Archive for April, 2009

Tales from the Back Seat
April 22, 2009

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,

 ‘To talk of many things:

Of shoes- and ships- and sealing wax-

Of cabbages and kings-

And why the sea is boiling hot-

And whether pigs have wings.’


-Lewis Carroll (1872)


I spent 16 years of my life driving my daughter here and there, and I can honestly say that I sometimes miss those long ago years, because we had many a lively conversation in the car that we might not have had in a less enclosed space. And then when she had friends in the car with her, I would just be the silent chauffeur who might as well have been invisible. I learned all sorts of stuff about what was going on in Shannon’s world by eavesdropping that way!


Fast forward to the present: Last weekend, Pure Sound (the youth choir that I have taken under my wing) presented a fully staged adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s epic musical, South Pacific. It was a magnificent production by these amazingly talented kids, ranging in age from the 6th – 12th grades from schools all across the city. In addition to these youth, there were also two kids who were “younger than springtime” playing the parts of Emile de Becque’s children; both were younger siblings of Pure Sound members, and for sure, future Pure Sounders.


All these kids, their intrepid directors (both musical and dramatic), supporting musicians, parent and non-parent volunteers alike, have been working on this project since last fall. It was a monumental effort by all, and the results were absolutely nothing less than phenomenal.


Alas, it was a dark and stormy weekend, so I have no doubt that many who had good intentions of coming to see this show were dissuaded by the tornado and flood warnings. Happily, there were a good number of determined folks who braved the elements to support our troupe, and I do believe that they were buoyed (so to speak) by the enthusiasm of those who made that effort to wade through the water.


It was a late night following the final performance on Saturday, and all had an early morning call to sing in our 8:30 a.m. worship service the next day. There were more than a few sleepyheads on Sunday morning, but we had a good turnout; I think they were running on pure adrenaline at that point.


I couldn’t believe the choir director called for their regular rehearsal on Sunday afternoon (4-5:30), because they won’t be singing in worship for the next two weeks. From my adult point of view, I figured everyone would be tired and would rather take a nap. But as it turned out, it was the correct call, because the good vibes were still evident; they were all still savoring the residual afterglow and wanted to share it together. He was right!


After rehearsal was over, I ended up taking two siblings home; their house is very close to mine. As tired as they were, they couldn’t stop talking about the show and the choir. “I just LOVE Pure Sound!” the sister said; she spoke of how much this experience meant to her, and how touched she was to have her teachers and others come to support her performance.


From the back seat, her brother sang tunes from this show and others from another in which he had just participated at his school. We discussed the recent phenomenon of that unlikely winner of England’s version of “Idol” who came out of nowhere to sing the inspirational song that Eponine sings in Les Miz, “I Dreamed a Dream”. And he explained to me how actors  in long running shows keep their focus. We talked all the way home of shoes and ships and sealing wax…


I loved this opportunity that I was given to spend some time with these precious kids who are such an integral part of our choir. It was such a treat for me to return to the days of cozy car conversations.


Listen up, all you moms/dads out there who groan about carpool duty- please do try to enjoy these years, as stressful as they sometimes are. Savor this time, because once that driver’s license is in hand, your captive audience and easy conversations will soon evaporate. Only then will you look back and realize what a good thing you once had going… trust me on this one.


Happy Motoring!


(note: pewperson will return May 2)


Only Two Degrees
April 17, 2009

One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.

-William Shakespeare (1602)


There was a new couple visiting in Sunday School recently, old friends of some fellow members of the class. I made a point to go introduce myself and welcome them to our class, and found them very easy to talk to.


Somehow the topic of conversation wound around to our mutual experiences of locking keys in cars. I re-told the story of locking the keys of my rent car in it while it was running outside a grocery store on Captiva Island, Florida. Grocery stores on barrier island such as Captiva are on the second floor; after you check out, your groceries go down a conveyor belt and are loaded into your car as you drive through. I jumped out of my car and hit the unlock button in order for the sack boy to load my order into the back seat. Except I had hit the lock button. And then the front door swung shut. Oops. Dang! The story ended happily when the one locksmith on the island was close by and saved me in a jiffy. And being a member of AAA, I didn’t even have to pay for it.


Our new friend, Dick said he and his wife, Barbara were up visiting her family in western Pennsylvania this past Thanksgiving, and their rent car was covered in snow. Barbara suggested he turn the car on to warm it up while he cleared the snow off of it, which he did. But he didn’t realize that a feature of this particular car was to self lock its doors after a certain period of time elapsed. So he found himself in the same pickle that I had been in Florida. A locksmith was located, and they were soon on their way, as well.


After hearing his tale of woe, I told him that my prospective son in law was from western Pennsylvania and asked Dick where they had been. “Meadville,” he answered. My jaw dropped as I exclaimed, “That’s where Kat is from!!” I explained that his dad was a physics professor at Allegheny College, and Barbara said, “Well, Meadville IS Allegheny!” I told her that I’d been through there and found it a lovely town, and though I wasn’t very familiar with it, I did know that Kat’s family lives on a street called Cole Drive. She said, “Oh, we have some dear friends who live on that same street, and we often stay with them!” We promised to inquire if either family knew the other, and as it turns out, Barbara’s friends’ daughter used to babysit for Kat and his brother when they were small.


