South Carolina

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My travels and adventures lately haven’t been as exciting as Dinner with the Carters or Winter in New England, but that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting still.

Most recently, I traveled to the Gray Episcopal Camp and Conference Center in Canton, Mississippi (Did you learn to spell Mississippi the same way I did?) for a weeklong retreat for writers, sponsored by the Collegeville Institute, Millsaps College, and The Center for Ministry. Ultimately, I think it was Lilly Foundation money.

Participation was competitive. We had to submit something we’d written, and twelve of us were selected. Like the disciples? That was pretty cool. The event was free, though we had to pay for our own transportation to get there and back. That’s a ten-hour car trip in each direction, so I decided to drive. I spent some time, going and coming, with my Uncle Butch and Aunt Kari in Atlanta.

When I travel, I literally get out an old-fashioned paper map (remember them?) and draw a circle around my destination(s) to discover what interesting sites I can fit into my itinerary. The most obvious was the Vicksburg National Military Park, location of a deadly Civil War siege and battle. I visited there with my parents, grandparents, my brother, and Uncle Butch when I was a young teenager, maybe age fourteen, so I remember it well.

Then, nudged by one of those occasional moments of moral reflection, I wondered why I would willfully choose to re-visit a Civil War site. After all, we have been in a heated national conversation about how much we should venerate these painful Civil War memorials. I have all of that I need in South Carolina without traveling to the Mississippi River.

A point of particular aggravation to me is that our tourism board ignores the fact that the Revolutionary War happened in South Carolina! My name is Marion, after all, in honor of Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, the Patriot! You can be at his burial site on the Belle Isle Plantation in Pineville, SC, less than a two-hour trip from my front door. Yet, we largely snub those sites while still glorifying the few Civil War events that happened within our state.

So, I made the decision to go to Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi and William Faulkner. Good decision. My cousin Lola was kind enough to drive down from Memphis so we could have a meal and spend the evening together. Lola is a much younger cousin. When I was fifteen, she was five, so she was a little kid, easy to ignore back then. But we discovered one another as adults and bonded over family, faith, and politics. Great evening of catching up with her.

Faulkner’s home was, frankly, a disappointment, but I’m glad I was able to spend time in Oxford.

At the writers’ retreat, we visited Eudora Welty’s home in Jackson, and that was a much more interesting tour than the time at the Faulkner residence.

The Gray Conference Center is a lot like similar venues in South Carolina: ponds, woods, and hiking trails. Very fine writers had been selected to participate. There’s an advantage to having a competitive means of extending invitations. These were not wannabe authors. These were competent men and women of faith and literary skill. The facilitator was Robert Benson, a successful, insightful, and entertaining writer and retreat leader. His main message, at least what I came away with, was, “Write.” The conference provided plenty of time to do that. We listened to one another as each of us read what we had written.

It was a good week, and, now, here I am, writing.

Marion Aldridge

PS: If you would like to apply for next year’s retreat, Rebecca Youngblood is the brain behind the event:

The Center for Ministry

Box 150041, Millsaps College

1701 N State St

Jackson, MS 39210

601-974-1488

www.centerforministry.com

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Carolina Baptist in Two Yankee Winters

For two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017, I’ve confused my seasons and moved North in the dead of winter. Minus seventeen degrees was the lowest temperature—on a Sunday morning! Church was not cancelled. Here are a few observations:

Calling/Vocation—I didn’t initiate either of these experiences. I’m a retired pastor/preacher/church consultant who lives in South Carolina with my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. During the last fifteen years, I’ve worked with churches in crisis or transition. My skill set is to serve as a “bridge” from their past to their future. Trinity Baptist Church in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Wilton Baptist Church in Wilton, Connecticut, needed help. They called. I responded. It’s a good thing to feel useful. It’s even better to be useful. I’m grateful for all my friends who encouraged and/or prayed for me. Trinity called a fine young pastor and Wilton, I believe, is close to calling someone as their pastor. I’ll keep you posted.

