Thursday, October 23, 2008

Part I - The Grown-Ups

Poem excerpt at the beginning of the chapter:

My boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthroned and rulers of the earth,
But higher far my proud pretensions rise,-
The child of parents passed into the skies.
William Cowper

The name of the first chapter is "The Grown-Ups". I cannot type the whole chapter - it is far too long, but I can type a portion of it:

"The home of my childhood was in the suburbs of Philadelphia, readily accessible by train to the city, but in those days sparsely settled and alluringly primitive. We lived in a big house with long flights of stairs which led from one part to the others. A cellar and attic with dark mysterious corners extended the length and width of the house below and above. A deep porch, in summer inviting with rocking chairs and low-swinging hammock and screened in by heavy masses of fragrant honeysuckle, stretched along the front and one side almost reaching another porch which in September was heavy with the scent of white clematis. The house was set in a wide lawn with rose bushes untidy in their profusion on either side of the entrance walk. Back of the house was a dark forest - too far away to cast the shadows of its great trees on our lawn yet near enough to be an important part of the landscape and of our daily lives.

It was a large family that lived there - Father and Mother, and five of us children, and Grandma, and two cousins of Mother's who were nearly as old as Grandma, and Great-Aunt Lizzie who was paralyzed and required a trained nurse. In spite of their size, families then seemed to get along together better than they do today. There were no two-room apartments or old people's institutions to which parents and grandparents were consigned so that young couples could have their homes to themselves. Nearly all of our little friends had grandmas and grandpas living with them - indeed a family without one didn't seem complete at all. It was a wonderful training in learning how to get along with people. We were taught to have the greatest respect and consideration for all the older members. Even if we would on occasions disobey Mother, we would never think of disobeying them.

My only recollection of Great-Aunt Lizzie is an old lady dressed in a long black dress always seated in a wheel chair who, on our visits to her room, would show us her poor crippled hand and ask if we didn't thin it opened more than it had when we were there before. She was a godly woman and had been for many years a city missionary. But a stroke had paralyzed one side of her body and brain, and although she could talk beautifully about many things, yet at times she would swear most dreadfully. the profanity she had heard so often in her work among drunkards and libertines had evidently stuck in her subconsciousness and when her mind could not function properly, it came out - so it was explained. As a result, it was only occasionally that we were allowed to visit her for no one could tell when one of these fits of swearing would come upon her.

I remember so well the day when, through the carelessness of a hired girl who had set an oil lamp directly under a lace curtain, a fire broke out in the second story front room. as it was confined to that part of the house, we children were sent to Aunt Lizzie's rooms. Immediately upon arrival, as we were very young and thoughless, we announced excitedly that the house was on fire and she would burn up because she sat in a chair and oculdn't possibly run when it reached her room. Poor Aunt Lizzie! what a dreadful state she was in when Mother and the nurse returned. She did some swearing that day!

When the firemen had gone, and we had returned ot our rooms, we found them not only somewhat charred and disarranged by empty of a number of things. Among the things missing was a highly colored glass picture which had hung on one of the front windows reflecting all the brilliance of the sun in the rich robes of the figures, a picture which had always fascinated us. We learned that in the exdcitement the firemen had th4rown it and several other perishable and treasured things out of the windows, and had carried the pillows and rugs carefully down the stairs.

It was only when we were grown that we appreciated Aunt Lizzie's great labors among the downtrodden before she was stricken. One of her helpers had been young "Sam" Gordon, later well known as S.D. Gordon, author of "Quiet Talks."

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