The Smithy

http://www.thewritingreader.com/blog/2016/12/18/prompt-1942-visual-prompt-of-the-week-the-smithy/

It was work, good wholesome work, that held the nation together with each nail or mended wheel. The tools of the trade were honest, having no pretense or subterfuge like found in politics. Hard tools for making horse shoes and knowing that life was better for the way the shoe fit.

My great grandfather was a smithy. He and his wife formed a team that could take on the world. They followed the principal that hard work made for honesty. They were a partnership of American ingenuity and creativity, making things that would last and be valued. On Sundays, he became the minister and she the minister’s wife. Their congregation came to church to hear sermons that extolled virtue, charity, and kindness and left feeling that the world was a wonderful place to be in. They were all one generation that followed the pioneer spirit that led to the expansion of the United States, and they were proud.

Having followed the legacy of their parents, and having bloomed in the black rich soil of Minnesota, they cherished education and culture above all else. It was this passion that brought music, theater, literature and art and made them more than simple folk. And they took their congregation with them. They were members of the Grange, a society that stood for the good in mankind. It stood for the civilized expansion of farmers, blacksmiths, small town storekeepers and it kept life refined. She played the violin, he smoked his pipe and told the young ones stories from the bible. There were contests in spelling and grammar, the spelling bee being a way to bring children up, rather than see them running wild in the world. Everything had a order to it.

Generational families lived in a house or close by. Mothers were there to help Grandmothers. Grandfathers were there to teach the young boys how to become men. Life had a purpose, and the ideals of the middle class were brought to light in the fires of the smith.

My mother was sent to my great grandparents when her parents needed time to do things that a little girl might be a pest during. But she was welcomed, hugged, given a kiss and sent to play out in the gardens with grandmother’s watchful eye keeping an eye on her. Once when she wanted to play with a bee, and wouldn’t listen to that clear warning voice, she was shocked into behaving by the application of cold water from the hose her grandmother was using to water the kitchen garden. The cold water was followed by a hug and another warning that bees needed to be bees and little girls shouldn’t play with them. There was no trauma, no extensive punishing needed. There were rules and they were best followed.

Her grandfather would work in the shop, making things for the house when he had no customers for the day. Or he would create and set aside the makings for wheels and horseshoes so that customers wouldn’t have to wait. He was always thinking ahead. New inventions fascinated him. He’d quickly learn which parts might need fixing, which parts he could mend, for that is what a blacksmith takes pride in.  Somedays he would ask Grandmother to assist him in creating an order. She was meticulous in measuring and sizing. When she had down what was needed doing, she’d return the to house where there was always something that needed doing.

Neighbors would come to tea some afternoons. They would sit at the polished kitchen and discuss the community, but never gossip. Something would have to be done, and someone was designated to do it. A young lady needed advice, and grandmother would undertake that mission after clarifying why she needed the advice. She was the backbone of the women’s charity. Every summer and fall, between harvests, the women would meet to make quilts, or clothes. The pins and needles were kept busy.

You never talked badly about your neighbor. No, instead you would listen and make the comment to change the opinion of the other. If someone was afraid that civilization would fail, she’d bolster the person to make them feel positive instead.

When a fire burnt a neighbors house, the family would rally the church to go make things right. Supplies would be donated, windows glassed, iron reinforcements used in the corners of the wooden houses. When a death occurred, the husband and wife would be the first to help the survivors mourn.

It was the smithy that caused young men to go to school and learn. It was the minister’s wife who encouraged the women to go to college. If there were funds in the church budget, small scholarships would be given for those who needed the assistance. These were never in the form of a loan, but given with the idea that education would widen your horizons so you could help others.

I know that there were problems, medical science was in its infancy and so illness was an evil that lurked in the shadows. I know also that there were wars in the future. Eventually technology surpassed the smithy, lessening the need for his services. But they prevailed over those things too. It was the iron and the smithy that brought my great-grandparents to Minnesota in a time when they were needed. They were the backbone of the community, the innovators, the compassionate.

The Anger, The Crying; I Think Not.

I watch public television all the time. I travel in my mind away from the noise and bluster to places in the world that have frisky lambs, lochs, and waterfalls. I want to be in that world, just for a bit. There are always people who search for the old days, but I don’t want those. Disease, prejudice, a lack of money aren’t quaint or charming. I’m looking for modern charm in places of the world where charm is preserved. I don’t want the crass consumerism, the crowds that leave you without a breath, but I want to see how people get along together, supporting each other, and still taking time out for individuality. I’ve never had much patience for people who raise arguments for the sake of arguing. Arguments make my stomach knot up and my head ache.

Politics always concerns me because people forget that we are a “people” and not just two armies on the battlefield. I watch European governments deal with their parties with relief that there are more than two parties that have seats in power. They change with the whim of the people and sometimes because of events that overwhelm the senses.

