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Some of us know the depths of depression and despondency. Some of us know the lack of physical healing or the pain of incurable disease. Some of us know the sorrow and grief of losing a precious loved one. Some of us know family dysfunction. Some of us know abuse that no one else can see or fathom. And we question how this could be…
How could a loving God leave us in pain by not healing us, even after much prayer? How could a loving God allow so much evil to go on all around us? How could a loving God allow the senseless shooting sprees that kill our innocent children? How could you do that to us God?
But, it’s not God who does this to us… with Adam and Eve came “the fall.” The perfect first couple failed to heed God’s words, listening instead to the guile of sweet flattery from the serpent. Ever since, we and this world around us have been living with sin and its imperfections. We tend to put ourselves… our wants and desires… first.
I remember many years ago leaders in church saying that if anyone was discouraged or depressed, they must not be a true believer in God. How wrong and presumptuous to think that the difficulties of life can’t and won’t weary anyone, including a hearty Saint! We’re human, as were the best examples in Scripture who dealt with their own failings and weaknesses which brought them to their knees. Like King David’s psalms of poetic devotions which vividly show his laments and pleadings, they also show his rejoicing in God’s guidance, protection and provision. He was no different than us. We all express our sorrows and laments as well as joy and thankfulness. Yet, it could also be asked, where are we in bringing aid and comfort to the one who has been wearied by the blows of life?
As David begins Psalm 55, he sends up a prayerful plea: “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.” Yet, as verse 22 attests, David confidently reminds us to whom he could turn despite his troubles by saying, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you…” A sentiment confirmed by the bold and outspoken Apostle Peter who said to “Cast all your anxiety/cares on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) And this from the man who three times denied he ever knew Jesus, his Lord and closest friend!
The difficulties we face do not mean God doesn’t hear our cries, our pleas, our prayers. Though His answers may not be what we want or expect, He will answer in His time and in His way… for He alone knows the best way to meet our needs. His answer to our prayers may not come immediately. Sometimes, it’s not until much later that we look back and say, “Oh! So that’s why things happened that way!” In allowing difficulties to come into our lives, God quietly gives us an opportunity to grow. By seeking our Lord’s will through it all, we mature in faith.
Even the Apostle Paul dealt with a “thorn in the flesh.” Some have thought it might be poor vision after the brilliant light that temporarily blinded him on the road to his conversion. We don’t know his exact problem, and it really doesn’t matter. Paul felt it was given to him to prevent his becoming conceited. Three times he asked the Lord to remove it from him, to heal him; but, it was not removed and he was not healed. Instead, what Paul heard in his heart was the Lord saying, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (II Corinthians 12:9 NIV)
In the days that seem so dark, so dreary, so difficult and painful… know that you can find comfort from those around you… a spouse, a child, a dear friend, your church family, or friends within your community. They will be there to comfort you and see you through, and point you in the right direction for help. Assistance may even come through professionals who can provide counseling, medical care and medication. But, also know that there is another who will be there, one who will come alongside, hold you up, and carry you on those days when you can barely manage to move forward – our Lord. I know, because He’s been there for me, for us, through dark and difficult days, with a peace I can only describe as an overwhelming warm blanket of comfort… for “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)
There’s an old song I like by Rich Mullins, “That Where I Am, There You May Also Be.” I especially appreciate the chorus, “In this world you will have trouble but I leave you my peace…” It’s based on John 16:33 where Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
As proofreader, my husband, Ed, commented, “It’s a feeling of complete and unexplainable tranquility knowing that nothing can shake you anymore, that God has your back whatever comes at you. It’s knowing that you have Jesus and that He died for you; and, when the end comes, that you’re going where He is and there will be peace forever with Him.”
It is this overwhelming peace that I have felt as our Lord wrapped His loving arms around me while in prayer, thanking Him for blessings through difficult days... in our daughter’s passing, in my husband’s blindness and extensive health issues, and so much more. Do I always remember to pray right away, to thank Him, and ask for His help and guidance? No, unfortunately, I don’t. Sometimes it’s later that I think, once again, why didn’t I go to God first? I know I need to ask Him to help change my heart just as much as I know He is there waiting for me to draw near to Him, telling me “I’ll be there…” Just like the words we say to a friend in need - I’ll be there… as we become Christ’s hands and feet for others.
I’ll Be There…
Linda A. Roorda
When you feel
As though the world
Has closed in tightly all around…
I’ll be there.
When it seems
As though your prayers
Just never get answered…
I’ll be there.
When the road
You’re traveling on
Seems just too steep to climb…
I’ll be there.
When it’s hard
To face life’s challenges
That hide your peace and squelch your joy…
I’ll be there.
When you peer
Into nothing but darkness
That envelopes your entire world…
I’ll be there.
When the Lord
Does not give healing
But simply says, “Trust me…”
I’ll be there.
When you step
Into a bright new day
But only feel never-ending pain…
I’ll be there.
When you need
A hand to grasp
And an ear to hear the depths of your soul…
I’ll be there.
When a tear
Begins to slide
And sadness covers your entire world…
I’ll be there.
When your face
Looks up in prayer
While holding tight your Maker’s hand…
I’ll be there.
When you feel
God’s loving arms
Gently enfold as He carries you…
I’ll be there.
When you sense
God’s peace fill your soul
He gently whispers within your heart…
I’ll be there.
All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission of author.
“Silent night, Holy night”. Christmas festivities in colonial America were in stark contrast to the celebrations and preparations of modern day. Christmas was celebrated by early settlers of Chemung and throughout the newly formed United States of America. New York was the 11th state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on July 26th, 1788, the same year the Town of Chemung was established. Although the celebrations would not have been as elaborate as those in the cities or of the wealthy, a modest celebration would have taken place. It has been noted in writings of how generous and extravagant George Washington was on Christmas to his family, guests and servants. The Christmas of 1788 found our Country without a President, it being run instead by the Confederation Congress.[ii] The election held for the First President of the United States of America actually ran from Monday, December 15, 1788, to Saturday, January 10, 1789. No doubt politics would have been a newsworthy item spoken around the dinner table. Whether or not the settlers in Chemung were given the opportunity to vote is not known.
Decorations would have been very simple by today’s standards. The German settlers most likely would have brought a small tree into their home. If they had the means to do so they might have adorned the tree with candles. New England Puritans preached against frivolity and the pagan heathen traditions of Christmas trees, Christmas carols and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.”[iii] Although there were hymns, Christmas Carols weren’t actually sung until the later part of the 19th century.