Family—Anyone who knows me understands that family is important. Sally and I have been married 44 years. Our daughter Jenna, son-in-law Thorne, and Grandson Lake live three blocks from Sally and me. They eat supper with us every Sunday night. On the other hand, our daughter Julie and her husband Tom live outside Boston, a long way from South Carolina. I don’t like that distance at all. By being in New England for good chunks of 2016 and 2017, Julie, Tom and I could get together about once every three weeks. I loved, loved, loved those times. Francis Bacon said something like this: “If the mountain can’t come to Mohammed, then Mohammed can go to the mountain.” So, off to New England, I traveled.

Adventure—What’s not to like about a Currier & Ives Winter Wonderland? For someone with an incurable case of wanderlust, New England is an attractive option. Ivy League schools, hockey games, moose, frozen ponds and rivers, all sounded intriguing. Merely sightseeing (no offense to my touristy friends) is not an adventure. Getting out of my comfort zone is. I dreaded the idea of shoveling snow, but that worked out just fine. Also, I was aware of the proximity of New Hampshire to Canada and Connecticut to New York City, so I took advantage of both. I spent a few days in Montreal and several days in Manhattan. I saw four Broadway plays. I toured West Point. I loved the picturesque town squares and greens, as well as the streams, waterfalls, hills and wildlife, the covered bridges, mansions, churches, shops, restaurants, museums, and monuments I discovered all over New England, from Newport, Rhode Island, to Walpole, New Hampshire, to Quechee, Vermont, to New Haven, Connecticut, to Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Lots of beauty, lots of history, and lots of fine food!

(Bonus points for Adventure: Dartmouth College was an intriguing part of my 2016 experience. As the Baptist Student Minister for the campus, I had access to libraries, lectures, and other aspects of campus life. I took continuing education courses.

Serendipity—Food! I’ve never taken a road trip for the sake of a culinary experience, but neither have I shied away from dietary excellence. King Arthur Flour was a highlight of my first winter away—pastries, breads, desserts. Incomparable. The farms of Vermont and New Hampshire produce some of the best cheeses you will ever taste. This year, I discovered the restaurants in the corner of Connecticut where I lived were exceptional, with a commitment to locally grown meat and vegetables. On my last trip into New York City (the train ride costs only $8.50), I determined to eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I couldn’t afford most of them—over $300 for a fixed price meal. I discovered NoMad was within my price range, made a reservation, and had one of the great dinners of my life.

Being alone—Traveling by myself has, of course, pluses and minuses. I’ve blogged about that before. I’m comfortable with Quiet Time. I read a lot. I write. I walk. I think. I eat. I read. I eat. I walk. I read. I eat. I’m perfectly content to go to a baseball game, a high school musical, or a museum tour by myself. I prefer to be with someone, but that’s not always possible.

In case I sound a bit too blasé or pious about all this time unaccompanied, let me be clear: both years, I got very lonely. The adventure wore off. I’m sure I don’t want to spend a full winter in New England or apart from Sally again. Sally and I really missed each other. She came up once during each of these sojourns for about a week. Thank God for those occasions when friends or family called or visited or wrote. Sometimes, member of the Trinity and Wilton congregations reached out to me, and sometimes I reached out to them, so I also enjoyed local fellowship.

I’ve reflected about people who have no choice about living alone: widows and widowers. I’m sensitive to the fact that being by yourself is not always a choice. It can be painful. I’m fortunate. I came home to a wife who loves me.

Until the wanderlust strikes again, or, until I get a phone call, whichever comes first, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Homeward Bound

Having been in New England for ten of the past sixteen months, I’ve thought a lot about home.

With respect to Robert Frost, home is the place where they’re glad to take me in.

Sally, Jenna, and Julie are home to me, wherever they are.

Home is sleeping in my bed with my wife.

Home is our cat, Caesar, loving me as if I’d never been gone.

Home is grilling salmon on our patio. Home is our bright red Japanese Maple tree.

Home is a hug from the lady at the dry cleaners who missed me. Home is friends at Kathwood Baptist Church welcoming me back.

