Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thailand and a False Start

Did I mention that we plan to leave for Thailand on Thursday?  Paul and I, Steven and Jenny.  There's a Mennonite Bible school in Chiang Mai, actually more like a mission training center, and Paul will teach History of Missions for three weeks.

We return on June 24th.

You can all stop by and keep Emily and Ben company while we're gone.  Or have them over for popcorn and conversation in the evening.

And we would all appreciate your prayers, not least because for the third time this winter/spring I got a sore throat that expanded down into my lungs and triggered the whole asthma/cough/achy/fatigue/feels-like -pneumonia routine.  I think I'm just worn out; that's the problem.

One thing I had to get done before we leave was my column for the paper.  As always I didn't have anything to write about and debated about sending my editor an email: "I QUIT."  Three times I started writing about something and then stalled at 400 words.

Then in digging through some old papers I found some notes on when we got all these new little trees, and I remembered how it felt like such a battle of wills, with my family ganged up against me, and I also recalled that after one of my last trips I inspected these little trees and they all survived, so voila a story for which we hope for the best.

Here's one of the false starts:

I don’t normally remember phrases from my second grade reader when I’m trying to pressure wash the porch.

But you never know.

A winter’s worth of dirt, mold, and whatever the cats dragged in had turned our nice wraparound porch to a grimy, dingy, unwelcoming sight.

My son Ben hauled the pressure washer over from the carport and attached the hose.  I plugged it in and pushed the little reset button.

A quiet hum came from the motor.

I pressed the nozzle.

It was supposed to burst into a shivering roar, and send a jet of water out the end that would peel the grime off the vinyl siding.

It didn’t.

There was only that quiet hum deep in the guts of the yellow machine.

And the phrase from 2nd grade popped into my mind.

"It started, but it would not go."

I wonder how long I puzzled over that sentence, back in my old-fashioned desk with the hole for the inkwell, in that little Amish school.

I can still see the picture.  Mrs. Picnic, I'll call her, a cheerful white-haired woman with wire granny glasses, had driven her new car out into the country for a picnic.

The car was red, I remember that, and she had parked by a big flowering bush.

She had enjoyed her picnic and then got back in her car to go home, and there the problem arose.

It started but it would not go.

I found this utterly confusing.  Wasn't starting the same thing as going?  

Cars were a mystery to me.  I got the occasional ride from a Mennonite uncle or a driver we hired, but I didn’t begin to understand the process involved in getting it down the road.

In my world of horses and buggies and bare feet, to start was the same thing as to go.

I pictured Mrs. Picnic’s red car starting—that is, leaping forward with a happy jerk—so how could it not be going?

Odd, that it never occurred to me to ask someone what was going on.  I suppose I assumed that everyone else, equally Amish, would be as ignorant as I was.

I was an obsessive child, and I must have spent hours puzzling over that story.  My world was quite small and my chances for amusement quite limited once my schoolwork was done.

I do know the story had a happy ending and Mrs.Picnic eventually got home.

 A few years after that we upgraded to Amish 2.0 and got a car, so by the time I was 16 I had learned the complicated routine of key, brakes, shift, and so on.  I knew what it was to start the car, always difficult in a Minnesota winter, and I knew what it was to go, also risky in Minnesota winters.

There is starting, and then there is going, and to start is not always the same as to go.

In marriage, a new diet, reading a parenting book, writing a novel, and finally getting the flower beds to grow without me hovering and replanting.

[And here I felt I was overreaching for a Great Life Lesson from a memory out of second grade, so I quit.  I guess the column started, but it would not go.]

P.S. If you're wondering why little Amish students were reading about cars, it's because in those days we used castoff textbooks from the public schools.

Quote of the Day:
"Ben says if Dad ever becomes President, it'll be to have less stress in his life."


  1. Loved you story start! There are many lessons there!!! God Bless you in your travels.

  2. We have friends leaving for Thailand today to pick up their new 20-month-old son adopted through Holt. Maybe you'll run into each other! :-)

  3. Typo!! "Loved YOUR story start!!" My fingers started, but my mind did not go!!

  4. I LOVED that story! But yes, I can see why you wandered off in the end. We adults feel like the story needs A Point. But I loved that glimpse into your child mind.

    I'm a little envious of your trip to Thailand. I just went through a "King and I" phase and realized through Wikipedia that Siam is modern Thailand. Blessings on you as you travel, and may God give you strength and health.

  5. Nancy Ainsworth5/30/2012 7:58 AM

    Now I have "Shall We Dance" from the King and I" in my head --an "earworm" it's called. So my advice is to grab a local Prince if you can't find a King, and "Dance, dance, dance!", a big waltz, around and around, in a huge dress. Is that allowed in "Amish2.0"?

  6. Thanks, all of you. Crystal, I'm so happy for you friends!
    Margo--I didn't know that...I'll have to read up on this.
    And Nancy--it all depends on who's watching!