Uncle Paul sent me his memories of his father, Andrew Telford, before he died,  hand written on notebook paper.  Three double sided papers.  Uncle Tommy has been calling me on the phone to talk about his dad.

Paul wrote:

“There were giants in the land…

An amazing life.

I am attempting to write down the things I remember about my father.   It will also include stories told me by others as well as information from letters sent weekly to my Uncle Roy in Bronte, Canada.

Naturally there may be some errors in time and fact as well as some exaggeration.  I remember returning to Ottawa, Canada and on seeing my home and the street I lived on, it all seemed so small.  As a child it all seemed to large.

So with those caveats I proceed.

Birthplace and Life on the Farm.

Andy Telford was born on the north shore of Lake Ontario, in the small town of Bronte, between Toronto and Hamilton, in 1895.  Bronte was a small fishing village.

He lived on a farm with his twin brother Huey.  His parents were tenant farmers on a forty acres.  My father’s parents were both from the north of Ireland, county Balmoral.  Thomas Telford and Rose Blank were married in 1881, January 8.  If you knew the couple you would know the ceremony to be one of simplicity and sincerity in every detail.

Thomas Telford was born 1849 at Porcles, county of Antrim and died in Burlington, Ontario at the age of 92, March, 1941.  His bride, Rose Blank was born February 29, 1856 and died in Burlington, Ontario, age 81, in June, 1937.

Life was hard and rugged for the young couple so it is no wonder they decided to seek a better life in Ontario, Canada.  For a while they settled in Branford, Ontario, but moved to a tenant farm on the north shore of Lake Ontario near a small fishing village called Bronte, 16 miles east of Hamilton.

Dad’s prayer life must have been shallow and empty but he prayed, always finishing with the request, “Lord, make me a good man.”  He may have been thinking of his own father.  His dad took in 16 boys from a local orphanage and gave them money when they reached 15 years and left to make their way in life.  Who knows the outcome of the later lives of those young men?  Th example of helping others and being generous with one’s money must have made an impact on Andy.

The repetition of the Lord’s Prayer was a another spiritual blessing.  Andy’s father told those boys, “When you are outside, watch your temper, when you are at home, watch your tongue, when alone watch your thoughts.”  Couple that homey advice with the repetition of the Lord’s Prayer and Ten Commandments each week in school.  It must have had a deep influence for good in Andy’s life.  There was a clear cut line of what was right or wrong.  I think these things prepared Andy for the time when he was told he was a sinner.

It is interesting that parents want something better for their children than they had.  This is how, without realizing it, that the nature of their lives made them what they are.  Hard work, a disciplined life, care for and learning from animals; a close contact with the natural world, very little idle time, etc, made a “good” person.

I, on the other hand, did not ever have any work or chore.  The only thing I remember doing is polishing the brass door knobs in the home for a dollar.  I have often thought if I was sent to some mission field or farm for the summer, or some youth program that taught the things my father knew how different my life might have been.

Life On The Farm

The Telfords  raised animals and crops.  The daily routine of farm life was rigorous and physically demanding.  Animals were cared for on Sunday just like any other day.  One story Dad told was of his father tying Huey and himself with a rope, one on each side of him.  You bent over and worked the garden, keeping up with your father and not getting up till he got up.

All money that was earned was given to mother.  If you picked berries for a penny a quart, this was given to Mom.  At the end of her life she had saved some $40,000.00.  This money went to Huey as Andy was cut off from any inheritance because he left the farm to go to Moody Bible Institute.

I thought that the food supply would be good living on a farm.  Dad told me they sold all the good things and kept the poorer quality.  For instance, they sold the cream and butter but kept the skim milk.  If a pig was slaughtered the meat was sold but the fat was kept.

“What was for breakfast?”  I asked Dad.

He told me it was potatoes fried in fat and with slabs of fat and green tomato pickles.  Lunch was fat on homemade bread with an old whiskey bottle filled with skim milk.

Dad told me that at one time he ate a dozen duck eggs and became ill.  His mother mixed Sloan’s Liniment (used to rub horses down) with water, gave it to him to drink, and he recovered nicely.

Life on the farm was strenuous.  Up at sunrise, and work all day.

Both of Dad’s parents were industrious, frugal and God fearing people.  In thinking about the godly influence his parents had on him, it would seem rather small, but looking again at my Dad’s home life, there was the importance of virtue in many ways.

My Dad tells of his father imploring him and his siblings not to smoke, drink, or run around because he felt the judgment of God would fall on the home.  His mother taught the children the Lord’s Prayer.  One can only speculate where Thomas Telford picked up these Biblical ideas.  Perhaps from the religious climate of Northern Ireland, perhaps something he read, perhaps someone who spoke to him, perhaps some of this was common knowledge.  At any rate the Telford home was one where many lessons taught the truth of being a good person.  You learned a ‘well ordered’ life on the farm.

Think for a moment of the influence of the home.  A belief in God who would judge.  A Bible on the living room table, “too holy to touch.”  Learning the Lord’s Prayer.”

The three pages end abruptly.

Yesterday my Uncle Tommy phoned to share his memories, too.  Tommy was the baby of the family.

“I remember coming down the big staircase at 309 Schoolhouse Lane, seeing my father in the study across the hall at the bottom of the stairs,” he reminisced.  I remember that house, that seemed as big as a mansion to me, a preschooler.  I could visualize Poppop, sitting at his desk, with the sun streaming over his shoulders.’

“He was writing, with his notebook beside his open Bible,”  Tommy said.  “It gave life a kind of stability, seeing him there every morning.”

“But he wasn’t the kind of Dad who went to our games.  Someone asked me, ‘What were your Dad’s hobbies?’  Not sports.”  I can see Uncle Tommy shaking his head as he chuckled.  Sports were his hobbies.

“Dad rented the land behind the house at 309, and planted a garden with asparagas, tomatoes and other vegetables.  And roses.  He bought a riding mower and loved cutting the lawn.  You’re right,”  Tommy added, when I mentioned Paul’s thought about wishing he had been asked to do more as a child.  “I didn’t do much work around the house.  I took out the trash.  And occasionally when Dad was away he paid me to water that garden.  ‘Give it a good soaking if it hasn’t rained for a while.’

I told Tommy about Poppop’s diet on the farm, as a child.