Home is my Grandson Lake showing up at our house at 6:45 a.m. wanting blueberry muffins on Thursday morning.

Home is my shower, my pillow, and my favorite coffee mug. Home is iced tea with mint freshly picked from our garden. Home is my bookshelves with my books with my favorite passages underlined. Home is being surrounded by memorabilia from Charleston, Cooperstown, Scotland, Italy, Turkey, Kenya, and Romania.

Home, for me, are tigers, tigers everywhere.

Home is driving on familiar roads and walking on familiar sidewalks.

Home is my Dad’s picture on the wall and my Mother’s baking sheets (which we still use to make chocolate chip cookies) in our kitchen cabinet.

Home is my back porch where I eat breakfast and drink coffee as many days of the year as possible, January through December. I love it, especially the sound of the birds singing, the toot of the railroad train not far away, and the kids waiting for their school bus. When Sally, Jenna, Julie, sons-in-law Thorne and Tom, or friends join me, there is no better place in the world.

Home.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island

A Cold Day for Clemson Baseball in Rhode Island (and an Excellent Day for Gamecock Basketball in New York City)

Yesterday, March 24, the fourth day of Spring, I drove to Kingston, Rhode Island, from New Canaan, Connecticut, to watch Clemson University play Boston College in baseball. Boston College’s home field was a mess, we were told, so the game was moved to the University of Rhode Island.

As a Clemson fan and a baseball fan, this was close enough for me, a two-hour drive, each direction. I took the day off and headed up I-95 to watch a 1 p.m. game. We were having a warm spell, about 39 degrees with a wind chill making it 30ish. I wore long underwear, a beautiful orange and white checked Clemson Tiger Paw shirt nobody ever saw, a pullover Clemson jacket, an L. L. Bean outer coat, a Scottish wool scarf with some orange in it, a Clemson baseball hat, a Clemson stocking cap, and some New England rated winter gloves. It was not enough.

The University of Rhode Island has 16,000 students compared to Clemson’s 21,000. The town of Kingston is much smaller than Clemson, however. You must drive on a sorry two-lane road to get there. Intended ironically, considering the size of the state, the campus theme was BIG, as in “Think Big.”

My buddy Larry Abernathy, who was Mayor of Clemson for 28 years, went with Clemson City Council members to other small towns (with major Universities) around the US to compare town and gown experiences. I’m glad he never wasted time in Kingston. Clemson does town-and-gown about as well possible, thanks to a good mayor and fine Clemson Presidents, especially R. C. Edwards, Jim Barker and Jim Clements.

The baseball game was scheduled for one p.m. but was mysteriously postponed for an hour because of weather. So I walked around the hilly Rhode Island campus to get in a three-mile walk. Much smaller campus than Clemson, but with a very traditional quadrangle and granite buildings. A few modern buildings. Nothing very exciting. Not very Big.

The baseball “stadium” was a joke, not Big, so I can’t imagine how bad the Boston College field must be to have the game transferred to Kingston. The smallest high schools in South Carolina have more seating. The field was green and nice enough, but one small set of movable aluminum stands was all that existed for the fans. A few brought their own folding chairs and the rest of us stood and walked around to stay warm.

When the sleet finally started (yes, you read that correctly) at 2 p.m., the umpires said, “Play ball,” and the game was on. Clemson is the better team, ranked number six in the nation right now. The collegiate national player of the year, Seth Beer, is an outfielder for Clemson. I met his parents who were there in the cold to cheer their son and Clemson. We had two runs after four batters. After two innings we had five runs. Final score was 8-2. Attendance was announced as 107 but that may have included both teams.

After the game, I found a beautiful, old, local bookstore and bought a couple of John D. MacDonald novels, then drove to the coast, just a few miles away, for some seafood. The bookstore owner had called ahead for me to make sure her favorite restaurant was open: Champlin’s. It was. This is a fish-camp, picnic-table type establishment, and, since March is off-season, I had the entire place to myself. I watched the fish and lobster boats return to the Galilee Port in Narragansett. I ordered fried oysters and fried scallops, more grease than I’ve had in six months. I paid for it on the two-hour drive home with a tummy that was desperately unhappy.

