Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
One way to keep a marriage growing is to keep some loves hidden, even for 60 years.
In this column for 9-12-18, I wrote about one of my hinge books, Jesus of Nazareth, by Gunther Borkamm. He pointed out that the New Testament was written by and in a community of followers of Jesus, people of “the way,” for whom Jesus was a present reality. It was an inclusive community. That book was the reason I worked so hard to learn names all the years I was a pastor. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” If the pastor calls you by your name, you feel like you belong. I want everybody to feel included in the community of “the way.” So I love knowing everybody’s name, even in our current congregation, where I am just a member, not a pastor. Helen said, “All these years, calling everybody by name, I just thought you were showing off, because you could do something that is hard for everybody else.”
So, there are two things that I really love—in addition to my wife, my children, my grandchildren, babies, little kids, puppy dogs, mincemeat pie, coffee… knowing names, and Twinkies.
Our older daughter, Mary Beth, telephones us a lot--because she likes us, and we’re old and she wants to check up on us, and because she has a wedding coming up. That means, of course, that she wants to talk to her mother, mostly. However, sometimes Helen is off at water aerobics or at the grocery store when MB calls, and then I get to talk to her.
Recently Helen got back from Lucky’s with the ingredients for taco salad [it’s been a long, hot summer] while I was talking with MB and overheard me say, “I love Twinkies.”
She later told MB, “You think you know somebody… I’ve been married to your father for 60 years and I never knew he liked Twinkies. I’ve never seen him eat a Twinkie. It must be some secret addiction.”
Well, not exactly. I love Twinkies, but I never eat them, because they are not good for me, or anybody else. They aren’t even food. They are “a food-like substance.” That makes them really good. That’s why I love them.
Or maybe it’s because they were such a surprising first love. At the age of ten, I became a brown-bag kid. When we lived in Indianapolis, I walked home for lunch each day. When we moved to the country, I rode a school bus and so had to take my lunch to school. No school cafeteria, and we couldn’t have afforded school lunches even if there had been one. We couldn’t afford a lunch box, either, so I took my lunch in a brown paper bag, or, if we didn’t have one of those, the long wax-paper sleeve that a loaf of bread comes in. I did have a thermos for milk, which I just carried along with the lunch bag.
It was a pitiful lunch—chicken legs, or pork chops, or ham, home-grown tomatoes, home-baked biscuits, real food, because we couldn’t afford “store-bought” food-like substances. One day, as I gnawed on a pork chop, feeling sorry for myself because the other kids had sandwiches of bologna on white bread, Bobby Joe pulled out of his lunch box a Twinkie! I had never seen such a wonder. [Before the days of TV ads]. It was in cellophane. It was bright yellow. Well, “it” wasn’t just an “it.” “It” was a two. Two short yellow sponge cakes. He gave me one. I bit into it. It wasn’t just sponge cake. Inside was a filling that was sort of like the ice cream we had at “socials” in the church basement. It was sweet and soft and creamy and sugary and… different. I was in love.
To make it even better, at the same time I saw a cartoon about Twinkies in a comic book. [I love old-time comic books, too, but Helen already knows that.] Automation was the new, big thing at the time, and “untouched by human hands” was the way you said something was really up to date. In the comic book, we saw the Twinkies factory, with “Untouched by Human Hands” under the Twinkies name. And inside the factory, in the next panel of the comic, the Twinkies were being made by… monkeys! It was the perfect joke for any ten-year-old boy, but especially for one who had just fallen in love with Twinkies.
Do I have still more secret loves that, unlike Doris Day, I did not “…shout it from the highest hills, even told the golden daffodils?” Well, like every other boy my age, there is Doris day…
John Robert McFarland
The music for “My Secret Love” is by Sammy Fain, with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster for the 1953 movie, “Calamity Jane,” starring the beautiful, lyrical, and slightly-challenged dramatically former Doris Van Kapplehof.