This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

April 1st, 2002

My Grandmother Said . . .

My grandmother, Mary, came to the United States from the Netherlands as a 12 year old with her family. They settled in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area - friends who immigrated earlier had written about how much like 'home' it was. Fertile, mostly flat, near a big body of water, the area attracted many from the low-country of Holland. Her father, John, my great-grandfather (whom I met as a girl) was a farmer. They built a nice farm and had a good life.

There were three daughters, grandmother and her two sisters in the family. Girls weren't considered hardy enough to be real help on the farm, and my grandmother at age 14 became a seamstress for a wealthy family in Denver. One of her older sisters worked for a bookkeeper and later became a CPA as an adult in Grand Haven.

Grandmother had been raised in the Dutch Reformed Church, and her attitude was one of encouraging, sharing and giving. I spent most of my 'growing-up' summers with my grandparents in Rogers City, Michigan. Granddad was a hunter and fisherman and we spent many wonderful days together. In his later years he worked as a timber cruiser. I wonder if they still exist? He would walk through a stand of trees and tell the owner how many board feet he could expect from it; along with which trees to cut. Nothing in Presque Isle County is far from water, or harvestable goodies of one sort or another. It could be wild strawberries, huckleberries, mushrooms even fish; whatever we found and brought home grandmother happily served, canned or dried.

I know it was a different time and in some ways it was a better time.

I saw a 'special' last night on TV about how kids are being influenced by TV, movies and music. As part of it there was a report on a study which had tracked people from kids to adulthood, a total of 17 years. The amount of violence and general disrespect for any authority was frightening, especially when compared to a similar study 20 years previous.

JC and I do watch/listen to TV quite a lot. We have Fox News on during the day, in fact it is on now. I would hate to think the amount of violence we have seen over a period of years makes us immune to violence - or that somehow we are less civilized because of it.

I was in high-school when my parents bought their first television set. We did watch the Texaco Hour with Uncle Milty (who just passed away) and things like the Ed Sullivan Show, which is being re-run on PBS in our area. JC and I think we are very fortunate to have been raised in a time where Elvis was the most shocking thing in the music world. Our families were 'out-door' people who included us in their activities.

There certainly is a coarseness and a lessening of courtesy in general in our society. There are probably a lot of reasons, but I hear language on TV and radio that would have made my grandmother furious. I can recall saying the 'S' word once as a kid. After my mouth was washed out with soap, I was told 'Holy Scissors' was acceptable. Don't go beyond that.

You may think that's pretty silly, but I said the 'S' word outloud in a boat off Andros Island one time on the loss of a very big bonefish. Bonefish Simon, standing on the poling platform yelled, "JC! She said the 'S' word! "

The Bahamian people are very religious. It simply was not acceptable. I apologized. (And didn't do it again.)

That's a far cry from what is said on an everyday basis in some homes. But not in ours. We do not yell at each other or swear at each other. Most folks would think our home is pretty quiet and dull. If a program comes on TV which is objectionable to either of us, it's gone.

How did it get this way?

Pretty simple. Back to grandmother. She had a little saying which somehow ended up on a tape in my head. "Wouldn't life be nice if everyone treated their families as well as they treat company?" It doesn't matter if we are talking about husband and wife or the kids. And of course this is a two-way street. Is any company in your home more important than your family? Everyone in the family has to understand they are required to behave in that manner. And you know what? It works!

Courtesy and kindness seem to be in short order these days. It was much better in the days right after 9/11. But the stress of everyday living seems to have diluted the milk of human kindness since then.

There was even a comment on the Bulletin Board lately about the lack of courtesy showing up. I will apologize, because it is my fault. There have been some posts which should have either been edited or removed. Some I left because I felt the true nature of the person ranting came out loud and clear. Perhaps too loud and clear. I hesitate to remove or edit posts sometimes so as not to discourage folks from posting to the board. But, (grandmother again), "if you have your feet under my table, you obey house rules."

Our Bulletin Board has grown substantially over the past six months, and no doubt there are many who are used to somewhere else. We are aware of the problem, and I will try to do a better job of monitoring it and keeping it the sort of Bulletin Board we can all be proud of.

It boils down to if you post on the FAOL Bulletin Board, we all have our feet under the same table, it just happens to be mine. Let's see if we can all treat each other as "company." ~ LadyFisher

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