Fruit of any kind was too precious to be wasted on decorations. You would not have seen any apples or other fruit adorning the mantel. The home and church might have been adorned with what was called the "sticking of the Church" with green boughs on Christmas Eve. Garlands of holly, ivy, and mountain laurel were hung from the church roof, the walls, and perhaps the primitive church benches. Lavender, rose petals, and pungent herbs such as rosemary and bay were scattered throughout the churches, providing a pleasant holiday scent. Scented flowers and herbs were chosen partially because they were aromatic and thus were considered an alternative form of incense.[iv]
Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Moravians celebrated the traditional Christmas season with both religious and secular observances in the Middle Atlantic colonies of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and in the South. However, the celebration of Christmas was outlawed in parts of New England by Calvinist Puritans and Protestants. [v]
By the 18th century, Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Christkind or Kris Kringle might have made an appearance at Christmastime to leave a gift. Similar figures were a jolly elf named Jultomten, who was thought to deliver gifts in a sleigh drawn by goats and Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Babouschka and La Befana; depending on the nationality of the family home.[vi]
Although private celebrations would have been held in the confines of some of the first log cabins and frame homes in the town, it is possible that some of the families came together to celebrate with bible readings and prayers provided by family members. Little is known about the first church erected in the Town of Chemung. It sat on the bank of the Chemung River several miles from what is now “Chemung Proper” on the south side of the river. Travel to the church especially in the cold winter months would have been difficult. A ferry would have been needed to traverse the icy water in December. For those living on the south side of the river, their difficulties would have been to travel the rutted path with their families. At that early a time in the history of the town, there were few horses or oxen and little or no carts or wagons. Most settlers would have traveled by foot. It was here where “The beginning of Christian Organizations in Chemung and Neighboring Valleys” was organized. “The site of the first church of any denomination in Chemung Valley.” It was “organized September 2, 1789 by Roswell Goff, Pastor and William Buck, John Hillman, Peter Roberts, John Roberts, Jesse Locey, John VanCamp and Elizabeth Hillman. (All Baptists)”. (A monument, located ¼ mile from the site of the church can be seen today on the Wilawana Road, located approximately 2 miles east of Wellsburg at what is known today as the Tanner Farm.)
A small gathering met in worship, according to the early minutes of the Wellsburg Church. From this beginning, the Baptist Church grew, expanding to the building of a Meeting House in 1812 on land purchased by Abner Wells for 50 cents.[vii] The log cabin church and a cemetery were washed away in a flood. There are no remains today and no record of burials in the cemetery.
Traditions from various nationalities were brought with the early settlers from their homes in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and other New England States and from their homes across the Atlantic. Many of the earliest settlers arrived between the years 1788 and 1791. Depending on when they began homesteading and growing crops, their harvest and winter supplies of food may have been lean for several years. If they had a roof over their head, a warm fireside and enough food to eat, along with the courage and fortitude to better their circumstances, they were wealthy in their own right. “All is Calm, All is Bright”.
Merry Christmas to All,
Mary Ellen Kunst
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There are special memories we treasure and renew each Christmas season, no matter what! It seems that to honor this most treasured holiday is in our soul, for the birth of Baby Jesus brought treasured Joy and Love into our world. As we celebrate this joyous holiday, we enjoy making or buying special gifts for our loved ones, baking delicious treats, and beautifully decorating our homes.
But don’t forget the seasonal aromas of fresh-cut evergreens! Therein lies a favorite memory for many in going out to get a Christmas tree from a tree farm, meandering between the rows to find the right one as fresh snowflakes flutter down, or perhaps simply picking out a favorite from among pre-cut trees on a seasonal lot, the latter option often being pretty much all that’s available to our city friends.
Decorating the family Christmas tree brings such excitement to a child! Their eyes sparkle, reflecting the lights and tinsel that shine and shimmer, while the fancy decorations bring special memories to mind from year to year. The first Christmas after Ed and I were married, we cut down a small tree in the woods to decorate in our trailer; otherwise, faux trees were usually the norm as our kids grew up to save the disposable expense every year. Now, I simply set up the 2-foot ceramic tree made for my mother-in-law decades ago, which she graciously gifted to me before her passing.
Until this research, I never knew that the evergreen tree is said to represent strength, perhaps strength to resist temptations or to remain strong in the harshest of times. We often consider it a symbol of our Christian faith, a reminder of Christ’s birth and everlasting life, but it has also been an ancient symbol of wisdom and longevity. President John F. Kennedy even referred to the durable evergreen as a symbol of character by saying, “Only in winter can you tell which trees are truly green. Only when the winds of adversity blow can you tell whether an individual or a country has courage and steadfastness.” (The Historic Christmas Tree Ship, pg.276)
It seems Christmas trees became popular thanks to England’s Queen Victoria in the mid-19th century. Yet, it was in 16th century Germany where many believe the tradition began of setting up an evergreen in the house for Christmas. Martin Luther, credited with starting the Protestant Reformation in 1517, is thought to have begun putting lit candles onto his family’s tree which were held in place by wires. This bright tradition was based on his seeing stars twinkling amongst the evergreens as he walked outdoors mulling over a sermon. The Germans also added edible decorations to the branches, like aromatic gingerbread. German glassmakers began creating unique glass tree ornaments, a tradition carried forward through the centuries. In 1605, an unknown German left a written record of their decorations: "At Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlours of Strasbourg and hang thereon roses cut out of many-colored paper, apples, wafers, gold foil, sweets, etc." As time went on, figurines of Baby Jesus were put at the top of the tree. Later, an angel was often displayed as a topper to remind us of the one who had first informed the shepherds about Baby Jesus’ birth, or a star was gently set on the top branch in honor of the bright star which led the Wise Men to the young child.
In England, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert of Germany, apparently set up and decorated their first family Christmas tree in 1841 inside Windsor Castle. Young and beloved by everyone, whatever Queen Victoria wore or did often became the latest fad, like wearing the first white wedding gown for her marriage in February 1840. Thus, she and her husband are credited with starting the very popular Christmas tree tradition. An 1848 drawing of “The Queen’s Christmas tree at Windsor Castle” in the Illustrated London News eventually found its way to America, republished in “ Godey's Lady's Book ” at Philadelphia in December 1850. However, historical curators have established it was actually Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, who began the British tradition of setting up Christmas trees with “the first known English tree at the Queen’s Lodge, Windsor in December 1800.” Simply put, Queen Charlotte didn’t have the effervescent media giving profuse public praise to her every move that we would remember her effort.
