Thursday, March 28, 2013

If We Are Mark’d To Die, We Are Enow To Do Our Country Loss; And If To Live, The Fewer Men, The Greater Share Of Honour

(Thanks to reader and commenter BJM for slipping the video into my comments the other day)

Way to go, kid.

And mom and dad, too. There's the rub.  I see the hand of mom and dad in that video, and the cold, dead hands of legions of moms and dads that came before them. Teachers, too; although sometimes they're the same people. Some teachers still try under trying circumstances.

I was sick until this morning, and abed. That's rare. We do not send our children to the petri dish they call a school here in town, and are spared a lot of such things. But I laid there like a casualty and got my information about things in the house second-hand. I heard all sorts of things.

I was unable to make a fire, but they got made all the same, as I have a family and we do things together all the time. I could do what my wife does, and she managed to tend the furnace. The kids help out.

I got all my information like a submariner would. Shut up, away from everyone, but still hearing the sounds of familiar things. My wife would bring me ginger ale and crackers and updates. Life, boiled down to short messages, can be wonderful.

The kids were on tenterhooks because their mom told them I was ill. Kids raised properly are attuned to disruptions in routines. Kids raised in unsalubrious surroundings are inured to most everything. Everything's in an uproar all the time so they don't notice, or care.

My wife was teaching the little feller. There was some discussion about his older brother, who will finish high-school level homeschooling this year. He had questions about what that meant. "Your brother wants to be a musician when he is a man," my wife said to him; "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"I want to be a musician, too," he said, though I wonder about that. He's sort of a wunderkind in a small area of musicianship -- he can do simple things almost effortlessly. But he has not shown the dogged determination that his older brother has shown at learning music. He is very young and might change his mind, and be one of those people I used to hate: people that could play music better than you could, but never had to try at it.

He wasn't done. "I want to be a husband. I want to be a father."

That is an astonishing thing to hear. Why should it be astonishing to hear a nine-year-old wants to grow up and be a husband and father? It shouldn't be, but it is. If he'd uttered that in a public school, I imagine he'd be in a re-education camp by nightfall. And on the flip side, I don't think the term "wife and mother" can be uttered in public school without a SWAT team of egalitarians being called.

My children don't want to be musicians because they dream of drug abuse and licentiousness and a vision of being carried around on a litter chair by flunkeys. My older son was old enough to have come to my music shows and seen the real work it was. He still wanted to do it, because work doesn't scare him. They both want to be productive citizens, useful to other productive citizens. They want to be husbands and fathers, with everything that means.

It is everything  we've wanted for them. When the little one shows flashes of genius, I dread it. You do not want to be wonderful in this world, son. Wonderful is a big millstone in the swimming pool of life. I wanted to be normal my whole life, and during my lifetime on earth, being "normal" has gotten so strange that your mother and I are living on the edge of civilization hanging on by our fingernails.
Obscurity and a competence—that is the life that is best worth living. -- Mark Twain
I want you to at least have a chance at being normal, if you want it. There are so few people committed to being useful, salubrious, and carrying on their traditions, and then having or supporting families that will rhyme down the centuries, that you'll be wonderful enough if you manage it.

The Intertunnel is like my submarine, too. I get pinged, literally and figuratively, all the time. I feel the water temperature by putting my hand on the hull. Leslie from out west is kind enough to read, and comment, and buy furniture, and send the boys some shekels for their music videos. She is one of the many people I call my Interfriends: People I don't know, and most likely will never meet, but they're my friends. They know about me and mine, and I know something about them and theirs. If everyone that corresponds with me here were my actual instead of virtual neighbors, I'd live in the most interesting and pleasant town on earth. Leslie sent me a picture of her now grown, formerly homeschooled daughter's work. She makes cakes. But saying she makes cakes is like saying Da Vinci was a housepainter. So I get to say something I've been dying to say since I was a little kid watching TV in the sixties: Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we have a really big shoe.

My little son especially thought this was the bee's knees. "It's a shoe with a big upheel!" He makes up more, and better words than Chaucer.

Leslie's daughter is grown up, and I'd tell you she's beautiful but I'm an old man and not supposed to notice such things, so I won't mention it; and her parents tried, and obviously succeeded in producing a fully actualized person, ready and willing to be a good and productive (and inventive) citizen, and maybe someday produce her version of the same thing all over again.

We are a merry band here at the Cottage, busy being normal. We know we're not alone, because we hear the thrumming on our bulkheads. We know you're out there. There are plenty of people still trying to be decent citizens, and produce some more, by hook or by crook. We need a secret handshake or something.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers --and sisters.


Mizz E said...

Goodness gracious, what a lovely dispatch from the sick bed.
Sounds like yer getting nourishing care, so I won't worry.
-MizzE, yer nabor in Mayberry, Texas and at

Sam L. said...