“They ate slabs of fat on bread!”

Tommy added, “People would ask me, ‘What does your Dad like to eat?’

Being one of those Related To the Famous Andy Telford, I sympathize with Uncle Tommy.  Various strangers, when finding out I was Andy Telford’s granddaughter, would gasp, “You’re Andy Telford’s granddaughter!”  We were those chosen to reveal the family secrets of the giants in the land….

“After preaching on Sunday nights, sometimes he would ask me to drive him to one of his Bible conferences.  He would grab a bottle of grape soda and a package of Tastykakes!  He loved sugar!”  Tommy laughed.

I muse that being of Irish descent, all the Telfords were good talkers.  He continued:

“On the night of my commissioning in missions, the Elders asked if my father could join us and pray over me,”  he continued.   This was a major life event for Uncle Tommy.  Most of his youthful life he had, like his brother Paul, left the Bible his parents gave him on a shelf gathering dust.  He shares the story of his complete life reversal in the book he wrote as a middle aged adult, “Missions In the Twenty First Century.”

“Dad had to cancel one of his own preaching engagements to attend,”  he shared.  “I spoke, and afterwards, Dad never said, ‘Good job’ or any kind of encouragement.”

Pause.

“Dad wasn’t around when Paul and I were kids.  In those days, pastors put ‘The Ministry’ ahead of everything, even their families.  That was the way it was done.  Nowadays, pastors put their families first… maybe too much.”

Uncle Tommy’s stories remind me of family times in Philadelphia, where his family lived close by until I was in 9th grade.  Thanksgiving days gathered around Aunt Marian’s table…. Sunday afternoons with the cousins, after church, and then back to church again.

(Me, and David, back row.  Middle row L to R, Tommy, Stephen, Brenda, Wendy, Andy.  Kneeling, Susan and Jennifer.)

“I drove Poppop out to the farms in Lancaster where he knew a man who owned a big farm.  He bought manure from him for his garden.  He had a great garden.  Now I grow tomatoes here at my community.  (a chuckle) I have so many tomatoes I have to give them away!”

Another memory appears:

“You said you didn’t think your mother wore much make up from the wedding picture you posted?  Poppop did not believe in the stuff.  One Sunday we were waiting out in the car to go to church and my sister Marian, in high school, appeared and climbed in the back.  She was wearing lipstick.  Dad turned around with his handkerchief and wiped it off her face.”

“Wow!”  I smiled.  I remember Poppop squinting at my face, when I was in high school, and asking, “What’s that black stuff on your eyes?”

“Poppop changed his tune on the makeup thing,”  he laughed.  He would say, “…If the barn needs painting, do it!”

When I read and hear the memories of Paul and Tommy, about their father, I think of Elisha, in II Kings 2,  when Elijah was blown up to heaven, crying, “My Father!  My Father!  The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”  Elisha tore his clothes in grief, but picked up Elijah’s cloak, for his new life.

Paul straightened out; graduating from Drexel University, in engineering… he loved cars, as did his dad.  Then he went on to Dallas Theological Seminary.  My mother said he memorized the New Testament.  He taught a popular Bible class at his church.

Tommy uses his gift of evangelism to mobilize churches for spreading Christ’s Kingdom.  He served with United World Mission, visiting churches and speaking at Mission Conferences.  He authored two books, “Missions in the 21st Century” and “Today’s All Star Mission Churches,” weaving his love of sports with missions.

He can’t forget his larger than life dad.

 

(Back row, Jennifer Mitchell, Allan Mitchell, Carl Seitz, Marian Seitz, Paul Telford, Lois Telford, Tommy Telford, Nancy Telford, Tom Telford Jr in her arms.  Second row, Wendy Mitchell, Poppop, Andy Telford Jr, Mommom.,  Front row:  Jill Mitchell, seated to Poppop’s right, Stephen Telford, David Seitz, Susan Seitz in Mommom’s lap, Brenda Telford)

 

 

My uncle, Thomas Telford, claims the spotlight, seated in the center of his family.  His father, Dr. Andrew Telford, preoccupies his mind. And mine.

So many family stories are told in pictures now.  I document my life with the camera on my phone daily.  In 1895, when Andy and his twin Huey were born, cameras were not everywhere.  I have a few pictures:

The family farmhouse in Canada.

Andy as foreman on a horse farm.  He was ‘saved’ in his late teens when the town blacksmith invited him to a gospel meeting.

John 5:24 was the verse that started Andy’s love of the Word of God, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”  King James Version

After serving in France in WW I (top right back row), he came home to leave for the Moody Bible Institute.  He graduated in 1921, and left for Bolivia, South America, to share the good news of Jesus with the Indians.

Two years later, he returned and married Erie May Clifford.  Better known, ‘May,’ my grandmother served alongside my grandfather as he pastored churches: one in Three Rivers, Michigan, The Metropolitan Tabernacle in Ottawa, Canada, which he literally built during the Depression, and Berachah Church in Philadelphia.

In a Berachah 50th Anniversary celebration, Andy wrote, “… if there is one thing embedded in me it is the Bible.  The longer I read it and preach it the more staggering and wonderful I find it to be.”

I have pages and pages of his sermon outlines.  They jump off the page with truths that still comfort, convict and command. (Andy loved illiteration.)

 

“I.  Christ is a Friend whose Person I can love.   I Peter 1:8

II.  Christ is a Friend whose Presence I can enjoy.  Matthew 28:20

III.  Christ is a Friend whose Word I can trust.   John 14:6

IV.  Christ is a Friend whose sympathy I can depend on.  Hebrews 4:15

V.  Christ is a Friend whose coming I expect.  John 14:5

And my grandfather wrote family letters on the other side of the sermon outlines.  He addressed mine, “To My Darling Sweet, Loving, Little Granddaughter,” or “My College Chum.”

He retired from the pastorate in 1966.  Before then, he also taught at Washington College of the Bible and Philadelphia College of the Bible.  Now he would merely travel the summer Bible conferences and churches in the eastern half of the United States, until he was in his 90’s.  He taught at Gull Lake, Sandy Cove, Camp Manor, Odesaga, Maranatha, etc.  He believed the radio was the way to reach people so taught there, too.

He also authored 17 books, “Subjects of Sovereignty,”  “Why No Divorce,” and “Pearls for Practical Preaching,” and other Bible books, which he sold at his speaking engagements, to eager students.   Each of his ten grandchildren received copies.