Lit candles on Christmas trees created a beautiful illuminating star effect. Unfortunately, they were also the cause of many fires. What a promising change when inventor Thomas Edison hung up his safer electric lights in his office in 1880. Two years later his colleague, Edward Johnson, strung up red, white and blue bulbs for use on his tree at home. By 1890, an Edison Company brochure offered Christmas tree lighting services. Only a few years later, President Grover Cleveland became the first president to decorate the White House Christmas tree with lights in 1895. But, not until 1923, did President Calvin Coolidge set up the first National Christmas Tree on the White House front lawn.
The popularity of Christmas trees make them highly desirable wherever you live. Along with the beauty of candles or lightbulbs, various types of homemade decorations have been strung on the tree, including popcorn, cranberries, and fancy ornaments from paper to glass. To serve their many customers, trees were brought to the cities by traditional means of delivery via teamsters with horse-drawn wagons and the popular steam locomotive. Of especial interest among certain waiting city clientele, though, were the roughly 60 Christmas tree schooners which plied Lake Michigan between 1868 and 1914. They were among the nearly 2000 or so beautiful three-masted schooners carrying cargo like tractor trailers on today’s highways. Sailing south from northern Lake Michigan with loads of evergreens in late November, these hardy mariners risked their lives despite stormy weather to bring great joy to their customers. Far from summer’s calm, late season sailing often became a ride on roiling and dangerous waters described as “hellish death traps [in] violent hurricane-force storms.”
Many of us readily recall Gordon Lightfoot’s song, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, a haunting tale of loss on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975 – “…The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down, of the big lake they called 'Gitche Gumee'. The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead, when the gales of November come early…” This last phrase was oft quoted by long-forgotten mariners on the Great Lakes who knew stormy tragedy; and, I’m sure, are among the fears of those who ply the late-season waters even now. Yet, not many of us today know about the tragic loss of the three-masted schooner, “Rouse Simmons”, the famed and fabled Christmas Tree Ship.
Born after the American Civil War’s conclusion in 1865, Capt. Herman Schuenemann, the son of German immigrants, knew Lake Michigan like the back of his hand. He’d been sailing since his youth. He knew how storms could blow up in an instant, causing havoc with sailing vessels, just as he knew about storms which took ships down to their dark and bitter-cold watery graves. After all, he lost his brother, August, in the severe gale of November 9-10, 1898. His ship, “the two-masted S. Thal”, also held Christmas trees bound for Chicago when she sank in a violent storm.
Loyal to the good people of Chicago, Capt. Herman Schuenemann faithfully brought in his schooner loaded with Christmas trees every year. While not the only Christmas tree ship on the Great Lakes, the good captain with his evergreen cargo was extremely popular at the Clark Street Dock of Chicago. The annual arrival of Capt. Santa was made more popular by the reciprocal love of his many friends and neighbors. He couldn’t think of disappointing the faithful who hoped to buy his trees for their homes, nor the poor families, orphanages, and churches which welcomed his free gift of a tree. It simply gave him great pleasure to sail into the Chicago harbor with his cargo of evergreen joy.
Yet, some would later claim Schuenemann had overloaded his schooner that year, making her top heavy. At least one sailor, possibly several, refused to get on board when it was claimed rats were seen deserting while she was docked. Sailors can be a superstitious lot… still, it’s long been known by old sea hands that if rats desert a ship, they know something’s amiss in what the inexperienced or unconcerned observer may overlook.
Even so, Capt. Schuenemann set sail on a nearly 300-mile journey from Thompson’s Pier at Manistique, Michigan the week before Thanksgiving… November 22, 1912, a Friday, another bad omen. To the old mariners, you never set sail on a Friday… just past midnight into Saturday, but never on Friday. Knowing a storm was brewin’, Schuenemann wanted to get ahead of it, ignoring advice from friends in the Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “The people of Chicago have to have their trees for Christmas.” (See film clip of Classicsailboats.org, “Herman Schuenemann, Captain Santa”)
In the captain’s defense, though, even the official weather forecast on the day he sailed was not one that would have given rise to grave concern. “Washington, D.C., November 22, 1912 – For Wisconsin: Local rains or snow Saturday; colder at night; variable winds becoming northwest and brisk; Sunday fair. For Upper Michigan: Local snow or rains Saturday; variable winds, becoming northwest and west and brisk; Sunday fair. This would not be the kind of weather which a recreational yachtsman would relish, but it was hardly cause to stop the merchantmen.” (“Anchor News”, publication of the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, January/February 1990, by Fred Neuschel; p. 87, Pennington.)
And so, undeterred, Schuenemann sailed out into the lake with his cargo of roughly 5000 trees… until the 50-60+ mph winds caught up with him. The gale-force winds laden with snow and ice took their toll on the hardy old ship built 44 years earlier. She was seen by a steamer about 2 p.m. on November 23, 1912, the car ferry “Ann Arbor No.5.” Noted to be riding low and listing badly, the captain of “Ann Arbor No.5” later claimed the “Simmons” was not running distress signals. He didn’t attempt to get closer to offer aid thinking she could yet make it safely to shore, later taking much blame for his decision.
Less than two hours after that siting, however, the U.S. Lifesaving Station had received notice and sent a rescue motorboat out from Two-Rivers, Wisconsin during the fierce storm to find the “Simmons”. The rescuers briefly saw her riding low and listing with distress flags flying, reporting that “…she was completely iced over, with most of her rigging and sails tattered or gone.” As they drew within an eighth of a mile of the schooner, a sudden snow squall overwhelmed and “blinded them. By the time the squall blew itself out, the ‘Rouse Simmons’ was gone… There was no Christmas Tree Ship, no Captain Santa, and no trees for many needy families’”. (p.135, Pennington, quoting U.S. Coast Guard Magazine, Dec 2000)
The late-season cold and stormy Great Lakes does not bring a pleasure sail. High winds angrily whip the lake into a mountainous frenzy, sending waves crashing over ship decks. The captain and his crew would fight the elements as their ship was tossed to and fro. Though all hands knew what to do in riding out such storms, surely they must have also realized they could go down at any moment. Realistically, there was only so much they could do. “Freezing temperatures would sheet rigging, sails and spars with heavy coats of ice. The accumulating weight of ice on the ship could ominously drag her deeper into the water, changing the center of gravity and making her prone to a sudden roll, from which she would never recover. Running any cargo on the old schooners was especially dangerous in the late season.” (“Went Missing II”, Frederick Stonehouse, Copyright 1984; pg.87, Pennington)
Actually, four ships with all hands sank in that horrendous storm of 1912 – “South Shore,” “Three Sisters,” “Two Brothers,” and the “Rouse Simmons.” Having lost sight of the “Simmons” despite an extensive search which risked their own lives, the unsuccessful Two Rivers Point men returned to the rescue house. When the “Rouse Simmons” failed to appear at any dock after ten days had passed, let alone her destination of Chicago’s Clark Street dock, it was determined that she must have gone to the bottom of Lake Michigan. She was believed to have sunk on November 23, 1912, possibly somewhere between the Two Rivers Point light and Kewaunee along the Wisconsin shore. Yet, there were numerous conflicting reports of sightings and stories of her final hours, including supposed sightings that she had braved the storm just fine, confusion on the number of crew aboard, and even confusion as to why she had gone down.
