Monday, August 31, 2015

Haunted by the Presence of God

Children hold a deep consciousness of their parent's presence. The slightest hurt or worry spawns a cry for help. The mere sight of mom and dad restores their sense of security.

This was illustrated so clearly this weekend as my grand daughter Charlotte took ill on my son's wedding day. Daddy had just put on her pretty dress only to have her lose her lunch on it.  Neither daddy, Charlotte nor brothers got to attend.

Sweetie pie came down with the stomach flu leaving her feeling bad for several days. She clung to mom's hip and nuzzled her neck as she recovered.

She knew where her shelter and help came from.
Today I read Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest and am reminded that this too is my stance. I look to Him just like a little child.

No worries.

Just trust.

Just an ever present realization that God is mine and with me.

I am haunted by his presence.

Not just thinking about him, but interacting, clinging, resting my head on his mighty capable chest.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What I Learned About Myself From A Wise Woman of Twenty

The house was filling up with young people and the volume began to drown out Randy Newman on the record player. I welcomed my chatty guests with a drink and an introduction to the rest of the group. It was the beginning of the Merry Month of May, as I called it; a full month of parties starting by celebrating my son's college graduation and ending with another son's wedding. Back in the kitchen I almost cut my finger prepping vegetables when I heard our friend, Kristin's comment.

She had been reading some philosophical book and lamenting some girlfriend's take on men, weary that her all her female friends seem to treat men alike. This was her complaint:

"Men may view women as objects, 
but women are guilty of viewing men as projects!"

Photo Credit

Ouch!! She was so right, my conscience (not finger) clearly cut! I've always felt a little self righteous about being a woman. Poor men, they can't help themselves and  how they see woman as objects to be possessed or used for their pleasure. Unashamedly judgmental, I felt the male sex was a little more defective and morally inferior to the female species.

But she was right! How often do we try to make-over our men.
We dress them,
Manipulate their occupations to what suits us,
Train them to be the fathers and husbands we deem best.
We style their hair,
Tell them how to shave, or not
Re-design them, renovate them, remodel.

Then we put them on display on our Pottery Barn shelves and Ethan Allen hutches for all to see.
We post them on Facebook to garner 'likes' and make all the unhappily paired women envious.
We put up our perfect man on Pinterest with a link to our craft shop on Etsy.
Offer him as another creation we made from scratch.
He is the featured item in our "Perfect Male" shop.

"Look what I made! You too can have the boy of your dreams!"

Or we post our product on Ebay. Bidding starts at $199.

Recovering from her incriminating comment  - a revelation to me - and the near slice of my finger, I wondered how someone so young could possess such insight on the conflict of the sexes. She's truly cracked the code of relationships. No wonder men get tired of our nagging and prodding and messing. We straighten their hair without asking, fix their tie and trim their eyebrows to our liking.

Photo Credit -

At that moment, there in my kitchen in a house full of noisy company, in the middle of a party, I vowed to stop "project-ifying" my man, stop making him my mission,  and let him be who he is.

And I was a little, not much, but a little more forgiving of men who objectify women, not excusing them but feeling a bit more empathy for their weakness and wiring.

My husband will be happy to hear of my fresh resolution for our relationship - about my self-realization and new-found awareness.

I couldn't wait to tell him after the party - how this young woman of twenty had revealed a considerable flaw in my attitude toward him and men in general.

So I told him at bedtime.

After I had picked out his clothes for the morning.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Will the Real Mother Goose Please Stand Up?

We never stop missing our mothers. Mine has been gone for five years and I still think of her daily.
But brothers help fill the gap our deceased parents leave. Siblings confirm our childhood years as reality, despite their misty memory.

One such memory is a set of Childcraft volumes that we children read and referenced. Seeing them now elicits a warm wave of security, joy and repose. For my father read them to me at bedtime. I repeatedly perused them to occupy myself when TV was not in our house.

So, on a recent Los Angeles visit to see my brother, I spied the old volumes in our guest bedroom. The bindings flashed before me in their burnt orange color, frayed spine bindings and whimsical illustrations.

Opening it, all the familiar pages met my eyes. But missing was the poetry volume that held:

Hush-A-Bye, Baby
What Does the Bee Do?
Pease Porridge Hot
Jack Be Nimble
Hickory, Dickory, Dock
Three Blind Mice
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin-Eater
The Old Woman In The Shoe
And a favorite, Eletelephony 

"I'm missing Volume 1," brother Pete said. "I think I loaned it to you so you could read it to April when she was little."

