Friday, December 11, 2015

Ell Chambers and Glory-Hole Boxes

 It is a rainy day here in Southwest Novi. The dark sky and lingering fog makes it hard to get up the energy to motivate myself, but I have craft orders to finish and so when all is said and done, that will get me going at some point. These dark days are hard on my well balanced temperament… Ya… you all believe that. It just reminds me of the weight of the world and sunny days are more my style. What better time to pound a few keys and ruminate … ok chew over… some of the memories that have been popping up over the past weeks in the shop. For you newbies to my rants, that is my woodworking shop in the back yard that my son Benjamin built for me a couple of years ago. I was down in the basement/cellar the other day, looking for more tools packed away after the last move (home) and ran across some of the items from my youth.

When I was really young and terribly short, I used to visit two places in our home quite frequently. One of those places was the ell chamber. It was the attic over the north kitchen in the house and it was filled with treasures that I found, as I gained more courage to explore. Mom always warned me to stay out of things that didn’t belong to me. Yes, I know… that is the standard line from our Moms when we get to the age and stage of exploration. Well, I had opened an old dusty cardboard box one day and came across the remnants of Dad’s 2nd World War “stuff”. It was for me like finding buried treasure. I knew so little of Dad’s past and here was a treasure trove of information… or the beginnings of it at least.

When the time was right I asked Dad about the things I had discovered. He was short in answer and said that it was just stuff that he had brought home. But there were numbers there… well a combination of numbers and letters that seemed important. They were stamped on a lot of the items in the box. I memorized those numbers and have them imprinted in my mind to this day. They were Dad’s formal identification for the army, F41005. Not much of a description of him, but it proved to be so important once again as Dad grew older and needed assistance from the Royal Canadian Legion with pension and home care. Along with that important identification were other items of much interest to a little boy whose curiosity often got the best of him. There were parts of a uniform, a duffle bag, 2 backpacks, a water bottle and of all things, a grenade. I handled that puppy with care I want you to know. I later found out that it had been disarmed, but you know I kept that stuff safe all through the years. Dad’s duffle bag still hangs in the cellar-way, along with one of his backpacks that still has his favourite hunting knife attached to it.

The second favourite place I often found myself in was the back pantry/closet in our north kitchen. It was a long closet type room that Mom divided in half with the use of orange crates as a dividing wall, that became shelving for pantry items. The other side of that room opposite her makeshift pantry held a wood-box and more orange crates used for storage and lots of coat hooks for Dad’s and the family’s coats and items. In one of the orange crate cubbies was a box that was the dream of every small explorer… a “glory hole box”.

As a person interested later in life, in language, I studied English, French, and then Greek; I was intrigued by the name that this old cardboard box received, that held such an eclectic assortment of items. I imagined that the words, “Oh glory where will I put that!” was combined with the box in which things could be stuffed; just a hole for a temporary home for items. Hence, it became a glory-hole-box. I would close myself inside this back closet and pull out that box and dig through it to see what treasures it held, and it did hold some mighty powerful stuff. There were tools, tape, holders, shelf brackets, compasses, old cutlery, old safety razors… well… name it and there were items there that only one’s greatest imagination could dream of finding at such a young age. Mom put a ban on that the first time she found that I had been poking around in it. There were stories of Mom’s frustration with us boys getting into her “stuff” that have become the historical rhetoric during family get togethers, as we share our fondest and funniest memories. Some will never be shared here, but that is the debate that will always be ended with, “No… Mom wouldn’t want that to get around… what are we saying.. .that is too funny not too tell!”We all have memories like that; things that will just not fade with the passing of time. That is because they are important, identifying our past and our present, as to how we got here and who we traveled with.

Some of the items in those two boxes, as I stated, are still with me today. Dad finally talked about his time in the army, the death of his brother, who was a prisoner of war just before the war ended, and how much it affected him. He showed me his enlistment and discharge papers when I took over the family history years ago and those are part of the archival files and are stored both in my home and memory as long as I am around. The question will be… am I losing those memories as I grow older. No, they seem fresher and easier to recollect as the time marches on. What I don’t want to happen is to have false memories that creep into the mix of things, that I imagined happened or are happening around me now. This trip near the edge sometimes scares me because my parent’s minds were so sharp even into their late 80’s for Mom, and early 90’s for Dad. So perhaps it is good to embrace the past as I write. It is a documenting of things that were important back in the day, but it is a record of things that my children may want to know about… or even other family members who may read, and knowing my life and my parents to some deeper extent, could appreciate those things that were the mix of that Allen household and family time.

As I remember I walk toward the edge. I think about my past and wonder about my future. Not all of the past brings pride, but some things do stand out. The eclectic nature of my past experiences may not differ from many others who will read, but may be so far from the norm, that there may be those who might think that my life is a mere fantasy of some things hoped for yet never attained, thus becoming my pseudo person, good for the writer and his stories. But that is not the case. I am walking the paths of memories that are real and true. I have traveled most of North America, I've traveled to India 4 times to lecture, train and minister to the needs of those who are less fortunate, chaired a board for a major Theological School for 5.5 years… I guess I have lived a full life. Now in retirement I travel around the edge of a new reality of advancing years. These writings are and will always be reflections of what I saw, experienced and remember, that may help others along their journey through life. Now, I am looking for peace from the storms of business of past life and seeking comfort in the knowledge that I have a family that loves me, along with friends and acquaintances that I am reuniting with through both my rants here and social media on the internet.

What is your edge? What drives you daily and what brings up memories that may even cause a tear to seep from the corner of an eye without much provocation? We all think back more as we move ahead in life. That may be your trip to the edge. I have my faith to help me rediscover even the painful memories that haunt me from the past, but I allow myself to go there, so I can reinvest myself in the learning process that brought me back to safer ground, and on a trail that leads to higher ground of satisfaction with life. St. Paul writes that there are 3 great actions that make up life. They are faith, hope and love and he said the greatest of these is love. I believe that.  Faith often has its basis in our capacity to let go and we are not big on that. Hope is not always enduring and is most often dependent on our perspective on life, based on our upbringing, training and orientation to this world. Love on the other hand can and will endure, it always has…. If not yours then, it is that of the supreme “Other”… God who is love and manifested His love to us… We celebrate that love this month; it is “Christmas”. If I love, then no matter the pain caused, love can find a way to help me survive and rebuild and it always has.

May you find an ell chamber or glory hole box that you can remember sometime. It will brighten your day and may send you towards the edge, but hey, as I always say, it is about the perspective you see from there.  May the Lord richly bless your day and especially as you enter the fray of the festive season. Merry Christmas to all and to all, now go find a memory and let it brighten your day!

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