For years afterwards, evergreen trees and their remnants, including a few ship artifacts and skulls, were caught up in numerous fishing nets. Not until October 30, 1971, however, did a diver, Kent Bellrichard, accidentally discover the “Rouse Simmons.” While searching for another ship with his sonar, he dove down into the depths to investigate his target at the bottom. Quite sure he had found the “Rouse Simmons”, Bellrichard returned a week later for another dive. This time, with better lighting, he found the schooner’s name and hundreds of Christmas trees in her hold, some tucked deep inside with needles still intact. (pg. 232-237, Pennington)
Many more years passed before a fishing trawler netted a captain’s wheel in 1999. Determined to be from the “Rouse Simmons” by the year 1868 etched into the wheel’s metal, it was found in an area dubbed the ship graveyard for the many ships which have sunk there in storms over the numerous past decades. It is now believed the “Simmons” did not break apart from age as had been initially surmised. With her wheel found a mile and a half north of where the schooner rested on the bottom, and noting the specific type of damage to the wheel, there seemed to be sufficient evidence as to why the good Capt. Schuenemann was unable to bring her safely in to shore. Judging from the damage to the wheel, it most likely broke off and sank when the massive mizzenmast driver boom, which supported the ship’s main sails, broke loose. Without the vital wheel to guide the ship’s direction, and with her larger-than-usual load of evergreens, being heavily coated with ice, her sails in tatters from gale-force winds, riding low and listing badly, she all too quickly sank below the surface with a total loss of life in the worst storm folks of that day could remember ever hitting their great lake. (pg. 214-215, Pennington)
Despite the family’s loss, the captain’s wife, Barbara, was determined to continue her husband’s tradition. She and her daughters, Elsie, and twins Pearl and Hazel, began their annual trek in 1913 to the Northwoods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They cut down and loaded a schooner full of Christmas trees for the good folks of Chicago, sending more by train. Over time, fewer schooners brought Christmas trees into ports as the safer railroads took over. But, for now, Elsie, age 20, the Captain’s oldest daughter, a very capable trained mariner under her father’s tutelage, sailed the lake on a new Christmas Tree Ship to bring home the greens. Bringing shiploads of trees and green boughs to Chicago’s Clark Street dock at least until 1925 before sending all evergreens by rail, Barbara and her three daughters continued to bring the joy of the season to town just as the good Captain Santa had done. The family was beloved for their kindness and generosity in many ways, but especially during their own time of deepest grief when they thought of others.
Yet, one little girl clearly remembered waiting for Capt. Scheunemann’s Christmas Tree Ship to sail into the Chicago harbor back in 1912. At age 5, Ruthie Erickson held her father’s hand as they waited at the dock for hours only to have her father finally say, “Ruthie, everybody is gone. It’s cold. The wind is blowing. We should go home now.” “But Daddy,” she replied, “it isn’t Christmas without a Christmas tree!” (p.316, Pennington)
Many years later, 83-year-old Ruth (Erickson) Flesvig attended a play in 1990 about the beloved Captain Santa and his Christmas Tree Ship. As the play concluded, her presence unknown to anyone, the real “little Ruthie” walked up onto the stage to say that she had been there at the docks waiting and waiting for the good captain and his trees. Portraying Capt. Scheunemann was Capt. Dave Truitt, former Chairman of the Christmas Ship Committee who, in conjunction with the U.S. Coast Guard, helped restore the annual Christmas Tree Ship event in 2000. (p.304-305, Pennington). With tears in his eyes and everyone else’s, Capt. Truitt took one of the Christmas trees on stage and handed it to Ruth. With these words, he spoke for Capt. Scheunemann by saying, “I couldn’t give you a Christmas tree in 1912 when you were five because of reasons you now know, but I give this tree to you today. Merry Christmas, Ruthie!” (p.316-137, Pennington)
Donating free trees to Chicago’s needy, the U.S. Coast Guard’s annual Christmas Tree Ship continues Capt. Schuenemann’s beloved tradition. Since 2000, the U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw, an imposing icebreaker, arrives at Grand Avenue’s Navy Pier bearing a banner proclaiming her “Chicago’s Christmas Ship”. As large crowds gather, a memorial ceremony pays tribute to the “Rouse Simmons,” the lives lost when she sank, and others in the merchant marine trade who have lost their lives over the decades on Lake Michigan. Then, a large number of volunteers help deliver free Christmas trees to needy families throughout the city of Chicago in honor of Capt. Santa, their dear Capt. Herman Schuenemann.
As author Rochelle Pennington concluded, “Captain Herman Schuenemann touched the lives of people he would never know, and the volunteers of Chicago’s Christmas Ship are doing the same… dispelling some of the darkness in this ‘weary world’ that there may be rejoicing in The Season of Miracles… [For] the strength of humanity lies herein: in the willingness for each of us to leave the walls of our own hearts, and our own lives, and connect with the hearts and lives of others. A Babe born in Bethlehem told us so. The Life born in the hay had come to say, ‘Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, serve one another in love, and share. And do unto others, for it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.” (p.317, Pennington)
Merry Christmas and blessings to all!
Many thanks to a friend, Will Van Dorp, aka Tugster, for the research tip about Captain Santa and his ship of evergreens, the “Rouse Simmons.” Van Dorp traverses the Erie Canal and Great Lakes as an onboard lecturer for Blount Small Ship Cruises.
Legend of the Christmas Tree Ship (Northern Wilds Magazine, Dec-Jan 2011)
Brief film clip from “Herman Schuenemann, Captain Santa”, ClassicSailboats.org
Through interstate library loan:
“The Historic Christmas Tree Ship, A True Story of Faith, Hope and Love,” by Rochelle Pennington, 2004, published by Pathways Press.
“Lives and Legends of the Christmas Tree Ships” by Fred Neuschel.
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Fall has finally arrived on Wipjibber Mountain, which means the boys of Troop 000 are back up and running after time off for summer vacation. The scouts are just back from their first camping trip for the 2018-2019 season and I’m told it was one for the history books.