“Pearls…”  still delights me.  All the books are worthwhile.

I sift through his writing and get lost in the creativity of his vocabulary.  He made God’s truth accessible for all.

I get overwhelmed when trying to find a way to summarize all he achieved for the Kingdom of God.  He studied, wrote, taught, fathered, grandfathered, mentored seminary students, built churches, built a Bible conference, rebuilt it when a storm destroyed much of it, bought horses for Bible conferences, and cut the lawns at the churches where he preached.

He felt reading the paper was a waste of time and never did it.  He was not solemn, and lit up a room with colorful questions, like “How’s your liver?” and “Where did you go to church this week?”  He enjoyed the TV show “Hazel.”  And bringing me fresh fruit from the farms in Lancaster, since his daughter, my mother, didn’t care for it.

His writing, done from the solitude of his study or on the train or bus, (“I prefer them to driving since I can study there), or from the homes of the people of the churches where he was staying for the week, where he would be alone, away from family for weeks at a time,  instructs and inspires.

A jaw dropping life.  A close friend, Archie McGilvery,  called him, “The 20th Century Caleb.”  True.  Caleb was God’s hero through his 80s.

“… if there is one thing embedded in me it is the Word of God.”

Amen.

 

 

 

How many days for a first trip to London? 

At least 6!  I’m counting the first day I’m there as a blur of overnight jet lag.  We get off the plane in the morning, and every time we’ve gone, we’ve been able to check in to our hotel early.   We stay awake until 3 p.m., then sleep for one hour.  That’s it.  Then dinner and a loud show!

“Location Location Location”:  We stay in the Covent Garden area as we like to walk to West End theatre at night. Most are an easy walk, for dinner and then to the theatre.  Covent Garden’s also superbly convenient for the galleries, museums and shopping.

Our daily routine or My Simple Plan:  1. Do one Educational Activity.  2.  Another chunk of time to shop.  3. Then dinner and a show.  The day flies by.  The museums are all free and have audio guides or phone guides.  Our favorite experience our last trip was taking a London Walk (www.walks.com).  They’re 2 hour walking tours on a special area or subject of London life, led by entertaining guides.  Here’s our ‘Life of Shakespeare’ guide playing his lute.

 

My favorite stores are fun because they’re kind of like our department stores, only different:  Marks & Spencer for affordable department store type items and food.  Fortnum & Mason to feel like a princess. Liberty’s off Regent Street, for beautiful things.  If you like book stores, Hatchards and Daunt books are the best.  The store experience is delightful.  And there’s Waterstones… and Foyle’s.  London is a book lovers’ paradise.

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a must see, which can be done with a London Walks Guide.

Westminster Abbey.  See it.  For free, on Sunday morning.  Be at the front gate by 9:30 a.m. and you will be the first into the Abbey,

for seats in the choir (or ‘quire’ as originally spelled) directly behind the darling choir boys in their ruffled collars and red robes, singing “Matins” at 10:30.  Worth the short wait.  Or, attend All Soul’s Church Langham Place for a meaningful service; check out times online.  After either, have a reservation at Balthazar’s in Covent Garden for brunch and order their full English breakfast.  Balthazarlondon.com.

Where we stay:  We like apartments in London which means we have a  kitchen with refrigerator and washer/dryer (very slow but hey we’re out all day).  That means the added daily tasks of stopping in at Marks & Spencer Food Halls for their fantastic fresh squeezed OJ, milk, and cereal. Or Tesco, Or Sainsbury, or Waitrose. Apartments are only worth it if you’re in London for a week at least.  This last trip we rented from a new company as several others we’ve used went out of business over the covid years.  We rented from plumguide.com.

For  shorter stays, we book at Citadine’s Trafalgar Square, or their hotel on Holborn.  Last trip we splurged on Henrietta Hotel, a small boutique hotel in Covent Garden.  A bit pricey but great location and they had a breakfast/dining room which was an extra charge but worth it.  It’s really nice to get up and have breakfast before heading out for all day touristing, especially in brisk weather, which is my favorite for London.  We’ve also stayed at the Duchess of Duke Street’s (great old BBC TV show) hotel which is The Cavendish.  However, cannot recommend their breakfast room as the food quality and elegant experience of the morning meal is gone.  They are located just behind Fortnum & Mason.

People always ask us where we like to eat.  We are not big foodies.  We eat breakfast in the room, grab a sandwich/cookie at Marks & Spencer late morning, (their fresh baked area at their Green Park Simply Food shop)

or Pret A Manger. Or, here’s a great Swedish bakery in the Covent Garden area on Rose Place, “Bageriet.”  Each day fresh rolls and desserts (closed Sundays) !  I’m seeing more bakeries with ‘sweet rolls’ – this is an American Thing.  I eat while walking in London as there’s just so much to see I cannot stop…

We dine early …either in our apartment or there are a multitude of appealing small restaurants, especially in the Covent Garden and Soho area.  We’ve eaten at a French Bistro called ‘Cote Brasserie.’ We got a seat at the Indian restaurant ‘Dishoom’ because we walked in at 4:45.  Otherwise there’s always a long line out the door.  They don’t take reservations, but for most places you need them.  I’ve loved The Wolsey, which is next door to the Ritz on Picadilly.  It’s so British.  Eat a hearty lunch there… and then have a bowl of soup at Pret later, to save the pennies.

 

Afternoon Tea:  Do it!  It’s RIDICULOUS expensive, but a once in a lifetime experience.  London is about Living Well.  Favorite tea places:  Fortnum & Mason’s fifth floor tea room.  Or, Brown’s hotel.  I dream of having tea at Claridges, which I’ve heard is above and beyond.  Besides the money, it’s just so much sugar… but do it.

Theatre:  We love musicals and most anything done well.  Watch out for shows that have politically correct/depressing topics shoved down one’s throat.  And these can often garner five star reviews.  Just know the kind of evening you would like to have.  Our favorite shows in London are, especially, the British popular shows, like “Matilda” and “The Play Gone Wrong.”  British and clever funny.  Also “Six,” which is British Bawdy.  There are web sites where you can buy same day tickets for these shows at reduced prices.  We’re also seeing more opera, at The Coliseum.

