Stuff I remember

I wonder… do you have any memories like these?

I think it was around 4th or 5th grade our teacher came into the class room and said something like this:  “Our whole country will be changing to the metric system so we need to learn what that is.  It’s actually much simpler than what we use now because everything is based on ‘10’s’.”  That began the grand experiment to teach American kids the same system that is used by most of the world.  We learned about “liters, meters, grams…” and who knows what else.  By the end of 5th grade the experiment was over and we never heard of metrics again.  Well at least until chemistry class in High School…

My grandparents bought a farm (not bought “The” farm but bought “a” farm) when I was 6 years old.  My sisters and my cousins and I spent the best years of our young lives on those 60 acres outside of West Sunbury PA.  But if the farm was great, the “two seater” outback was even better!  My cousin Glenn and I sat for a good part of our childhoods in that little space.  Well okay maybe not… but who designs a “two seater” for anyone other than young boys?!  I stopped at the farm 10 years ago or so… guess what?  The two seater is still there… it hasn’t’ been in use since the mid 60’s.

I remember great debates on cold mornings with my sisters and the other kids in the neighborhood.  What were we debating?  How late the school bus could be before we were allowed to go home.  15 minutes was the general consensus.

My sisters and I could never find two matching gloves or mittens when it was time to go out sled riding!  Usually we employed several pair of white socks.  They didn’t match either but who cared.

On cold winter days my sisters and I would carry pails of water out to the hill in our front yard and make a sled riding track.

What’s better than hot chocolate after bitter cold, snot oozing, sled riding?!  Well I don’t know for certain because we never seemed to be able to keep “Nestles Quick” in the house for those occasions.  Or “Ovaltine” for that matter.  My grandmother on the other hand always had those things in great supply.

Yes, I do have a sister who licked a metal pole outside on a bitter day.  It was not funny.

What did you use to get the rust off of your sled rungs on the first snowy day of the winter?  We used wax from candles.  Not sure to this day that it worked.

There was nothing more frightening in my childhood than the threat of being sent to the Principals office.  Children who went down there never returned… or so I thought.

I recall once a week a strange woman poking her head into our elementary classroom asking for several children to come for “speech.”  I had no idea where they were going.  I thought they were going to learn to “give speeches.”  I wanted to learn to give speeches also but I didn’t know how to get into that class.  I didn’t learn until years later that they were going to work on speech impediments.

I remember in 6th grade my teacher pronouncing a word that didn’t sound right to me.  “Mr. Stupid” corrected her in front of the whole class.  She looked at me with venom in her eyes and said: “never correct me again!”  I don’t know how she could have handled that but something different might have prevented it from being one of the most humiliating and memorable moments of my young life.

I remember thinking that it would be cool and exciting to be in a car accident… well until I was in one… the 2nd and third weren’t any better.

I played sports from early boyhood until I graduated from High School… I think my father knew that… but I’m not sure.

I opened up a hot car radiator once.  It landed me in the hospital for several days with 2nd degree burns on my face, arms and chest.  Hard to believe I am so good looking.

It took Ellen several years to realize how wonderful I was.  J

Remember the excitement of “school picnic” days?  Running from one amusement ride to another so that you could squeeze as much fun into one day as possible.  Remember the goofy High School students who wore matching shirts and socks?

I recall going onto haunted house rides and keeping my eyes closed the whole time.  I couldn’t tell you today what was in those places.

I once harangued Ellen into going on a roller coaster with me… one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

I did not know one letter or number when I started 1st grade.  There was no public kindergarten back then, or Sesame Street, or Electric Company…  I was not the only one who was so ill informed.

My first grade teacher punished us by grabbing our shoulders and “shaking” us in front of the class.  Something tells me that would not fly today.

The greatest year of my childhood was from 1959-1960.  My sisters were all in school, my mother and father worked and I got to stay with my grandmother all by myself.

Every day I asked my grandmother for the same thing for lunch:  A grilled cheese sandwich made with the “good stuff” (Velveeta), jello and chocolate milk (See Ovaltine and Nestles Quick above).  The grilled cheese were very special because my grandmother cut them from corner to corner given me 4 triangular pieces not the square pieces my mother would make.  Kids are excited about the strangest things.

