It is Sunday afternoon and a good time to visit with me in my study. We have just returned home from Concord and are settling in for a cold night in our home. Dale will ask me to light a fire in our woodstove, and I will be glad to do so.
Yesterday, we had a few inches of snow, and when I plowed the driveway with our tractor, what was left on the asphalt was ice – slippery ice. Our driveway is on a slant to Briar Hill Road, and once headed down our driveway on ice, there is no stopping until you hit the sanded road itself. Yep, I called and asked the person who plows our driveway on larger storms to please come and sand that slippery slope. When we returned home, our driveway was all sanded and safe. I must admit Dale insisted that I call and have that done. Wives are like that when they love you.
I hope you had a meaningful Christmas, and that at times, there were happy smiles on your face – even if you were wearing a face mask. It is such a beautiful time of year, and hopefully next year, we will once again be able to sing Christmas carols together.
Did you receive a special Christmas gift? I received more than one, but a favorite was a series of books that were published in the nineteen twenties and thirties. Two of those books that l read in elementary school were responsible for my avid love or reading, Dan’s Boy and Andre by Bertha B. and Ernest Cobb. For so many years, I could only imagine the name of the book I remembered was Dan’s Boy, but I was not sure.
It was a book that told the story of a boy who ran away and was adopted by a man who had lost his son. Also, there was a fire in the school where Dan’s adopted father was a janitor. He saved the children by spraying the boiler with a hose. He was found unconscious in front of the furnace. At the end of the story, Dan’s new father/friend is adopted by Dan’s family who had finally reunited with their missing son. This story fascinated me as I was very afraid of our furnace at home when I was in elementary school
When Dale and I were travelling in North Carolina some years ago, with delight I found a copy of this book. My memory had been correct about the name of the book so now I only was missing only the other book that had a strong impact on my love or reading. I knew the name of the principle character was Andre.
Just before Christmas this year, I found on eBay a list of the books written by the author of Dan’s Boy. The books were written by Bertha and Ernest Cobb. As I looked at a list of the books they had authored, there it was – the book entitled Andre. I had at long last found the other missing book. I told Dale about finding the books, and she purchased them for me on eBay and gave them to me on Christmas morning.
When I read Andre after all those years that had passed, it did not hold the same special place of Dan’s Boy. I question in what grade I read those books, but it must have been around the third grade in Miss Chase’s class. I hope you have special books in your life that impacted your love of reading too. But these books did not just influence my love of reading, they also taught me of values and morals, even what you might call good health habits.
It may seem strange today but when I was in elementary school, you were graded on your health habits by a plus or minus. Our teachers checked our fingernails to see if they had dirt beneath them. They checked to see if we had good dental hygiene and if we kept our hands and fingers away from our face. We were always admonished to wash our hands and faces. I’m rather embarrassed to state that we were also instructed on how our bodily functions should work. Remember, those were days before penicillin and sulfur drugs. Children could die if they did not follow rules of cleanliness. So, in one of the books by the Cobbs entitled Clematis, we find that she is an orphan and is sent to a home for children. Once there, she goes to bed just dropping her clothing on the floor and not washing at all. For that, Clematis is admonished to get out of bed, hang up her clothes, and wash her hands, arms, and face, and to brush her teeth. In this story, Clematis dreams of living in the country among the beauty of nature and eventually this becomes a reality.
In another of their books they write of Penne, a little girl who loves her dolls and wishes that she could have a baby sister. As I read that story, I thought of times today and yesterday. Today, I believe most girls are encouraged to achieve much more than motherhood. As a pastor, I know this is correct for many women, but I was so touched by my dear wife when she told me when she was growing up, she knew she wanted to be a mother. I wonder how many girls grow up to womanhood wishing above all to become a mother. This is dangerous territory today; I am aware of that, but I thank God over and over again how grateful I am for my mother’s influence in my life and for what a loving childhood I had.
The story of Dan’s Boy is that of a spoiled little boy who learns to work picking blueberries and eventually actually enjoys it as a way of earning money. He changes from a self-centered child into a loving, thoughtful boy.
Some thirty years ago I took a course in Children’s Literature, and I became convinced some children’s literature is better than what our adults read today. Reading is so important to the formation of character and morality in our society. Stories help us understand life and how to be a worthy, good person of love and kindness. As those books so formed a love of reading for me and perhaps even held a hidden morality and goodness. So as a pastor, I need to recommend not only secular reading but also the religious genre as well. There are wonderful Bible stories for children, and in this time of pandemic, it is important for families to read those stories to our children today. My dad told those stories to his seven children, and we loved the stories and how he told them. If we think society is running amuck today, perhaps rather I know, it can be improved by our children reading and understanding the stories found in the Bible.
How happy is this pastor that he majored in college in English Literature and that the beginning of my journey in life was begun in elementary school. God blessed me with Miss Bradley, Miss Cotton, Miss Chase, Miss Sargent, Mrs. McGilvery and Miss Miller. Their teachings gave me strength for this wonderful challenging journey we call life.
Remember, we just experienced one of the most joyful stories – The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Until our next walk, “May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other. Amen.”