while--but would he be able to jump across or back to survive? Or would he stand there for rescue? Or would he jump in to get all wet and muddy with his problems? And how would he affect the other kids? Would he dare them to jump, or would he caution them to be careful, or not try at all?
There were other obstacles in that crick--a wobbly log to cross, a spot where the water spread out through the grass which made a spongy marsh that would look safe but would need insulation from the wet. It had spread so far, and was still pretty swift moving that no person would walk across without extra care.
So I look back at my life. There were turns and obstacles, never predictable and not easy to correct. As the stream flows on and disappears into uncharted territory, it leaves behind a new and different environment for the world.
Just as it should be.
The nice lady came in, bought several skeins of yarn, all colors. Red was happy, because she knew she would soon make someone else happy with a new garment or afghan. Nice lady wound the skeins into balls, nice and loose because it was real wool, and used most of the red. But some was left--not enough to make even a sweater for a little kid--so Red was put into the box of unneeded yarn with others and being sorted through several times was soon tangled and seemingly unusable.
Years passed. Nice lady had lots of spare time--she crocheted, knitted, sewed, made dolls and needlepoint pillows and embroidered doilies. Yarn was sorted through, discarded, given away, and Red just sat there waiting to be made into something wonderful.
The nice lady, living with her sisters, died, and a granddaughter cleared out the house. It was a whole new century, and bags of yarn, thread, fabric, patterns were collected and given to a church. Another lady looked at the tablesful and sorted through everything. She did not throw anything away--she did her best to see that everything was available to any other nice ladies to use.
And still Red sat there, waiting. Too small to be a child's garment, too bright-colored to be a prayer shawl, Red felt unuseful.
Finally after years of neglect, Red was made by a new nice lady in a needlework circle into a crocheted blanket--maybe only large enough we thought for a doll bed. But Red was happy to be sent to a friend-child in far-away Ecuador who needed God's healing and help.
How many nice ladies does it take to make a small prayer shawl for a child? In this case, at least 6 or 7. And now a whole church knows that Abby needs prayers and healing.
And we will all think of and pray for Abby. All because of some nice ladies!
True, we had moved all over from one relative's home to another in my 5 years, but we had finally settled down in Virginia where I went to school and took piano lessons. I was loved and I suppose pretty spoiled, the "only child."
It must have been my 8th Christmas. My mother took me shopping in Washington, and we were crossing the street between two big department stores. Hurrying people almost separated the two of us, but she held my hand tightly and as we started in one door behind the Salvation Army Santa I stooped down to pick up a pack of chewing gum.
Mother said the usual, and I knew better than to pick up dirty trash from the ground, but how exciting it would be to have a whole 5 pieces of gum, from a brand-new green package! And inside the door, scurrying up the aisle between all the Christmas decorations, I opened my fist and found a five dollar bill.
Five dollars! All my own, to spend any way I pleased!
What did I want most?I think that was the year of the Shirley Temple doll craze, and that's what I wanted most. I didn't know how much Shirley cost, and Santa couldn't afford it so we never found out.
My mother got a new nightgown and my father got a pair of pajamas for Christmas.
And that's one of my childhood Christmases in my memory. Other years and memories have disappeared but that one remains vivid, the year I had all the money to spend, to buy whatever was precious to me, and I bought gifts for the most precious people in my life.
Down below, in a break between two small ridges, appeared some small green trees, and as we drove on they became larger and more frequent. We could see the trees clearly and we followed that green line until we drove alongside them. The map told us that they grew next to a river, and that we were close to Lake Tahoe.
How refreshing to see those trees, and to receive their message that not all the world was dry and hot and windy. They just stood there for our reassurance. They were symbols of life and God’s care and nourishment.
Just so are we to stand—to reassure other people. We are not all called to teach, or preach, or to make a loud statement. Many times we may reach a low point, but God’s River will nourish us. All the time others may be traveling along Life’s Way through the dry and hot desert, looking for they-know-not-what. Our job may be simply to stand firm on his promises and show them the Way.
Coming home, I had to drive without spending the night and a sweet co-counselor said,
Let's pray about it.And she held my hand and asked God to drive home with me.
When I got hot and sleepy, MacDonald's appeared on the left with a cup of hot coffee. Across the first bridge my route came to an intersection; a fireman soliciting money told me to turn to the right, following a new route number. He stopped the Friday afternoon beach traffic (stretched way back there) so I could change lanes. Then I really lost it--around the block looking for the proper route. In a scary part of town an unkempt man told me to drive one block down the street and get on another interstate--
Trust mehe said,
that will keep you away from slow country roads after dark. Trust me.
I dreaded driving west into the sun and watched one little old cloud in the clear sky. It didn't guide me but it did move across the sun. No sunshine in my face! And when it got dark, I saw a route that cut off miles from the way I had come, missing the big city and two small ones.
God held my hand, I know. The last verse at camp told me that
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.And the verse that greeted me in my children's class on Sunday:
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia
In an 1840 notice in an Alexandria newspaper interested persons were to "meet and plan a house of worship free for all Christian denominations." 1830 Census statistics state that a Methodist church existed in Centreville, but nothing has been officially discovered of its site or congregation or minister. Members of Methodist Episcopal Church South built by subscription a house for public worship.
