Edith surprised me with this chapter title, but that’s been the way of it with this book, hasn’t it? I expected this chapter to be about integrating the various hidden arts into a whole, balanced home life. Lo and behold, what she means is the integration of people of all ages and stages of life (mostly) into a family’s life. I really like this chapter because it is something I feel fairly passionate about, although actually putting it into practice is another thing altogether.
Growing up, I attended the same church that my great grandparents had attended. Several of my great aunts, my grandparents, and various and sundry once, twice, and thrice-removed relatives were also members or regular attenders there. I knew most of my grandparents’ contemporaries and friends, mostly because Granny and Papaw lived within walking distance of the church and many members of the community went to church there. Plus, my grandparents’ home (where my parents now live) had been the site of my granny’s home as a child (or at least teen). That’s a lot of history and family concentrated in just a few acres of land. I was used to being around elderly people since our congregation at church was an ageing congregation. This played a big role in making me who I am today, and I can’t think of a single negative result of this particular kind of integration that I experienced.
Fast forward thirty years, and I’m not raising my children in the same sort of integrated world. The oldest people my children are consistently around are their grandparents, who are now in their mid-sixties. Up until September of 2011, we had Steady Eddie’s grandmother with us, and we were very blessed to see her frequently since she lived only an hour away from us and since she frequently stayed with Steady Eddie’s mom. Since then, though, there has been a dearth of the aged in our lives. Our church has a small contingent of elderly members who are still able to come to church, but it is to my shame that I have not befriended many of them. While I certainly have some legitimate excuses for this (namely, I’m usually baby or DLM wrangling at church), I still regret it. Our church is highly segregated by age–there are children’s programs at every service. However, Steady Eddie and I have chosen to keep our children with us for at least one service (we usually attend three) per week. I’d actually prefer for them to be with us more, but this is the way it is right now. I just need to make more of an effort to actually be with the people around me, not merely in the same room with them. (This is a particular issue for me, a true introvert. It’s not that I’m shy or quiet, it’s just that my world is largely an internal one.) One of my goals for our school year last year was to make it a regular practice of ours to visit a local nursing home where two of my aunts work. We did manage to visit once just before Christmas. My girls both played Christmas carols on the piano and we assisted some of the residents in their gingerbread house making activity. After Christmas, though, I went into a pregnancy funk that I’m not sure I’ve exited yet, and I’m almost 3 1/2 months postpartum. 😉 This year is going to be the year, though. I am determined to do better in this arena!
So Edith is preaching to the choir in this chapter. I love the picture she draws for us of heaven, where true integration will take place. I’ve been reading Seasons of a Mother’s Heart and blogging through it for this year’s Homeschooling Mothers’ bookclub, and believe it or not, chapter five of Sally Clarkson’s book elicited many of the same thoughts that Edith Schaeffer has in this chapter. I’m going to take it as something more than mere synchronicity, though. I’m going to try to let it make a real difference in my life and my family’s life.