That was a long time ago. I'd kept it for over thirty years, but not on purpose. The childhood excuses echoed back through our Stanton home halls. It wasn't my fault! I didn't mean to! I forgot! I didn't know I had it! Lame, lame. So I happily said, "I'll return it as soon as I get home".

One might wonder, "Why did he get the set  anyway, and not me?" I don't think the item was any part of our mother's will, but the little sister in me submitted without question to my big brother.

So, today I am putting it in a padded envelope wrapped in wrinkled tissue paper and sending it to my  brother with this letter:

Dear Pete,

I'm reading the inner flap of the Childcraft, Volume 1 before sending it to you. I notice that the editors of this Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes were all PHD's from the likes of Vassar, Stanford, Peabody and Columbia. Impressive, I think. 
   Then I wondered, who is Mother Goose? No one author is associated with her. She is a legendary character, with a scant connection to an 8th Century noblewoman named Bertha, who embodies the county wife/mother personae. She also is likened to a fairy bird mother (hence she's shown riding a flying goose), who told enchanting stories to children. Your wife, Terry probably knows better of her origins since she is a teacher. 
   The first collection of Mother Goose stories was published in 1667, with an earlier form in 1637, as "Tales from the Past With Morals." Over the centuries, it has transformed into many varieties, one of which we happily read as children in the Childcraft series. Glad to send the missing volume back to its 'family'.

Much love, 
Your sister

Mother Goose is the symbol of wisdom and comfort the child in all of us craves.

A real person? I think not. But those of us who were reared by her rhymes will always associate her with the nurture and love of our own, very real mothers.

Monday, August 10, 2015

One Hundred Years of Walter - A Tribute to My Father

The fifth commandment says, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long..."

I had decided to compile a scrap book of my father's life as his 100th year approached. He passed in 1998 at age 82. Good intentions aside, when work, summer travel and painting my marred walls got in the way of finishing dad's life story,  this scripture spurred me on - perhaps out of selfish gain, but hopefully out of a desire to celebrate my dear father's life.

Where does one begin? Four-score years is a long time. Several eras encompassed the life of this English/Dutch-German man named Walter Ira Allen, born August 10, 1915.

Sherman Alden Allen was an English professor who married Herta (Bertha) Schenk.  They had Ralph first, then "Valtar" as his Dutch-German mother would call him, an accent my dad told me embarrassed him immensely. .

Walter in perambulator, Ralph and Herta Schenk-Allen-1916
A new job took the family to Worcester, Mass., where Walter spent his childhood and early adulthood.

Sylvan Street - 1921 - A new sled!

After high school he traveled to London and served in Ethiopia as a WWII  ambulance driver. On his return, he briefly attended Clark University, then headed to Hollywood seeking fame. He landed a few small parts while driving a taxi as his day job.

1943 Hollywood head shot
 A mutual friend introduced him to my mother, Isabel  MacDuffie and they married in 1949, settling in Hollywood, where my two brothers, Christopher, Peter and I were born.

Hollywood, 1951 - First son, Christopher.

My father was unique and interesting person, always wanting to stir things up, whether it be at the bank, market or restaurant with his joking comments and antics - a practice he held from young adulthood. He saw "No Trespassing" signs as an invitation to trespass. Here, on a 1930's trip to London, he sat in a stranger's car and had a friend take his photo, book and cane in hand.

Later, when my mom worked at Disneyland, he wandered through a door and ended up on a bridge overlooking the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, passengers laughing at this real pirate mannequin.

 My father held strong opinions about politics, of which he was quite outspoken. The volume was often high in our household, (his middle name, 'Ira' means 'wrath') but I was never afraid of his yelling. He lived out loud, kissed my mother often and loved us dearly.

 Ever involved in city and state politics, he campaigned for Barry Goldwater, warded off communists like many conservatives of the day. He was adamantly against television, so we were raised as TV illiterates. My brothers designed and built things, I played piano.

He would take the family for long walks around Balboa Island and Laguna Beach bluffs or for Sunday drives to Pacific Palisades and places at night unbeknownst to me,  where all  I can remember is clear cold air, starry black skies, the smell of campfires and steaming, nearly-burn-your-tongue hot chocolate for all. We'd come home and he'd heat up smooth rocks in the bathroom sink full of hot water to put at the bottom of our sheets, warming up our cold feet.