Check out Londontheatre.co.uk to find out about your choices.  Next, look for the discount sites, like todaystix.com, which you have to buy, over your phone, the day of the show.  If there’s a show you’re dying to see and you can see online that there aren’t many seats left, don’t wait.  Buy the tickets through the theatre right away.   Smart phones have changed how we buy theatre tickets in London.

The best things about London are the little surprises on top of my Simple Daily Plan:

The little girl in her Elsa costume at the Frozen show, her mom taking her picture on the Grand Staircase,

 

Trying orange marmalade at Balthazar, because Nana Mitchell loved it, and maybe I’ll love it now, too, that I’m grown up.  (Nope.)

Finding out one of the first Dean’s of St. Paul’s Cathedral was named ‘Wulfstan.’

Oh, another must see in London!  (This could go on and on!):   Kensington Palace, where Queen Victoria lived for a while… among other royals.  It’s on the edge of Hyde Park, where Peter Pan’s statue is.  A holy place for me.  The parks’ green trees and blooming flowers are more of the unfolding surprises of a day  in London.  The park pictured, St. James, is only open Monday through Friday, so catch it during the week on your way to Fortnum & Mason.

And then there’s the Food Hall at Harrods….

there’s always more in London.

 

 

 

Many of my friends are writing a book.

I’m a writer, too.  My first novel was “Miss Nutshell.”  (1968) I illustrated it also.

I write for my family and friends.  I want them to know me.

I told my son Jeffrey that I want to be a writer.  He said, “Writing is too lonely a profession for you.  You are more of a teacher.”

My mother was a teacher.  She taught 5th grade, English and then many Bible studies.  I wanted to be a school teacher all my life.  When I went to Wheaton, the Education department asked me to find another major because I told them I didn’t believe in grades.  I was ahead of my time in 1975.  Mother directed me to a Christian Education major. “You’re always volunteering at church.”

Mother wrote a bit.  She left a few paper notebooks of her writing; mainly travel diaries of England and sermon notes.  I wish she had written more.   Days before she died, she scrawled her goodbye.

“I love you all!

(my) children and grandchildren are all unique and gifted.  God has blessed our family in so many ways.  I love all of you and Jesus loves all of you.

Now make sure you are loving and following Jesus Christ!  Only way to go.

The Book will tell you what you need to know.  Psalm 119 tells us all…”

Mother knew Jesus and the Bible well.  She was what every teacher should be, a fountain of that treasure.  In spite of all she knew, and she knew alot, she often quoted, “You only teach one thing:  you teach your life.”

Truth.

Last week I drove middle school carpool.  It gave me a chance to tell Ethan about when I became a Christian.  (Even though he’s ‘on’ his phone playing a game, he’s still listening.)  I told him this story:

“I woke up from a nightmare about hell.  I was shaking with fright as I left my bed and walked through the dark house to my Mother and Dad’s bedroom.

‘Mother, I’m afraid I’m going to hell,’ I whispered to her.

Mother got out of bed,  and went and got her Bible.  We went to the living room.  Mother sat in the black rocking chair and turned on the light.  She opened her Bible to the book of John.  Her finger pointed to a verse.

“Here, chapter 1, verse 12, ‘But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.’  God promises you that you are his child when you believe in him.’

So Ethan, from that point on, I have known that for sure I am a Christian.”

A memoir writing class teacher responded to one of my pieces, “Your style is very didactic.”  I looked up the word in the dictionary – “intended to teach.”

I hope I am like my Mother.

 

 

 

 

 

“I

 

 

At the top of 8 year old Pam’s To Do list:  “1.  Get up.”  Yes, number two, then three, etc. followed.

We laughed at #1.  It’s so obvious.  So funny, for a little kid to think of that.

Last night I laid awake thinking about a granddaughter hitting middle school next year.  That idea led to considering the lack of neighborhood friends, like I had, for all four grandkids.  My brain kept going.  Maybe I had said the wrong things in an earlier conversation with Mike.  His job has been so stressful because of company policies over covid illnesses.  The pillow was soft but sleep didn’t come as I continued to try to figure out the imperfections of the past week.

Because I was wide awake, I went for a relaxing walk outside.  The stars and moon lit the street.  When I came back into the dark house, Duane greeted me, half awake.  “Come back to bed.”

I did.

We both, finally, slept.  The alarm went off, too few hours later.

Duane pulled his body out from under the blankets.   He works a full day today.  I change the bed on Fridays.  Go to class, figure out dinner, contact Bible study ladies, do my lesson for Bible study, clean the kitchen floor where the sour cream tub leaked.  I should call the company that’s starting that project on the sunroom.  I have things to do on a mental list.

After the restless night I didn’t want to leave the warm soft sheets.  But I did.  I sliced an apple for Duane’s lunch.  He wanted to show me something on the computer.  I yanked the sheets off the bed and got the first load of wash started.

I waved goodbye to Duane as his car pulled out of the driveway.  I smiled, remembering Pam’s #1.

“Get up.”

She’s right.

 

 

 

Jill heard the gentle clinking of ice cubes.  She and Jennifer were snuggled, each in their twin bed, reading.  Jennifer, in kindergarten, was only ‘pretend’ reading her favorite book, ‘Papa Small.’

Dad appeared in the doorway, balancing three Flintstone glasses of Coke in his hands.

“I brought you a little drinkie,”  Dad offered the first glass to Jennifer.  She dropped her book onto the covers and reached for the evening treat.

Mother peeked in the door.  “Lights out soon.  We’re going to Woolworths to do our family Christmas shopping tomorrow.”

“Good!”  Jill said, reaching for her glass from Dad.

“I can’t wait to see what you’ll get me!”  Dad said in his joking voice.  He left to bring Wendy the remaining Coke.

Jill finished her drink and scooted farther under the green corduroy covers.

“Lights out,”  Dad leaned in their door.

” I know what I want for Christmas…,”  Jill whispered to Jennifer, reaching towards the switch on her lamp.

“You want that baby doll,”  Jennifer whispered back.   Jill always talked about dolls.   “I wanna get Mother something really good.  It’s so hard to think of something.”

“It is,”  Jill agreed.  They both fell asleep.

 

Saturday morning,  Jill, Jennifer and Wendy ran down the front steps to the car. They wore their matching winter jackets to keep out the brisk December weather.

