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Great gifts whether 90 or just three years old

June 18, 2014

I was privileged to attend two birthday parties recently. Both were rather grand affairs with 150 or more in attendance at the first one: a brunch for a 90-year-old friend of my mother’s, Cora Schrock. Cora has been a great confidant over the years for mom and I was delighted to be able to take my mother to the party during a visit to my home area in Indiana as Mom continued to recuperates from early May surgery; I wrote about the train trip here.


Cora left, and my mother, Bertha.

There was a “queen for the day” crown that embarrassed Cora slightly but she played along regally, greeting friends, family, church members and fellow residents in her retirement home complex.


There was plentiful good food: homemade omelets, home baked cinnamon rolls and other sweets, fruits, and of course, birthday cake.


Mom and a cousin catch up, even though they talk by phone almost every day.

But mostly there were a hundred conversations all over the ample dining room of people reconnecting, sometimes after many years: emotionally close brothers who still had not seen each other in four years, a brother who recalled baling hay with my husband–helping my father many years ago.


The Schrock family, in an earlier photo, on display at the party.

But one conversation was especially meaningful to me: a woman who was first on the scene (with her father) when my maternal grandfather Ivan was tragically killed in a single car accident when I was just a baby—a scene so gruesome I’ll spare you the details but which understandably haunted her as an 11-year-old child for a number of years.

Rather than cause me nightmares or aversion it somehow made me feel closer to this grandfather, being right next to a woman who experienced my Grandpa in that terrible moment, horn still blaring on his vehicle in awful serenade. She said her father then sought help (long before cell phones, 911, or even much in the way of rescue squads). Many years later her own sister was killed by a drunken driver, her only sibling. Yet she seems to have healed as well as you can from that kind of tragedy. Such is life.


At the other end of life’s spectrum, I got to join in the joyful mayhem of a party for two three-year-olds, step-siblings.


There was a rented bouncy house (as I call them), kids playing steal-the-flag in wild woodsy terrain behind the church cabin where the party was held (I think they fancied they were acting out a movie, maybe), a sprinkler, swing set and of course, adults sitting around reconnecting and eating pizza.



Given all of the various grandparents, steps, ex’s and generations, I’m guessing there were 40 at this party, all connected through their love of these children.


Several members of the Kemp family, including a great grandfather.

I couldn’t help but reflect: what will life be like for the pair of three-year-olds if they are blessed to reach 90 years of age? What was life like for baby Cora in 1924? I can imagine that at most a 3-year-old girl in 1927 would have gotten no more than a special cake, a small toy or new dress.


These three-year-olds each got little scooters, a plastic sandbox set, mini basketball goal, some dolls and trucks/bulldozers. I was glad for the active, creative play these gifts signaled rather than too much in the way of electronics at this early age.

Is it too obvious to suggest that whatever the age, the gifts of love we share with the three-year-old or the 90-year-old are what matter, what’s important, the true treasure.

I once had the opportunity to interview Amish farmer David Kline. author of the book Great Possessions; in it he’s talking mostly about farming and stewarding God’s gifts in nature, but the application here is family as great gifts, our possessions. Not in the sense of “owning” anyone–but in the sense of belonging to a group of people or having a place that is truly “home.” As another author/poet Robert Frost said so memorably in the voice of two characters in his long poem , The Death of the Hired Man:

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”

“I should have called it something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”

Our families are great gifts–and the important thing is to treasure them always, whether through hard times or great days celebrating birthdays. Even two or three at once!

I also always like this verse: “God sets the lonely in families.” Psalms 68:6


And when you don’t have family nearby, a good friend is a great gift, too.


Which definition of “home” from the Robert Frost poem do you like the best/resonate with?







From → Faith, Family Life

  1. Edna Brugger permalink

    Great reflections Melody. It was nice to see you at Aunt Cora’s celebration.

    • Edna, did I meet you there? I’m happy to find others who were there! Wasn’t it a wonderful brunch and fellowship? Thanks for commenting.

    • Carrie Gauthier permalink

      I just a got a painting from Cora Schrock as a Christmas gift. I’m wondering if it might have been done by your aunt or a relative of hers. It’s a lovely camping scene on a river bend called Nights Glory. I’d love to know it’s providence.

  2. Today I had the experience of two 95 year-olds and four children under 7 around the dinner table. Both need assistance and both yield wisdom.

  3. I’m sure the yielded wisdom is forthcoming … on your blog sometime?? I would love to hear more. All relatives I assume? Lovely.

  4. Carrie Gauthier permalink

    I happen to have a painting by Cora Schrock. I’m wondering if it isn’t a bit older and maybe done by a relative of hers. I just got it for Christmas and love it dearly. Hoping to find out some history and any help would be appreciated.

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