For crying out loud in a bucket!

Frances and Bernie Underwood 1923, according to the note on the back of the photo. My mom at five years old with her first brother.

I woke up with a compelling need to find this photo and connect with the power and hope in those two round faces shining out from ninety-five years ago somewhere in Philadelphia.

I also woke up with Mom’s voice in my head: For crying out loud in a bucket! She did not swear, but this phrase fit the bill for her when a little something else was called for.

Sunday’s reading, Isaiah’s voice crying out in the desert, has also come to mind.

I like to think that Mom and Bernie reconnected happily in heaven after years of estrangement. I like to think Mom and I will reconnect some day on a better note. I hope for healing of the many disconnects and distances that have happened in our family, anybody else’s family, and the larger family of the world.

I’m not doing a good job of finding a way to express how this is all impacting me this morning, but I think Isaiah has it covered (40,6-8)

A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “what shall I cry out?”
“All mankind is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
The word of our God stands forever.”

Party Like It’s 1957

The New Year 1957 was the first year I took note of what seemed to be an impossibly futuristic age.  Maybe it was  seeing those space-age looking fins that the latest automobile models were sprouting above their taillights.  Maybe it was my coming to the realization, at the wise age of nine, that the life I had known in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, up until a few months previous, was a thing of the past.

I was not only having my first taste of California in our new ranch style home in Woodland Hills, but was also attending public school for the first time.  I was experiencing my first holiday season away from the extended family I had grown up with.  Whatever 1957 was to be, it definitely was not going to look like the past.

Sixty years later, the New Year 2017 greets me with the same pause in the face of the future.  By now I have certainly figured out that nothing ever stays the same, but this year is different.  The shift in direction is palpable.

The political world has exploded, and my own little corner of the world has radically changed as well.  My personal choice to move forward and free myself of some unhealthy dynamics  within my family has placed me in an island of exile while it sorts itself out.  I was outside the local branch of the family circle for this entire  holiday season.   It is heartbreaking to wrench yourself away from harmful patterns with those you love; but sad as it is, I am growing to enjoy my freedom to grow.

Back in 1957 we had just finished another national election, and the “I like Ike” crowd had prevailed.  As kids, we did not know much about what all of that political hoopla meant, but we did catch on to the idea of campaigning.

I don’t remember whose idea it was, but my ten-year-old brother and I organized a parade with our two little sisters.  While our parents drank their after-dinner tea at the dining room table,  we marched in with signs, balloons,  clicking sticks and beating tamborines.  We circled the table chanting “We want a dog! We want a dog!” as Dad and Mom looked on in astonishment.

It turns out, our effort worked.  Mom had been adamantly against getting a dog, but she came around and one day shortly after our campaign, Dad came home with a little fox terrier we named Duchess..

I learned something about the power of making an effort for change that year. Maybe the lesson was altered by the fact that we ultimately had to give the dog away because Mom really could not tolerate her. This tells me that just because you achieve a moment’s success does not mean you are done fighting.

I have applied that lesson  in fits and starts up until now.  There has been an enormous amount of falling down and getting back up coloring my life; but right now I am on a “getting back up” swing, and it feels different. This New Year’s morning 2017  I remembered 1957 and saw something I important about the power of small but concentrated effort.  I can hardly wait to see how I play out this coming year!