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Link to the whole talk on YouTube, here.
In the 1960’s, in Alabama, a black maid was still a common help in white households. My grandfather’s maid, Beulah, had been with him for years and grown comfortably accustomed to his habits and preferences. My visits were rare, however, so she could never become quite used to me. She accepted my noisy intrusion into her quiet, orderly territory with cheerful resignation.
She was an exotic novelty in my all-white world and, at five, I wanted nothing more than to watch her, big and black, towering majestically over me as she muttered through her day’s work. If I could make her laugh, opening wide that great pink mouth to let loose a deep contralto belly-full of chuckles, my joy was complete.
One day my desire to pester my ‘playmate’ away from her chores and her desire to finish them in relative peace resulted in a game of hide and seek. Somehow, I was always the one hiding. Her attempts to find me seemed to grow more and more half-hearted. I didn’t know how long it had been since I discovered a great hidey-hole behind a big chair, but I had the feeling she’d forgotten all about me. I emerged with great trepidation, heart pounding with the expected thrill of surprising her and declaring myself the forever winner of the game.
Beulah had, indeed, forgotten me so thoroughly and gone on with her work so industriously that the moment of my shouting “BOO!” triumphantly was a moment of sheer terror for her. Her screaming and jumping were more than I had bargained for, and my excitement dissolved into frightened tears. Her sobs and exclamations made her seem a stranger to me – not my gentle, quiet friend in the least.
By the time my grandfather appeared to inquire if the house was on fire, we were both so hysterical we couldn’t explain a thing. His befuddlement and helpless attempts to set things straight turned our crying into laughter as unstoppable as the tears had been. He walked away unenlightened and muttering something about fickle females. We stayed friends, but never played that game again. I hope this memory gave Beulah a few chuckles to remember me by.
I state it publicly here, so that I’ll be able to prove my son Joshua and I thought it up if someone else writes a book about it: We think the zombies and vampires in movies express fears that are prevalent in the cultural sub-conscious: ‘fear of the unwashed masses,’ and ‘fear of the elite’.
Doesn’t it make sense that the general (i.e. non-Catholic) public would have inarticulate fears, as ever was, of all things remotely Catholic? And what’s more ‘Catholic’ than poor, breeding, unstoppable masses of superstitious people who threaten the Hygenic, Good People? Or, what’s more ‘Catholic’ than vaguely European (i.e. sexy) eternal, blood-swilling, castle-dwelling guys in black with aristocratic pretensions and the desire to get everyone into their power?
Just sayin’…. 🙂
One of my all-time favorite teaching experiences was a five-day poetry intensive for middle-school homeschoolers. I wrote a book just to get ready for this one, and hope to do it all over again some time. Meanwhile, I’ve adapted the material for parents, and for a high school classroom, and enjoyed those venues, too. For all audiences, I stress the importance of poetry, and poetic education, in the life of a soul.
One of the exercises I thought up generated some of the best little poems. I asked the kids to choose an object – house, hat, shoes, animal – and think of five of those as different from one another as possible. We all (yes, I played, too!) wrote out descriptions of our five-of-one-things (mine were hats) and then personified each one, based on the characteristics suggested by the descriptions. In the interest of sharing this exercise, and some poetry that’ll likely never otherwise get published, here are the five hats I came up with:
My hat Maureen is a drama queen –
so mysterious, soft and serious,
wide brim shades her violet eyes,
purple flair for a touch of surprise,
ribbon trailing her,
dark net veiling her,
Every head in the room
tough brown felt, for working hard,
he strides into a room all quiet and slow,
his sweat-stained brim rolled up just-so,
faded and hardened by wear and weather,
is just a cap.
His sole ambition
is goin’ fishin’.
Worn and faded,
with never a frown,
perked up by ornaments
hooked in his crown.
Suzy Sunshine, made of straw,
blue gingham holds her posey.
A smiling, crumpled, outdoor girl,
with freckles on her nosie.
in her best Sunday hat.
All the rest’s hats cannot touche
the satin rouche on her yellow crown.
Mrs. Milliner goes beribboned
to Sunday service to advertise.
All the ladies there
notice all the care
taken to place her flowers just right.
She’s a leader in high society,
if not in humble piety.
Every Sunday’s a thrilling show –
her glory sets most hearts aglow!
Here’s a collection of my talks that feature poetry, poems, or poetic formation.
How do you get from three wishes to magnifying God to lions and seeds and Holy-Holy-Holy to rubber bands, balls and balloons?? Well, I’ll tell you! You ask for this talk. It’s a lot of fun to give, and very hard to sum up in a short precis. I’m giving a picture of the glorious freedom of the children of God as fully real, fully realized, three dimensional, whole. To do that, I have to get my audience to speak that same language. We do that with concrete examples of three kinds of balance. I hate to say it, but you really just have to be there!