When I retuned to my apartment, my day ended with watching the University of South Carolina Gamecocks obliterate the Baylor Bears. It was a nice ending to a cold winter New England day.

Categories: Baseball, Holiday, Humor, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

We Were Wrong…

We Were Wrong…

Marion Aldridge

As I matured as a Christian, I reflected, long, often, and sometimes sadly, even painfully, about much of what I believed as a youngster, and into adulthood. Because my doctrines, my ethics, and my habits have sometimes undergone enormous changes, there may be those who are presumptive enough to wonder if I lost my faith.

Quite possibly, I lost your faith. I found my faith. The Bible calls these transformations “repentance.” Here are some of my confessions:

WE WERE WRONG to believe that science and God could be enemies. Truth is truth wherever we find it.

WE WERE WRONG to assume uniformity in thought or action was better than independence or creativity.

WE WERE WRONG to accept what our culture taught us about racial segregation and the supposed inferiority of black people.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that we could somehow obey the Great Commission by paying for and praying for missionaries to go to Africa while ignoring the Great Commandments, disrespecting the African-Americans who lived down the dirt roads from our churches. We were either unaware or didn’t care that they often drank polluted water, had leaky roofs, and had no indoor plumbing.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that a glass of wine on Thanksgiving would send someone to hell but that it was okay for the preacher to be 100 pounds overweight and continue to stuff his face with fried chicken.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that people in other denominations who paid attention to the Christian calendar (Pentecost, Maundy Thursday, and Ash Wednesday, for example) were somehow less spiritual than Baptists who built their church calendar around secular holidays (such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and July 4).

WE WERE WRONG to believe we could be comfortable and Christian at the same time.

WE WERE WRONG to believe the primary thing that Jesus or the Christian faith cared about was Heaven and Hell.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that somehow America was the Kingdom of God.

WE WERE WRONG to believe the assumptions of our secular society, that bigger is better, that might makes right, that getting is better than giving.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that highlighting a few isolated verses could sum up the Bible, as if God could be contained in a bumper sticker.

WE WERE WRONG to trivialize prayer, as if getting all the things we want is the point!

WE WERE WRONG to believe God intended to silence the female half of the human race.

WE WERE WRONG to assume other people could practice the Christian faith on our behalf: pastors, missionaries, youth ministers, and social workers. When was the last time you got to know a welfare mother or a drug addict?

WE WERE WRONG to say there is only one biblical way to focus on the family. The family of Abraham looks different than the family of Jesus, which looks different than the family of King David, which looks different than the family of Mary and Martha, which looks different than the family of Esther and Mordecai.

WE WERE WRONG to think that Roberts Rules of Order, rather than the Bible, is the primary guide for working out disagreements in our churches.

WE WERE WRONG to teach (or imply) that talking, telling, and preaching, was more important than listening. The great sin of the Old Testament, according to Roy Honeycutt, was “They would not listen.”

WE WERE WRONG to let bullies, blamers, gossips, and other spiritually unhealthy people dominate the conversations and the decisions in many of our congregations.

WE WERE WRONG to think that repentance was primarily for non-Christians outside of our churches instead of for those of us inside. The more I know about Jesus, the Bible, the Christian faith, and the Holy Spirit, the more I know I am called to change, to repent.

WE WERE WRONG to believe that any tradition, law, bible, preacher, program, building, doctrine, convention or any other part of creation—even if God made it and blessed it—could possibly be as important as the Creator.

This, by the way, is the short list. I could write a book!

I have always been a loyal kind of guy. For decades, I hung in there, as much as possible, with the ecclesiastical world I inherited. I knew racism was wrong, however, and one by one, I began confronting the errors and inadequacies of my childhood experiences. I am grateful for the church of my childhood, for my family, for the appropriate lessons from my South Carolina culture. But I am also grateful I had permission to continue to grow, to get un-stuck from the habits, behaviors and beliefs of my childhood and adolescence.

(Four years ago, I wrote this column for the newsletter of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina.)

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, Holiday, Lists/Top Ten, Race, South Carolina | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution

The Swamp Fox: How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution by John Oller

Book Reviewed by Marion D. Aldridge

In my high school graduating class (North Augusta High School—in South Carolina, across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia) of 222 teenagers, there were at least three male Marions, maybe more, and at least one female Marian. You don’t get those percentages in Minnesota or New Mexico.

Because of South Carolina’s most prominent Revolutionary War hero, Francis Marion, “Marion” became a popular regional name for all children, especially boys.

My parents considered putting Francis Marion on my birth certificate, but to honor an uncle on each side of the family, I became Marion Douglas Aldridge.

My ears always perk up when I encounter the name of Francis Marion. During my Junior High years, Walt Disney produced eight episodes of The Swamp Fox, starring Leslie Nielsen. I watched them all. I read Francis Marion biographies. Later, in 2000, when Mel Gibson portrayed the Marion-based character in The Patriot, the elusive hero was nicknamed “the Ghost.”

One of the traditional difficulties of getting to know Marion better is the mythology that surrounds his life. The first biographies were pure hero-worship, as much fiction as truth.

So, when a new, better biography of Francis Marion was published in 2016, I bought and read it immediately. John Oller delivers the goods. Well-researched, footnoted thoroughly, yet very readable, Oller has given us a book we’ve needed and wanted for several decades.

South Carolina has been so enamored with the Civil War, we’ve pretty much ignored the Revolutionary War which happened, to a great extent, within South Carolina. Why haven’t our state and national park systems done a better job of paying attention to the sites of Francis Marion’s skirmishes? Why aren’t the students of West Point sent to South Carolina to study the military tactics of the Swamp Fox? Why hasn’t South Carolina’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism created billboards at every I-95 exit pointing to the small but significant locations of these South Carolina battle grounds that were vital to our nation’s independence? I would love to go to Snow’s Island, Marion’s Headquarters/Retreat, but I’ve never figured out a way to get there.

Readers with a knowledge of South Carolina geography will have an easier time with some of the obscure battle sites than those with no previous knowledge of South Carolina’s rivers, marshes, and towns. That many of the important locations are now under massive lakes doesn’t help. The volume contains a map of “The Principal Theater of the Campaigns of Francis Marion” which demonstrates the scope and shows the exact localities of Francis’s military activity. I suspect the fact that Marion didn’t venture into neighboring states has muted his national reputation somewhat. But the subtitle of the volume is true: “How Francis Marion Saved the American Revolution.” I’d always heard, and Oller verifies, “More places have been named for Marion than any other Revolutionary War figure, excepting Washington. According to a current memorial project in the nation’s capital, Marion has lent his name to twenty-nine cities and towns and seventeen counties across America, not to mention a four-year university, a national forest, and a small part on Capitol Hill that cries out for a monument in his honor.”

You don’t have to be named Marion for this biography to be significant. Oller provides a grand overview of the history of South Carolina during the Revolutionary War years. An example that caught me by surprise was how fluid was the movement between the American Patriots and the British Loyalists: “Several Tories captured by Marion at Black Mingo took an oath of allegiance and joined his brigade.” Wow!

Unfortunately, I was taught very little American history in high school or college, a deficiency I regret.

The Swamp Fox, by John Oller, is helping me catch up.

 

 

Categories: Book Review, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Take My Breath Away

“The most completely lost of all days is that in which one has not laughed.” Nicolas Chamfort

Birthdays with a Zero in them are fine times for reflection. February 11, 2017, I turned 70.

I’ve enjoyed hundreds, thousands of moments that have taken my breath away. I’ve fallen in love and married. We’ve celebrated 44 anniversaries. I’ve watched the birth of two daughters. I baptized both of them.

