A History Lesson

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The silhouette of some of the trees in the backyard at sunset.

Poplar Hill is the place I usually tell people I am from, although technically I live on the low hill across from it just over the Sydenham River. The village is close enough to see the houses on its southwest corner from my back yard if I walk out beyond our wind break of spruce and pines. We often do this to get an uninterrupted view of the sunsets in the summer, although it is equally beautiful through the dark silhouettes of the trees. It is close enough for us to hear the chimes at the Baptist Church in the village playing the beautiful ancient melodies of hymns sung beneath its eaves since it was built in 1885. The chimes are much more recent, and they play automatically at precisely 7:00 PM. They are a gentle reminder for the young ones in the village, and beyond it to wherever the sound carries, that it is time to think about coming inside for their baths and stories and night-time routines during the school year. During summer vacation the chimes tend to be totally ignored by the kids due to later bedtimes, but they are seldom ignored by those who are in the habit of reflecting on God’s goodness towards them when they hear them, in this peaceful and pleasant place we are so blessed to reside in.

The chimes are a hearkening back to earlier and simpler times when the village had a population of local worshipers adequate to support three churches. Now there are only two, the third was demolished due to the frame building’s condition, there being no remaining congregation members to maintain it. Poplar Hill Christian Church, my place of worship is a very large beautiful brick edifice with stained glass windows and high steep stairs leading to the sanctuary, steps that are a challenge more and more for our aging members. Poplar Hill Baptist Church sits much lower to the ground, but its members are certainly just as close to God when they worship. The Baptist Church was the place Rolly, my husband, used to sneak out of on warm sunny summer days, when his mother thought he was in Sunday School.

He would head to the river, which was midway between his house and church, grab his fishing rod from behind the lilac bushes by the riverbank and hide in the shade of the bridge to wait for the big ones to take a bite. This is the very same person who encouraged his son Steven in later years to “Let the fish have a rest today too.” on Sunday afternoons. It was not legalism that came into play, as much as a desire to keep the kids close to the home front on Sundays when we usually had company for dinner.

History generally repeats itself. Both Rolly and Steven love studying it.

History generally repeats itself. Both Rolly and Steven love studying it.

Steven turned into a prolific Sunday afternoon reader, and Carrie an amazingly gifted cook at a very early age. She enjoyed sharing her culinary creations on Sundays. These were often desserts that her paternal grandmother, who lived a short walk away, had taught her how to make. Sometimes they were from recipes she cut out of magazines. (Eventually Carrie became a Pastry Chef.) Steven, meanwhile, enjoyed engaging in debates and discussions about everything and anything with anybody who was up for it— particularly about history. He wasn’t an obnoxious little know-it-all type, but rather just a bit of a surprise to people when they first met him, because of what he already knew about the world. This was at an age  when lots of other kids barely knew what the capital of Canada was. Whenever anyone asked him how he knew something that they weren’t expecting him to know he would answer, “Its because the TV blew up and Mom and Dad wouldn’t buy us a new one, and  then they moved my bedroom into the library.”  Rolly was a history buff himself with a huge collection of books which Steven would read until the wee hours, when we generally assumed that he was sleeping. His upstairs room had become a baby nursery for our Home Daycare at the time, and he was given a downstairs room which happened to be the library. He insisted that he didn’t want us to change it, so we didn’t.

I can still remember how difficult I  always found answering  essay exams in History — things  like “What do you think may have been a  secondary cause of (some world event or other)? which is not as well documented? Develop your argument for this premise (worth 25%) or  “Would you agree or disagree that the two forces causing (some historical scenario) were related to (some interconnected world event that I didn’t remember having ever learned about)? (worth 25%).  

The one thing I have learned over the years is that there is a connection between the past and the present and it really does matter— much more than 25% of a final mark on a History exam!

These are a few of the things I have learned:

If you plant trees in a bare field they will eventually grow. Some people will see them as an obstacle to the view, others as a  compliment to the view. At different times they are different things to different people.

When things fail sometimes it is just as well. It might help us to grow as individuals. We may not see the reason why at first but time will tell.

Imported Photos 00285Sometimes a change of location can bring about  the best in a person.

We are not always the best person to teach someone what they need to know. Sometimes they will teach themselves by trial and error. Sometimes they will seek out someone else. Sometimes we are only meant to savour their victories!

Enjoy the moments of reflection that can be yours when you slow down enough to hear the music that drifts your way.

Sitting in a higher pew never brings you any closer to God, it just may be a lot more difficult to get up the stairs.(If you are scratching your head right now and wondering what I meant by that then you and I have a lot in common!) 

Have a nice day! Yvonne

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