Watery Reminders

Our basement, like so many others in the Atlantic region, flooded during this week’s torrential rains. We are fortunate. Our damage was largely luggage, clothing, tools and other replaceable items. We stored very few pictures downstairs and after running the washing machine non-stop for a few days, clothing has been retrieved. Since—surprise, surprise—the flooding is not covered by our insurance, the flooding is going to be expensive in terms of replacement cost and the time it will take to clean up, but we are grateful it was not worse. The biggest loss has been books.

We are enormous fans of used bookstore. We don’t seek the latest best-seller at a discount. Instead, we search out old books, those that you can’t find anymore. Books that beam out wholesomeness and innocence. Books about healthy families and friendships with a noticeable absence of perversion and profanity. One sad victim of our flooding was a box labelled, “Teenage girl books,” that was waiting for our granddaughters to get a bit older.

After a tiring day of clean-up, I curled up in bed needing even more distraction than reading provided. A few weeks ago in a Musing I mentioned the 1960s TV show Family Affair and a search of Amazon Prime showed that it was available for viewing with a click of the mouse. I clicked.

The episode I picked was highly entertaining, not least because it went no longer than two minutes at any point from start to finish without triggering politically correct current thinking. For example, six-year-old Buffy, plays with her doll, Mrs. Beasley while her twin brother, Jody, dances an Indian war dance. This manages to both trample on Native American sensitivity and at the same time promote gender stereotypes.

But the most fascinating part, to me, was how six-year-old Jody was allowed to wander his Manhattan block unescorted, the only admonishment being that he should not cross any streets. Like many other shows of the day that featured children, the plot lines of Family Affair seemed perfectly plausible to me. While my home did not include an English butler or a bachelor uncle, neither of those scenarios were fanciful as, let’s say, the talking horse in Mr. Ed or the extraterrestrial visitor in My Favorite Martian. It certainly did not seem ridiculous to me at the time that a six-year-old would be trusted to go out and about needing only to be home for dinner. That was exactly how my friends and I lived.

We knew not to get into a car with strangers, but had no qualms about being around our friends’ fathers or older cousins or independently roaming the neighborhood. When, in the TV episode I watched, Jody brings a rather disheveled looking man (who naturally will turn out to be the business associate his uncle has been desperately trying to meet) back to his apartment for milk and cookies, it is treated as unconventional rather than sinister.

I know that terrible things did happen in the “good old days.” Predators are not a new phenomenon and there were children whose lives were shattered by perverts. But the assumption when I was growing up was that, unless otherwise indicated, relatives and neighbors were good and life was safe.

Older books, like older TV shows, sometimes do have stereotypes and language of which I disapprove. Many focused on a “normality” that wasn’t universal. There are also some areas in which I think our society has advanced and I have no problem pointing that out to a young reader. But it is important to be reminded that what we think of as normal today, isn’t necessarily so. Children being constantly scheduled, supervised and surrounded by dysfunction should not be taken as progress but rather as the deterioration it is. Children being suspicious and fearful of any stranger  they come across in their daily lives or who, Heaven forfend, smiles at them, isn’t an improvement. I will miss my water-logged, cherished books that presented a picture of safe and sane daily life rarely seen in newer volumes.

P.S. You may have noticed a new section titled “Practical Parenting” under the Susan’s Musings heading at the top of the web page. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

P.P.S. If your family, like ours, picks your video watching carefully, I (in a completely biased fashion) want to recommend our Ancient Jewish Wisdom TV Show DVD. My husband and I love taping these shows and have collected four favorites to make available. Volume 3 is on sale right now!

P.P.P.S. Much thanks to those of you who responded to our summer appeal for the American Association of Jews and Christians (AAJC). AAJC sponsors Thought Tools, Ask the Rabbi and many other of our activities. To read about AAJC, click here.


14 thoughts on “Watery Reminders”

  1. Being an avid reader of old books myself I know how “wiped out” you must feel. Collecting them takes a lifetime and losing them can take less than an hour. (There’s a spiritual lesson or two in there) I was also a homeschool mom back when it was taking off across the country (early 80s) so I’m so happy you’re starting a parenting column for those who want to break past the “dumbing down” of our youth. I was so picky about about everything that my boys were exposed to growing up. The hardest thing for me back then was the movie industry and tv. Then I found Feature Films for Families and could finally allow my sons to watch movies even if I hadn’t already seen them. It may be something you would like to look into and suggest for young mothers today who are in the same boat as I was, as it’s even a bigger problem today! (Go figure))
    I pray your continued success and that for many years to come you continue to be able to whip your weight in wildcats!

