Posts Tagged With: Family

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

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

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance, reviewed by Marion D. Aldridge

Hillbilly Elegy is a “New York Times #1 Bestseller,” and, according to all accounts, an Important Book, meaning, we should probably read it. Written before the 2016 election, it explains a lot about the perceived disestablishment of older white men throughout much of the country, the formerly powerful feeling powerless, and even the rise of Donald Trump. Hillbillies never had much clout, but Vance argues that, previously, they could at least make a living for their family.

Vance subtitled his volume, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. His roots are the mountains and hollers of Kentucky and sections of Ohio to which the economically depressed people of Appalachia transplanted themselves.

My dad’s family came from the Horse Creek Valley in the sand hills of South Carolina, in many ways similar to Vance’s Appalachia. My granddaddy and daddy were mill workers. My dad’s nickname was Rube, which means country bumpkin. The great difference in Vance and me appears to be that he blames his culture for the slights he’s endured in his thirty-one years of life, while I credit my family, as deprived economically as his, for providing a solid foundation of core values.

He writes, “Yes, my parents fought intensely, but so did everyone else’s.” I don’t believe that. It’s not even true of the other members of his extended family. Vance falls victim to universalizing his own experience. It makes a good story, but it ain’t necessarily so.

He bemoans his mother’s alcoholism and drug addiction, and I can feel his pain. He doesn’t burn with the anger of Pat Conroy who wrote creatively and passionately about his father’s abusiveness. But Vance writes well and interestingly about his family and culture. Yet, all the while, I kept thinking his issues were as much family as culture. After all, there are alcoholics and drug addicts in the wealthiest neighborhoods of every community. Maybe the numbers are disproportionately high in so-called hillbilly communities, but he didn’t convince me.

Obviously, culture affects us, whether we grow up with a military family that moves every few years, or in a Chinese neighborhood in San Francisco, or in an urban setting in Chicago, or on a small island in the Pacific.

Vance introduced me to a term with which I was not familiar, Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE), apparently a kissing cousin to PTSD, to explain symptoms in adults who suffered various types of emotional or physical violence in their childhood homes, e.g., a parent who attempted suicide. Such experiences are in no way limited to the people of Appalachia. Adversity also happens in Hollywood and Hawaii.

Vance’s anecdotes from his childhood are entertaining, but a few more statistics would have been helpful to make his case.

Vance comes close to being the definition of a “self-made man.” He quotes his sister Lindsay, “You have to stop making excuses and take responsibility.” After a rocky childhood, Vance joined the Marines, graduated from Ohio State University, and then finished Yale Law School. He has impressive credentials and is now, something of a media darling, a member of the Ivy League Elite. Upward mobility appears to be his mantra. He credits individuals within his culture and family system with being helpful but is openly disdainful of government involvement. Yet, public schools, the Marines, and the Ohio State University are all government entities.

I think both/and/and/and/and/and is more honest than either/or.

Family, local hillbilly culture, American culture, teachers, the Marines, personal decisions, intelligence, white maleness, dumb luck, grace, providence, and hard work are each a part of Vance’s success story.

I like this book. It’s easy to read and provocative. It’s one of the narratives of some working class white people, but not the whole story.

Categories: addiction, Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Family | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 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 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

Washington, D.C.: The Fifth Leg: July 2015

My grandson Lake missed his class trip to Washington D.C. this school year because he broke his knee playing soccer the day before the trip. That suited him just fine, but I was not a happy granddad. I think kids need to go to the Capital. I took my daughters and I wanted Lake to have the experience.

I gave him a list of options and told him to pick two:

1. Bureau of Engraving and Printing
2. Holocaust Memorial Museum
3. International Spy Museum
4. Library of Congress
5. Mt. Vernon
6. National Air and Space Museum
7. National Museum of the American Indian
8. Newseum
9. Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
10. Supreme Court Building
11. Tombs of the Unknown Soldiers
12. Trolley Tour or Duck Tour
13. US Capitol
14. White House tour

He picked the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (the Hope Diamond, dinosaurs, etc.) and the National Air and Space Museum. We also took a moonlight tour of the primary Washington D.C. monuments, a great decision. We took the “Old Town Trolley Tour,” and we highly recommend it. We rode past some sites, such as the Supreme Court, the Jefferson Memorial and the Capitol, but we stopped and spent time at the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. The trolley tour took three hours and was awesome for all ages. Our guide became emotional talking about the last inauguration with 800,000 gathered for the peaceful passing of power from one Head of State to another. Not many countries in the world do that, but we do. I’m proud to be an American. Some want their state to secede when the wrong party wins, or they want to turn their backs on our great democratic nation when their candidate loses. Not me. I’ve suffered through bad Presidents and benefited from the efforts of good Presidents. And, since I’m not God, I am continually surprised at some of the good done by politicians with whom I disagree and vice versa.

Our hotel, the W, was as close as you can get to the White House and the Washington Monument. Lake even took his soccer ball out to the Ellipse one afternoon and kicked it around while I sat on the ground nearby, leaning against a tree, and smoked a cigar.