“I call the front seat!”  Wendy yelled.

“I need to run a quick errand, ”  Mother said as she climbed into the car.  “I’ll only be a minute.  Then we’ll go to Woolworths.”

When they arrived at Lord & Taylor, Wendy said, “”We’ll just wait in the car.”

“I want to go in,”  Jill said.  In August, she had fallen in love with a doll in their toy department.  A pink suited Madame Alexander baby doll.  Small tufts of fine blond hair peeked out from her pink silk bonnet.  Sweet lips and blue eyes lit up her chubby face.  Every time Jill visited that store she held her baby in her arms.

“No, I’ll just be a minute,”  Mother said, getting out of the car and hurrying toward the door.

When Mother returned, Jill asked anxiously, “Is my doll still there?”

“I didn’t even go upstairs!”  Mother answered. “I was picking up a pair of shoes.  You girls have so many dolls.  Now on to Woolworths!”

 

The wind blew them inside Woolworth’s door.

Jill looked around at the wooden aisles filled with needs and wants that she and her sisters shopped through most Saturdays.  Each week Dad would give them an assortment of change to spend before they walked there with their friend Nancy, from across the street.

Today, Mother oversaw the Christmas expedition.  She lifted a maroon shopping basket on her arm, ready to hide the gifts they would find.  They each had two dollars to spend.  That two dollars must pay for four gifts.

“Do you have some ideas for each other?”  Mother asked.  Jill had one present settled.  Dad’s.  She would get him a comb.  He had mentioned at dinner the night before that he needed a new comb.

“You have fifty cents for each gift,”  Mother reminded.  “Wendy, you start on this aisle.  Jennifer, you go to the next row.  Jill, start here.”

Jill began searching in the art section, her favorite.  “Maybe Jennifer would like something here.”

“This might be handy for Jennifer’s desk,”  she thought, picking up a pair of scissors.  Then she looked at the price: 99 cents.  Too much for one gift.  “What else could Jennifer use for her desk?”  She spotted a jar of paste, and picked it up to look at the tag.

“Only 49 cents. Perfect, ”  she headed towards Mother.  She found her in the next aisle, trying to keep Jennifer from seeing what Wendy was picking out.  “Here, Mother, this goes in your basket.”

Then she headed towards the hair care aisle for Dad.   She bumped into Jennifer, running from the jewelry section.

“I’ve found the most beautiful present for Mother!”  Jennifer panted.  She held a small box in her hand.

“What?”  Jill asked.  Jennifer didn’t stop.

“I found you the most wonderful present, Mother!”  Jennifer exclaimed, when she found Mother by the dishes.

“Good,”  Mother smiled.

“It cost a dollar,”  Jennifer whispered.

“That’s too much!”  Mother protested.  “How will you have enough for your other presents?”

“I don’t care,”  Jennifer insisted, her eyes still bright.  “I know you’re really gonna love this.”

Mother hesitated.  She wanted  Jennifer put it back. But  Jennifer was so excited.

“Alright,”  Mother relented.

Jennifer dropped the box into Mother’s basket, her gift nestled beside the other Christmas treasures.

 

That afternoon Dad squeezed through the front door with The Tree smashed around his body.

“Mother! Girls!”  he called.  He leaned the tree against the wall and called again.   The sisters were watching “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol’ downstairs.  “Our Christmas tree has arrived!”

The scent of fresh pine greeted Jill when she walked into the living room.  Fir needles littered the green carpet as Dad carried it to the front picture window.

“It’s so tall!”  Wendy exclaimed, right behind her.

Mother appeared from the kitchen where she was making her mother’s roll out Christmas shortbread cookies.  “It doesn’t look very …full,” she remarked, examining the tree.

“It smells so good!” Jennifer said.  “Can we decorate it?”

“After dinner,”  said Mother.

“Help me, girls,”  Dad directed as as he got down on his knees to fasten the tree in the stand.  “… while I fiddle with this bloomin’ thing.”

“It doesn’t have any branches on this side,”  Jennifer observed.

“There!”  he announced, standing up to see his purchase.

“It’s empty on that one side,”  Wendy agreed with Jennifer.

“It will look fine once we get the doodads on it,”  Dad believed in his choice.  “The empty spots will help with conversation.  See, a person sitting on this side of the tree can talk to the person sitting on the other side, right through it!”

Mother laughed.

“Can’t we decorate it now?”  Jill begged.

“After dinner,”  Dad agreed with Mother.

 

The girls slept under the tree that night, now dripping with lights, ornaments and tinsel.   Their heads rested on their soft pillows, heads tucked under the lowest branches.

“Look at the ceiling!   I see designs of the pine branches,”  Jill pointed.

“I can’t wait til Christmas morning to give Mother her present!”  Jennifer talked about Mother’s present every day.

“Is that all you’re thinking about?”  asked Wendy, propping herself up on her elbow.

“Well…”  Jennifer added, “It’s the best gift I’ve ever found.”

“You haven’t given that many gifts,”  Wendy said, laying back down.  “You’re only five.”

“Five and a half,”  Jennifer said.  “And it’s the best present.”

“I hope I get my doll,”  Jill said.  “She’s the most beautiful baby doll ever.”

“Oh you and your dolls,”  Wendy frowned.  She had never played with baby dolls, like Jill and Jennifer.

In the pine scented, twinkling lit room they soon stopped talking.  Their eyes closed.  Dad peeked in and turned off the lights on the tree.

 

Christmas morning arrived.   Bright sunshine poured in the dining room window and filled the living room, too.  The Mitchell family gathered around the tree in their pajamas.  The space under the tree that had been empty the night before now was bursting with boxes disguised in Christmas paper decorated with ribbons.

“The first thing we need to do, now that you’ve opened your stockings, is to have breakfast,”  Mother announced.

“Breakfast?!”  all three girls cried.

“Yes, I want to relax and enjoy this morning,”  Mother answered.

“That will take so long, to have breakfast!”  they moaned.

They looked longingly at the packages stacked under the tree.

Jennifer started to cry.  “I want you to open your present.”

Jill and Wendy started to cry, too.

“Well isn’t this a lovely Christmas,”  Dad sighed.

“Girls,”  Mother calmly continued, “We’ve waited this many days.  You can wait a little longer.  Let’s go in the kitchen and I’ll put the kettle on for Dad’s tea.”

