Friday, January 24, 2014

A Scottish Celebration

“Well Alfred,” said Mother, looking at the sumptuous Scottish dinner laid out before them.  “Our Scottish housekeeper Agnes Findlay has done very well by us this evening.  Look what she has provided for dinner.”

Laid out on the table before them were Scotch Eggs, Cock-a-Leekie Soup, Baked salmon with terragon, Colcannon, Kale Salad, and for dessert Black Bun, that rich traditional Scottish fruit cake.

“What a wonderful way to celebrate our annual remembrance of that fine Scottish poet, Robbie Burns,” answered Alfred, bowing his head and praying the old grace that Robbie prayed at a dinner for the Earl of Selkirk centuries ago.

Some hae meat and canna eat,            Some have meat and cannot eat,
And some wad eat that want it,         And some would eat that have it not,.
But we hae meat and we can eat,       But we have meat and we can eat.
Sae let the Lord be thankit.                So let the Lord be thanked.

            “Alfred,” asked Mother, what do the words Ne Oblie on your family crest mean?”

            “It means, Do Not Forget,” said Alfred.  “The crest and our tartan tell us that we are actually part of Clan Graham; that is the Grahams of Montrose, our ancestral home.  The Eighth Duke of Montrose said, "the best of our traditions are contained in the ideals of chivalry, bravery, and Christian service to our fellow man. Of all the Scottish Clans Graham of Montrose is known for it loyalty and faithfulness.”
            “That certainly describes you, Alfred,” said Mother with a big smile.  “You have always been chivalrous and brave, and your loyalty won my heart a long, long, time ago.”

            “And you, Mother, have always been my Rose,” said Alfred breaking into that lilting melody of the old Robbie Burns song,

O my Luv's like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luv's like the melodie
That’s sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luv am I:
And I will luv thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

            “Alfred,” said Mother, actually blushing, “Whatever would I do without your love?  With your love and support I have decided that I will go to the Talliaferro family reunion.  Thank you for being willing to go with me.  I couldn’t go without you.”

            “And you Mother will always be my beautiful Rose of Montrose,” replied Alfred.

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is
intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort
given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is
God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture
in the knowledge and love of the Lord. 

[The Book of Common Prayer, p. 423]

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My Beautiful Rose

“Oh, look Alfred, the Antique Rose Emporium catalogue has come in for the spring planting.”

Alfred wandered in from the solarium, put his Bionic Classic Gardening Gloves down on the table and joined Mother in looking at the catalog.  “I wonder if they carry a fragrant rose like Chrysler Imperial or Sutter’s Gold; even a Mister Lincoln rose?  That would do very nicely,” said Alfred.

Mother had pensive look on her face as she continued to thumb through the catalog.  Finally she said, “Alfred, I was a little surprised when you called me by my name Rosabella the other day.  That brought back some memories that I wasn’t quite prepared for.”

Alfred responded, “When we were first married I always called you Rosabella, but when Jeremy was born, we began to call you Mother and it gradually just became an accepted pattern.”

“And glad I was of it, Alfred,” said Mother. “Rosabella is just so Sicilian, and it reminds me so much of things in the past that I would rather forget.”

“But, Mother,” said Alfred, “Rosabella is a beautiful name.  It means Beautiful Rose, and you have always been my beautiful rose.”

“Alfred, you have always been such a romantic,” said Mother, “and don’t think that I don’t appreciate it.  But I have to tell you I was originally very glad when you and Jeremy just began to call me Mother; it helped me leave some of those old things behind.  Besides that Rosabella Montrose just sounds so odd.”

“Well,” said Alfred, “it might help to know the origin of my last name Montrose.  You know that the name came from my ancestral home near Aberdeen in Scotland, and it comes from the French word Mont and Rose the flower.  You are indeed my Rose of Mount Rose, and beautiful you are, and always have been.”

            “Rose of Montrose does sound better than Rosabella,” said Mother.  “Rose of Montrose sounds very Scottish, but Rosabella reminds me of my background, and I don’t always feel beautiful inside.  In fact, if I think about it, it just brings old guilts to mind.” 

            “Mother, do you remember Father Goodfellow saying that there are four types of guilt?” asked Alfred.

            “Not, really,” said Mother.  Then, slightly embarrassed, she said, “I wasn’t really in much of a mood to listen last year,” then added hesitantly, “please remind me.”

            “Let me put it this way, Mother,” said Alfred.  “You are not guilty because of what Paolo did to you.  You didn’t choose to break the commandment, but your family, tua famiglia, certainly made you feel guilty, and your family was certainly involved in a lot of things you didn’t like or approve of.  It seems to me that a lot of your guilt comes from projected guilt and from vicarious or natural guilt.”

            “Let me think about it, Alfred, let me think about it,” said Mother.

“In you, O LORD, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!  Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!” [Psalm 31:1-2].  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Speak Softly, Love

Parla più piano e nessuno sentirà,
il nostro amore lo viviamo io e te,
nessuno sa la verità, neppure il cielo che ci guarda da lassù.

Speak softly, love and hold me warm against your heart, I feel your words, the tender trembling moments start.
We're in a world, our very own
Sharing a love that only few have ever known.

Mother stood at the dining room table holding in her hand a gilt edged invitation from her brother Calò Talliaferro.  An expression of exasperation crossed her face, “Why does my brother Caló insist on using the old family name?  There is a reason why my grandfather Antonio changed it to Toliver.  It’s almost like Caló is trying to recapture the past.”