They say that the last great generation was that of my grandparents who grew up in a time of strident ideologies that tore families apart, targeted people for genocide, and ripped the surface of the planet apart. People gave all they had to make sure the stridency of hate ended. They believed their sacrifices would protect those who came after from such a fate. Churches gathered resources to protect the innocent. Families gathered supplies and knit socks and hats. The Red Cross had a generosity that today is portioned carefully. Men and women gave their lives, in the military and as civilians. If you had two pots, and your neighbor had none, you shared. Or so the stories tell, and those stories that haven’t been written down or filmed have found a place in the garden of good deeds where you didn’t brag because you did something good. I’ve been told those good people are gone forever, and I’ll tell you know, more are coming up from the shadows where they learned of needs to the bright light where we should again celebrate them…

I live in an area with a high military and government service population. Life is fast-paced here and if you don’t slow down you will never see the good gleaming out in the open. If you are rich, you can take a world stance and be a hero in the public eye. Mrs. Clooney is representing a whole people in a court at Nuremberg, she was the lawyer who recently took the case of the Yadizi people of Northern Iraq. Young girls enslaved, young boys indoctrinated to ISIL, fathers and mothers murdered, what positive could possible come of such a situation? It’s the advocates who agree that there must be a world accountability. But what if you don’t have a lot of money? You don’t have the time? Would you want this happening in your country? We defended these people, so did the Kurds.

There was a couple, both Marines, who took care of things that “needed doing” in the neighborhood and at the school where their children attended. They never did it for the reason of publicity. They did it because it was right. They helped as they could; shoveling snow so that seniors didn’t risk it, rebuilding the crew shed for a high school with materials that were thrown up and now had a chance to serve. They cleaned up after Gradnight celebrations. They stayed busy because they believed community is where things start. They took a lonely neighbor to ball games, invited the neighbors to dinner, and reached out as much as they could.  I was saddened when they went back home.

There are so many volunteers providing meals for the elderly, for the dispossessed. The local market delivered four tractor loads of food last fall to be given to needy families. They’ve kept it up. We have a homeless prevention program that advocates, shelters and guides families back into a position where they can resume their lives in a positive way for themselves. Vets who provide services to animal rescue organizations? Vet clinics who foster kittens for adoption? Lawyers who work with families who can’t afford legal advice? PAL’s organizations who foster, promote and find homes for animals from all volunteer systems? Newman’s Own, where all profits are assigned to help those in need. Teachers who stay late to tutor for free? Ball teams that give back to youth in their cities promoting a healthy lifestyle. There are so many people out there who care. These are the greats of our times.

Communities want the same things: a reduction of pollution, services for those in need, medical treatment, an end to homelessness, respect for our veterans, education for the young, jobs, roads, schools. How did we start arguing about these things?

World War II saw the end of the implementation of the greatest social experiment ever. We took care of our own, we gave the world what was an intense reaction to the behaviors  of totalitarianism and Nazism. Bullies need a target to be better than in order for them to come to power. Roosevelt used an extensive national program to rebuild a nation whose classes didn’t communicate, to find work for those needing work, and to protect a national call to action by all of her members. It wasn’t perfect, but it established a system and a precedent to protect the “Welfare” or wellbeing of the citizens of our Nation. Seniors were given a chance to be fed, housed, and given medical treatment so they didn’t have to work until their dying day. early education came twenty years after.

Goldwater was the first conservative Republican, believing and creating a manifesto to undo the advances that the Roosevelts had brought forward. Simply put, he believed that our society would become weak if we kept “bailing” people out. That was his choice of word, not mine. I know of few, if any at all, that didn’t advance in life, be it from family, a teacher, the military, with a helping hand.

We’re Americans, not something for one and nothing for others. I’ve got MS. Because of it, I won’t have a pension to retire with, so should I be angry with other teachers who will get a pension that they have earned? I don’t think so. Luck has something to do with where we end up. So does due diligence. So does who you can rely on to show you the ropes to get where you want to be. Point is we are one people. E pluribus unum. We’re different, we’re the same, we’re colorful and bland, we believe in one God or not. We can cherish each other because of our uniquenesses and differences. Screaming hate from one party to the next accomplishes nothing.

Let’s get this voting thing done and go back to our work, dreams, and families. Let’s stand as Americans with the right to disagree, but let’s stand together.

 

On the Occasion of Things

I was thrilled to see the blossoms of Spring trees over the last month. It brings a lot of random chatter to mind. Chatter that outweighs the squirrels who now bring the feeders to the back door and bang until I fill them. They’ll hang them up themselves soon. I think they have the right idea. If we want something in life badly enough, we should look to be actively working towards that goal. My goals? I want to continue reading everyday. I have two books waiting for my attention. Carl Hiassen’s Bad Monkey and Jonas Jonasson’s The One Hundred Year Old Man, who climbed out the window and disappeared, these sounded so good from the titles alone. It made me scurry to the bookstore clerk and buy them, with all the enthusiasm I learned from the backyard squirrel gang.

