Yard sale…but more importantly, prayers

We’ve spent weeks purging and sorting.
And thus the BIG sale is today!

But…

What is most important today is that we need to think of and offer
our prayers for The Frist Family as they now battle COVID 19.

I am both incensed and angry that there are many Americans who are wishing ill
of the President and his wife…that there are people who are actually gleefully
hoping for a fellow human being to not only succumb to illness but to actually die.

When does the hope of death become the rallying cry of any advanced society?

We have become an abysmal lot when we have lost our humanness.

I would normally note that we are an abysmal society, but to use the
word society would be too gracious.
A society does not wish for the death of others but rather it bans together
working toward the betterment of the whole.

So I offer my prayers for healing and restored health for our President
and the First Lady.

I pray for our Nation…I pray that it can learn, or perhaps re-learn, what it means
to be a cohesive body that is concerned for each member of her whole.

I pray that she may regain her love for each neighbor.

I pray for physical healing as well as collective healing.

May God have mercy on the United States.
And may the United States remember what mercy is all about.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

what will you risk for what is right?

If you take no risks, you will suffer no defeats.
But if you take no risks, you win no victories.

Richard M. Nixon


(a picture I’d taped to my classroom door of Mikhail Gobachev being driven through East Berlin)

As I continue to clean out what was my former life…out of the myriad of boxes and bins
buried in our basement, boxes from my life of teaching, I found a box of things
I’d pulled off my classroom door when I was cleaning out my classroom upon retirement.

I also had this picture of Mother Teresa’s feet…
I’d placed the photo on my door, backing it with a simple black sheet of mat board.
I had written on the mat “these feet never complained—they just kept moving in the name of Love”

Many of the kids commented that they thought the picture was “gross”.
Such comments afforded me the opportunity to explain to them as to why someone would allow their
feet to get in such a sad state of affairs.

I wanted to challenge my kids, as well all the other kids who would pass by my door,
with such issues of truth, life, sacrifice, love, conviction, bravery and the notion
of looking beyond self to things that were much greater…

My prayer is that we continue to seek that which is greater than ourselves.

If we do so, we might just erase the current senseless violence besieging our cities.

I know our problem…Punch Cups!!!

“Drink because you are happy,
but never because you are miserable.”

G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

I have finally figured out our problem…the reason for all the current lack of civility,
violence, looting, hating that is sickening our nation…

It’s PUNCH CUPS!!!

Yep punch cups…

We no longer have, let alone use, punch cups!!

You know, those demure little glass cups that accompany a crystal punch bowl?

You know…those little glass cups your grandmother always used during the holidays
when all the family gathered together…at her house.

Be it wassail, eggnog, or Chatham’s artillery punch…

Oh and don’t forget that floating ice-ring.
My mother just did a flip flop in her grave over my mentioning ice-rings.
She tried her best…but Lord knows, they never popped out as they should.
More slushie and unattractive vs the pictures in her SoutherLiving cookbooks.
Bamming and Bamming that mold on the counter trying to loosen the ring…
but I digress.

And I would bet that you were probably too little and don’t really remember
those little punch cups…
And because you were little, the grown-ups didn’t let you use those little cups–
they were fearful you’d drop one and Heavens forbid, you’d break Grandmother’s
special glass cups.
You were relegated to a jelly jar or dixie cup.

And if the punch was alcoholic, you were offered chocolate milk
or perhaps some kool-aid or Hi-C punch or maybe a Coca-Cola.
If they were feeling festive, you may have even gotten ginger ale with
a single bright red maraschino cherry floating festively amongst the bubbles.

Punch cups speak of day’s gone by…
they whisper of afternoon teas, luncheons, showers, and special gatherings.

This all came to mind when I was cleaning out the laundry room.

We’ve started the arduous task of purging.
We are beginning to clean out this 37-year life of ours with 21 on those 37 years
in our current house.

It’s time to lighten the load in anticipation of a potential spring
change—relocating, downsizing, tightening the ship!

So as I began this insurmountable task this morning, I found an old punch bowl…
not the nice one mind you, but more of a backup…it was one of my grandmothers…
my mom’s mom seems more like the previous owner vs my dad’s mom as she was a bit more frufru.
I’ve got that pretty one in the dining room…this one was the battleship
vs the cruise liner…heavy and sturdy rather than frilly and delicate.

