Addicted to Reading

Monday, January 30, 2012

Erasmus said, "When I get a little money, I buy books; and, if any is left, I buy food and clothes."

I'm not quite that bad, but the "not quite" is only because I'm addicted to food as well as books.

The school my children attended through 8th Grade is having its Scholastic book fair this month. Fortunately, I'm immune. That's because the school my daughter teaches at had its book fair in December, and I filled up on Scholastic books then.

I come from a family of readers. (What else would you expect with a name like Page?) But we had neither a local bookstore nor the money to spend there, so most of our reading material came from the school and county libraries. And living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where the deer outnumber the people, even the selection of library books was limited, so I ended up reading those books multiple times.

The Scholastic book orders that came to my classroom were the joy of my young life. My parents paid for one or two books a year, and I bought more when I had saved enough of my allowance. Of course, reading isn't limited to books, and I always had at least one magazine subscription. But I am eternally grateful to Scholastic for giving me the opportunity to buy books that weren't available at either library and that--wonder of wonders--I could actually own.

Because reading is an addiction I'm proud of.

Let It Snow

Monday, January 23, 2012

The six inches of snow we had on Friday wasn't the first significant snowfall this winter, and it was no big deal. Not for someone who grew up in Michigan and has spent most of her adult years in NW Indiana.

I love living in a part of the country that has four distinct seasons. And even though winter is not my favorite of the four, I love it, too.

The pristine look of newly fallen snow. The lace and spangles sewn onto trees and bushes by Mother Nature. Even the invigorating exercise when the snow is dry and easy to shovel.

Winter is great when I have gasoline in the snow blower and hats and gloves and boots to go with a nice warm coat. But since I can never be sure when that first significant snowfall will arrive, it pays to be prepared long before I expect it.

Death is like that, too. Roland's father was prepared. Dad and Mom not only got their wills in order, but they planned and pre-paid for their funerals. They even set aside the clothes they wanted to be laid out in. So when Dad died earlier this month, there was little left to do.

Still, wills and funeral arrangements are insignificant compared to the question of where we will spend eternity. Dad was a committed Christian, and he knew his answer to that question. When death came, he was prepared to spend the rest of his life with his Father.

The first snowfall can surprise us with its timing, and so can death. Are you prepared?

Precious Memories

Monday, January 16, 2012

The best Christmas present I got last month was the one I gave my mother.

I admit it. I gave my mother something I wanted myself. And I took it home with me rather than letting her keep it.

But Mama still appreciated the gift. That's because she believes in passing on memories, and my present allows her to do that.

My father took lots of slides as we grew up, so I gave Mama a machine that transfers slides to digital files. Daddy took this picture (as a slide) on Easter 1954, when I was three.

I don't have a slide projector and screen, and it's hard to divide one slide among three siblings, anyway. That's why the digital slide converter was the perfect gift for all four of us. It helps us share precious memories.

My parents did a good job preserving their memories for their children and grandchildren. My mother sought out and compiled a detailed family history going back to the early 1800s, when her ancestors were still in Germany. A family history rich in stories as well as dates. And Mama's memoirs tell about her life growing up. She didn't cover her adult years because my father included much of that information in his own memoirs, which became his vocation after he retired from the ministry. My father's family tree goes back to the 1600s for most branches, reaching into England and Canada. I wish I had more stories about my Daddy's early years and his ancestors (especially his Grandpa Gibson), but I still have a solid framework to pass on to my children.

The memories are skimpier on my husband's side. One of Roland's cousins several times removed put together an extensive family history for Roland's father's paternal side, and I am extremely grateful. Unfortunately, we don't have much of a family tree for Dad's maternal side or for either side of Mom's family. Dad didn't think his own life story was interesting enough to pass on, and Mom seems to feel the same way about hers. So I'm glad that we sat down with a tape recorder one Christmas and asked my in-laws a few questions about their early years.

Memories are precious, and once they are lost they can never be retrieved. So make sure you save yours and pass them on.

In Memory

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nolan Edmund Ray Camp, 1925-2012.

My father-in-law was permanently cured of his cancer on January 3, 2012, at the age of 86. His family will miss him, and his wife of 64 years will miss him most of all, but we rejoice knowing that he has gone to be with his Father.

Dad had his own brand of humor. In the early years of my marriage, he introduced me to people as "my daughter-in-law the liar--I mean the lawyer." And every time he found a new lawyer joke, he made sure I heard it. But he got along very well with this particular lawyer.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Dad never got beyond a high school education. Still, he always found a way to support his family. A hard worker, when the children were small he took a second job at a gas station to supplement his pay as a mailman.

Dad cared about the education his children received, sending his two sons and three daughters to a Lutheran school through eighth grade. The public school was nearby, and the Lutheran school was not within walking distance. Although tuition was free for church members, transportation wasn't. So the fares to ride the public bus system came out of his meager funds.

A committed Christian, Dad was very active in his church. When the time came to leave this world for a better one, he was ready.

Happy celebration, Dad.

I Wish You Courage

Monday, January 2, 2012

Schindler's List was the first.

On December 31, 1994, when our children were eleven and eight, we started a family tradition. We had always taken Caroline and John to the New Year's Eve service at our church, and that didn't change. But now we waited until after church to eat and had a supper consisting of cheese and crackers, raw vegetables, and bagels with cream cheese. And we ate on TV trays in the family room while watching a rented movie.

Schindler's List was rated R, but Roland and I thought our children show know about the Holocaust in all its horror. So we decided to watch the movie with them that New Year's Eve.

Some of the years following didn't have a Schindler's List equivalent, and then we selected lighter fare. But our first choice was always a movie that carried a strong message and was better watched in our presence.

As the children grew up and left home, Roland and I continued the tradition, although we now choose movies just because we want to see them. Last Saturday night's movie, however, fit the original criteria, and it happened by default. I wanted to see the movie, but Roland agreed mostly because he wasn't thrilled with any of the other choices. He thought it was a chick flick, and I expected it to be simple entertainment. We were both wrong.

We watched The Help.

I highly recommend The Help to anyone who hasn't seen it. I don't want to give away too much, but the basic plot revolves around a young journalist writing a book about the lives of black women working as maids in white households. On a deeper level, the movie deals with racism in the South in the early 1960s, and although it has touches of humor, it is also grimly realistic.

And it contains the same message as Schindler's List. Overcoming injustice takes a lot of courage, but it is worth the risk. We don't have to be part of the threatened group, either. Schindler was not a Jew, and the writer in The Help wasn't black. In fact, she was raised to be a typical Southern belle.

So here's my resolution for 2012 and my wish for you this year: to have the courage to take a stand against injustice.

That won't keep us safe, but it will make us better people.