Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Conversation

Early Marriage | Part 2

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Fall 1965-Spring 1966. That’s Park Street Church in the photo. It’s on a corner across from the Boston Common (to the left), and down the hill from the Statehouse. Stately and elegant, the church has a history of outdoor preaching at mid-day from the balcony you see above the corner doors. (click to enlarge)

I’ve never been a member of a church like this. In fact, I’m almost allergic to great big famous churches. Still, it’s an interesting church, and we decide to attend there.

On Sunday mornings traffic is decent. That makes it easier to navigate the twisting cow-path back streets of Boston. On the map below, Park Street is down on the left, just next to the green area–the Boston Common.

~~~Boston Street Map 1960s

~~~Boston Street Map 1960s

Every now and then the senior pastor of Park Street Church hosts a small group of students in his home. It’s for men interested in theological studies or in becoming ministers. Spouses are included, though I don’t remember meeting any except the pastor’s wife. As I said, it’s for men.

Sunday evenings we go to a group for young adults. Most are men, students in colleges and universities. Not many women. Definitely a place to meet, greet and look for interesting people. It seems women have yet to make a substantial mark on the Park Street Church.

Right now D and I are mingling with the large young adult group, meeting and greeting each other. The meeting hasn’t begun yet. Just the mingling.

The following short-version ‘dialogues’ are in my voice. You’ll have to imagine the other sides.

~Hi, I’m Elouise. Pleased to meet you. ‘Elouise.’ Yes, with a ‘u.’ It’s OK. I understand.
~Hi, I’m Elouise. Yes, I’ve been here before. No, I came with David. Yes, he’s my husband. Nice meeting you, too.
~Hi, I’m Elouise. It’s OK. It’s hard to remember names and faces. No, I came with David. See you around.
~Hi, I’m Elouise. That’s right; Elouise. No problem. I’m David’s wife. Nice meeting you, too. See you around.

Is there a sign on my back that says ‘MARRIED’? Why aren’t there more women here? Why am I here?

I know I’m a good listener. But do I really want to hear which courses everyone is taking this semester in college or at a university? Or who’s got which professor? Or the resounding silence with which I am received?

Who am I, anyway? I used to have a name, an identity, friends and a family. And people wanted to know what was happening in my life!

Today I have D. That’s all, besides myself. And ‘MRS’ emblazoned somewhere on my person or hovering above my head.

I know D is interesting. Have they already decided I’m not? Maybe they’re afraid of me. And where are all the women? Aren’t any of these men married? They seem to be allergic to me. Why am I here?

I move a bit closer to D. At least he knows who I am. D reaches his arm around me, smiles, and keeps talking. I think he wants to reassure me.

I’m thrilled to be married to D. But why do people look past me to D when we’re together? Some just walk on by without even acknowledging me. Am I invisible? I know I’m much shorter than D. But surely they see me! Am I that uninteresting?

After several weeks, it seems everybody knows D’s name. I can count on less than one hand how many know mine and actually talk to me. Though when they do talk to me, it’s usually about D! What am I? A robot? A decoration?

I tell D how I feel about this. He sees it, too. He tries to include me in conversations. Most of the time this works for about two seconds. It’s all in the eyes that look away, refocusing on D.

Sometimes I wish I hadn’t come.

To be continued. . . .

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 April 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, Spring 1966 (Park Street Church), and
http://www.city-data.com (Boston Street Map 1960s)

The Dean and I | Part 2

Dean's Office Langdell 2,1965

Mr. Griswold’s office, 1965

A grandfatherly looking gentleman opens his office door and comes out to greet me. He’s wearing a plain dark gray suit and a tie. He has graying hair and a serious yet friendly face. I like his unassuming demeanor. This is not what I expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Mom, I miss you.

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Forsythe Park Fountain, Savannah, Georgia

Dear Mom,
I miss you. I’d love to sit down with a cup of tea and continue the conversations we had before your stroke. Though you didn’t particularly like all my questions about your past, you did your best to answer them.

I’m grateful for every conversation we had back then. I’m also grateful that you wrote down memories of your early life. A bit of your personal history. Every now and then I find myself hungry for more, though most of the time it’s enough. Your written words give glimpses of your heart and your struggle with circumstances over which you had no control.

I’ve been thinking about your memorial service in 1999. I got to make remarks on behalf of the four of us, your daughters. I decided to show and tell how much you loved teaching children music. Not just to the four of us, but to the kindergarten children you taught after I’d married and moved away.

I still have your old spiral music notebook, filled with children’s songs. For your service I picked out several of my favorites and said a bit about each song before I played the music. I also read the words and demonstrated motions for at least one of the songs. The one about how elephants kalump along, their long noses swaying in time to the music!

The most fun was coming to the end of “The Polliwog’s Story,” and (like you, without warning) suddenly turning around on the piano bench to give everyone a big scare with the last line! They loved it! For a moment we felt your joy and exuberance, and celebrated your lively spirit and your love for children and music.

I also played some of your favorite adult hymns. Not too many, but just enough, with comments about why I chose each. The most difficult to get through was “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” That was the hymn you tried to sing so often when you first got polio, even though your vocal chords were paralyzed.

I’m tearing up as I write this part. I owe you so much. I’ve been reading a book by Henry Nouwen. He talks about the way absence can cause our love for someone to grow. I’m beginning to understand what he’s talking about.

Part of it is my freedom to write you these letters and say things I couldn’t say while you were with us. It’s also because I understand our family dynamics more than before, and how costly they were for you, not just for me.

A few days ago I was thinking about my grandparents and how little I knew any of them except for your father, my California Grandpa. That got me thinking about the way you and he related to each other, especially since your Mom wasn’t around for most of your life.

When we lived on the West Coast, we spent lots of time visiting Grandpa and going with him to fun places like the Wilson Observatory and the Griffith Park Zoo. Even his apartment was fun! There were long sidewalks outside. I remember learning to ride my first bike on them. The bike he gave me, with training wheels.

After we moved to the East Coast, things changed. But you still kept in regular touch through letters. I know you wrote to him about us and what we were up to, because his letters to you sometimes included comments back to each of us.

He seemed to dote on us. It meant a lot to me back then to know he thought we were the best and the brightest little girls in the whole wide world. I’m guessing it meant a lot to you, too. You must have missed him terribly. I think you inherited your love of fun and of children from him.

How do you like the photo of the Forsythe Park Fountain? I love the water droplets flying through the air! If you enlarge it, you’ll see pink azaleas blooming in the background.

Love and hugs,
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 March 2015

Hospitality and Strangers | Part 1

This past week I’ve written posts, read books, visited bloggers and watched events here at home and overseas.  Only a few focused on hospitality, much less hospitality to and from strangers.  Yet I couldn’t get this theme out of my mind.  So I’m going to try writing it out.

A few things about hospitality and me
I am NOT the hostess with the ‘mostest.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Dad, About those ‘letters’…

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Bearded cacti in Silver Garden
Longwood Gardens PA

Dear Dad,
About those ‘letters’ I mentioned in my last letter (no pun intended!)…

Here they are: Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Dad, Here’s an idea…

Charley Brown Christmas treePomegranate in Bonsai Garden,
Longwood Gardens

Dear Dad,
Here’s an idea I had today.  I was trying to figure out how, at our ages, I would like to begin a conversation with you.  So I had this wild idea, based on my experience with the other main man in my life, my husband. Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Dad, I’ve been thinking….

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Dear Dad,

I’ve been thinking about you a lot this week.  Wondering about things that happened and didn’t happen.  Wondering what it would be like if….

Actually, I got to the ‘what if’ stage just about an hour ago. Read the rest of this entry »

A Toast to Diane

Diane A

Diane, 1954?

And to sisterly conversations.  My Number One Unplanned Series.  Early last July, I decided to engage Diane in sisterly conversations. Read the rest of this entry »

What can I say? – Part 2 | Dear Diane

Your description of life after you got a vent is beyond painful.  I wonder what would happen if this letter—this epistle from Diane—were read from the pulpit in church this Sunday?  Or any Sunday? Read the rest of this entry »

Can we talk? – Part 2 | Dear Diane

Diane’s opening lines in Part 1 are loaded:  “I am dying.   Sooner rather than later.”  Her entire piece is available here.  The following letter is my response to her.

Dear Diane,
Your question and opening lines get right to the point.

I’ve been thinking about our family of origin and your immediate family.  From my perspective, they’re light-years apart when it comes to talking in general.

For example, I can’t imagine us as children sitting around the kitchen or dinner table, chomping down food, elbows on the table, Read the rest of this entry »

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