Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Childhood Legacies

Fear has no wings – For our granddaughters 2019

I wrote this over two years ago., and am posting it again for our two beautiful granddaughters.

I was born into a Christian sub-culture driven by fear. Fear of the world, and fear of God whose all-seeing eye follows us day and night.

This was both comforting and terrifying. The world ‘out there’ was harsh and unforgiving. A dangerous place for little girls and big girls. I needed a Guardian.

Yet God’s all-seeing eye was taking notes. Was I being naughty or nice? Was I pleasing God or making God sad, angry or disgusted?

It was super-important to be productive as well as untouched and untainted by ‘the world.’ Evil lurked around every corner. Fear was the best preventive medicine I could take.

Fear helped me keep rules. Fear helped me develop keen eyes for what would please people in authority over me. Fear surreptitiously kept my hand to the grindstone. I wanted to be ready for the day when God would judge me for what I had done and not done.

I grew up without wings. Instead, I developed a remarkable talent for trying harder and jumping higher. Failure or even the whiff of failure was devastating.

Now, many failures later, I’ve begun developing tiny wings. Baby wings. The kind I trimmed back most of my life, trying to stay in the nest and out of trouble.

Being born plopped me into an aching world fraught with pain and anguish, troubles upon troubles. It’s impossible to stay out of trouble if I’m alive and breathing. Whether it’s my fault or not isn’t the issue.

Today I accept trouble in my life. Not because it’s good, but because it helps me develop baby wings. It helps me look up and around, gaining a glimpse of where I might fly next. I don’t want to waste more time trying to jump higher.

Here’s a favorite quote from Simone Weil’s Waiting for God. The highlighting is mine.

There are those people who try to elevate their souls
like someone who continually jumps from a standing position
in the hope that forcing oneself to jump all day—and higher every day—
they would no longer fall back down, but rise to heaven.
Thus occupied, they no longer look to heaven.

We cannot even take one step toward heaven.
The vertical direction is forbidden to us.
But if we look to heaven long-term,
God descends and lifts us up.
God lifts us up easily.

As Aeschylus says,
‘That which is divine is without effort.’
There is an ease in salvation more difficult for us than all efforts.

In one of Grimm’s accounts, there is a competition of strength
between a giant and a little tailor.
The giant throws a stone so high that it takes a very long time
before falling back down.
The little tailor throws a bird that never comes back down.
That which does not have wings always comes back down in the end.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 April 2017, reposted 6 June 2019
Photo of baby golden-eye ducks found at urbanpeek.com

Fear has no wings

I was born into a Christian sub-culture driven by fear. Fear of the world, and fear of God whose all-seeing eye follows us day and night.

This was both comforting and terrifying. The world ‘out there’ was harsh and unforgiving. A dangerous place for little girls and big girls. I needed a Guardian.

Yet God’s all-seeing eye was taking notes. Was I being naughty or nice? Was I pleasing God or making God sad, angry or disgusted?

It was super-important to be productive as well as untouched and untainted by ‘the world.’ Evil lurked around every corner. Fear was the best preventive medicine I could take.

Fear helped me keep rules. Fear helped me develop keen eyes for what would please people in authority over me. Fear surreptitiously kept my hand to the grindstone. I wanted to be ready for the day when God would judge me for what I had done and not done.

I grew up without wings. Instead, I developed a remarkable talent for trying harder and jumping higher. Failure or even the whiff of failure was devastating.

Now, many failures later, I’ve begun developing tiny wings. Baby wings. The kind I trimmed back most of my life, trying to stay in the nest and out of trouble.

Being born plopped me into an aching world fraught with pain and anguish, troubles upon troubles. It’s impossible to stay out of trouble if I’m alive and breathing. Whether it’s my fault or not isn’t the issue.

Today I accept trouble in my life. Not because it’s good, but because it helps me develop baby wings. It helps me look up and around, gaining a glimpse of where I might fly next. I don’t want to waste more time trying to jump higher.

Here’s a favorite quote from Simone Weil’s Waiting for God. The highlighting is mine.