    1. Lisa, it doesn’t make much sense to be picky about the food we put in our children’s bodies and then to allow anything and everything into their souls and minds, does it?

    1. Thanks, Ben. We are keeping it in perspective. These are, after all, things. At the same time it still is emotional. We appreciate the emotional support.

  2. So sorry to hear about your flood; still, “a flood can be a healing”: “I can hardly wait to see what good comes out of this experience”. Here in FL there are few basements, and they are commonly referred to as swimming pools! We have separate flood insurance even if we do not live on a flood plain or have a basement because of the various ways other than downpour that water can get into the house.
    I trust that you will gradually be able to replace some of your favorites, and libraries do still have many of the award-winning old children’s books, such as “The Twenty-One Balloons” (William Pene du Bois), the delightful Elizabeth Enright series beginning with “The Saturdays”, “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” (Betty McDonald), or my favorite for older children, Elizabeth Goudge’s “The Little White Horse”.
    You bring so much love into the lives of your audience that I hope we can now reciprocate and return that love to you as you go through this experience. Thanks for your recollection of days when children had more freedom to safely roam the neighborhood.

    1. I love the Elizabith Enright books and my grown kids still quote Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle every once in a while. I have read other of Elizabeth Goudge’s books, but I don’t know that one. Hmmm. You’ve given me an idea. I am just starting a Practical Parenting column on our website – a recommended book list would be a great idea.

  3. Your rain seems to have been like ours recently, sudden and severe, and I share your pain and deep sense of loss, not only for the loss of intellectual comradeship, but also to discover that routine homeowners’ insurance does not cover floods. There is such a thing as flood insurance, but it is a special extra policy. Still, I would acquire some pallets for subterranean storage areas.

    How I wish you had a basement like ours! We are built into the side of a sloping hill, so the water runs off and collects in the valley far below. Thus far, no matter how wet the season, our subterranean library has remained dry for 27 years. And we are kindred spirits, for we likewise scan and scavenge bookshops for the old, novel and virtuous books. Our basement has allowed us to assemble a collection of over 4,000 books, which are of inestimable intellectual or sentimental value, independent of monetary value, which may not be much. And ours likewise remind us of better days.

    The greatest blessing of all is reading to our grandchildren. Our eldest grandchild graduated last spring from the second grade, and every pupil received from the wise teacher an award for his / her greatest strength. She received a ‘Future Author’ award for her stories with advanced vocabulary and immense detail. Her smaller sister loves for me to read from her sixth grade space book about the Universe, stars and planets. And the littlest guy, almost four now, is developing a stable attention span to absorb lessons from children’s books. My sainted Mother, daughter of a schoolteacher (back when teachers taught reading-‘riting-and-‘rithmetic, not Progressive social engineering), had me absorbing sixth grade books by the first grade. My Missus is a trained bookseller by profession. The point is that there exists a kind of ‘manifest destiny’ of reading and oft the seeds you sow and the love that you foster will return to you in odd and fulfilling ways. Special blessings to you both for the salvaging and healing of your library! Perhaps an inexpensive dehumidifier and cannily applied techniques will help you to save some of them.

  4. Your piece brought back so many memories of what I recall as better times, Susan. Playing Washington Post outside during warm summer nights was one of my favorites and nary a worry by my Mom. Blessings and a quick dry-out! We’re baking here in the PNW =()

    1. I haven’t checked PNW weather, Kristin, so thanks for the update. I don’t think we’re making it this year.

  5. Susan, you are absolutely correct. The latest and vilest thing is for children who can’t even read yet. It is called “Drag Tots” and we must do something about this. It is perversion masking as a cartoon. I viewed one episode before I wrote my congressman and a Christian law firm so I knew what I was talking about. These groups protest and threaten lawsuits to those who want to counsel “unique lifestyles” so they can return to their birth gender, yet they indoctrinate our children while toddlers. Please view this just to be aware of where “floods filthier than the water you cleaned up” are coming into homes across America.
    Susan G.

  6. A high school at which my deaf and hard of hearing class was housed, had a pipe break in its library one weekend. The ‘environmentally friendly’ doors all had nice tight weatherstripping that contained the water quite well. As a result the lower shelves in the stacks were flooded; the pipe must have broken some time Friday night. They were able to save many of the books with volunteers putting paper towels between the pages, replacing the towels as needed to dry the pages. I don’t remember if they then cut some drain holes. flooding can be a problem even in a town in the Arizona high desert!

    1. I may try that with one or two books that are irreplaceable -like my Passover notebook with recipes, quantities and menus, but I’m afraid that is too much work for dozens of books. Thanks for the suggestion.

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