Friday, June 09, 2006

Old Things

I love old things: old houses, old furniture, old books, old towns. There is an old, abandoned house out on Rt. 348 that is being torn down. Granted, it was beyond repair, but it is so sad to me that it got to that point in the first place. It is especially sad because it is being replaced with new, unimaginative cookie-cutter style houses. As I drive by, I think of how all the land the new houses are being built on was once part of a large farm ruled by the farmer and his wife who lived in that house. I wonder why it was left to fall into ruin. "I arrived at home, and found not a house, but a ruin -- the walls bare, stripped of everything, almost weeping in their nakedness." (Shalom Aleichem in Tevye's Daughters)

We spent a week in England last summer, and I dare say that old buildings are never, or at least seldom, abandoned and torn down there. They are constantly kept in good repair. Do you know the difference between an American and a Brit? An American thinks that anything that is 100 years old is old and a Brit thinks that anything over 100 miles away is really far.

This is a picture of The Eagle and Child in Oxford, England and it has been a public house since 1650. J.R.R. Tolkein and C. S. Lewis met there on a regular basis for discussion. We got to eat there and it's exciting to say that we ate where two of our favorite authors ate! This is us with my parents (we don't know the chap in the doorway!).

We also got to visit our friends, the Burrows, in Darbyshire. We got to attend Clive's ordination into the Anglican church and then attended church with them when he served his first communion as a vicar. Their church dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries and we were told was built in the Perpendicular Gothic style.

I also love old books. Jane Eyre is my all-time favorite book and I've read it more than any other book aside from the Bible. I recently came across another "old" book that I enjoyed. I say "old" because the English translation was done in 1959 and I couldn't figure out when the book was orignally written. This "old" book is Tevye's Daughters by Shalom Aleichem and is the book Fiddler on the Roof is based on. It is a collection of short stories, not all of them about Tevye. But the ones I enjoyed most were the ones about Tevye and his daughters. You know all about the first three from watching Fiddler on the Roof (one of my favorite movies!), but the story of each daughter is increasingly tragic. In the story of the 4th daughter, we see Tevye inviting home a rich young man, little suspecting what would come of it. This young man falls in love with Tevye's daughter, but when his mother hears of it, she forbids him to see the girl again. She is heart-broken and commits suicide. The fifth daughter is matched up with a very rich man who just wants a beautiful wife. He gets the beautiful wife, but then is ashamed of his father-in-law, Tevye, and pays him to leave the area. He is on his way to Palestine, but then the son-in-law loses his fortune and moves to America. Which brings us to the ending of the book and of the movie...they are forced to leave by the Russians. I've always wondered if his daughter who married a Gentile really came back like she does in the movie. I was pleased to see that she does, but it's up to your imagination if her husband is really with her. Tevye says, "The same old saying came to me: 'A father has mercy on his children.' How could I be so heartless and drive her away when God Himself has said, 'I am a long-suffering God and slow to anger'? And especially since she had repented and wanted to return to her father and to her God? ... Try to put yourself in my place and tell me truthfully what would you have done?"

Tevye's Daughters is a pretty good book, but slow-moving in places. It is one of the rare occasions where I like the movie better than the book. It is sad to see Tevye waiting for the Messiah when we know He's already come. He says, "And why doesn't the Messiah come? Wouldn't it be clever of him to appear at this very moment riding on his white horse? That would be a master stroke! It seems to me that he has never been so badly needed by our people as now... We poor Jews...watch and wait and pray for him daily. Our eyes are strained from watching. He is our only hope. All we can do is hope and pray for this miracle--that the Messiah will come." Reading this book made me thankful that I don't have to face all of life's difficulties without the Messiah! Now that's an age-old truth that's ever new!!

8 comments:

Jane Stutzman said...

I keep looking for, and find every few days, your articles. This morning I found and read all of your Dad's Chronicles. You've started a good thing, Nancy. As I
read your Dad's thoughts, I was deeply impressed with the cohesiveness of your family despite the miles that have separated you and the efforts you make to enjoy time together. He
wasn't reticent at all in talking about his love for you all and the joy you have brought to them...it was sweet to read. Aunt Jeanette has become my role model for aging gracefully (her countenance is bright; she is winsome)...I've often said there are few good patterns to follow. I wish I could know her. She could have been listed under the OLD things you
enjoy. Of how many elderly people can THAT be said?!!!

Hannatu said...

How true about Aunt Jeanette! I'm glad I've been able to portray a bit of her character. I've always said she's my GREAT aunt!

Hall Chronicles said...

Sure glad, Giwa, that you like old things--that must surely include me and your Mum, eh? But many think that she is younger then me, the blessing of her undyed hair. Well, I like old things, too. I'm constantly drawn back to my growing work on Family History that now traces both the Hall and Wheeler sides back to the late 1500's in England and your Mom's Swoverland family to the mid-1700's in Germany, near the Swiss border and the Carswell family back to the American Revolution. I agree about old houses, I hate to see them demolished. So much of life has been lived there!

Dusty Penguin said...

I typed a nice long comment and lost it. Grrr. Basically said that I like old things, too, and that Jane Eyre is my favorite book too. I like the movie really well also. And I'd like this old house better if it were closer to the final goal!
To Jane--Aunt Jeanette is the most incredible, special person. I wish, too, that you could know her. I have no living grandparents, and she has been like a grandmother.

Hall Chronicles said...

That old chap next to the cute brunette seems to be listing to starboard just a mite. Did he have one too many Guiness Stout? Better watch the company you keep!

Hannatu said...

Maybe. It was a pub.

mymeanderings said...

The book sounds so sad Nancy!

I have never read Jane Eyre Gasp..I know, I know..! But I have read a lot of C.S. Lewis and am sooooooooooooooooo jealous that you were at The eagle and Child!

I have felt that way so many times..the part about old houses being torn down..I often wish I could explore them before they are torn down..if there are any stories to uncover, clues left behind.

Hannatu said...

Restaurants in England were so expensive that we mostly ate fast food and pigged out at breakfast that was included in the price of the room. But we all decided if we were going to spend our money on one nice meal out that it had to be The Eagle and Child! What a treat!