Get Well Soon!

julie said...

Yes, just so!

In a perfect world, I would live in exactly the neighborhood you describe. Then I wouldn't worry about my kids when they grow up. I hope they will want to be a husband and father, a wife and mother, too. It seems like their chances of finding the best other halves of those equations are vanishingly slim in this day and age. But if they were to grow up with my neighbors' children, I'd have to think their odds would be much greater...

Casey Klahn said...

Better than most of your posts. And most of your posts are better than 99.999999% of the internets.

I had a little tear after watching that kid in his knight's outfit belt out the William Shakespeare.

Makes me realize we need fewer followers. Yeah. I like that.

I don't mean that in the fever-pit, Blue Moon Tavern kind of way, either. There, you sneer at the door, admitting only the rough men who share your poison view.

I mean it like Henry V said it. Depart with coin and chit. We'll stay here and be fine. Good day.

Get well. We need all like you we can get.

Leslie said...

Well, that was just icing on my heart swollen cake. I woke up to finding this as my daughter's status on facebook:
" 2 years ago today I started with a company that would change my life. They welcomed me into the family and let me run with my talents and grow into the decorator I am today. I love all of my Caketini family! You guys make it all worth it. #twoyearslater #blessed".
Then, I found this comment:
"Ah Leslie Bonebrake George your big paycheck for homeschooling and being an art enabler has arrived. Job well done."
Next,I open up your lovely blog and find, "a really big shoe". My cup, it overflows. Thanks, Sipp, I hope you are feeling better soon.

Rob De Witt said...

What wonderful stuff comes from you, and how often. I'll never stop marveling at what a wonderful life y'all have made, and what wonderful children are resulting.

Hope you feel better soon. Until then there's this for the family, which I expect you've already received from brother Van der Leun:

All the best


SippicanCottage said...

Hi Mizz E- The blogger Link List application is currently on the friz, and won't let me update it. As soon as they fix it, I'll add your tumblr page. You have a wonderful eye for things. Many thanks for everything.

Hi Sam- Thanks.

Hi Julie- There seem to be fewer nice people then there used to be, but perhaps it's easier to find the far-flung ones because of the Intertunnel.

Hi Casey- Many thanks for your Interfriendship. I treasure it.

Hi Leslie- Many thanks from your friends in Maine.

Hi Rob- Many thanks.

The boys are working on a video for next week that will top the last one, which is saying something.

Philip said...

Living on the edge of civilization by your fingernails is not necessarily a bad thing, says He Who lives in The Mojave.

jib said...

nice piece. you have expressed everything that I want for our son. Everyone is like you must want him to follow in your footsteps (ick no) and he'll be great in college. I'd like him to go to college if that is where he belongs.I mostly just want him to be the best young man and man for Christ that he can be regardless of what his vocation is in life. Although it might sound odd since I have post grad degree I am totally ok with my kid being a plumber if that is where he ends up. I don't think he will. He has such a gift with math (well at least way more than me).

Anonymous said...

A wonderful post. One of your best, and in "first person," too.

What a comfort for all of us to see that kindred spirits ARE afoot in the world, verily, even in cyber-space.

It was a delight to read it.

Bob in Manassas, Virginia USA

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Remember when you were dying from Lyme disease? You wrote the prettiest love note about Mrs. Cottage's cool hand on your hot forehead and coming into and out of consciousness. Glad you got better. Both times.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Love the Caketini stuff. On the law school cake the baker misspells 'torts' as lawyers do and opts for 'tortes' the way chefs do. Love it!

OldAFSarge said...

First time here, great stuff. Thank jib, she gave me the link. I will be back. The video was priceless, the young lad did very well I thought!

TmjUtah said...

I have served with men who could give that speech, and would gladly have kicked in Hell's gate with them while carrying buckets of coal.

I sure do miss those guys.

Cletus Socrates said...

4 Boys 23, 21, 19, 17
No musicians, but.....
beautiful,loving kids
Thank you God
on this Easter Eve

shoreacres said...

I see the hand of mom and dad in that video, and the cold, dead hands of legions of moms and dads that came before them. Teachers, too; although sometimes they're the same people.

I didn't say anything at the time, but now I can't help bringing it up. One of the most touching things for me in the "Take Five" video is between 1:14 and 1:26. Look on the wall, at the shadow playing there. See the hand? That's a good part of what gives your kids the confidence and decency that's as appealing as their talent. They know that hand always will be there, one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

I am Amfortas. My last job was as Keeper of the Holy Grail and it was a task made very difficult by a festering wound that would not go away. But I am cured now and relieved of my duties.

I had been wondering where the Grail was taken to. Now I have an idea.

Pogo said...

I plan to steal your bit on being normal for my toast at my daughter's upcoming wedding.