And as I was gathering the cups from various cabinets and hiding spaces…that’s when
it hit me like a ton of bricks…our current culture’s entire trouble is they/we
have no punch cups…or no real knowledge, let alone experience, with punch cups.

For punch cups harken to a time when we celebrated holidays and occasions with
those dear and near-sacred family heirlooms, be they cut class, crystal or pressed glass
or even something really special…silver or more likely silver plate.

They were pulled out of storage, washed and even polished to participate
in a generational ritual…the sharing and celebrating of our lives as a family.
Christmas, Chanukah, births, showers, birthdays, weddings…

And thus these innocuous little punch cups are equated to something so much more…
they represent family and the celebration of family.

We have sadly forgotten such.
We have become entirely too angry, too self-consumed, too divided.

What happened to punch cups?
What happened to celebrations?
What happened to family?

Long live the punch cups!

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

A void and the Junk Guys

“We become aware of the void as we fill it.”
Antonio Porchia

Mephistopheles: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be.
And, to conclude, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.”

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus


(circa 1985 readers / Julie Cook / 2018)

What you see here is a pair of very dated readers…a pair of reading glasses that date
back to, oh say, about 1985 or thereabouts.

I found them yesterday in an equally dated Etienne Aigner cordovan leather purse.

Etienne Aigner was just one of “the” purses to own back in the late 70’s and 80’s.
It was a designer purse that didn’t totally blow the whole wad such as say a Louis Vuitton
or Gucci bag would have…

It was the type of bag middle American ladies could afford and still feel fashionable
without sinking a small fortune into a bag whose staying power would end by the following
fashion season.
Aigner bags were a bit timeless at this particular time.

It was the type of bag a woman like my mom would have had.

In fact, it was the bag my mom had.

I had something similar as well.
Mine, however, has long since vanished…Mom’s…not so much.

This past week, while I was up in Atlanta keeping a sickly Mayor, who by the way
has graciously shared her sickness with me–her chief aide, I arranged for
The Junk Guys to come to empty out, as much as they could in one day, the basement
to the house, the Mayor calls home.

A house and home that became my house and home in 1962.
I was almost 3 years old when my parents bought the 4-year-old 1958 stately
ranch house on a quiet cul-de-sac in the boomtime of America’s urban sprawl.

Up until then, we had lived in an apartment.
An old-school sort of apartment complex that still stands to this day in Buckhead…
a word that is now synonymous with all that equates to being uber chic and trendy
in Atlanta…a once upon a time simple place that was just merely a junction of a couple
of divergent roadways with a buck’s head mounted on a local watering hole.

It’s an apartment complex that is probably on the National Registry of Historic Places
as the complex has been around a very long time…

Whereas I can vaguely remember the apartment I can, however, remember almost every
nook and cranny of the house.
Recollections of the house that was…not so much of the house that is now.

In 1967, my grandfather died suddenly from an artery surgery gone wrong.
The company he started in the early 1930’s…a business he owned and operated
until his death, was then quickly sold by my dad, the company’s lone salesman.

On a hot humid June day in 1967, a huge Mayflower moving tractor-trailer truck
pulled up outside of our house as men quickly worked moving the contents of a nearly
40-year-old company to our basement.

When they were finished and the basement door was shut behind them,
time immediately stood still in that large section of our basement.
A visible physical reminder of death.

Large wooden desks, metal filing cabinets, metal chairs, leather rolling chairs,
wooden cabinets… all still chocked full of file folders, Rolodexes, business cards,
staplers, gem clips, tacks, hand stamps, mailers, postage stamps, pencils, writing pads,
office signs…all sat still and quiet, in the back half of a dimly lit basement,
collecting dust and cobwebs.

That was until this past Saturday.

Along with that collection of office equipment, a plethora of dinged up and dilapidated
antique chairs, one formal victorian sofa, a couple of vintage dining room tables,
a vast array of rusting tools, circa 1960 metal cabinets filled with
glassware and figurines in various conditions, stacks of vinyl albums dating to the 1940’s,
various beds, Dad’s childhood wormwood bedroom suit, boxes filled with musty books of all
sizes and subject matter, photos and pictures, early computer equipment with heavy monitors and
dial-up modems, cameras, jackets, boxes galore filled with a variety of junk and unsundries,
complete with two giant plywood model train sets had all come to call this basement home.