In an effort to train for next Summer’s backpacking trip in the Allegheny Mountains, the scouts hiked from the Methodist Church to the property of their scoutmaster, Gary Inzo. It was fair weather for the 5 mile hike with an overnight stop in the woods near the old railway station.
The following morning they arrived at Inzo’s property and set up camp. The older scouts instructed their younger charges in the ways of woodcraft including cooking a meal over an open fire. I’m happy to report no injuries other than an incident in which Lawrence Hubschmidt got smoke in his eyes and recoiled, sending his pan full of half done fried potatoes flying through the air. As his spuds returned to earth, some landing in a fresh mug of coffee, just poured, Lawrence lost his balance and went rolling down the hillside, his scoutmaster following closely behind him. Lawrence was uninjured, thankfully, largely in part to the strength of the adult leaders who restrained said scoutmaster until a fresh cup of joe could be poured for him. The adults later remarked it was a good thing Inzo forgot about the shotgun he’d brought in case of a visit by a nuisance bear that’d been having around his place.
The scouts enjoyed a rousing game of “Flashlight Tag” in the wooded section of the property until the game took an interesting turn which will not be soon forgotten.
Bobby Joe Olson, being designated as the person who was”it”, heard what he suspected to be another scout in a nearby thicket. He snuck up on the unsuspecting boy aided only by the moonlight. He was nearly on his quarry when he heard a low, deep snuffling sound.
“B-B-B… BEAR!!!!” he bellowed, before stumbling over a tree root and falling backwards, losing his flashlight in the process.
Scoutmaster Inzo, seeing the opportunity to finally be rid of the bear, remembered he'd brought his 12 gauge and, grabbing it, sprinted up the hill towards the sound of Bobby Joe’s yelling. Arriving where the boy was still thrashing in the dry leaves trying to get to his feet he took aim at the thrashing weeds where he knew the bear stood, and let fly with two rounds of buckshot.
At the report of the old Remington, Bobby Joe snapped to his senses. He also snapped countless small trees and limbs as he bolted into the night towards camp.
Certain the bruin was down, Inzo went to his tent, fetching a lantern and returned with the rest of the group. All were anxious to see the monster which nearly ate their fellow scout. All that is except said scout who was occupied cleaning up the mess in his shorts.
Shining the lantern on his trophy, Inzo was immediately crestfallen to find not the bearskin rug he’d long desired, but Ollie, his grandson’s prize Hereford steer which until this weekend was bound for next year’s State Fair.
The remainder of the weekend was a somber affair as scoutmaster searched for ways to break the news of the steer’s demise to his grandson. But all agreed it was a weekend they’d never forget.
The Wipjibber Mountain Audubon Club will host a Pancake Breakfast at the fire department November 10th from 8-11 am. A free will donation is suggested.
Scout Troop 000 announced they will be postponing their annual Fall Spaghetti Dinner. Instead, there will be an “all you can eat” roast beef dinner held in the dining hall of the Methodist Church on Nov. 17th from 4-7pm. Cost is $10 for those 12 and up, children $5. All proceeds will go towards the troops newly planned Summer trip to New York City.
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Without a doubt, we’re heading into some exciting times here in Chemung County. With the slate of candidates running for election this year, voters have the opportunity to enact change that could impact the county for decades to come.
It’s exciting times for ElmiraTelegram.com as well. Not only has the site stepped forward to offer the chance for voters to voice their support for the candidates, but the opportunity for the candidates to reach out to the voters as well.
Additionally, it’s a time of change for the website as a whole. Prompted by several people in our community and the void expressed by many, ElmiraTelegram.com will be making some major changes to the website in the next few weeks.
Starting shortly after the election, ElmiraTelegram.com will be getting a major facelift, offering a more user friendly, professional looking website.
Just a peek!
The changes won’t be just cosmetic however. We’ll be making it easier for readers and community figures to make their voices heard with an expanded “Opinion” section, modeled off of the traditional op-ed pages found in newspapers across the nation.
E.T will have a Special Features section appearing throughout the year including a section to celebrate the holidays.
And for those who enjoy the laid back chat, the the forums will remain available to those who have signed up.
Best of all, ElmiraTelegram.com will remain free to the public. No firewalls, no pop up, just news and information.
This change has been something I’ve wanted to try for a long time, and now feels like the right time to give it a whirl.The original plan was to make the changes to coincide with the site’s five year anniversary, but there’s no way I can wait that long.
So stay tuned and sometime after Election Day we’ll pull back the covers and unveil the new and improved ElmiraTelegram.com. I think you’re gonna like it!
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by Erin Doane
The Lake Street Bridge closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic in March 2011. I started working here at CCHS in May 2011, so I never had the chance to go over the bridge that is just across the street from the museum. It was announced recently that work would start next summer to repair the bridge and open it to pedestrians. This is just the newest chapter in the history of this river crossing.
The first bridge across the Chemung River in Elmira was completed at the foot of Lake Street in 1824. Before that, one needed a ferry to cross the river. The wooden bridge was constructed by the Elmira and Southport Bridge Company. It had three piers, one in the center of each channel and another on the island in the middle of the river. Some years after it was built, the spans began to sag considerably. Once, a drove of cattle crossing the bridge, broke through the first span during high water and timbers and cows went floating down the river. In 1840, the bridge was badly damaged in the “great fire” of that year. A new covered bridge was erected on the spot with J.H. Gallagher supervising construction.
The covered bridge burned in 1850 when the tannery at its south end caught fire. It was replaced by a wooden truss structure. This new bridge was open at the top except for some crossing timbers. This allowed the snow to fall through onto the roadway during the winter so that sleighs could more easily cross. A considerable part of this bridge was washed away during the St. Patrick’s Day flood of 1865. The bridge’s only stone pier was undermined and most of the southern span dropped out and washed down the river. The bridge was repaired and remained in used until 1869.
By 1869, there were two bridges over the Chemung, at Lake Street and Main Street. Both were toll bridges. Businessmen on the north side of the river did not like that people had to pay tolls to cross. Customers from the plank road district and other parts of Southport were reluctant to cross the bridge to do businesses. Farmers didn’t want to pay a toll to sell their produce so they went south to Troy, Pennsylvania instead of to Elmira.
Early in 1869, the city passed a legislative act authorizing it to purchase both bridges for $25,000 (around $460,000 today). They dropped the tolls and used taxpayer funds to maintain the structures. Three years later, another act was passed authorizing the building of new bridges at both locations. The Main Street bridge was replaced first, then the Lake Street bridge was completed in 1874. The new Lake Street bridge was made of iron with three spans of 182 feet each and trusses that were 26 feet high. The piers were made of limestone. It cost $65,000 (about $1.4 million).
