Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Cardboard Doll Carriage

Aunt Doreen and her husband, Jack, in 1987

My husband, Carn, was on the phone with his delightful, chatty elderly Aunt Doreen not long ago. Since I answered the phone first, we exchanged hellos and she told me the cutest story before she talked to Carn.

When she was a little girl in the 1920's in western Canada, one bright summer day she decided she wanted to take her dolly for a walk.  As she was from a family with modest means, she didn't have a doll carriage. But being the smart and imaginative child that she was, she found a discarded cardboard box, made a small hole and tied a string to it.  She padded it with a soft and cozy worn-out blanket and gently placed her dolly inside.  She took the string in her hand, then proudly, with her head held high, curly locks just so and a spring in her step, she began walking down the sidewalk dragging the cardboard-box doll carriage behind her.  

She came upon a horse and buggy left waiting in the street while the owner, a local merchant, delivered goods to a neighbor's house.  This brought a big smile to little Doreen's face as she loved horses. How could this day get any better, she thought to herself, pleased as she could be.  Naturally, the box scraping across the pavement was rather noisy, having no wheels and all.  As she walked by, the grating noise of her "carriage" spooked the horse so fiercely he suddenly reared wildly and bolted, buggy in tow, galloping through gardens and flowerbeds, bringing down clotheslines until he finally found his way home.

Of course, as Aunt Doreen put it, the horse wasn't the only one that was scared out of his wits.  She grabbed the dolly and ran madly back into her house, hid behind the curtain and peeked out the corner of the window.  She watched breathlessly as the horse left a trail of destruction behind and disappeared out of sight.  The merchant was left stranded and not too happy. Hands on his hip, he looked all around to see if he could find what caused his poor horse to take flight. He notice an empty box on the sidewalk. But that wouldn't scare a horse. Aunt Doreen said she never told a soul for years....

It has only been in the last couple of years that Carn has re-established a close relationship with his aunt.  He is continually surprised at how much family folklore he gathers talking to his mom's youngest sister. Some of it has proved to be life-altering. There were unfortunate gaps in Carn's infancy and early childhood due to the five-year absence of his father during WWII.  Then immediately after his discharge, his dad was
Carn, age 5 with his cat & hat,
still two of his favorite things today
diagnosed and hospitalized for twenty years with tuberculosis. The long separations due to the war and illness eventually led to the divorce of his parents when he was 7.  He remembers seeing his dad only a few times as a young boy making it impossible to truly know or bond with him. Over the years, he has experienced a sense of abandonment which was further complicated by misinformation, sometimes negative, about his dad.

It just so happens Aunt Doreen lived with my husband's parents for a period of time shortly after they were married and she became well acquainted with his dad.  Her affirmative comments about him 65 years years later strengthen his image in Carn's mind. Everyone genuinely liked his father who earned the nickname "Goody" because he was such a generous and amiable person.  He would never have intentionally abandoned his only son.  Had it not been for WWII and contracting contagious TB in the battlefields of Europe, Carn would have had the dad he always wanted.  With her enlightening and warm-hearted stories, Aunt Doreen has filled in some of those painful gaps, leaving Carn with new and positive memories of his father.
Carn's father, Canadian soldier WWII

This is huge, really.  Who would have thought that simply chatting on the phone with his only remaining aunt could be a source of life-changing encouragement for Carn?  Hooray for Aunt Doreen!  And hooray for Carn!  Restoring a lost family tie serves to validate and honor his aunt who is in her 80's.  As we journey through life and finally near the end of the road, we all want to know that our lives were worthwhile, that we were heard and what we had to say mattered.  Aunt Doreen's stories really "matter"!  This revitalized family bond is of mutual benefit to them both.

This is why our relational Triune God created the relational human family. We need each other. It is never too late to seek to restore family ties and fill in the gaps. And you never know--not only is it possible for much needed validation, peace of mind and emotional healing to occur as a result, but you may also find yourself fascinated and entertained by charming stories of the "olden" days--you know, like the one about the pert little girl taking her dolly for a stroll  in a cardboard doll carriage....

The sunset of life can be beautiful....