“What is it Mother?” said Alfred.

“It’s this invitation to a family reunion in March.  That’s the last thing I want to do,” said Mother. “I’ve done my best to put my family background in the past.  First it was cousin Angelo visiting us to retrieve that lupara shotgun that belonged to my grandfather, now this.”

“We enjoyed the family get together at Assaggio’s in the Boston North-End last year,” said Alfred.”

“You, more than me, Alfred,” said Mother.  “You have always been most gracious and accepting.  For my part these family reunions just bring out all the bad memories.  One just never knows who will show up.  Some of those people I never want to see again.”

Alfred considered this for a moment before asking, “Is there something specific bothering you Mother?”

Mother placed the gilt-edged invitation carefully on the table and shook her head, “I don’t want to talk about it Alfred.  There’s no point.”

“Mother,” said Alfred, “The memories are obviously still painful.  Keeping them to yourself only gives them hidden power.”

“I suppose so, Alfred,” said Mother. “I suppose so.  A lot of it goes  back to when we were students in Boston.  I was at Boston College, and you were at the Boston University School of Management.  You know that before I met you I was dating an Italian boy named Paolo Vizzini.”

“I remember you mentioning him, Mother.” said Alfred, “If I remember, he was quite a brute.”

Mother shook her head again, obviously quite perturbed, “What I didn’t tell you Alfred, was that one night after a date forced himself on me.  When I tried to resist, he beat me.”

“Mother! said Alfred, “No!”

“Yes, Alfred, and that’s not all.  Then Caló found out about it,” said Mother, tears streaming down her face.

“Oh my darling Rosabella,” said Alfred. “Then what happened?”

“Caló just said, ‘Don’t worry about it.  You won’t ever have to see him again.’  In my family that could mean any number of things; none of them very good,” said Mother.  “Every time we have one of those family reunions I’m half afraid that I will see Paolo or one of his family members again.  I just can’t stand the thought of it.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what Mother, if you decide to go, we’ll go together, but we don’t need to stay any longer than you want to,” said Alfred.  “We’ll just make the visit short as we possibly can.  In the meantime it always helps not to keep secrets from those closest to us.”

“I know, Alfred, I know,” said Mother with an odd look on her face.

 “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" [John 8:31-32].  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Silver Spoon

Mother carefully put down her Crown Princess Pattern silver teaspoon on the edge of her saucer and took a meditative sip from her Royal Windsor teacup.  “Did you know Alfred,” said she, “that I have spent most of my life looking for the finer things?”

“You and I, Mother,” said Alfred cautiously, “have always been appreciative of beauty and quality.”

“Yes, but it has begun to bother me just a little,” said Mother.  “Don’t misunderstand me, I still love the finer things, but there is such a thing as a sense of due proportion.”

Alfred took a minute to tamp some Captain Black tobacco into his new Meerschaum pipe.  After all, as Alfred says, “Pipe smoking is a hobby not a habit, and a useful hobby at that; it gives one time to think before responding in tricky situations.”

            Mother continued, “I think it all began when I was very young.  Growing up in the Talliaferro family was often difficult, and I have spent much of my life trying to live it down.”

            “Now, Mother,” said Alfred, “you know that has never been important to me.”

            “Yes, but Alfred, it has been important to some others.  Why, just the other day Mildred Hutchins looked down her very long nose at me and said, ‘I hear you’re Italian.’  She somehow had gotten wind of cousin Angelo’s visit to our group at Grace Whittington’s.”

            “I’m surprised it took that long to get around,” replied Alfred.  “Usually juicy tidbits go down very quickly.  But I wouldn’t let it bother you.”

            “But, Alfred,” said Mother, “Mildred Hutchins is such a gossip.”

            Alfred looked up at Mother and said, “Mildred has a mouth that could launch a thousand slips.  One of these times she will bite off more than she can chew.”

            Mother began to laugh, “I guess it isn’t really that important.  What really is important is whether or not my preoccupation with the finer things is really a good for me.  When I made Jesus my King on Christmas Eve something very important happened.  I may have been born a Talliaferro, but now I’m a child of the King.  That puts everything in a different perspective.”

             “It does, Mother, it does,” said Alfred.  “For a start, love has always been more important than things to both of us.  We have always appreciated the finer things, but we have appreciated love more.”

            “That is true, Alfred, thank you, and I’ve always counted on your love,” said Mother. “That makes me feel a little better, but still . . .”

            “Further, Mother,” said Alfred, “There is nothing wrong with the appreciation of quality and beauty.  There is a verse in Psalms that says, “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”[i]  Father Goodfellow says that refers to the fine garments of the priests in the Old Testament.  Our son Jeffrey gave me an interesting book the other day.  Let me get it.”

Alfred bustled off to his study and came back with a book in his hand. “Listen to this Mother, ‘The celebrant of the sacrament of joy will appear in a beautiful chasuble, because he is vested in the glory of the Kingdom, because even in the form of man God appears in glory.’”[ii] 

            “Oh, Alfred,” said Mother, “That’s wonderful; and now that I have my King I have discovered something else; a sense of awe.  I am in awe that I am loved, and that really makes me want to worship Him in the beauty of holiness.”

[i] Psalm 96:9 KJV
[ii] Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World