We are removing the carpet and appliances and window coverings in our new home today. Twenty-one years ago, they were brand-spanking new – and top of the line. Ah – the best of the ‘80's. The carpet is wool, and a shade of green I have always loved; the drapes are clearly custom made from fabric whose patterns and colors I also like – but they are “dated.” Even without the furniture which the carpet and drapes set off, I can see the little home was more than cozy. The home was lovingly remodeled for an older woman – a widow; now she lives in a nursing home.
Twenty-one years ago, we were about to begin homeschooling our children who were in fifth and first grade with the Calvert School curriculum. Our home was not so color-coordinated – but it was comfy – and way nosier/messier and chaotic than this cottage for a single mature woman.
Perhaps, the former owner of our new home would agree with Mr. Wilder, the playwright: “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” (Our Town) If, twenty-one years ago, she looked with delight on her newly re-furbished home, did she ever anticipate a day when another woman would sweep away all her carefully designed choices?
Twenty-one years ago, I was able to have so many conversations with so many people: my mother was still alive, and so was Doug’s dad, and his mom and her husband; his brother was also still alive; my aunt and her daughter were still living; our kids were always about. Every once in a while I still catch myself thinking, “Oh, Mom would think this is crazy,” – or “I need to tell Virginia or Karen about this.” Death ended so many conversations – and distance now impedes others. When I surveyed the boxes of curriculum from Calvert I couldn’t imagine the time when no confluence of lesson plans and housekeeping and tending family would exhaust me. I told myself I would think about all the problems tomorrow, and sort them out. So focused on what I thought the prize is would be – a first rate education for our kids – I didn’t understand many parts of the advantages of simply being home with the world’s best kids.
Throughout the three-act play, Mr. Wilder, who embraced his Puritan heritage, inserted the hymn, “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.” (By John Fawcett) I urge you gentle reader to review its words, especially if some of your biding ties chafe.
If I could go back to August 14, 1988 – and just enjoy that day again – what would I have done? Like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” I am coming to see that the tragedy of death is not greater than the tragedy of living carelessly - assuming that tomorrow will be time enough to do and say all the little kindness we imagine we might do. When Emily Webb, after her death, steps into the past, revisiting the morning of her twelfth birthday - she sees how incredibly wonder-full that morning was – though it was not extraordinary – and how insensitive both she and her family were to its beauty.
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.
We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.
From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.