My husband has been following Spring training for the Nationals for the first time. He’s an Eeyore who feels like Chicken Little. But the Nats seem to be having fun. I was hesitant to show enthusiasm because if things go wrong, I get to hear about it. I don’t like drama unless it’s on the stage or in a book, so I’ve kept mum. But as the first game of the season came along, I decided to take the plunge and become a number one fan. I failed at being a cheerleader, as I cheered for all of the players from both teams. The Braves vs. the Nationals, and the pitching was fantastic. Both teams were very well coached and gave off that special aura of teams that cared. I’m supposed to stick to one side or the other, but the sportsmanship and the game intensity left me breathless and exhausted at the same time. Life can be like that. It has its showers, and thunder storms, but in the end, I want to be that person that has overcome the storms and played the game to the absolute best I can.

Fatherhood has been on the horizon. The concept of the father who works full time and the son who wants to play ball is about the economic sphere you are in. Look at LaRoche, who left the Nats, and took his golden first base mitt with him. It was in the news for several days because he retired, turned down millions of dollars to be with his son. His family is a baseball family. His father brought LaRoche to watch him practice and play. LaRoche started bringing his son when he was old enough to understand that this occupation was his father’s passion. The son was there, in the dugout and sometimes practicing, with the Nationals and never caused a disturbance of any kind. If fact, he was our good luck intern so that we took the National Baseball East award (is it called something like that?) The year he left, we didn’t win our pennant. But he was told his son wasn’t welcome at his new team. The NEW team’s management thought that his son would be a distraction. So LaRoche quit. Literally, he took his ball and went home. Six months of intensive baseball moments, and they wanted to take that father son balance and remove it from LaRoche’s life. He made the right decision. Boys need their dads. They need to toss a ball around or go biking or have a special moment together. Our society had moved from male to female to mocking males to not understanding why the male image was so hard to maintain. Or sure, being a doctor is nice, but if you have a son, shouldn’t you teach him how to be a man? Shouldn’t Fatherhood and being a man have positive ramifications? My husband worked 60 hours a week, he couldn’t be there for playing ball with my son. It’s one of his deepest regrets. It took my son a while to see what a father is. Hardworking, worried, kind, intelligent, non-apologetic and still involved as much as possible. He sees that the times he thought his dad was ignoring his needs was only part of what his dad did. Both of my children took martial arts and ballet. It was easier for me to involve them in activities that took place at the same time. When it was time for a performance or level exam, the kids would look up and there in the very back was their Dad still dressed for work, grinning his support and never missing a moment. His dad was there. He taught my son patience, even though patience was hard for him. He taught my son to respect women. He taught my son commitment. I know he would have spent more time at home if he could, but like LaRoche, he put his family first and kept us safe and loved. Mr. LaRoche is lucky to have such a wonderful opportunity.

April Fool’s Day is such a silly day. I have trouble thinking of pranks these days. My favorite Fool’s Day was when I came into the family room to tell my kids TV OFF. They had put suction cups on their heads and string tied to the TV and had their tongues hanging out of their mouths sideways moaning like zombies. Heehee, they had been listening.

I loved being a mother of two intelligent kids. They came up with the wildest ideas. A cardboard box was a castle, another was a horse (a great steed), and a big dog became a Princess protecting the dragon while the knight on his steed tried to invade. They could make up anything with whatever items were on hand. Police training was in the front, with bicycle traffic having to follow the officer’s hand signals. If you ran the light, you served five minutes in their jail. Even mothers had to comply. Dinner was slightly delayed as we waited for the traffic of the neighborhood to pass by. Sand was marvelous. We had big trucks and little trucks, Matchbox cars and generic cars, blocks for roadways and buildings, and the kids drove their vehicles around and around. I gave them a sheet and we colored a neighborhood onto it. Now they had a new map,  and it was time for The Phantom Tollbooth, a lovely way to teach words and puns, to be read at bedtime. Bedtime followed bath time which had the kids learning to take showers with an umbrella until confidence was gained and they could shower without it. We sang dinosaur songs at bedtime. There was always a book at bedtime.

There wasn’t any data on the impact of language, although my parents had done the same thing for my brothers, sister and I. I grew up reading, my children did also. Now they say a child must hear 150,000 words before they turn 5. I’m sure I gave my children twice that. The future of the world will rest with children who have heard words and have hope, and children who have been ignored because the family was too poor, too tired, and had too few resources. Poverty clones itself. I watched that happen when I taught. Parents who didn’t have the education or opportunities that I had, who had to work two or three jobs to make things work, are facing an uphill battle. Their parents didn’t have time, the freedom from prejudice, or resources. Poverty weighs on your soul. There are strong community leaders out there. People who sit on their porches or in churches or school who help change hopelessness.  Families like my parents who believed in the power of books and knowledge. We could change our situation. My mother went to college when we arrived in high school. She worked hard and got her BS, MS and PHD in six years. That was my role model. My children had their father and me. I went back to school when my daughter was in kindergarten. I worked hard and took my children to class if I couldn’t find a babysitter. I earned my Masters. Now both of my children have Masters. Intelligent kids. They’ve outdone me in their aspirations.

Baseball, flowers, kids and random thoughts today. Men empowered. Women empowered. You have to put your best foot forward in life.  I like jumping in puddles and hopping. Does that count?