Saturday, May 6, 2017

Welcome Home

Welcome Home
Spider Sparrow 
What are you doing for your Mother Culture? I hope you can snatch some moments to enrich yourself. At the end of the day, in just a few page-turning evenings, I read this sweet story. It pulled at my maternal heart strings. It ministered to my Mother Culture.

Perhaps you've seen the film, Water Horse, or Babe. Both are based on the children stories by British author, Dick King-Smith. I happened upon a lesser known story of his: Spider Sparrow. A used-bookshop sits a few doors from where Dean and I eat California Rolls on the occasional lunch date. I can't resist popping in. Of course.




Spider Sparrow has a James-Herriot-feel to it with its colloquial dialect and farm folk. It's lambing time in the 1930s. A tiny baby, wrapped in a shawl is deposited, under cover of darkness, at the door of a shepherd's hut. "What's this?" Tom, the shepherd, cradles the baby in his arms before a warm fire. With a beer bottle covered by a nipple, he feeds the scrawny, hungry baby the same milk he happens to be feeding to an orphan lamb that night.

He's smitten by this tiny one. Molly is smitten, too. Tom and Molly were married 15 years but hadn't been able to have a baby. They would have liked a son of their own. With help from the lord of the manor (and farm boss) Tom and Molly adopt the baby, who, village gossips believe, was abandoned by a young girl who had a fleeting love affair with an American soldier.





Tom and Molly eventually notice something strange about this baby. 

He doesn't crawl like other babies. At age 2 he gets around, keeping off his knees, on his hands-and-feet in the back garden; thus his nickname Spider. He eventually walks. But he walks funny. He talks funny, too, using a word rather than a sentence, by the time he is school age. Tom and Molly accept him as he is. Spider is docile, curious, and pleasant. And he is "slow." Unable to learn how to read, however, he isn't accepted into the village school. Molly is relieved, really, because most of the children make fun of him. Therefore, he's brought-up entirely at home.

Although unable to use language fully to express himself, he can mimic the sounds of nature. He imitates the birds and other creatures all around the farm, remarkably well. He doesn't mind being alone with nature. Animals are drawn to him. They are pacified by Spider's simpleness and gentleness.

When Spider reaches his teens England is at war. (The author was a soldier in WWII.) But Spider's world is the farm. Its workers (all older than he is) are kind to him. Eventually, he helps out on the farm in a way that is tailor-made for him.

Because of bits mentioned above, and the light swearing of a gruff farmhand ("bloody . . . ") you might prefer reading the story aloud with trifling omissions. Otherwise, it claims to be for age 10-up.

No matter what a child's abilities or disabilities, no matter how bright or slow he is, no matter what a child's strengths or weaknesses, a child is a person, created in the image of God. I know you will like Spider Sparrow for your Mother Culture, especially if someone you love and care for is "slow."

When a Christian reads fiction she can't help wonder whether the main character has ever been imparted a saving knowledge of Christ. In this case Spider is depicted without sin-nature. Although the lord of the manor and his wife attend the parish church no other character in the story does.

Master Cornhill
All my children read, Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw during their home-learning years, and were impressed with it. They remember it with fondness. (I've recently verified this.) Although out-of-print for some years (I obtained ours 25 years ago) Sonlight is publishing it I am told. I hadn't read it. Until this year. When I spied our copy on my daughter's shelf (she is homeschooling now) and I borrowed it back.


Although this historical fiction is filled with authenticated details of London, the year 1666, and The Great Fire of London, it moves swiftly. The details of clothing, buildings, street names, and best-of-all, persons, draw the reader into "being there" like no history textbook can.

Our sympathies are stirred for Michael who the year before, at age 11, had to leave London and his foster family there, to escape the Great Plague. When he returns he can't seem to find them. Thousands had died or fled the city. Where will he go? What will he do to earn a living at his age?

Fire of London by painter Stanhope Alexander Forbes
Seeking to avoid the dreaded workhouse he agrees to join a minstrel/storyteller who sells scripts. The minstrel gives Michael a few coins a week and a place to sleep, for being part of the audience. All Michael has to do is listen to the storyteller, fascinated. Just like he did the first time he heard the minstrel. It's an easy job. One that gives Michael a roof over his head and food to eat. But not one he is guaranteed to keep long.

One very minor character drinks too much. This brief scene ushers in the natural consequence of hardship (as it should.) Overall, you and your children will like Michael and his circle of friends (all older than he is.) These friends are caregivers in his life that ease mounting anxiety. How does any civilization survive? When difficulties are met together while kindness is at work.
The print is small, making it probably best for ages 12-14-up.

The Chestry Oak
First published in 1948, The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy is back in print. The story begins in a royal castle in Hungary at the onset of WWII. The old-way-of-life is described with a kind of dream-like-remembering. When the Nazis occupy the castle, young Michael, prince of the House of Chestry, is given strict orders by his Nanny and his father-the-King, how to conduct himself. These two grown-ups guide young Michael discretely through their new oppressive castle-life. To not frighten him they tell him they are playing a game of pretend.

Graduating from pony to horse on his birthday is an exciting step-up for Prince Michael. One beautiful black stallion plays an important role during an air raid (when the Americans intervene.) Then, the formal-feel of the first half of the book ends. The war is over. Michael's life changes dramatically.

I wouldn't be recommending the book if the second half of the story kept to the same strained-feel as the first. When we follow Michael to America a contrast between a life of oppression and one of freedom-from-oppression becomes evident. I read about Michael's new life with relief and rejoicing, grateful I was born in America. Your shoulders will relax, too, when you read about his new life. Therefore, keep reading and you'll be enriched. Age 12-up.

East,West - Home is Best
I've intentionally left out the best parts of these stories. You'll happily discover them for yourself.
All 3 happen to be about orphans who are welcomed into the homes of kind-hearted, seemingly God-fearing people. The caregivers are everyday heroes. A loving home is what is central to everyone's well-being. Adults who persevere through life's difficulties in making a home for their loved-ones, will find these stories as touching, or more touching, than the children who read them. They will relate to the care-givers. They will be encouraged to persevere in love, putting kindness to work in the common duties of life.


Giving Thanks for Home
I am a Bible-believing Christian. Although I am not Mennonite (my neighbors are Amish) I picked up a book of Mennonite children's prayers. It's been by my bedside this week. Here is one adapted from the Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht 1739, that fits my theme today.

O God,
We give thanks for the goodhearted people
who love us and do good to us and who
show their mercy and kindness by providing
us with food and drink, house and shelter
when we are in trouble or in need.

End Notes:
Linked to Amazon:
Spider Sparrow, 

Master Cornhill, and available through Sonlight.

The Chesty Oak

This Antique Star Bed Quilt, I discovered on close inspection (through my bifocals) is a genealogy quilt. Inside each star is a faded name penned with a birth date such as "Jacob 1820". I'm partial to this star quilt block. I quilted the mug rug (above) for a long-distance friend. I call it "Midnight Garden."

Farm paintings are by Agnes Clausen

Keep up your Mother Culture, ladies.

Thanks for visiting,
Karen Andreola