Our family was a close one, and on weekends there was always plenty of visiting back and forth.
Often we went to see my Uncle Ferdie, my father’s kid brother, who was approximately twice the size of my father, who was no stripling. Ferdie enlisted in the Marines in World War II, but because he looked like a recruiting poster come to life, they packed him off to Puerto Rico to be an admiral’s chauffeur. Later in life he became an inventor with RCA, with a ton of patents to his name. But I digress.
Uncle Ferdie had a German shepherd named Shep, who always barked like crazy when we visited. I was kind of afraid of dogs and I was very afraid of Shep, who was bigger than me. I should have reasoned that with a house already full of little girls, Ferdie was unlikely to keep a dangerous beast that would eat children. But at seven or eight years old, my reasoning powers were limited.
I don’t know what finally persuaded me to approach Shep: temporary insanity, maybe. Imagine my astonishment when Shep proved that he only barked so much because he loved children and wanted to make friends. This gigantic ferocious dog just loved me! So from then on I joined my cousins in playing with Shep. I guess I knew, instinctively, that my uncle wouldn’t have anything in his house that would hurt me. Well, he did have a .22 rifle, but we never saw it until we were old enough to shoot safely, under his supervision. That was just way cool.
The lesson I learned from Shep was that appearances can be deceiving–in this case, very deceiving.
This hymn brought me close to tears this morning–How Great Thou Art, sung by The Lutheran Warbler. My Grandma used to sing this as she went about her daily household chores. So did my mother. Hearing it brought them back to me.
In any discussion of homeschooling, an objection that always comes up is, “But I’m not a teacher! How can I teach, if I’m not a professional, trained teacher?”
Oh, come on.
When I was a kid in grade school, I just couldn’t seem to learn how to add a column of figures. The whole idea of carrying a number–like, for instance, the “1” in “13”–over to the top of the next line of digits to the left, totally eluded me. And the teacher just couldn’t put it right, no matter how many times she tried.
So one night my father–not a teacher, but an assembly line worker at the Ford plant–sat down with me and taught me how to do it. He only needed half an hour or so. He taught me, and from then on, I could do it with the best of them.
Common sense, patience, and love can’t be learned at any teachers’ college.
And don’t even get me started on the things they do learn at teachers’ college, nowadays.
So here it is in the early 70s, I’m all alone in the house tonight, ’cause I’m gonna stay in and real The Exorcist. It’s supposed to be one of the scariest horror novels ever written, and I want to savor the full effect of it.
I go down to our finished basement to read. Nobody here but me and my iguana, and the latter is asleep in his cage after gobbling up the nice salad that my mother made him for his supper.
I settle down in my favorite chair, right under the floor lamp, with my back just a few inches from the lizard cage. I start reading. I keep reading–because, say hey, this book really is scary! It’s sucking me into it: I couldn’t stop reading if I wanted to.
At that moment the great big iguana wakes from his nap and decides to jump off his perch onto the screen three inches from the back of my neck–yow! Through the ceiling! Out of the chair! Book goes flying! Iguana looks at me quizzically, wondering why I’m acting up. I’ve got to catch my breath. I am afraid a harsh word or two escapes my lips.
Well, that’s one of those things about pets, isn’t it? Full of surprises!
Yes, I know I posted Amazing Grace just a couple of days ago. But “SlimJim” asked for it, and anyway, I’m not sure there’s any such thing as too much Amazing Grace.
I selected this performance by Andre Rieu and his orchestra–and by Jove, before I was over, my eyes were filling up with tears. Ditto for a lot of people in the audience. They’re filling up again now. Stop that! Sorry–I can’t see Andre Rieu without thinking of my aunts’ living room at Christmas-time.
And no, we are never going to meet the mortal who has had his fill of God’s grace.
I think just maybe you can get into Heaven with a note like the one Rudi wrote to get us onto Island Beach (https://leeduigon.com/2015/12/15/a-wee-memory-break/).
I close my eyes–heck, I don’t even have to close ’em–and I can hear my father whistling Cindy, O Cindy as he repainted my bedroom. I can hear John playing a harmonica duet with his brother, Jakob, when Jakob came over from Holland on a visit. And I can see the sun glinting off the waves as I tried to learn to surf-fish.
Good, good things to remember! I wouldn’t sell ’em for a million dollars.
And every good thing is the gift of God.
This is one of those good old 19th century hymns (1864), Shall We Gather at the River? The kind my Uncle Bernie used to listen to in his car, before he passed the car (and the tapes) on to me. Sung and played by Nathan and Lyle, plus family and friends, in Denton County, Texas.
The never-ending cascade of paperwork regarding Aunt Joan today featured [trumpet fanfare] a summons to jury duty.
Joan died in April. If she were still alive, she’d be 91 years old.
Maybe they could set up a ouija board in the jury box and get her input that way.
Heck, if she were a registered Democrat, she would surely be voting in November.
“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you”–not.
It can’t be said my mother liked lizards. Not for all the tea in China would she have handled one. And as for insects, forget about it.
Nevertheless, when I had pet anoles as a boy (inaccurately sold as “chameleons,” because they can change color), my mother went out every day with a jar and patrolled our florabunda rose hedge, catching assorted bugs–spiders, leaf-hoppers, caterpillars–to feed the lizards. This I thought was pretty cool.
The instruction book said it would be a good idea to put a piece of cut banana in the terrarium. This would attract fruit flies for the lizards to catch. So my mother did that, too. We never saw any fruit flies, but the lizards would eat the banana.
Later, when I had my iguana, she used to prepare very nice salads for him. So did my wife, and so did my next-door neighbor when we moved into our apartment. He had a personality that made nice women want to feed him.
Ma, you really were cool! And I still miss you.
If they have lizards in Heaven, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t, I’ll bet she feeds them.