One family had slowly faded…two by death and one by choice as the lone owner remained…
eventually bringing in a new wife, a new life and new junk to this precarious keeper
of time.

Years, lives and the leftovers of family’s…families who had come and gone,
and all of their forgotten stuff…stuff stuffed down into a dark cavernous basement
left to sit…
But for what reason?

Sentimentality?
Hoarding?
Identity?
Moving?
Life?
Death?

Well, that was until Saturday.

With a new baby on the way…the much-needed purging of previous lives had finally arrived.

When one shuts a door to such a basement…what is in that basement is usually quickly forgotten.
The shutting of a door closes away that which is… as the ‘it’ suddenly becomes what was…
as in the proverbial ‘out of sight, out of mind’ sort of mentality.

Unused space being a prime example of a law found in physics…
a void will eventually be filled…or so it seems.

Before the Junk Guys arrived, I needed to look through a few things…actually a lot of things.
Yet time, this past week, was not my friend as I was needed to tend to a sick baby.
No time to rummage in a cobweb infested musty overflowing time capsule.

On one quick trip down the rickety steep stairway, down just long enough to find a somewhat
hidden away Lord & Taylor box, sitting out of sight in a long since sealed cabinet.
Lifting off that signature colorful box top, I found a box filled with letters.
Letters still in their original envelopes, all addressed to two parents,
who each now seems long gone, were written by their eldest child.
Letters that were written home from college…
written from me to them.

I quickly put the top back on the box.

Mother had saved those letters, yet I wasn’t ready to read over a bunch of trite angst-filled
letters that were written by a shallow self-absorbed younger and more foolish self.
Not yet.

In another cabinet, I pulled out a small box filled full of “do-dads”…
small trinkets that Mother had gathered over the years which had filled her ‘what-not’ shelf
that graced a wall in the kitchen.
Trinkets that were once considered tiny treasures.

As the cleaning committee arrived complete with heavy-duty gloves and boots,
I found the pocket-book.
That same cordovan Aigner bag that I immediately recalled seeing on her shoulder.

It was shoved back on a top shelf of one of those metal cabinets.
Dad had obviously brought it down here to the place where things came to stay,
not necessarily die, but to stay… caught in an odd passage of time and space.
A purgatory of such.
All being oddly caught in a sad surreal stoppage of time.

Everything remained inside, albeit for a wallet— untouched, just as it was on the day dad
rushed her to the hospital that 25th day of July 1986—

And yet she never came home to claim her purse.

I quickly brought the bag upstairs to the light of day, leaving behind the small army
of purgers in that overflowing basement.
I wanted to dump the contents out onto a table where I could actually look at what
a life stopped in time looked like.

Yellowed and faded bank statements, tuition notices for my brother, grocery lists and receipts,
a sterling silver tortoiseshell comb which was a wedding present from dad back in 1953 along
with a couple of pennies, two tubes of lipsticks and a small bottle of Tylenol
all came tumbling out…along with that pair of reading glasses.

Funny, I never remember Mother wearing glasses…only sunglasses.

Quickly I pushed aside the glasses, the comb, a couple of the bank statements and one
grocery receipt before throwing away everything else while carrying the bag back downstairs
to join the host of junk being hauled out to the two moving trucks that were eagerly
ready and waiting to carry away the remnants of the various previous lives that had all
called this house theirs, leaving open space for new lives taking shape.

It would behoove each of us to remember that our lives here on this earth are finite.
Lives that may be painfully short or generously long…
yet each life, regardless of allocated time, is limited…meaning that each of our lives
will be eventually ending…whether we like it or not.

We hold onto things in an odd twisted attempt to keep that which was.
All the stuff becomes the tangible to that which we have lost…
of which is simply fleeting and finite.

Dad’s basement is and was testament of that.
It was the filling of the void.
The proof of resting in purgatory.
Be it good…
Be it bad…
Be it sad…
Be it happy…
or…
Be it simply bittersweet…

All that we have and all that we are will pass away or perhaps worse, simply be discarded…


(a mere portion of the purging basement / Julie Cook / 2018)

Left to being eventually thrown away by The Junk Guys…

What, therefore, you ask, lasts… as we are a people who yearn to last…

Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever?
C.S. Lewis