It was subtle and it was a destroyer of families. Work for the men in tall buildings, not within walking distance.
The new city age of commuting, milk men down the alleys and trolley cars. The fifties, when Jack single digits old. It was subtle and the beginning of an ending. The most important thing of all disappeared. Intimacy.
The way things used to be, such a common phrase indicating nostalgia for the ‘good old days’. It is much more than that. Jack’s father worked as a fireman and Jack’s mother eventually worked downtown as a secretary for the public schools. Gone was grandpa’s little farm and both families living close by to one another. A neighbor near the farm complained that Dad was supposed to live in the city to be a fireman. The move to the city was inevitable and plans were made to buy a nice house in the north side of Minneapolis. The country life was comfortable for Jack. The creek down the hill offered fishing and adventure. Life was the smell of good earth.
“Hey kids, tomorrow we get out the rock boat and get the rocks out of the main field.” Groans from Jack and his sister but with memories of Grandma’s supper with the fresh doughnut holes with chicken dumplings and real mashed potatoes. The ‘boat’ moved slowly and Freddie, Jack’s friend nearby, joined the ‘party.’ There was always a bit of humor that came forth too. “Hey, that rock looks just like Mr. Mosher!” Grandpa laughing from the old International also saying that’s not the way to speak of him. Guilty as charged, but still snickering when we looked at each other. Working the land together as Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about in her newspaper columns.
Not long after those halcyon days of laughter and sharing in the good times and difficult or even sad times, it ended. Gone,the best days of Jack’s life. The fire department was a good job for Dad. Secure income.
They moved into the city as Dad could continue working for the fire department, and in order to be able to afford the nice city house, Mom had to work and leave Jack and his Sister alone at the new home. A lot. The one room school house a mile away was not the way things were done in the city. There weren’t any potato fields or big vegetable gardens either. The biggest loss was the absence of parents when they were needed. Not being available at home when bad things happened. Jack was lost in the waves of change. Waking up at Bunyan’s Vanity Fair. The cute girl next door was a forbidden friend for Jack. She went to the ‘wrong’ church.
Make your own lunch and wait after school for Mom or Dad. Alone in the house. No more family games and no neighbors or relatives coming by. The big church downtown and bullies at the neighborhood school were incomprehensible. No one seemed to care about children at home or at the next door neighbors. Gone were the sights of a broken piece of equipment on a neighbors field. “I going to go over to Rick’s place and see what we can do” sorts of things. Day cares started up and everything had a price. From workers of the soil to wage earners surviving in toil. Children did not understand this. In a child’s eye it was abandonment and loss.
And so it goes as progress turns into regress for the new price of hearth and home. Jack’s home now had a fireplace in the living room but it was never lit. The big coal furnace in the basement provided the heat but the hearth never provided a family room’s comfort. Now the gathering of family was the flicker of the black and white television set and intimacy was knowing the names of the characters on the screen. Substantive life became substitute life and families losses were substantial. Children became actors in the play of city life. Do well at school and play with the strangers and you might make friends if you don’t cry. First grade in the big city.
Gone the instantaneous comfort of a mother’s loving touch, the guiding hand of a father as the soil turned rich under the plow and disk. Love for neighbors seen and demonstrating love for everyone. Gone was “It’s been a good day, let’s read that book! Who knows where we left off?” Instead, lonely days. Akin to a room of the house suddenly disappearing. But dad and Grandpa were good carpenters and could rebuild the loss . There is another carpenter that will restore all our loss. He is the best restoration worker in the world. Jesus, He will make all things new. A perfect man with wood in the shop and wood on the cross. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator