It's time for the Common Household time-honored tradition of the
|One form of a vegetarian turkey.|
|Not a turkey, but resembles one in certain ways.|
|One form of a vegetarian turkey.|
|Not a turkey, but resembles one in certain ways.|
A poem for the covid-19 era
by Younger Daughter
A few Fridays ago, Younger Daughter was having a difficult day, one of those days where the pressures of the world seemed too much. On days like that, add pandemic restrictions, and loneliness sets in. For some reason, we couldn’t talk at that moment, so I emailed her this: “Do you know how much we love you? We love you to the moon and back!”
In less than an hour, she replied with the above poem. I think it captures the difficulty we are all in right now, at how to express our care and fondness for our loved ones over video chat. Love can bind us together across a screen, and I am grateful that at least we have that technology.
This happened a few days after a family Poetry Slam - a gathering (my siblings, and their young adult children and ours) over zoom where we each read a poem (no longer than 2 minutes reading time!). There was not anything slam-like about it, but we had a great time. I recommend this activity. So poetry was on our minds.
Note: As you may have guessed, the poet is in debt to “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
The Suburban Housewife Retelling of
the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
from The Book of Exertions 20:1-16
The kingdom of heaven is like a parent of teenagers who got up early in the morning to oversee the task of painting the deck. It was an odious task, involving nasty-smelling paint and working out in the hot sun all day. The parent decided she wanted someone to help her. At first the parent woke her son out of a sound sleep. He got up and, lo, readily agreed to help paint the deck, after the parent promised him ice cream at the end of the day. By nine o’clock, the parent inspected the work, and saw that the son had painted one-fourth of the deck. The parent went inside and found her daughter lounging around watching a movie on her ipod. And the parent said to her, “You also go outside and help paint the deck. Ice cream at the end.”
At noon, the sky clouded over and the parent saw that the deck-painting would have to be speeded up. The oldest daughter woke up (she had gotten home in the wee hours of the morning, after going swing dancing all night). The parent told her, “You also go outside and help paint the deck. Ice cream will be involved when you are done.” At about five o’clock the parent saw that, despite the hard work of her three children, the task was not finished, and rain clouds were fast approaching. She went inside the house, only to find her niece, who was visiting for a month, sitting on the couch reading a book. The parent said, “Niece, I’ll give you ice cream when you are finished, if you will go out and help your cousins paint the deck.”
As evening came, the teens finished painting the deck. Fortunately for the parent, the rain never materialized (this story does not take place in Pittsburgh). And the parent said to her husband, “Call the teenagers and take us all out for ice cream. We’ll get in line, beginning with our niece, who started working last, and ending with our son, who started working before 9 AM.” And they each got one scoop of ice cream in a sugar cone, even the son who started working at the crack of dawn. Even the parents, whose waistlines showed that they seriously didn’t need ice cream at all, got ice cream.
The son grumbled against his parents, saying that he deserved the banana split, because, lo, he had arisen at dawn and worked all day painting the deck. But the parent said to him, “Thank you so much, son, for painting the deck. We really appreciate all your hard work. We promised you ice cream, and here we all are, getting ice cream. We chose to reward you not by paying you all an equitable wage, because we know it would have cost us at least $300 to hire someone else to paint the deck for us, but by buying $20 worth of ice cream. That was our choice. We’re the parents, and this family isn’t a democracy. We hope we can all enjoy our ice cream together.”
Because the teens had all studied economics and understood the principle of marginal rates, none of them complained. They were also extremely grateful teens who recognized all the gifts their parents had given them over the years: teaching them to tie their shoes, putting them in their car seats, making that birthday cake in the shape of a train, buying them Harry Potter books, paying for a Netflix account, and, most of all, driving them all over God’s blessed creation, dag nab it. In fact, in gratitude to their parents, these teens were overjoyed to paint the deck and viewed the ice cream as an extra. Now THAT would be the kingdom of heaven.
About this parable, my husband said:
One person started complaining, and began asking questions about the staff: Have they done what they actually were supposed to do, for their pay? Where are the performance evaluations for the staff, and why aren’t they being followed? That same person who went around and complained about everything went around to everyone, explaining how the leadership is messing everything up because they bollixed up their hiring system and payment system. And then somebody says, “Why do we have a vineyard anyway? We should have a basketball court!”
For the record, the Common Household Son never grumbles against his parents.
The original scripture
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. 5 When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. 6 And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ 8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
|College class reading, guarded by Isaac Newton, Auguste Rodin, and |
Karl Marx finger puppets.
Not my reading list!
In June I completed reading two books. In July I managed to finish five books. Of those seven, two were YA fiction.
Herewith the first lines, and then the titles.
On a spring morning in 1997, Jim Harper, a young man from Durham, North Carolina, woke up in his two-bedroom apartment with no clue that he would soon become gravely ill.
Terence crept nervously through the forest, glancing often over his shoulder. He was a slim, agile boy, perhaps fourteen years old – though he did not know his age exactly – and he moved easily among the brambles.
People wishing to time travel go to Houston Intercontinental Airport. At the orientation, the staff tell them that time travel is just like air travel, you even go to the same facility.
Chapter 1: The Return of Utopia
Let’s start with a little history lesson: In the past, everything was worse.
For roughly 99% of the world’s history, 99% of humanity was poor, hungry, dirty, afraid, stupid, sick, and ugly.
There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in a hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed.
“That is my decision. We need not discuss it,” said the man at the desk. He was already looking at a book. His two children left the room, closing the door behind them.
After my junior year of college, ten friends and I planned a trip to drive across the country.
And the titles revealed:
The two books I finished in June:
Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy. © 2015.
This memoir flows well, and gives good insights into racism in American medical treatment. I read it for book club.
The Squire's Tale , by Gerald Morris
(The Squire's Tales, #1) YA fiction.
Quite violent. Lots of cleaving in two, without much remorse.
* * * * * * *
The five books I finished in July:
An Ocean of Minutes, by Thea Lim. © 2018.
A dystopian novel with a rather terrifying premise, but I really liked the main character. This is odd because the character kept making bad choices, which usually turns me off.
The lesson I drew from this book: Do. Not. Time-travel. We read it for book club, because we hadn’t read any science fiction since our second book, several years ago. An Ocean of Minutes was more dystopian lit than science fiction. Is there any other sci fi novel where the time travel does not take the traveler into the distant future, but only a few years ahead, and to a time that is in our own history? Polly, the main character, time travels from the 1980s to the late 1990s. Despite the fact that she ends up in a time period we all had experienced, the 1990s we encountered in this book were quite disorienting, and yet, the book addresses a very current issue in this country. A pandemic is involved, but is really only background in the story.
Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Bregman © 2014, 2017. English translation © 2016 by Elizabeth Manton.
Take the dive into some ideas from the left side of politics and economics. See what you think. I found it quite interesting. Bregman is an entertaining writer.
My Name Is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout. © 2016.
Not a lot of events in this book, but interesting examination of relationships. The story is related in a dreamy way, with what might be called an unreliable narrator.
Read for the other book club.
Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness series Book 1)
by Tamora Pierce (Y.A. fantasy). © 1983.
This is the first title in a young adult fantasy series, written in what I want to say was a simpler time. Fantasy is not really my favorite genre, but I found the characters enjoyable. There is lots to please the fantasy fan here – magic, wizards, knights, swords. A bully, an honorable thief, and a dread illness also feature in the plot.
Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, by Drew G.I. Hart. © 2016.
My review is here at this link.
I also have been reading this book since 2018.
These Truths: A History of the United States, by Jill Lepore, © 2018.
Almost half the way through.