The Lake Street bridge was replaced again by a new steel bridge in 1905. While the work was being done, a temporary wooden pedestrian bridge was erected next to it so that people could still move across the river.
In June, 1959, City Manager Angus T. Johnson reported to the Elmira City Council that the Lake Street bridge was in desperate need of repair. The bridge supports were weakened, the metal fixtures were corroded, and rivets were missing from some joints. Salt used on the roads during the winter caused much of the deterioration. The Council closed the bridge to both all traffic and plans were made to replace the structure.
On June 21, 1961, between 1,200 and 1,500 Elmirans gathered in the rain for the official opening of the new Lake Street bridge. The bridge had been closed for two years but construction had finished two weeks ahead of schedule. The cost of demolition of the old bridge and construction of the new was $473,270 (just under $4 million today).
In 1972, flood waters rose all the way to the bridge’s deck but it survived largely unscathed. Eleven years later, in 1983, it was closed for two months while new expansion joints were installed, the structural steel was scraped and repainted, and the roadway was resurfaced with a new membrane liner to help preserved the concrete deck.
Regular maintenance was not enough to keep the bridge from deteriorating. Winters can be hard here in the northeast and, despite yearly washing, salt used to treat the roads damaged the bridge’s concrete supports and rubber expansion joints. In March 2011, the Lake Street bridge was declared unsafe and closed to vehicles and pedestrians. At the time, it had the lowest traffic count of all the city’s five bridges over the Chemung River. As early as May 2011, there were reports that the bridge would be repaired for pedestrian use only. Next summer, some eight years later, the project may finally get underway.
Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. To see more of their blog, go to http://chemungcountyhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com
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I’ve been a member of the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction since 2014. The task force was established at a time when local police departments and addiction centers, including many across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, were pointing to the alarming rise in the availability and abuse of heroin and opioids.
Since its formation, this crisis has only accelerated and deepened.
Significant resources have been committed to examining the myriad causes and effects, and to find solutions. State funding, for instance, has doubled to nearly $250 million in this year’s budget.
Nevertheless, the work of responding is just beginning.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) pegs the economic cost of prescription opioid abuse at nearly $79 billion annually in the United States, “including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.”
A report earlier this year from the Albany-based Rockefeller Institute of Government made this summary, “We found that drug deaths continue to surge in New York State. In one year, from 2015 to 2016, drug deaths increased 29 percent — from 3,009 total deaths to 3,894. In fact, it was the single largest annual increase in the number of deaths we examined going back to 2010. Overall…from 2010-16 there has been a 121 percent increase in the number of deaths in New York State.”
That’s just a small sampling of the impact. It does not even begin to tell the personal, family stories of loss.
Consequently, last week, our Senate task force released our latest, comprehensive report detailing a series of recommendations for ongoing state-level actions to address the burgeoning addiction crisis affecting communities. The report follows and continues to build on the series of public forums the task force has held across the state since 2014, including forums I have sponsored in Elmira and Penn Yan.
What the Senate task force has heard directly from the local front lines in fighting this heroin and opioid crisis is the foundation we are building on. This local input, which has been reflected in actions New York State has taken over the past several years, helps target the necessary responses and keep our strategies as up to date as possible.
Local input has been the driving force behind the recommendations we’re now putting forth to build on and strengthen the state-local partnership that's going to remain critical to putting in place the most effective combination of law enforcement, awareness and education, and treatment and prevention.
We need to keep acting and keep working, and we will. The report details the task force’s emphasis on a four-pronged response focusing on prevention, treatment, recovery, and enforcement. Among many other actions highlighted in the new report, legislation spearheaded by the task force has served as a national model for other states and in the creation of the federal Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act recently approved by Congress.
The report’s 11 recommendations emphasize a plan to utilize public and private resources to help underserved populations and others without access to treatment, as well as improve existing support systems to keep enhancing and strengthening New York’s evolving fight against opioid abuse.
The full report, which includes more information on the recommendations and details about numerous legislative actions spearheaded by the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction, is available on my Senate website, omara.nysenate.gov.
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The turkeys are back!! About two dozen are now scratching up all the vegetation below the bird feeders. Crisp leaves rustle like taffeta under their feet. Young turkeys in the dog pen provide some wild entertainment when Freckles decides he must go out. The birds race round and round, forgetting they can fly, and then suddenly they remember and soar over the fence with pounding wings and squawks of protest. Then we let the dog off his leash and he barks after them.
As the leaves continue to reluctantly fall, the catalogs have been pouring into our mail box; pages and pages full of Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas decorations and gift ideas. My mind boggles at the plethora of STUFF ----- I am amazed that anyone would spend money on some of these items. But then I remind myself that taste is surely subjective and what’s attractive, humorous or meaningful to one may not be equally so to another; I do not have a franchise on what is appropriate in décor, lawn ornaments or possessions.
Recently, we had visitors from Uganda --- a pastor and his wife --- and suddenly I looked at our house as they might see it. I was struck by the thought that they could well find all my stuff over-the-top too much in the spiritual value system that we share. Everyone’s culture is as different as everyone’s taste. Rethinking our living conditions and our possessions is probably a useful activity now and then. It’s so easy to accumulate, collect, and amass thoughtlessly.
Anyone who has visited our home knows that I’m definitely not a minimalist (you can all stop laughing now!). Each corner, the walls and all the shelves are full. I surround myself with items that are meaningful to me or beautiful in my eyes, from shells and stones to cut glass and silver tea pots. I like French provincial chairs and velvet pillows, homespun blankets and brass warming pans. But I can also appreciate homes that are quite different; I admire the sleek glass and steel rooms with splashy Georgia O’Keefe paintings and luxurious fur throws. I like the classic Arts and Crafts designs; Roycroft and Stickley. Then there’s the Adirondack-style décor all pine cones and Pendleton blankets. If I could decorate houses for a living, I’d be on cloud nine until my energy ran out. On the other end, I probably would live in a wilderness cabin quite happily if I had my own pillow and tea cup. I guess my point is that no one should feel a need to copy anyone else’s style – in homes, clothes or living. We are each unique and, hopefully, are able to embrace that. Alexandra Stoddard says: “Let the light that shines brightly inside you become the energy that guides the energy of your home.” * Now when any of my family lift their eyebrows at the multiplicity of my things ---- I’ll just respond that everything from the china and glass to the stacks of books, provide energy for my days------ but that I’m also trying to hold my possessions lightly.
