Tag Archives: my family

Memory Lane: Marx Jungle Animals

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Boy, oh, boy, did I love these when I was a little boy! Marx jungle animals–I still have dozens of them in my toy box. I think I was five years old when Aunt Millie gave me my first little set of them.

I used these as characters in “stories” that went on all summer, or all winter, or whenever. I gave them names and put them in adventures. Some of those pictured above are newer than any of mine, but ten of them are originals from the 1950s.

Sometimes my brother or my friends would join me in playing out these little dramas, and sometimes I played alone. Once I started getting dinosaurs and cavemen, too, the stories got more exciting. Lost treasures, nasty big game hunters that had to be dealt with, lost worlds full of monsters–whatever popped into our heads, often inspired by a movie or TV show, we used. Unusually, I rarely played with little army men. I was committed to the animals.

Do kids still do this kind of play? Or has it all be buried under a mass of video games? I don’t know. Maybe some of you have children or grandchildren who use their toys to act out stories. Careful–they might grow up to be fantasy writers.


Bonus Video: Baby Iguanas

Aren’t they cute? Bright green baby iguanas, small enough to perch on your finger.

I had my iguana for 17 years, and this was what he was like when I got him. If you’re thinking of adopting a baby iguana–the adults tend to be set in their ways–make sure you take the time and trouble to raise it up to be a good iguana and a good pet. They’re social animals, and they will learn if someone teaches them.

Handle your baby a lot, albeit gently, let him ride on your shoulder while you’re doing something else, feed him by hand every day, and you’ll be rewarded with an adult iguana that’s calm, peaceful, friendly, and self-assured. Mine always tried to make friends with dogs: shows you where his head was at. Throughout his life, various good women (my mother, my sister, a neighbor, and my wife) somehow wound up making nice salads for him. I was able to bring him in to school when I had an art class, so the kids could draw him and give him snacks, and he was always perfectly well behaved.

It’s true for most animals: they will respond to love and care. And they will love us back, which is one of the coolest things that God has done.

Playing the Spoons

In case you’ve never heard anyone “play the spoons,” and wondered what it was, here’s a virtuoso street performer in Ireland.

My father played the spoons. We never knew how he’d learned to do that, nor did he teach us how to do it. I wish I’d asked. All we did was sit and marvel at him as he did it. He could also blind taste-test any pretzel and correctly identify what brand of pretzel it was. He was a connoisseur.

Memory Lane: ‘The Jones Boy’

This is one of the songs my father used to sing to us when we were little. He had quite a repertoire of songs, just right for those awkward moments when you were sure there was a ghost just outside your bedroom window. If you were really in a bad way, he’d sing “You Are My Sunshine.” Not so bad, you’d get “Sweet Violets.”

But I think he sang “The Jones Boy” because he really liked it. I was five years old when the Mills Brothers first sang it on the air; my brother Mark was two, and my sister Alice hadn’t been born yet. Later on in life I remember my father playing the spoons as he sung this.

Anyway, here it is from 1957 on glorious black-and-white TV: the Mills Brothers, and “The Whole Town’s Talking About the Jones Boy.” It was a big hit for them, but I’ll always remember the way my daddy sang it.

Doctor’s Verdict: I’m OK

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Thank you, everybody, for your prayers: God must have heard them, because the doctor told me this morning that I’m doing very well–nothing wrong with me that some fish oil capsules won’t cure. That’s for lowering my cholesterol, and I can live with that. Everything else, he said, is just my body aging.

Meanwhile, I would much appreciate it if you’d all continue to pray for my wife. We are two wheels united by the axle of our marriage, and if one can’t turn, neither can the other. You should’ve seen the work she did, preparing our taxes–and without the fatzing instruction booklet, which did not become available to us until yesterday, literally just an hour or two after she’d finished her colossal amount of work. Patty always sticks with a task until she’s done it: an inspiration to me.

‘Now for Something Really Despicable’ (2016)

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I really do wonder whatever happened to “Do Not Call,” which actually protected us for several years. Then it sort of went away, and the phone scams heated up again.

Here is one of the less endearing ones.


They really do target the elderly. As my Aunt Gertie grew into her nineties, every goniff in the Western Hemisphere came out of the woodwork, looking for a chunk of her money. It kept Aunt Joan on her toes, protecting them from these varmints: for poor Gertie had become easy prey, and the villains knew it.

It’s one of those things you simply don’t do if you have sense enough to fear God.

Bonus Hymn, ‘Just as I Am, Without One Plea’

This hymn came to me so strongly this morning that I just had to post it: Just As I Am, Without One Plea. It was my Aunt Millie’s favorite hymn. I can remember her humming it as she bustled about her housework: hearing it really brings that back to me. We wait, O Lord, for your restoration of all things.

Sung by the Antrim Mennonite Choir.

‘Sweet Hour of Prayer’ (Alan Jackson)

My mother and my aunts used to sing this as they did their housework: this hymn breaks them back to me. Sweet Hour of Prayer, sung by Alan Jackson–you can feel it, can’t you?

Speaking of Contests…

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Reminiscing about the old Bayshore Independent, the newspaper we used to work for, Patty and I soon came around to the paper’s weekly “Find Andy Indy!” contest.

Andy was a little cartoon character always concealed somewhere in one of the ads, the idea being to get people to look more closely at the ads. If you could tell us where Andy Indy was that week, you’d win a week’s grocery order at one of the local supermarkets.

The important point was, you didn’t call us, we called you. We’d pick the name of a reader at random, call her on the phone, and ask if she’d found Andy Indy. If she had, she’d win. We made this very clear every week in the Andy Indy Contest Rules box on the front page.

None of our efforts could save our receptionist from being driven mad, every day, by people calling and excitedly reporting, “I found Andy Indy!” By the end of the day she was ready for the rubber room. But really, whoever was near enough to one of our phones to answer it had a good chance of hearing “I found Andy Indy!”

No, no! You don’t call us: we call you. See? It says so in the Rules box! But the prospect of a week’s groceries for free blinded readers to anything we might care to publish in the Rules box. “You can collect your prize at any Fongo’s People’s Emporium the next time you’re in Uzbekistan” would have made no impression on these readers. Free stuff is free stuff!

(Reminds me of another weekly newspaper I worked on, where we wanted to see if people paid any attention to the captions we ran under certain decorative photographs. So we ran outrageous, preposterous captions and waited for people to react. Which they never did! Example: “If you are one of dozens of Americans suffering from the dread disease, Eatamus abuggus, you will see this as a picture of a nice little footbridge in Holmdel Park with a little bit of snow on it. If you’re healthy, you will see the Battleship New Jersey pounding the tar out of Haiphong harbor.”

People just do not pay attention.)

Until Next Christmas

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Today our Christmas tree comes down. It’s a big job and I’m still trying to pump myself up to do it. Has to be done, it’s getting too dry. But we always love our Christmas tree, and once it’s gone, we’ll miss it for a while.

The thing we want, though, is to make this Christmas work all year, by God’s sovereign grace, in answer to our prayers–to make it carry on all the way to Christmas 2019, drawing people’s hearts to Jesus Christ Our Lord, amen.

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