Poetry and short stories occupied his free time, self-publishing several poetry books which  I've come to appreciate over time. He bounced from job to job, sometimes leaving us with very little - a result of the absence of a honed skill or degree. Yet he was articulate and self - educated. I can still see him  reading in bed; books like Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Edmond Burke. He sang and played the piano.We lived in a modest house in Stanton, California and could see the Disneyland fireworks every summer's night from our driveway.

Forest Lawn - 1949 Wedding

When my parents' nest emptied out, they  moved to south Orange County into a new neighborhood until Alzheimer's struck. My mom cared for him as much as she could. We moved him from home to home, until he eventually refused food and passed  from the disease's advanced stage in 1998.

My father gave me the gift of himself. Something as simple as holding my hand on a walk to the grocery store, his giant dad hand enveloping my small little girl fingers. The strong sense of security and love that brought me still fills my heart today.

We went rock hopping in the Silverado Canyon creek, walking in the rain on the Huntington Beach pier, and wave watching at the Wedge. There was little money for vacations, but I never felt deprived of adventure. One New Year's morning, we jumped in the car  to see the Rose Parade in Pasadena, back when you didn't have to camp out for two days just to get a curbside spot. Or we'd hit the Hollywood bowl for Easter sunrise service or camp and hike in Yosemite. One rare day as an adult, we sat in the living room and he told me stories of living in the Middle east, adventures that made him the mysterious, daring and fascinating person he was.

That was my father. Sure, he had his faults. But today, I honor him and and remember him as a good father.

Happy Hundredth Birthday, Dad!

Miss you.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Church Bells Still Ring

I heard them today after the pastor declared triumphantly, "I now pronounce you man and wife." My son kissed his bride once, twice, three times with a careless embrace to follow. The wedding bells punctuated the nuptial celebration like an exclamation mark.

Suburbia dwellers don't hear them much. Not in the sprawl of Orange County nor in the western neighborhoods of South Florida. There is not a tone to be heard. In Thousand Oaks, bells sounded the time every hour, echoing from California Lutheran University about a mile away.

It had been years, but I heard them pealing above the vaulted church ceiling into the late May, Ceylon blue sky, proclaiming to the world that love is alive and well.

Love was no more abundant than within those chapel walls. And the bells burst out the good news for all to hear!

Love, barely contained inside two individuals, so full, that it spilled out onto every friend, relative and acquaintance beholding their union. My first-born son and the beautiful young woman whose warmth and genuineness is only equal to her wit, intelligence and brown-eyed beauty. A new daughter!!! How wonderful!

The church bells clanged and donged and rang, amplifying the joy in my heart and in the hearts around me. Oscar Rogers said it best in the theme song from The Sound of Music:

My heart wants to sigh 
like a chime that flies 
from a church on a breeze

The tenderness of heart was not just found in the the wedding pair, but found in their friends, also. The flood of affection could be seen at every turn during the ceremony. In the songs, the singers, the scripture readers, and in the father of the the bride.

Oh! the father of the bride! He had us all reaching for our handkerchiefs. At the front of the aisle, giving away his daughter, he touched my son's arm and said, "This is my princess. She never thought she could find someone who'd love her the way I do . But now she has. You are the one. Love her. Protect her. Cherish her."

After that, we were all a teary mess; bridesmaids pulling tissue out of their bodices to share with the others.

At the reception, the detail of decorations created by the bridesmaids showed even more affection. Married at 28 these friendships were true and vetted by time

But the keystone was at the dance. The group had a theme song that went,  "...You are my friend! You'll never be alone again". The anthem rose in excitement and volume until brother Jesse and friends hoisted up the groom.Then, right on cue, the bridesmaids and other men hoisted up the bride, bride and groom, carried on shoulders, shouting the refrain below to the dance floor full of bouncing friends, joyously churning like choppy ocean waves!

 .You are my friend! You'll never be alone again!!!

They sang that song at all their friends' weddings, but this was the first time they sang it TO each other!

A stupendous moment, never to be forgotten or diminished by time or hardship.That's friendship. That's marriage. Yes, that's forever love -

Ian Joseph Jones photography

Overflowing from a wedding couple and good friends.

Church bells still ring, and love is still found in the world!

Ian Joseph Jones photography

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