In another three days, it will be Halloween. (And in thirteen days I hope you and all your friends, relatives and neighbors will be out to vote!!) We’ve harvested our few pumpkins for the steps and brought out the broom corn. These signs of autumn will remain until after Thanksgiving. My small concession to actual Halloween decorating, are three orange pails with cut-out faces, through which candles shine, and we do usually carve a pumpkin or two. I forgo the skeletons, ghouls, bats and spiders. They are a bit macabre for my taste.
Halloween began as the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced Sah-ween). This was a harvest celebration and the beginning of the Celtic New Year, but also a time when it was thought that spirits could come back; to vent their displeasure on those they felt had wronged them in this life. The lighted pumpkins and gourds were carried to protect individuals from the unhappy spirits. Bon fires were set in and around villages to make more light for said protection. Samhain became our Halloween due to Pope Gregory the First. In 601 AD, Gregory ordered the missionaries of the Christian church: stop trying to stamp out the pagan customs and holidays. Instead, adapt the times already customary for celebration and rename them to fit the Christian faith. So --- Samhain became All-Saint’s Eve, All Saints Day, and colloquially Halloween.
When I was a teenager, we went trick or treating for UNICEF. Our sons seldom went out unless they were visiting someone who did. However, we had several Halloween parties at home, where we and assorted friends constructed mazes, bobbed for apples, did skits and dressed in costumes. Back when I sewed more, I made Super Man, Bat Man and other heroic costumes that after Halloween, became pajamas or went into the dress-up box. Our house in the Catskills was a marvelous site for Halloween parties. It had a split-level attic, the upper part of which was all gabled. We set up mazes there with recorded ghostly music and props like cooked spaghetti and peeled grapes. It was great fun. Currently, since we live back from the road and away from the village, we seldom get any little voices calling: “trick or treat”. However I find that it is sufficiently good to consider the All-Saints aspect of October 31st and November 1st. Enough of my family and friends have gone beyond earth’s tether that I like remembering and celebrating them.
One of my current autumn activities is making potpourri – of two or three sorts. My favorite happens to be a basil, sage and marigold combination. This wouldn’t appeal to everyone --- including the men in my family who think that herbs are generally stinky. But that pungent aroma brings back all the greenness and robustness of summer vegetable gardens. I put phlox flowers and alyssum into another mix, creating a comfort-giving scent that triggers thoughts of warm conversations around my mother’s table accompanied by cocoa and molasses cookies.
Diane Ackerman**, a local, but internationally-known writer, speaks at some length about fragrances and our sense of smell, in her book, A Natural History of the Senses. Diane is a biologist, professor and poet; a woman of many interests. This is what she says about our sense of smell: “Smells spur memories, but they also rouse our dozy senses, pamper and indulge us, help define our self-image, stir the cauldron of our seductiveness, warn us of danger, lead us into temptation, fan our religious fervor, accompany us to heaven, wed us to fashion, steep us in luxury.” And she goes on to discuss perfumes, plants, animals and humans ---- our olfactory capabilities ----- and tells us what happens when the sense of smell leaves us --- we lose our sense of taste among other difficulties. Odors are often hard to describe, but we can conjure them up in our memories if we concentrate. Helen Keller*** said: “Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across a thousand miles and all the years we have lived.” I’m not fond of most commercial potpourris and some perfumes actually give me a head ache. But my home-made potpourri keeps me happy all through the long, NYS winters.
Because Halloween is imminent, I conclude with this poem by Harry Behn**** to bring back your Halloween memories. “Tonight is the night when dead leaves fly like witches on switches across the sky, when elf and sprite flit through the night on a moony sheen. Tonight is the night when leaves make a sound like a gnome in his home under the ground, when spooks and trolls creep out of holes mossy and green. Tonight is the night when pumpkins stare through sheaves and leaves everywhere, when ghoul and ghost and goblin host dance ‘round their queen. It’s Halloween!”
I hope this carries blessings and fragrant breezes wafting across your life this October time.
Carol may be reached at: email@example.com.
*-Alexandra Stoddard—American writer and life-style guru.
**-Diane Ackerman – American writer, essayist, biologist and poet; born 1948, resides in Ithaca, NY.
***-Helen Keller – American author, activist, lecturer; first person to achieve a BA degree who was both blind and deaf. Quote from “The World I Live In”.
****- Harry Behn – American screen writer; 1898-1973
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The Chemung County Matters blog exists to help promote discussions about local issues. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect my own, but are rather shared here in order to provide information and hopefully stimulate ideas.
Last night the Chemung County Legislature voted 14-2 in favor of a new sales tax plan, with only Peggy Woodard (District 8) and Rodney Strange (District 15) voting no.
The old plan has been under intense scrutiny since it was passed in 2013 for taking resources from the towns, villages and City of Elmira, causing many of them to suffer fiscal hardships.
Numerous candidates for local office have strenuously advocated for a change in the way sales tax monies are allocated between the county and its municipalities, something that is undoubtedly part of the decision of county leaders to change course.
However, the new plan has many problems as well.
Prior to the vote, I offered comments to the sitting legislature about new plan as it relates to the towns and villages. I intend to describe my position in a subsequent post within the next day or so.
John Burin, a former manager of the City of Elmira and current candidate for legislature in the 9th District, offered comments about the new plans as it relates to the city. A copy of his statement is shown below.Quote
October 9, 2018
On September 24, 2018 I mailed each of you a letter with supporting documentation asking that you table this proposed plan to revise the reallocation of sales tax. I also referenced a process by which the 2019 county budget and budget message could move forward without the revised plan being in place. In my op ed on September 23, 2018, I pointed out in three months, newly elected officials should have the right to vote on this multi-year funding program.
I fully support a plan to reallocate sales tax revenue however, I believe the plan should be based on more than fund balances and debt. For example, the County apportionment of real property taxes creates an unintentional double taxation for certain services. These inequities, which are common to most of the towns/villages in varying degree, should be taken into consideration with the allocation of sales tax dollars. Additionally, from 2013 to 2018 Chemung County expenses increased $15 million dollars. During this same time period five county budgets were passed with deficits that required $10.5 million dollars of fund balance to close the gap. Future estimates of county revenues and expenses should be projected showing the impact of a sales tax reallocation plan.
In order for our county to realize desired social/economic growth, we must work together for a common cause. It was in this spirit that the City of Elmira allowed it’s Empire Zone Benefits to be used outside the City. The City’s willingness to share its zone in early 2000 produced economic benefits we still enjoy today and will continue to enjoy into the future.
According to the Chemung County Industrial Agency report, Project Information, December 31, 2009 the City of Elmira Empire Zone;
*Leveraged over $700 Million of private investment.
*Generated new property tax revenue for the County in excess of $900,000 and $1.7 million local and school tax revenue. Each year as property tax exemptions expire, the real property tax revenue increases and therefore current tax revenue is significantly greater.
