Here between the major merchandising events of the manufactured sentimentality of Christmas and the massive schmaltz of Valentine’s Day, we in Michiana have an opportunity for a big ol’ wallow in genuine emotion. As you may have heard both from David James’s Michiana Chronicle last week and from the promo spot for this coming Saturday night’s Jazz by the Border, WVPE Program Director, Lee Burdorf, is retiring.
The Alabama civil rights movement: Selma to Montgomery march, halted at the Edmund Pettus bridge (Tuesday, March 9, 1965). Jack Rabin collection on Alabama civil rights and southern activists, 1941-2004. Penn State Special Collections. Creative Commons license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Twenty-fifteen is the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery march. A person can get a good idea of the issues and the drama of the events down there back then by viewing the movie Selma, in local theaters this week. I’ve studied a lot of civil rights history.
A few weeks ago, I was one of a half dozen guests invited to speak to a class of teenagers working through a Unitarian Universalist curriculum called “Our Whole Lives.” The cute acronym for this program is OWL and it’s a multi-staged, holistic sexuality course that invites young people to think about their development and relationships in rich and nuanced ways. Don’t worry; nothing I’m about to say is more than G-rated. Our discussion was about the ways people creatively map out their lives in a culture that often seems to offer few alternative pathways.
Who doesn’t remember the cruelty of little children? In my grade school there was a boy with a single discolored front tooth. At our bathroom break, if he got to the water fountain first, none of the other children would drink there. Nobody spoke to him about it, but Sister Paulette must have noticed many of her fourth graders heading back to the study of Saudi Arabia unquenched.
Now that Christmas is over, I’m thinking of some seasonal truths I want to take with me into the new year. There are (of course) some standard old saws about over-indulgence, and children liking the boxes presents came in as much as the gifts, and how to keep Christmas all year long in your heart.
As my wife and I were strolling through the neighborhood this week, we noticed a group of people walking toward us along the street. Most were teenagers, and they all seemed to be carrying sheets of paper. I said, “They must be Christmas carolers.” My wife said, “People don’t do that anymore, do they?” But as they were passing us, one of the adults said, “We’re going caroling. Would you like to join us?” He was obviously the youth minister, and it was clear to us now that they had come from the church at the end of the block.
Thirty-five years ago, my Grandmother Graber - from Goshen, Indiana - sent me a birthday card. A simple yellow card with a picture of some flowers and a duck. Inside was folded a well-worn ten-dollar bill. For some reason, probably because we were living in England at the time, the card was put aside, together with its contents, and came to rest in a box of old family letters. And there it stayed. For decades. Only this fall did the card, and the money, finally make its way back to me.
“What am I going to wear?” could well have been Mother Eve’s thought as she prepared for her hasty foray from the flora and fauna into the larger landscape. Since the invention of those of the female persuasion, this has been the question. So, there Eve was, presumably with no good ready-to-wear boutiques, with the probably unhandy-as-dressmaker Adam, and with that damned talking snake having slithered off and now nowhere to be found. Nothing for good old Eve to do but construct the world’s first home-sewing project!
Starting in 1967 and for many years, a bunch of us who were single and courting and subsequently married folk, gathered for Thanksgiving. We divided the food preparation almost by status, with the host gaining the honor of cooking the turkey, and others the subsidiary fare. I started out making a baked onion casserole. Sound strange? It’s delicious. You take Vidalia onions—very sweet—peel and slice them in half, and put them in a glass baking dish with some “cream-a”: cream of mushroom, chicken, onion, celery, or broccoli soup, thickened with flour and some milk.
Here’s a tale of a feminist mother’s fantasy gone off the rails. Spoiler alert: I am that feminist mother. And the fantasy was the plan to give a talk at an academic conference with my own college-aged daughter and a friend at one of the hallowed sites of herstory – Seneca Falls. All good. In theory.