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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!!
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