*The City’s zone created 4,500 jobs and retained 10,000 jobs.
*14,500 jobs with an average salary of $20,000 generated $290 Million of payroll.
*$290 Million of payroll generates millions of sales tax dollars.
This is a billion dollar infusion of economic benefits. If not for the City of Elmira sharing its Empire Zone, Chemung County finances would be quite different today.
In June 2016, the New York State Financial Restructuring Board commented on the City of Elmira’s Bond Rating. “Prior to June 2015, the City had a bond rating of A2 with a negative outlook from Moody’s. On June 1st, 2015, Moody’s released a new rating for the City’s General Obligation bonds and lowered the rating by five notices – to Ba1 with a sustained negative outlook. This is non-investment grade (junk bond) rating from Moody’s.”
The reasons Moody’s cited for this severe reduction in the City’s credit rating are:
*Significant loss of revenue from the County sales tax sharing agreement;
*Health insurance overruns;
*Recurring general fund deficits
Moody’s will view new development positively however this plan that defers City debt will most likely not improve the City’s poor investment grade of bonds. The mixed use $14,000,000 development project in Elmira was granted a twenty year payment in lieu of tax agreement with the first four years being 100% exempt, after eleven years the project will pay 30% and in year twenty 60%. Property tax revenue from the affordable housing projects are restricted by law and proposed private developments have been given multi-year tax exemptions. It is for these reasons additional sales tax revenue to the City should be a part of tonight’s plan. Even if the revenue is restricted as to use, Moody’s may look favorably at a slight upgrade.
Sound business practice would suggest that this proposed sales tax allocation is deficient of solid reasoning for the suggested allocations. Over the next three months, a cohesive legislature working together should develop a plan that addresses the needs of the community keeping in mind the future needs of county government as well as the social and economic challenges inherent with high poverty levels, effective tax rates that stagnate real estate values and the ever increasing cost of providing efficient public safety services.
The plan before you tonight falls short in capturing these community needs. Lets take a step back, analyze the financial impact of what is being proposed and compare those findings to the needs of our community.
John J. Burin
If someone told you that you could go back in time to a day of your choice and change it, would you?
I asked one of my sisters that question and she immediately answered "No, I have no regrets". "I'm not talking about regrets" I said, "Is there any one day or incident that you would change if you could"? Her answer remained a firm "no".
For me one moment in particular came to mind, a snowy day in January, 1978. "I would have left the laundry soap in the car" I told her. "Regret is a waste of time" she said. I didn't see it that way at the time but Sis was right, I was talking about regret.
January, 1978, was a very snowy month and another storm had hit the area two or three days prior to that day so there was still a foot plus of snow on the ground. I was unloading the car after shopping for our second son's first birthday celebration. Maintainence for the apartment complex where we living had still not cleared the sidewalks so I was being careful. All bags were in the house except for the laundry soap.
"Leave it" my husband said, "I'll bring it up later".
I should have listened.
While carrying that single bottle back to the apartment I slipped and fell. I don't know what happened because I didn't feel anything. There was enough snow to cushion my fall and all I was aware of was the loud pop I heard echo through the apartment buildings. Evidently, that was the sound of breaking bones. When I tried to get up I found I couldn't move. I tried a couple of times but I just couldn't move and I didn't know why. Luckily someone saw me fall and my struggle to move and the next thing I know Hubby's kneeling by me telling me not to move. My ankle was shattered and the two bones above the ankle were broke.
I can still see the faces of my two little boys watching from the bedroom window as I was loaded into the ambulance. Their tears broke my heart.
In the operating room they told me my toes were where my heel should have been. I was in a cast up to my hip from January until July and then a cast from the knee down until September. That was nothing compared to the fact that I missed my son's first birthday.
To add further insult to injury, two weeks prior to the accident I had interviewed for a position as a nurse at the Elmira Psych Center. The call that the position was mine came while I was in the hospital so I had to decline the offer.
Thinking about the four surgeries, bone grafts, many, many casts and knowing I have not had a pain free day in 40 years because of that accident I was positive. "Yep, the laundry soap would have stayed in the car that day", that's the moment I would have changed.
But then I started thinking about how my life and that of my family's might have been different if I changed that moment all those years ago.
Working at the Psych Center meant I wouldn't have taken the various jobs through the years working with several different lawyers, which in turn eventually led me to my last position as a Court Clerk. I would have met and worked with different people. I wouldn't have met my youngest son's wife who also worked at the same municipality. If I hadn't met her my son wouldn't have either and we wouldn't have the two wonderful grandchildren they gave us including our only granddaughter.
So many little things that would have changed that I couldn't even realize or the effects those changes would cause.
If I had been able to accept that position at the Psych Center I believe that eventually the home we bought would have been a different home. Our boys would have grown up in a different neighborhood, met different friends, probably worked at different jobs. It's also possible my other sons may not have met the wonderful women they would eventually marry.
So many things probably would have changed, some minor but some could have been major and definitely life altering, possibly not at all positive. Changes that could have been much worse than a few broken bones.
The difficulties we have dealt with through the years resulting from that snowy January day have made us the family we are now. My sons grew up seeing their father cooking, cleaning, doing dishes and laundry every time I was recovering from another surgery or was in a cast. He has always been and continues to be my helpmate. To this day he's always concerned about me falling. I'd like to believe that in some small way my sons are the caring, loving, hands on husbands and fathers they are because of the example set by their Dad through the years.
I will admit to having many "why me" moments through the years and will probably have more of them in the years to come. I try to keep to myself during those moments because I will admit to sometimes being a bit irritable. Hubby always knows when I'm having a bad day. On the plus side I always know when it's going to rain or snow and that can come in handy. I have often joked that in a past life I was a very mean, unpleasant diva ballet dancer who is paying for her actions in this lifetime.
Was that day just a random accident or did things happen exactly the way they were supposed to happen? A long time ago someone once told me that everything happens for a reason and I've come to believe that is true. I was wrong when I told my sister I wasn't talking about regrets because that's exactly what I was feeling. Regret for a choice I made on that long ago day and the consequences of that decision.
I will admit Sis had more wisdon than I did at that time. Regrets are a waste of time and I now try not to let that emotion into my life. Despite the daily aching joints and difficulty walking most days, I wouldn't change that day or any other. All those days, moments and choices through the years have led me to where and who I am right this moment. It may not be a perfect life but it has been and continues to be a good life shared with those I love most.
If offered the opportunity to go back in time and change any one day or moment of my choice my answer would also be a firm "no thank you".
Have you ever had one of those moments? What would you do?
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