Rear View

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Sitting in traffic one hot afternoon, I studied the SUV in front of me sporting prestigious decals from private schools, exclusive camps, and elegant country clubs. I started thinking about our family vehicle on those long ago summer afternoons when I was embarrassed by the ordinary life of my parents, who carted five children in an aging green Chevrolet station wagon minus any decals.

Still at a standstill on the highway, I was also back in Fishkill Plains Elementary School in the days when viewing Disney’s The Living Desert was the year’s highlight, second only to the spring concert. I thought of the summer church camp where I attended chapels and twice-daily Bible studies with a rousing evangelistic service thrown in each evening for good measure. (Anyone failing to grasp the message had an additional opportunity at 10 o’clock campfire.) I remembered the first stirrings of adolescent angst wondering who would walk me to the campfire in the dark . . . whether that person would hold my hand. Crafts consisted of carefully painting plaster of Paris plaques adorned with Bible verses and fruits. One of mine had actual gold paint on it and hung over the kitchen sink for years.

“Love one another” . . . I smile now to think about our elite swimming lessons at Carters swimming hole . . . grabbing the rope and flinging myself into the creek, hoping to swim fast enough to beat the current. One time I didn’t and had to be dragged out gasping and gagging. No Olympic material there.

We were hopelessly middle class. Still are, though I no longer see it as hopeless. No dressing then from Gap or Banana Republic, just Sears and Target. Lilly Pulitzer was a person; hot pink and bright green clashed. And no man in our world would be caught dead wearing madras shorts. At one time, my parents’ ignorance of social nuance and utter indifference to cool mortified me. As I matured, I began to recognize their view of life as refreshing and uncomplicated.

My parents sent messages to the world through their lives and children, even without rear-window decals: “It’s OK to be ordinary.” “Stuff doesn’t matter that much, but character does.” “Life is a gift, so make the most of what is right in front of you.” I hear their echo in other messages: “Jesus died for you, so you really don’t have to prove anything.” “Don’t give your heart to your earthly treasure.” “However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all.”

What comfort; what simplicity. They would not believe I am writing this . . . My parents were right.
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