I’ve been blessed to participate in the spiritual growth of many folks. I’ve helped alcoholics get sober. I’ve seen people whose lives were pure chaos find order, salvation and peace. I’ve watched rigid, self-righteous people discover grace. More importantly, I discovered grace for myself and for others.

In Mauritania, I got stuck in the Sahara Desert in a four-wheel drive vehicle. That might have taken my breath away but I found a small tent village and took a nap. You must have priorities!

I’ve watched Clemson win two National Championships in football. Exhilarating!

It’s a rush to hold a book you wrote that’s been published. I’ve had that privilege four times.

I survived two serious car wrecks, one with a fully loaded logging truck.

Sally and I were on a transatlantic flight when one of the plane’s engines blew. We heard it. No doubt about what had happened. Potentially breathtaking experience. Literally. When we landed, two dozen emergency vehicles followed our plane down the runway.

My two best friends died. Soul-crushing experiences. Even at their memorial services, we found ways to laugh.

I’ve listened to Ella Fitzgerald in concert. Magnificent.

I’ve seen Greg Maddux pitch. Incredible.

In Kenya, I’ve seen elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras, and ostriches in their natural habitat. Wow!

On Folly Beach, South Carolina, I watched loggerhead turtles bursting from their brittle eggshells and clawing their way across the sandy beach into the Atlantic Ocean. Awe-inspiring.

With my grandson, Lake, we peered over the edge of the Grand Canyon, then rafted on the Colorado River.

With my daughter, Julie, we watched whales and caught lobsters off the coast of Massachusetts. Incredible.

With my daughter, Jenna, my grandson Lake, and my wife Sally, we climbed to the top of Machu Picchu. Then, we hiked in the Amazon Rain Forest. Mindboggling experiences.

Two pieces of advice I got from Jerry and Jane Howington when I was a teenager: “Keep on keeping on” and “Hang in there.”

“I’m so excited. I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.” The Pointer Sisters

Categories: Baseball, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Football, Humor, South Carolina, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Strays

Sally and I have a long history of taking in strays—the human kind. I’m referring to a scale grander than hosting friends and family in our guest room overnight or for half a week.

Over the years, we’ve opened our doors to a wide assortment of total strangers for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years.  I’m not counting the dozens of teenagers who, it seems, half-lived at our house while Jenna and Julie were growing up. And I’m not counting Fuzzy, who is a category all his own.

An early failure was in response to a campaign here in South Carolina that “Runaway Kids Don’t Belong in Jail.” Our state’s unfortunate response to children (under age 16) who were homeless was to incarcerate them. We agreed to keep one or two. Some stuff got stolen. The program failed.

Another early failure was a couple, somehow related to our church in Batesburg. They had difficulty with life in general and were kicked out of their apartment. They stayed with us a few weeks, and then moved on to whatever was next for them.

Then came a series of memorable successes where a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a friend of a family member had a specific short term need, often having something to do with a local college. I don’t remember the exact chronology, but I’m glad each of these good souls came into our life:

Jennifer Thrailkill Seigler babysat for Jenna and Julie when we lived in Batesburg. Sally taught Jennifer sixth grade math. When we moved to Columbia, Jennifer said she would come live with us while she was in school. She did. She stayed for a couple of years and became a heart x-ray technician.

Second cousin, once removed, Becky Cremer Taylor (daughter of first cousin Lola) used our house as a retreat from her college dormitory a few times during her four years at Presbyterian college.

Christen Green Kinard (Sissi) also retreated with us during her college years. But since Sissi’s parents were overseas, in Belgium, where we had become friends, we became surrogate parents. It would be hard to say when retreating with us stopped and living with us started. Here is what Sissi wrote on Facebook yesterday after we went to her Dad’s 60th birthday party:

  • “I am one of Marion and Sally’s many strays. They took me in when things were rough in college, fed me expensive cheese regularly, woke me up too early on the weekends and just generally loved me when I was hardest to love. Thank you, both, for being our family. We love you.” (Note: Sissi was never hard to love.)