What do you figure the odds were of that happenstance meeting the other day? There are two dynamics here- one is the amazing coincidence that we four strangers happen to have friends in common. The other is the fact that our conversation about locking ourselves out of our cars led to that discovery. How many other strangers do we pass by daily with whom we might share similar commonalities?


I just can’t help myself here… forgive me for putting the musical “worm” in your brain when I say, “It’s a Small World After All!”

Persistence, Thy Name is Petunia
April 10, 2009


Jesu, good above all other,

Gentle Child of gentle Mother

In a stable born our Brother,

Give us grace to persevere.

-Percy Dearmer (1906)


Over at #735, there used to be a house surrounded by trees with a flower garden bordering the front porch. The long time owners sold the house to a nomadic oil company family who were just “passing through” between assignments. Last summer, we were sorry to lose these nice Southern folks (originally from Alabama) to their next location (China!), but even more sorry because they sold the old house to a builder.


The house stood vacant for awhile, with nobody watering the lawn and garden in the brutal Houston summer heat. And then came Ike in September, buffeting the property with howling winds which cracked trees in two and showered limbs and debris everywhere. Soon afterwards came the bulldozer.


The bulldozer worked for days to demolish that house; it was certainly well built! The pile of splintered wood and broken bricks was enormous. Trees were uprooted and the swimming pool cement was jack-hammered into pieces. Dump trucks came and went, scarring the property with muddy ruts, and what once was a nice lawn was destroyed by the heavy equipment.


Once all was hauled away, then came a blessed silence. Because, you see, in this current economic climate, the lot remains vacant six months later. Nobody has touched it, and now that spring has sprung, the weeds are taking over.


It’s interesting to watch Mother Nature at work. I wandered through the lot the other day with the dogs, marveling at the variety of plant life that had sprung forth. Where did they all come from and how did they get there? Yes, I know… wind and pollen, and birds and animals who eat seeds and “eliminate” everywhere. It’s quite a display, but certainly not very attractive.


However,  just this week, a spot of pink caught my eye as I was walking Bailey down the street. I went for a closer look, and found a small stand of petunias, right where the old flower garden used to be. How amazing to think about the stamina and strength of this very small but beautiful plant in the face of such neglect and abuse!


It lifted me up to think about this metaphor of persistence and perseverance in the face of such adversity. How many times have I felt beaten down or overwhelmed by a task that seemed insurmountable?


Happily for me, it’s never been a physical situation of abuse, like this garden has seen. But for some people, that is the case, and particularly when those people are children, it breaks my heart.


So I hope this tale of the persistent petunia will be one of inspiration and courage to someone out there who may be feeling neglected, abused, overwhelmed or powerless in the face of adversity. If this small, delicate flower can survive, then so can you!


·        a note to Janet: I dare not transplant it, strong as it is… I’d probably kill it, and then I’d really feel awful! Thoughts?


·        a note to Tina (if you are reading this): We miss you! Let us hear from you!

Hosanna! Hooray!
April 3, 2009

Then the crowds in front and behind raised the shout: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the heavens!”  -Matthew 21:9


This Sunday is Palm Sunday, which commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem prior to his Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection. For some reason that I cannot recall, I have been supplying my church’s choirs with palm fronds which are somewhat larger than the usual ones that are handed out to the congregation to wave as we sing our “Hosannas!”


So I now have a small areca palm “farm”, from which I “harvest” my crop one day prior to the main event. After I lop off as many fronds as I need, the palms regenerate over the course of the year in a renewable sort of way. Every so often, I’ve had to embellish the collection if I’ve not taken good care of my plants. Some years are better than others!


Perhaps I have taken on this “ministry” as a result of my early enjoyment of Palm Sunday? My mother sent Easter greetings to her mother in law in April of 1960, when I was five years old.


In it she wrote, “Big Ray says little Carol is just like you in that she loves holidays! She has been drawing bunnies and carting baskets around and never lets us forget for a minute that something is up!


I am teaching her Sunday School Class now (you know how those innocent ‘I’ll help out for a few weeks’ things go! I’m so enchanted with the little monkeys, I’ll probably never quit). Sunday was so lovely that we went outdoors for our story, which was the Palm Sunday entry- then from out under a big tree, we all took palm branches and pretended that the church was Jerusalem and that we were in the procession (some rode camels, some rode horses, all in pantomime, of course!)- and those dear little angels, waving their palms and chanting ‘Hosanna!’- as Carol says, that’s another way to say ‘Hooray!’ It does your heart good- and I’m sure the saints were looking down and smiling on them.”


Juxtaposing this sweet scene with the not so sweet scene on Palm Sunday in Goliad, TX (1836) when James Fannin and 346 of his men were massacred by Mexican soldiers on the order of Santa Anna, even after they had sought an honorable surrender, I can’t help but think about the sacrifices those men made for their cause, and compare it to Jesus’ sacrifice for an even higher cause. Brave men, all.


All these thoughts and memories will surround me on Saturday morning as I carefully prune the largest and best fronds for our choirs and ministers to wave on Sunday. Of course, I’ll be out there in “pewland” on Sunday with my somewhat smaller version, but you can bet that I’ll enjoy watching the children wave their own fronds.


I can only hope that they will truly experience the joy and excitement of that long ago day in Jerusalem, and that the saints (perhaps some of those brave Texans?) will once again smile down upon us all.