After breakfast, Dad moved his dining room chair next to the presents.  The sisters sat around him on the carpet.  Mother pulled her red velvet chair nearer to the tree.

“First l’ll read the Christmas story from Luke 2,”  Dad did that every Christmas.

Jill could hardly wait any longer.  Jennifer bounced up and down.

“At that time the Roman emporer, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken….,”  Dad began.  “…I bring you good news that will bring joy to all people.  The Savior has been born today….”  Later, he finished, “… it was just as the angels had told them.”  He closed his Bible.  Mother walked over to the presents.  She picked out three packages that looked the same size.

“Here’s a present for each of the girls,”  Mother handed three flat gifts to Dad.

Dad passed them out, reading the tags.  “To Jill, love, Santa”, “To Jennifer, Love, Santa” , “Wendy, love, Santa”

“Look, a Peanuts calendar!”  Jill exclaimed.  Wendy unwrapped a “Dresses of Jackie Kennedy” calendar.  Jennifer got a Suzi’s Zoo.

Jennifer watched Dad hand out presents as  if he was passing out gold pieces.

“Dad, where’s the green present?”  Jennifer asked.  “My present for Mother.”

Jill’s opened gifts sat neatly in a pile next to her.  The high stack around the tree got shorter and shorter.  But no doll.

“What a thoughtful gift,”  Mother said as she unwrapped a book from Aunt Marian.

Jennifer opened the jar of paste from Jill, selected carefully that Saturday at Woolworths. “I love this!”

Jill smiled.

“Here’s a big package for Jill, from Santa,”  Dad handed her a long rectangular box with a red ribbon.  Mother set the book she was looking at in her lap.

Jill pulled off the paper.  Tiny pink flowers covered the box.  “Madame Alexander” was written in lacy handwriting across the top.   Jill opened the box and sniffed.   She drank in the scent of her new doll, the exact one, with the pink silk bonnet.

“Oh! Mother! Dad!  Thank you! Thank you!”  She took her new baby out of the box and felt her softness melt into her arms.  “She’s just right!  She’s so beautiful! Thank you!”

Dad and Mother beamed.  Dad turned back to the few gifts left under the tree.

“Here’s a small one for Mother,”  he said.

Jennifer jumped up.  That was her tissue wrapping!  “I’ll give it to Mother.”

She took the gift out of Dad’s hand and placed it triumphantly in Mother’s.

“I can’t imagine what it can be!”  Mother smiled.

She unwrapped  Jennifer’s treasure.  “What a nice box.”

Then she carefully lifted the lid.  Her eyes widened with surprise.

“I absolutely love it!”  she exclaimed with the perfect timing and poise an actress would use to win an Academy Award.  “I’ve never seen anything quite so… wonderful for Christmas!”

“Let us see it!”  Wendy cried.  “Hold it up.”

“Wait,”  Mother raised her hand.  “Jennifer, I want you to show everyone.”

Jennifer proudly displayed it: a two inch plastic pin of Santa’s head.  In the place of his nose sat a tiny red bulb.  A red string with a jingle bell was attached at the bottom of the pin.

“It’s Santa!”  Jill exclaimed.

“LOOK at this…”  Jennifer pointed out.  “When you pull the string, his nose lights up.”

Jennifer’s small fingers clasped the thread and yanked.  The tiny red bulb at Santa’s nose came to life.  It glowed.

“That’s cool!”  Wendy said.

“Jennifer, this is my best Christmas present,”  Mother said.  “I just love it.”

Jennifer’s eyes shone.

“Ruth, you’ll be the only one at church with a creation like that!”  Dad said.

Mother pulled the string, too.  Once again, the red nose lit.  Then she set the Santa pin neatly back on the cotton in it’s box.

“I want to try lighting up Santa,”  Wendy said.

“No.  I don’t want to wear him out,”  Mother answered.  “I want him to stay special.  I’m going to wear this on my jacket. ”

Mother smiled at Jennifer.

“I thought you might really like it,”  Jennifer said shyly.

“This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had,”  Mother announced.

 

That night,  Jill tucked her new baby into the toy crib jammed next to her bed.  Jennifer was already snuggled under her covers.

“You won’t be able to get out of bed,”  yawned Jennifer.

“It is pretty smooshed,”  Jill said.  She pulled her covers back and jumped under the icy sheets.  “Mother really liked the Santa pin.”

“I know,”  Jennifer said. “Best Christmas ever.”

“Yup,”  Jill agreed.

Best Christmas ever.

MORAL:     “Love people, not  things.”

Thanks to Jennifer, who now owns the Santa pin that Mother showed off many years at Christmas speaking engagements.

 

 

 

 

In November, cold winds blew across Overlook school’s playground.

“Time to pull out the winter coats,”  Mother said as she rummaged in the front closet before school one Friday morning. “Jill, here’s your coat.”

Mother lifted the dry cleaners’ clear plastic off a clean navy blue coat with shiny brass buttons.

“That’s Wendy’s coat!” Jill exclaimed.   She stared at what she would have to wear all winter.  It looked like a boy’s coat:  straight and plain.  Embroidered on each shoulder was a white anchor trimmed in red.

“It’s too small for Wendy,”  Mother corrected.  She took it off the metal hanger.

Being the middle sister,  Jill was used to hand me downs.

“You’ll look sharp!” That was Mother and Dad’s commonly used adjective for someone who looks their very best.  Mother’s fingers unbuttoned the front.  “Here, try it on.”

Jill slipped her arms into the sleeves.  She turned towards Mother.

“The sleeves look right,”  Mother said, running her hands along their length.  “Button it up.  Now go look at yourself in the mirror.”

Jill obeyed.  A large rectangular mirror hung on the wall between the living and dining room.

She studied her reflection.  The pixie haircut didn’t seem right with such a formal coat.  She wasn’t sure how she looked.  “I guess I like it.”

“You look sharp!”

Jill smiled at herself.  She turned her head to inspect the sea themed trim on the shoulders.  Maybe hand me downs weren’t so bad after all.

“Can I wear it to school?”  she asked.

“That’s why I got it out,”  Mother answered.  “You’ll need it on a cold morning like this.”

