Friday, January 01, 2010
If you have old technology stashed away, it's a worry to preserve them if they contain irreplaceable information. Such is an audio cassette of a talk my mother gave on August 25 of either 1995 or 1996--both dates are hand written on the tape. I have contacted Advent Media to see if several items along with photographs and music could be transferred to a CD--but we know too that eventually it will become unusable. There's nothing like print on paper (or ink on scrolls) and black and white photos. Here's the story and the story it holds.
My mother and two other lay members of the Mt. Morris Church of the Brethren were asked to give a brief meditation--the sermon (as I wrote that I realized I could check Google on the date--yes, it was Aug. 25, 1996, my parents' 62nd wedding anniversary). Mother died in 2000, so it has been a long time since I heard her voice. This audio is amazingly accurate--it reproduces her voice exactly as it was in her 80s--it's just not the voice I like to recall. The theme they were to address was something about God in their lives, or God becoming real. I've forgotten exactly.
So, picture this tiny, white haired woman, known by all in the congregation and much respected for her good works and loving attitude, in an aqua blue or purple dress with heels walking to the podium. She announces first that she has no notes and has never told this story before (I had never heard it either). Then she takes the audience back to her childhood when her family was deeply immersed in their church (Franklin Grove Church of the Brethren) and attended twice on Sunday. She says she never doubted God's love, but they just weren't that close. He was off somewhere busy looking after people who didn't have her nice, secure, regulated life. Then she moves ahead 25 years to WWII when she was a very busy young mother of four very busy youngsters living on Hitt Street in Mt. Morris. Again, she reports our family had a comfortable life, and that the war was far away, hadn't really come to Mt. Morris despite the fact that almost all the men had gone to war (see War Record of Mt. Morris, Kable Bros., 1947--virtually every man under 40 was gone and even some WWI veterans had reenlisted). I don't think she noted that her husband, brother, four brothers-in-law plus numerous cousins of my father had enlisted.
Then she carefully described the drive-way our house shared with the Crowells, the garage and the house. Wooden boards provided an approach to the garage from the gravel drive-way that got muddy and slippery in the rain. She didn't describe the car, but I remember it--a 1939, 4 dr, blue Ford sedan--stick shift, of course (photo here). Since most of the congregation was 50 or over, she probably figured she didn't need to describe a clutch and gear shift.
She needed something at the store--she doesn't say what, but it must have been critical, because she left and came back quickly (very small town) leaving the children with the eldest in charge. As she approached the garage, she eased it carefully so as not to nick the siding on the house, and the car stalled on the slippery board ramp. She put it into reverse to back up and try again. The car wouldn't move. She tried again, and again, giving it a bit more gas, the rear wheels spinning. Finally, she got out to investigate and she found my little brother pushing with all his 3 year old strength, saying, "I'll help you Mommy!" She scooped him up in her arms, splattered head to toe with mud from the spinning tires, and placed him in the front seat, and put the car effortlessly in reverse, and drove up the slippery ramp. She says she was flooded with such a sense of joy and peace she never again doubted that God was close and watching. The incident also set aside her sense of absolute self-sufficiency and pride in being able to take care of anything.
She told the congregation she never shared the story because she knew others might doubt it or give a logical reason the reverse gear had failed and saved my brother's life, or even feel badly they hadn't had such an incident of protection when it was needed. So I suppose that's why she waited and treasured it privately, bringing it out like a precious jewel during difficult times when she wanted to know she and her family were secure in God's arms.
Somewhere in the talk she addressed her two great-granddaughters who know my brother as "Grandpa Rocky." So I don't know who else in the family was there that day--probably also my father and my niece, some of my aunts and uncles and my father's aunts and uncles--so this story is for all who weren't there. The photo is my brother, probably a year or two later, because he's wearing an outfit she made out of my father's WWII Marines camouflage issue.