We drove home to Columbia the next day and were happy to be back. My attitude is almost always that I’m glad to go and I’m glad to get home. Right now, I really don’t want to go much farther than West Columbia. It’s good to be with Sally. We went out last night for hamburgers and cooked hot dogs for lunch today, in honor of National Hot Dog Day.

The End

Categories: Family, Holiday, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mentors

We didn’t talk so much about mentors when I was growing up through my teens, twenties and thirties. I like that term and I also like the word “elders.” Every culture, from the Navajo to the Kurds had and has elders, men and women who invest time and energy in intentionally training, educating, demonstrating, forming, and mentoring those who are younger how to grow older. Here is my list of friends, more or less chronologically, who gave me knowledge of what it means to mature, to grow up. Some of these souls are no longer with us, and I don’t want to lose any more before giving a public Shout Out to…

Julian Bugg

Jerry and Jane Howington

Larry Abernathy

Herman McGee

Fuzzy Thompson

Charlie Shedd

Bob Stevens

Vernon Grounds

Horace Hammett

Henlee Barnette

Glen Stassen

Paul Carlson

Bob Mulkey

Howard McClain

Shelden Timmerman

Bill Bishop

Beth McConnell

Loretta Gunter

Ted Godfrey

Joe Darby

Randy Wright

I have great gratitude and Thanksgiving to those who influenced me immeasurably as a young adult and to those who are still making a difference in my life.

Parents Carlton and Allene Aldridge, wife Sally Craig Aldridge, daughters Jenna and Julie, as family, have all taught me more than words can say and are in a league of their own.

Thank you.

Categories: Faith/Spirituality, Family, Lists/Top Ten | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

At one time in my life, I believed each of these statements…

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  1. Dogs were males and cats were females.
  2. Pregnant women had eaten a watermelon seed, and the watermelon was growing inside them.
  3. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were real.
  4. My mom and dad were better Christians than our pastor and his wife because my mom and dad only had two kids which indicated they had had sex (whatever that meant) twice, and the pastor had four children which showed they had had sex four times.
  5. Saying the word “pregnant” was wrong. If the “condition” required a word, “expecting” was preferred.
  6. As a young entrepreneur, I thought I could sell two pieces of penny bubble gum for 3 cents. I learned I was wrong when I sat in front of our house on a busy street all day long and sold none.
  7. All Russians were bad.
  8. All Americans were good.
  9. Black people were somehow inferior to white people.
  10. You can trust people to do what they say they will do.
  11. Having an “official” forum (radio, television, pulpit or print media) suggests you must be right. People would say, “I heard it on the radio. It must be true.”
  12. North Augusta, South Carolina, was the capital of the world, and its geographical center.
  13. Schoolteachers do not curse.
  14. All families have a mother and a daddy.
  15. Powerful and important people (especially those in the church, the school, politics and the military) are good and are right and are to be respected and obeyed.
  16. People who drink alcohol are immoral, wicked people.
  17. Marriages should forever be full of romance and continuously happy. If married people argued, something was wrong with the marriage.
  18. My religious heritage provided the only right way to be in good standing with God.
  19. Foreigners or Immigrants who have difficulty with the English language are not as smart as “normal” people without accents.       (It did not occur to me, until embarrassingly late in my life, that the person who was struggling with English was at least bi-lingual—many immigrants speak or understand three or four languages—and I was the dolt with limited linguistic skills.)

(From Chapter 9 in my book, Overcoming Adolescence)

Categories: Book Review, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Happy Birthday, Jenna

Our Daughter’s 40th Birthday!

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Categories: Family | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Take Care of Yourself

About twenty years ago, as our daughters were becoming adults, I began using a parting mantra that was new to me. Instead of a simple “Good-bye” or “I love you” or “Be good,” I began to say, “Take care of yourself.”

The transition was intentional. No one had explicitly taught me self-care. I wanted Jenna and Julie to know it was not only okay, but also it was important that they care for themselves.

Sunday school classes, when I was growing up, taught children to memorize short Bible verses. One of those was “Bear one another’s burdens,” found in Galatians 6: 2. The lesson is that we are to help one another in times of need. No one in my family or church showed us, much less asked us to memorize, Galatians 6: 5, which reads, “Bear your own burdens.”

The result is that a lot of good Christian folks became excellent at taking care of other people and not so good at taking care of themselves. Taking care of others was considered a virtue and looking out for yourself was somehow sinful, egotistical and wrong. So, some of us went to work when we were sick. We stifled our opinions and gave into the whims of others. We didn’t stand a chance against bullies. We served others and didn’t allow them to serve us. We were big on Duty. Sometimes we overfunctioned in our zeal to take care of others.

At some point, I realized that Jesus said we are to love others as we love ourselves (Matthew 22: 37-40), not more than, not less than. I am part of God’s creation. Why would I take care of the “you” part of creation and not the “me” part of creation?

So, I changed my thinking. That is allowed. Actually, it is required if we are to grow!

So, don’t feel the need to argue when I say, “Take care of yourself.” It’s good advice.

Categories: addiction, Diet, Faith/Spirituality, Family, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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