Jill ran into the kitchen to grab her lunch box, then out the front door.  The screen door banged shut as she skipped down the front steps.  It was easy to get to school when it was right across the street.  The safety patrol sixth grader stationed in their driveway held up her arms in front of a group of students waiting to cross Silver Avenue.

After several cars and an orange school bus passed, she said, “Go ahead.”

They all ran across the street.

Jill passed the monkey bars, slide and merry go round on her left.  She marched onward, across asphalt painted with  yellow hopscotch lines.  She wanted to get inside before the school bell rang.

The crisp fall air made her nose cold.  But she was warm in her new coat.  She swung her arms and puffed out clouds of frosty air.

Jill pulled open the heavy school door.  One instant later she was sucked into the hallway along with jostling students wearing their sweaters and jackets for the first time.  Overlook, with its’ own special scent of paste, floor cleaners and mimeograph ink , was like a second home.  She passed neat bulletin boards of construction paper displays.   Mrs. Reinhardts’ first grade class was the farthest down the hall.

“Hi, Jill,”  Peggy greeted, as she entered her room.  The cloakroom was on the other side of all the desks.  She walked towards it.

“Oh, Jill, you have a new coat,”  Arthur noticed, as she passed his desk.  He was the smartest and the smallest boy in the class. He got up and followed her.

The cloakroom was full of kids hanging up their winter garb.

“Jill, I like your coat,”  said Vivian, slowly.

It was a different coat than the other girls wore.  Or the boys.  No one had a coat like that one.

The kids stared at her new coat, with the bright brass buttons and red and white trim.  They didn’t always know what to expect from Jill.  She was the first girl they knew who chased the boys on the playground at recess and kissed them.  She could catch all of them, except George.  A television screen with knobs on the side was painted on her lunchbox.  In the cafeteria, when she was finished with her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she pretended to watch cartoons on it.

“It’s a Navy coat,”  Jill blurted out.  She wasn’t sure, herself, where the idea came from.

The kids looked surprised.

“A Navy coat?”  Arthur questioned.

“Yes, I’m in the Navy,”  Jill answered, smiling.

“How can you be in the Navy?”  asked Arthur.  “You’re in school.”

“Not on the weekends,”  Jill insisted.  “I go on Saturday and Sunday.”

No one could disagree with that.  They didn’t know where  Jill went on the weekends.  And the dark blue coat with shining buttons looked like a real uniform.  She must be telling the truth.

“Class, time to get in our seats,”  Mrs. Reinhardt called.

Everyone whispered about the coat as they walked to their desks.

When it was time to go home, Jill’s friends followed her into the coatroom.  They watched as she lifted her Navy coat off its’ hook.    Jill reached her arms into each sleeve and pulled the coat around her  dress, feeling the thick wool fabric against her fingers.  The hand me down rated a new respect from her classmates.

“Have a good time with the Navy,”  they said.

“I’ll tell you about it on Monday,”  Jill waved and laughed as she walked out the door, towards home.

 

MORAL:      Make It Fun*

*credit for the wording of this moral to Dale Mace

 

PREFACE (which I generally never read in a book)

I wrote these fables for my grandchildren Ethan, Addi, Sophie and Henry Rommel.  Math love runs in the family so titled them with a number.  The moral, or “what’s the point?” is something I noticed they enjoyed discovering when we read Aesop’s fables.

These stories come from the home movies playing in my mind.  Jill’s the star, but her family wins the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

The Mitchell Girls, Wendy, Jill, and Jennifer (and later Pamela) lived in a red brick split level in Abington.  Dad called it his “estate.”  He and Mother bought the house because it sat across the street from Overlook Elementary School.

“Kids might walk across our lawn and litter their papers on our property,” they discussed.  But the school came with several playgrounds, baseball fields, and bordered Roychester park.

With three bedrooms upstairs, a living room with a picture window covering the front of the house, and a patio off the dining room on the main level, the yellow awning house was perfect.   The lower level boasted a pine paneled room with a window facing the school. A door in the paneling opened into a large laundry room and half bath.  A single garage would later be turned into a guest bedroom for missionaries, family and parents.  That was possible because another,  two car garage sat beside a hedge enclosed play area on the north side of the house.  Dad eventually assembled a swing set and wooden play house from Sears for that private paradise.

Mother chose soft green carpets for the living and dining room.  Her baby grand piano took up more than a corner of the living room, flanked by two red velvet tufted chairs.  The bedrooms had wood floors while the rest of the house was covered with linoleum; dark brown speckled in the lower level, and creamy white speckled in the kitchen.  The kitchen cupboards were fabricated from a metal of some kind.  All the accordion closet “doors” were made from what looked like plastic.  The house itself will not achieve historic status.

But lamps glowed in every room: floor lamps and sofa table lamps in the living room, lamps on bookcase headboards in the bedrooms or on mahogany dressers.  A wall sconce hung beside the phone on the wall in the kitchen.

“Turn lights off!”  Dad would scold.  But Mother turned them on in abundance: in the daytime, on cloudy days, or in the mornings before the sun shone into a room.  The house was ablaze with the warmth of those lamps, in spite of the pain of the electric bill.

In all that coziness Jill, her sisters and parents, lived these fables.

The address:  1802 Edge Hill Road, Abington, Pennsylvania  19001.

Guest Editorial by Dr. Duane Rommel, Board Certified in Pediatrics

 

The Wall Street Journal called upon Governor Ron De Santis to speak out on the benefits of the Covid Vaccine. (“A Covid Vaccine Crossroads, July 15, 2021). As a Primary Care Physician, I lend my experience with life-saving vaccines to this call.

As a grandfather of teenage grandchildren, this is personal. I support them getting the vaccine.

For years I’ve championed the benefits of vaccines, against a minority, the ‘anti-vaxxer’ voices who cling to internet science. After forty years, I’m not wasting my time arguing with them.

“You cannot reason someone out of something he or she was not reasoned into.”
– Jonathan Swift

My words are for those who support the vaccine. Unbelievably, I’m having to encourage those who do believe in science and are vaccinated.

John McEnroe, the famous tennis player, used to exclaim, “You cannot be serious!”

His outcry is mine. I’m shocked how some, in even the medical community and media, have complicated and confused the scientific facts regarding Covid. They insist mask wearing and social distancing are still necessary for the vaccinated. They don’t seem to believe in the lives saved and great success of the vaccines.