The Stone Church was built by 1854; it was the only public building of stone in Centreville, and was the building most closely connected to the Civil War. Built on Braddock Road, it was a major route for Union Troops to and from the battlefields fought near Bull Run in 1861 and 1862. In July 1861 Union soldiers, part of Tyler's "First Division" clashed with Confederate troops at Blackburn's Ford southwest of Centreville and their losses totaled eighty-three officers and men. Again in August 1862 after the Battle of Second Manassas, Union troops retreated to Centreville heights. All available houses and churches were packed with Federal wounded, more than eight thousand. Ten days after the main battle ended, in September 1862, the Union wounded were finally removed to Washington.
There is one picture, possibly taken by Matthew Brady, of the church on a barren battlefield.
At some time before 1865 the walls of the Stone Church were said to have been torn down and a simple, functional, rectangular structure of local Centreville ochre-colored sandstone averaging eighteen inches thick, with wooden gable ends was rebuilt. One entry door faced Braddock Road where there had been two. At one time there was a balcony above the northeast entry. In 1904 the church interior was damaged by fire.
It was heated by a stove in front of the altar, and there was a pump organ.
This is the way I remember Centreville Methodist Church. We were told about the blood stains on the floor and the balcony that had been built for slaves to worship.
Sometime in 1935 or 1936 my small family moved to Fairfax County, between Centreville and Manassas, to a bungalow without electricity or inside plumbing. Built above a basement with front and back porches, it had no furnace or central heat. No telephone either.
During the Great Depression, my dad had had no job for several years; we had traveled over southeast United States staying with family members, looking for work and we were to finally settle here without friends or family. I was in third grade and as the new kid on the block was eager to "fit in." Daddy finally had a job with acquaintances, but my mother also needed to belong--she had grown up in a small town with siblings and family and many friends, and that town was 700 miles away.
My mother was a staunch Baptist and we rode to the Manassas church with neighbors until she persuaded Daddy to take us to Centreville Methodist Church, thinking that since he was a Methodist they would join that church. While he never would actually join, he would"taxi" us on Sundays. Friends from school walked to Sunday School, so the church became my anchor. I wanted to join the church but my mother just couldn't bring herself to be a Methodist until the minister told her she was hindering my joining and she finally consented for us both to become full members.
We had Sunday School classes in various part of the sanctuary. It got noisy when there were several classes meeting on Sunday mornings. I played the pump organ for church and the piano later. My mother taught the "Youth Group" and the Methodist Youth Fellowship would meet in homes for seasonal parties. We met in the old mill for a Halloween party and saw the balcony room which was inhabited by a girl ghost of Civil War time, imprisoned because she was not allowed to marry a Yankee soldier. The windowsill where she gazed out was continually wet with her tears.
My mother was usually one of the last persons out of church, closing doors and windows. Once Mother, left alone, closed a huge heavy window on her hand and removed her shoe to break the window and pull her hand out. She served for awhile as church treasurer.
I remember Mr. Maxwell and Mr. Newman and Mr. Shipley and Mr. Bruce and Mr. Gray, who preached for services sometimes in the morning and sometimes in the evening. We were part of the Fairfax Charge and went to Bible School there one summer. Then we were part of the Nokesville Charge when Hugh Cummings was parttime student minister from Westminster Seminary; we had a visiting college student for a summer youth program and she stayed to board at my house and teach first grade at the Centreville School.
I began my teaching career here when I was about fifteen, taught the nursery class, with maybe five students. When I left for Madison College I never really came home to live but always the church was my home base. One summer I taught young girls at Vacation Bible School and it was a successful venture when we finally established who was to run the class (me)--I was more their peer than a teacher!
I remember Sunday School picnics in the summers, to Glen Echo Amusement Park, to beaches on the Potomac River. We would drive in a caravan of cars. I remember driving a carload when I must have been about 16. I remember cranking the freezer for homemade icecream for picnics and church socials.
In 1940 a narrow brick chimney was added to serve a furnace and provide central heating. In 1945, a wing was added to the northwest side of the 1870 building to provide space for the Sunday School. In the 50s the breezeway was enclosed. In the back yard is what looks like a grave, surrounded by a small wrought iron fence. But it cannot be a grave, because the hill is rock and could not have been excavated. Some say it was put there as a memorial of sorts.
The Methodist Church built a new sanctuary in 1966 and again in 1992. The building has been used for services by other denominations.
Centreville has become a Washington suburb and the current United Methodist church is quite large in membership. But the Stone Church still stands on its own lot, the only stone building in Historic Centreville. Some hope that it will not be dwarfed by large modern buildings in a commercial setting.
In June 1950 the minister was Mr. Brittingham who redesigned the altar with a 'dossel' and cross and the church was the site of my marriage, making it really important to me. My new husband was studying for the ministry, and Mr. Brittingham asked him to preach at another church on the Centreville Charge, but he never had the chance to preach at Centreville Methodist Church, which would have cemented my relationship. He was appointed to another church in the Virginia Conference, and I never really "came home again." Only for visits.
These are my memories, when Centreville was at a crossroad of Routes 29 and 28 and Braddock Road in Virginia, before it was a huge complex of a D.C. suburb.