It was a big risk…although I was unaware of it at the time. I don't know what possessed me to do it. I already had the requisite hostess gift of a bottle of wine. But that was boring. I wanted something different…more fun… for this first introduction. Spotting the photocopy on my fridge, I immediately recognized it as just the thing: I seized it and gleefully rushed out the door…
Political cartoons are the proverbial “picture says a thousand words.” So showing my future in-laws the Ted Kennedy/Chappaquiddick cartoons was meant to be an amusing conversation piece. After all, who wouldn't find the caption Kennedy Prays for 24 Hours Before Seeking Help! pitifully comical? Or how about this, Italian Contractor Blamed for Faulty Bridge. Much to my surprise, I really struck a political nerve forever endearing myself to my in-laws.
Being young, I found the cartoons funny, but never completely comprehended the weightier reasons behind it. I was merely a pre-teen in 1969 when Mary Jo Kopechne drowned at Chappaquiddick while Ted Kennedy was driving. Despite this horror, he remained a senator…and I grew up.
Back in the 1980s my father-in-law introduced me to James Hitchcock’s What Is Secular Humanism, the idea of Natural Law, the Rule of Law, and other Big Ideas. He was a master at the Socratic Method and gave me the book How to Win Arguments by William Rusher.
My husband and I intentionally chose to live near his parents when we were first married. On weekends we would get together to play bridge and Scrabble, talk politics and religion, discuss good books and joke late into the evenings. Listening to them was better than college professors. Despite my recently-awarded college degree, I was now being educated!
My in-laws remained in the house they built in the 1950s until they died a decade ago. Their neighborhood was a happy mix of young, old, and in between.
When I was a young mother, I truly appreciated having older neighbors. One neighbor would kindly offer to watch my toddlers, so I could go to the dentist, or make a quick diaper run. Another showed my children her luxurious garden and let them pick the raspberries. We affectionately called her Farmer Burke. Across the street was, and still is, "Grandpa Joe" -- now 99 years old -- who helped my boys with their history projects by giving them his WWII memorabilia from when he served in England …his helmet, gun holster, medals, insignias and old newspaper headlines. He explained the meaning of each one. Other neighbors allowed our kids to cut through their yard to get to the park faster. Still others paid our boys to mow their lawn, giving them their first jobs outside the home.
Why is this worth writing about? Well the youngest of our eight children is nearing high school, so we are pondering where we will live in our older years. We’ve explored many options. Gazing at the landscape of active retirement communities, 55+ apartment dwellings, and “no-kids- allowed” gated communities whose focus is a beautifully-appointed “Amenities Center” -- sans a church -- I'm truly bewildered as to why we have such social exclusiveness. When our toddler grandchildren stop by to visit us, our home quickly becomes a “gated” community -- but you know what I mean.
Has E Pluribus Unum given way to every-man-for-himself? Where are all the senior citizens? Where are this generation's mentors and life coaches? Who will teach the next generation(s) about our American Heritage, Religious Freedom, Life before the Internet… about the Big Ideas…or explaining political cartoons while sitting on a porch sipping lemonade? Who will share their personal stories that make history books come alive…or more likely correct those altered books and tell history's Truth. It doesn’t happen when visiting Grandma and Grandpa for the skimpy two hours the grandkids are allowed in the Retirement Community's pool! It happens spontaneously as a result of regular contact through daily living.
Was it always this way? Why and When did older citizens abandon their neighborhoods and flee for the comforts of an indoor lap pool and perpetually sunny golf course to live out their Golden Years? Searching for ideas, I stumbled upon an essay written by James Thunder, entitled Pugin and the Future of Land-Use Development: Love of God and Love of Neighbor
" (Click here to see Speroforum.com
) which describes the famous Neo-Gothic architect’s enthusiastic description of Medieval England’s communities v. his then-1840s communities. Note: Do not fall into the trap thinking this is another term for backward. It was in fact an era of significant progress. (See Stephen Cooper’s article Positively Medieval, www.historytoday.com
) Thunder applies Pugin’s noble, Christian ideas to current land-use development and how our modern urban and suburban communities could reflect Love of God and Love of Neighbor simply by how the community is designed. It is inspired and well worth reading!
I think my husband and I will stay right where we are…in the neighborhood where we raised our children. I'll show the neighbor kids my political cartoons.
Spero columnist Diane Schlosser is a freelance writer who resides in Wisconsin.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.