Thursday, June 11, 2015

Susie's Rhubarb Pie


In the neighborhood of my early childhood, most of the kids that I knew and played with lived nearby. There were nine to sixteen of us in this half-block area and we spent much of our time, as kids of that era did, playing outside. The dads were away at work during the day and the moms stayed home, so we did have adult supervision of a sort. Not that the moms knew everything that we did, but they had their ways of keeping track of us. I can't say that any of us remained close friends, but we got along for the most part and when we didn't we'd somehow work things out. We were truly a middle-class, blue-collar neighborhood and we all knew the unwritten rules. In our own way, we were a tight-knit group. Occasionally, we'd get a "new kid on the block" and two of those stand out in my memory.
Jackie Stackhouse only spent a couple of summers in the corner house across the alley. The house belonged to his grandparents and there were rumors that his parents were divorced - one of the cardinal sins of the day. He was a cute kid; I remember him as olive-skinned, with dark brown hair and chocolate eyes. He and the boys of the neighborhood quickly joined forces, but it wasn't long before they ousted him - "He's a sissy", "He cheats", "He's a half-breed", "He's only here for the summer." I honestly did not know what to think, but neighborhood loyalty ran deep in those days. My parents, ever wise and compassionate, had a heart-to-heart talk with me. They explained that Jackie's parents were having problems, but that was not his fault and so he was spending the summer with his grandparents. "Be nice to him." they said, "He's lonely and could use a friend." I was not to be that friend and I'm not sure that he ever had one in the neighborhood, but I did stop and talk with him several times over the back fence where he played alone. I found him to be a sweet and gentle boy and I often wonder what became of him...

Susie Gates was a redheaded, freckle-faced spitfire. She and her mother moved into the basement apartment right next to us and I have no recollection of how long they lived there, but it wasn't very long. We quickly became acquainted; she loved to play dolls and dress-up, but usually wore dresses and didn't like to get dirty, so our friendship ran hot and cold. One summer day when I was down visiting in her place, I told of how the neighbor on the other side of our house had a large patch of rhubarb. Susie's mom told us that if we would go and pick some, she would make us a rhubarb pie. Of course I knew better, but that pie sounded wonderful and so I led Susie to the spot and we sneakily stole some rhubarb. Returning to the apartment, my mouth began to water for that pie, but Susie's mom told me it was time for me to go home and I never got a bite. That made me angry and I confessed to my mom what we had done. I said it was OK because Susie's mom had told us to, but Mom set me straight in no time. "They may be having tough times," she said, "but you still need to do what you know is right."
 I sometimes think of stealing that rhubarb and of the pie I never got to taste, but mostly I think of Susie and her mother and of how difficult things must have been for them. Back then, I really didn't have a clue...

 ..."Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."     Luke23:43
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God.     Philippians 1:9-11


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