CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter…
My Grandma Mac-Henrietta Ann Smith McFarland, who was Retta to her friends-made me a stuffed dog. I called it Floppy Ears.
I was three years old, and Grandma’s favorite grandson. That’s what she always called me, up to when I was ten. Then she stopped calling me that. It was years before I realized she had stopped calling me that when her second grandson was born.
It was the time of The Great Depression. We lived with Grandma and Grandpa-Arthur Harrison McFarland, who went by Harry-in a big old house at the edge of Oxford, Ohio that my mother dubbed Cedar Crest because of the big trees in the front yard. Sometimes there were just nine of us, Grandma and Grandpa, my parents and my sister and I, and my father’s three late teen/early twenties bachelor brothers who could not marry because they could not get jobs. Occasionally there would be twelve or fourteen of us, if Uncle Harvey or Uncle Glen lost a job and they had to move in, too, with their wives and daughters.
Grandma was no more than five feet tall and weighed maybe 90 pounds. She had seven children, at home, and raised along with her own seven the daughter of a brother, from the age of four until Genevieve graduated high school. She was never in a hospital until the day she died, at age 96.
Grandma worked full-time, at Western College for Women, now a part of Miami University, first as a maid, then as a salad cook. She had a house full of people, and a purse full of nothing, but she found the time to make me a stuffed dog.
Grandma wasn’t a great crafter. Floppy Ears wasn’t intricate. He was just a profile dog, about two inches across, one leg in front and one in back. His sides were in a black and white pattern, and his legs and middle were red. But he had two eyes, and those great floppy ears, on the outside the same black and white material as his body, red on the inside.
I loved Floppy Ears, and yet he didn’t last long. I forgot about him when my father got a job in Indianapolis and we moved away from Cedar Crest and I started school. When I was about twelve I came across him in a box in the attic. I was a little embarrassed at twelve to be so happy to rediscover a little stuffed dog. I put him back in the box.
I don’t know what happened to that box. It disappeared when my parents moved while I was in graduate school. But as I listen now to a Billy Vaughn CD with a recitation of Little Boy Blue, that starts with “The little toy dog is covered with dust…” I remember Floppy Ears, and a woman who covered the world with kindness, and I am happy.
Spoiler Alert: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:
I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married, and where we are known as “Bloomarangs.” It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…