I do not believe, and neither does Ron De Santis, that our government needs to be in control of our health decisions. But, like Ron:

1.  I believe the Coronavirus is real.
2.  I don’t want to get a contagious illness that might cause mild to serious health problems, or death.
3.  I have gotten the vaccine.
4.  It is the vaccines, unlike any other measures, that have broken the back of the Covid pandemic.

For the vaccinated, the Covid Pandemic is over.

I’m writing to encourage those who are already vaccinated. You can live freely now, in spite of what we continue to read on the front page. Even fear mongering talk about ‘variants,’ can be disregarded, because they’re not life threatening to the vaccinated.

If you’re not vaccinated, join those of us living free from fear, and get the Covid vaccine. Currently 90% of people over age 65 have been vaccinated in the USA. However, if you look at people between 12 – 18 years old, only 13% of this age have been vaccinated.

My patients ask me, “Is it necessary, and safe to vaccinate my teenager?”

Although Covid 19 in children is usually milder than in adults, some kids can get very sick and have complications or long-lasting symptoms that affect their health and well-being.

A thousand cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), out of millions and millions of vaccinations, have been reported. But it’s a rare and mild condition which resolves quickly.
The benefits of being vaccinated for COVID-19 far outweigh the risks.

Get your teens vaccinated. The science shows that for the vaccinated, no more quarantines. Vaccinated school children need not miss school.

Get yourself and your kids vaccinated.

The American Academy of Pediatrics fully supports vaccinating children 12 to 18.

Every Christmas my Mother gave each of her daughters a “Choice Gleanings” devotional calendar. I still buy myself one every year, now that she’s in heaven with Jesus.

From January 27: “And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places.” Isaiah 45:3 and “For you will light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.” Psalm 18:28 the note added, “… so do not fear dark places child of God, His presence will lighten your darkness and give you strength to go on.” another verse I have meditated on over the years , “When I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” Micah 7:8.

Those words resonate with me after knee replacement surgery twelve weeks ago.

My knee is healing quite nicely. Duane and i have been biking with our red recumbent tandem since week four post surgery. I’m walking well although can’t do more than a mile. I’m back at yoga classes.

But after the surgery, what I thought was a mild anxiety disorder ballooned, with help from worry about pain, about not doing enough to heal properly and having some drug reactions that caused me to lose my appetite and ten pounds.

I’d wake up at 5 in the morning, sweating, jittery and crying to Duane for help.

Thankfully, I had a supportive doctor who I was able to get in to see. She did tests and said my health looked fine. I also called my therapist who I had seen in the past for direction and help with travel anxiety. She’s a Christian, and knows I’m a Christian, so when I told her, in tears, that I was worried I was going to hell, she could see I needed medical help.

“Jill, I’ve never seen you like this before,” she said. “I want you to see a psychiatrist to get your medications sorted out.”

The psychiatrist told me that one of the medications I had been taking for years for restless legs, and anxiety, had outlived its’ usefulness, and was the source of much of my problem, when it had combined with other knee medicines. It was time to wean off it.

Easier said than done.

One question my therapist asked, amid all the anxiety, was: “Do I feel safe?”

It’s a good question. I believe what I don’t feel safe about right now is my body. My knee is healing nicely, very well, and yet I still am limited in how much I walk and what I can do. I still remember the pressure the physical therapists put on me to “do everything right or you will not have a good outcome…”

Cutting back on the restless leg medicine solved the morning hysterics. Then as I cut back more, I began having hot flashes and jitteriness during the day or night, every day. It felt like my body was working against me with those general uncomfortable symptoms that some days had me laid out on the sofa. The psychiatrist gave me medicine to take the edge off, but the awareness of being on the cusp of an episode day after day is exhausting.

I was used to having a healthy body, but since December 10, when I had the surgery, I was fighting different body battles each week.

I grew up in a family where physical weakness was “poo poo-ed.”

“You’re healthy stock,” my father would say. He played tennis every day until he was 82. My mother walked daily with a friend. Neither was rarely sick. My mother developed Parkinson’s disease mildly at 65 which didn’t affect her daily life until her late 70’s.

Only in the last 2 years of his life did my father suffer with congestive heart failure, which caused him to lose so much weight he looked like a survivor of a concentration camp. That was when he and my mother had moved here to Clearwater, where my two sisters lived.

Some days we’d walk into their apartment at Regency Oaks and Dad would be sitting up at their small kitchen table eating his cereal, feeling fine. One day I walked in and he was sitting in his recliner, not feeling well at all. He often asked, “When do you think I’m going to go to the doctor and start feeling better?” He was a Dale Carnegie positive thinker. My unspoken response was, sadly, “Dad, you’re not going to be getting better.”

The day that hurt me the most was the day he said, “Just take me out and shoot me.” So unlike my Dad; he rarely complained but I knew the CHF was miserable.

Then the next time I visited, he was sitting in his recliner watching tennis on TV and he turned and said, “We’ll remember these days as the good times.” In my heart my response was, “Oh Dad, you have to be kidding, this is awful seeing you declining and suffering.” Now I laugh to myself that actually he was right: we enjoyed many good times with them in those last years, in spite of his health.

I’m thinking about my dad’s health because I think I’m too thin right now, like him. My appetite is coming back, but with drug withdrawal symptoms I’m not always hungry to eat, but know I should. Then I worry that the stress of being too thin and anxiety is hard on my heart. Duane checked that and it’s fine.

In my frustration and impatience with healing from surgery and overcoming medicine issues, my therapist suggested that maybe God has this time for me to slow down, wait, and work on relaxing.

“You need to adjust your expectations,” she said. “Give yourself six months to heal.” She suggested the “Calm” app when I was feeling anxious. Also, I began setting the iPad beside my bed so I could listen to hymns when I woke in the morning. Duane and I continue to take a walk after supper to listen to a Psalm and pray.

“Get a massage,” was another idea of the therapist, which was a new activity for me.

And Duane has been gently keeping me doing/going while also saying, “I understand.” I love him so much.

My morning devotional thought from March 5 was, “…He gives more of Himself to one person than to all the governments, politics, programs and opinions of this world. So dear believer, take courage and trust your loving Savior to get you through whatever you are facing today. You are a much loved child. Believe it.”

The blind hymn writer Fanny Crosby penned the lyric that followed, “…. Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast. There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul doth rest.”

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