Jenny Johnson Rooks, daughter of J.J. Johnson, almost a relative (through my beloved cousin Patsy) stayed with us, if I remember correctly, once a week for a year or two while she became a nurse. Who knows when we’ll need the services of these medical caregivers?

Ryan Payne, a friend of our niece’s (Hope Craig) husband, came for a continuing education course, and stayed a while working on his teaching credentials.

Irina Pevzner stayed with us a couple of nights each week for a few years while working on her Ph.D. in piano performance at USC. She got it! She is the Director of the Charleston Academy of Music. We’ve gone to Spoleto a few times to hear her perform. I officiated at her wedding.

Our most recent adoptee is Ramin Pajoumshariati, from Iran, on a post-doctoral fellowship at USC. Ramin only stayed at our house a couple of weeks. I helped him find a permanent place to stay and Kathwood Baptist helped furnish his apartment. His bride, Kimia Yavari, a medical doctor, arrived a year later. She and Ramin have won our hearts. We are trying to help them get Green Cards. Keep them in your prayers.

Sally and I agree that we have received far more from these strays than we have given. They have blessed us beyond words.

Marion (and Sally) Aldridge

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Familiar

South Carolina is home. I loved my half-year in New Hampshire: new sights, new experiences and new friends. Moose. Live Free or Die. Minus seventeen degrees one Sunday. I enjoyed being close to my daughter Julie and her husband Tom for six months. I grew fond of the people at Trinity Baptist Church of Hanover.

But I’m clear, even in 102-degree heat, I love my home state and my home.

I believe in travel, and I believe in getting to know other cultures, other histories, and other ways of thinking.

But I missed the familiar. I missed my wife Sally and my cat Caesar. I missed Sunday night supper at our house with my daughter Jenna, her husband Thorne, and my grandson Lake. I missed old friends who live near enough to see frequently. I missed my church. I missed our back porch and Sally’s garden. I missed the American flag in front of our house (occasionally replaced by a Tiger Paw flag). I missed being surrounded by my books. I missed walking in our neighborhood. I missed the pictures on the wall of my study and the mementos I’ve collected from around the world. I missed our shower. I even missed our dishwasher.

The familiar is seductive. It’s tempting to stay there and never leave, never experience the unfamiliar. I’m glad I resisted the comfort of my nest and ventured out.

Even more, I’m glad to be home.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Holiday, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Death of an Important Person

“Every teenager needs an adult friend.”

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

I believe that. I had a good Mom and Dad, but it is impossible for two people to teach a child everything about life. Other influences are needed. Some even teach us what not to do: an abusive uncle, a racist granddad, a mean neighbor.

My Uncle Tom Hipps died yesterday, in his mid-eighties, my mother’s last living brother. His wife, my Aunt Mildred, died a few years ago. They helped raise me. Our family took summer vacations to Alabama to see Mother’s people. When I was seven, and Edmund was nine, Mother and Dad left us with Uncle Tom (age 25?) and Aunt Mildred for two weeks. We rode the bus back from Birmingham to Augusta—by ourselves. It was a different era.

We repeated that pattern for a dozen years, by which time I stayed the entire summer. My first two summer jobs were in Birmingham. I loved, loved, loved Tom and Mildred and their children, Tommy, Von, Vickie, Terri, and Karen.

Tom and Mildred were very different than Mother and Dad, less strict, more fun-loving. They were more lenient. They prepared different food and had different cleaning routines. Of course, I washed dishes in North Augusta and Birmingham.

Aunt Mildred produced a new baby each year and, in turn, I helped raise their children.

In Birmingham, in addition to different authority figures, I had different next-door neighbors, a different preacher, a different Sunday school teacher, and a different boss on my summer job. I needed models in addition to what I was getting in North Augusta. I discovered aunts and uncles I didn’t like and others I loved dearly. It was good for me to have a choice of ways to be human.

I extend my sympathy to my cousins. I am sorry for your loss. You had two wonderful parents. I will miss them more than you know.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health, South Carolina, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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