At the age of 5 my grandmother patiently taught me to play “Crazy 8’s, Go Fish, and Old Maid.”  I didn’t realize for years that you really need to have more than two people to play those last two.  We also played “Parcheesi.”  When did you play that last?

My grandfather once bought a new car… a 4 door.  Back then these were not joint decisions… “The man” made these purchases.  Plus my grandmother never learned to drive.  She made him take it back the next day and trade it in because “my grandchildren will not ride in a car with doors beside them.”  I would love to have heard that conversation!

I once had a fever so high that I was delirious.  I was “dreaming” that I was riding in a car with Mickey Mouse… round and round and maddeningly round.

Social status all through school was indicated by how far back in the bus you got to sit.  I don’t think that has changed after all these years.  I never was cool enough to reach the back.

An interesting sociological dynamic:  One group in this country started a movement to not have to sit in the back of the bus.  Another group determines their value by how close they can get to the back.  So, if you’re African American and you want to be cool… where do you sit?

Church and Sunday school were never ANYTHING but mind numbingly boring.  I fear that has not changed over the years.

I had a pair of shoes that were reserved for church only.  One of them always managed to get lost on Sunday mornings.

One of the most ridiculous and hopeless things my mom said on numerous occasions was this:  Upon getting a new pair of pants and preparing to go out and play… “Don’t get grass stains on your new pants.”  Yeah right!  Stains literally jumped off of the ground onto my pants when I walked out the front door.

Was it just me or did new tennis shoes really allow us to run faster and jump higher?

I’ve been sick for the past 10 days.  It is impossible to not take our health for granted when we feel well.

Well that’s enough for today.  I hope these allowed you some happy memories of your own.



Modeling the faith

December 6, 2017

I was listening to Christmas music a few days ago and was reminded of how easily children are misled. How is that you ask?  Well… I heard the Christmas song entitled, “Winter Wonderland.”  You know the one that begins:

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening.
A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland

Well there is a line farther down that goes like this:

In the meadow we can build a snowman
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown

Honestly, for my entire childhood and into adulthood until Ellen corrected me… I thought “parson brown” was a color. In other words “we can build a snowman that’s a certain color (parson) of brown.”  I know!  That doesn’t make any sense!  But who knew what a “Parson” was as a kid?  Not me for sure.  You would have thought the remaining lyrics would have helped but NNNNOOOOOO!

He’ll say, “Are you married?”
We’ll say, “No man”
But you can do the job, when you’re in town

By the way… just an aside. The words “Then pretend that he is Parson Brown” were changed in 1953 to And pretend that he’s a circus clown.” Why the change? I’m proud and relieved to say it was because too many children were confused by the original wording.  Ha, take that!

Again, all of that to say that the minds of children are so easily influenced and pliable. One author wrote a book entitled “Children are wet cement” because they can be formed and designed… up to a point.  Many studies have been done indicating that parents (or at least guardians) are still THE # 1 influence on their children’s lives.  The things we say and the things we model along with the values we espouse will go a LONG way toward who our children will become.  That being said there are many influences in the world that are forever working to subvert what we believe and have taught.  The television and entertainment industries might be our families’ greatest enemies.  There is clearly open warfare for the minds and souls of our kids.  And with both parents working and the hectic nature of our world, who has the energy to be constantly vigilant?  I would say by the behavior of our kids on too many occasions… not many of us.  I fear that we raise our kids on autopilot.  We just assume that since they live in the same house we do, they will pick up on what we believe and will naturally incorporate those values into their lives.  They will make mature decisions and surely will not behave like “other kids.”  Seriously!?  If you believe that (and most of us do) then you are not paying attention.  Children ARE like wet cement.  They need hands on direction and teaching from their parents and grandparents.  They need adults in their lives who will not just model from afar but who will speak to them about values.  But maybe more importantly… they need adults who will LISTEN to them without lectures.

Serious question… what will you teach your children and grandchildren about Christmas in the next few weeks? Will you passively stand by hoping that they pick up what you believe?  Will you assume that a once a year Christmas Eve service will do the trick?  Or will you intentionally tell them about the faith that has been important to you since your own childhood?  I’m all about modeling but frankly, it only goes so far.

Teach your kids… PLEASE.

Before I go,I have to confess that for much of my life I thought there was a kind of plant called a “partraginapear” tree. I had no clue that the song was about a bird in a fruit tree.  Sigh…