There are those people who try to elevate their souls
like someone who continually jumps from a standing position
in the hope that forcing oneself to jump all day—and higher every day—
they would no longer fall back down, but rise to heaven.
Thus occupied, they no longer look to heaven.

We cannot even take one step toward heaven.
The vertical direction is forbidden to us.
But if we look to heaven long-term,
God descends and lifts us up.
God lifts us up easily.

As Aeschylus says,
‘That which is divine is without effort.’
There is an ease in salvation more difficult for us than all efforts.

In one of Grimm’s accounts, there is a competition of strength
between a giant and a little tailor.
The giant throws a stone so high that it takes a very long time
before falling back down.
The little tailor throws a bird that never comes back down.
That which does not have wings always comes back down in the end.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 April 2017

Photo of baby golden-eye ducks found at urbanpeek.com

Teach me to pray

children-praying-church

This sonnet by George MacDonald took me back to childhood struggles with public prayer. Especially public prayer in front of my father when we had daily Bible reading and prayer after breakfast. My child’s prayer follows MacDonald’s adult prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

Early Marriage | Part 22

FRASER_S_0146

~~~Our son, born in Boston, August 1998

July to August, 1968. I watch and feel my protruding belly take prodding kicks at all hours of the day and night from this unknown-gender life inside me. It’s almost impossible to get comfortable lying down. Or sitting down. Or standing up from sitting down. I have to pee every time I turn around. The Boston heat is sweltering.

I go to the Boston Lying In Hospital Clinic regularly, watch my weight and diet like a hawk, and arrange for a 6-week leave in August and September from my position as organist/choir mistress at the First United Presbyterian Church of Cambridge. I also arrange to work in the dean’s office at the Harvard Law School until two weeks before the due date.

D and I need to move out of Mr. Griswold’s house by Christmas. We know we’ll have an apartment, thanks to friends moving out in the fall. We’re at the top of the waiting list, though they’re not sure when they’ll move out, or how much furniture and baby equipment they’ll take with them.

Even though I’m the oldest of four daughters and have experience taking care of my sisters, I’m anxious! Not so much about giving birth as about the kind of mother I’ll be. Will I know what to do and when to do it? Will D be able to help me, or will I be pretty much on my own?

And then there are D’s fears. He’s been a child of divorce since he was 3 ½ years old. He didn’t see his father often; his single mother raised him the majority of the time. What does it mean for him to be a father?

I’m a worrier from way back. My intuition, experience and observation of friends tell me this could be the end of life as I know it. I fear that once again I’ll lose my identity as Elouise. Instead of being Mrs. D, I’ll become Mom. Generic Mom. The kind people tell bad jokes about or worship as though Moms were at least near-perfect.

Money, time, health (mine and Baby’s), David’s studies, my need for a life of my own. All this and more weighs on me. It feels like getting married without being ready. Maybe a bit like driving without a license, training program or instruction book. We already have Dr. Spock’s latest edition, but I haven’t read it yet.

In the end, these unknowns softened us, even though we were both anxious. It was like getting married. We didn’t have a clue what was coming next, yet we were committed to getting through it together.

I don’t think my experience was strange or unusual. Yet that didn’t make it easier. Just the thought, much less the reality of being responsible for the life and wellbeing of a helpless baby was enough to set me off.

There’s grace in not knowing too much about what’s coming down the road. Or about what you’ve already met up with down that road back there called Childhood. I was clueless about my past—not about what happened, but about how it had shaped me.

Not knowing this may have been a disadvantage. But it may also have been a gift. I didn’t feel pre-programmed to become a certain kind of parent, as though history would inexorably repeat itself.

I’d always thought the process of giving birth would be the most difficult part of all. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t the nightmare I expected. Becoming a parent was much scarier and way too real. No going back. We’re it! Coming, ready or not!

At first it was stranger than strange. Yet from the moment our son was born, something began happening in us. It happened when we held him and fed him. Watched him breathe in and out. Counted his tiny fingers and toes and responded to his cries and baby talk.

He was part of the family now, and we were at least ready enough.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 July 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, August 1968

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