Saturday, July 29, 2017


     What was it like, raising four children in the I-love-you house? (143 Atlantic Avenue echoing Minot's Light's 1-4-3 flashes)  My description of an evening in 1955, inspired by the Amy Vanderbilt column below, is fairly accurate.
     A desperate mother writes that she is always shushing her children and is a nervous wreck by the end of meals served in the kitchen.  She is afraid to let her two boys "and a very noisy girl" loose in the dining room.  The problem is giving her indigestion.  Does the columnist have any ideas?
     Miss Vanderbilt’s answer:  “First, before you blame the children, try the dining room with just the family.  Three children at any table usually create a certain amount of noise just through conversation, and it may be your kitchen that is at fault.  It may have surfaces that throw back the sound. . . . Try putting baffles in your kitchen—cushions on the chairs, a rug at the dining end, window curtains made of burlap.  Lower your own tone of voice in speaking to the children and ask your husband to do the same.  Children learn table manners through precept and example.”
Time: November 1955
Place: The Malley family’s dining room.  It is 6:00 p.m.  The table is set for dinner.  One window to the left of the stage and a pair of French doors to the right are concealed under yards of burlap.  Also wrapped in burlap are the chandelier over the table and the buffet, rear center.  Clearly, someone in the house has a flair for the original in interior decorating.  Six chairs are drawn up to the table; on each is a cushion borrowed from the living-room sofa.  If the dining room could speak, it would say,”I’m thoroughly baffled.”
[Enter, through swinging door on the left, MOTHER.  She, too, looks baffled.]
MOTHER.  My, but it’s dark in here!  Oh, I forgot to light the candles.  Ed, are there any matches around?
[Enter, from hallway, right of stage, FATHER.]
FATHER. What’s the matter, did you blow a fuse?
MOTHER.  No, silly, we’re having dinner by candlelight.  Ask Timmy if he has any matches.
MOTHER.  Dear, we must remember to keep our voices low so the children will learn from our precept and example.
VOICE FROM HALL.  Did someone call me?
[Enter TIMMY, a precocious nine-year-old.  He has not yet taken up smoking but can usually be counted on to have matches in his pocket.  He is eating a Mars Bar and reading MAD magazine.  FATHER and MOTHER speak in unison.]
FATHER.  Timmy, you’ll ruin your eyes.
MOTHER.  Timmy, you’ll ruin your dinner.
(Continuing to eat candy bar and read magazine two inches from his face, Timmy stumbles over father's  foot and sprawls on floor.]
TIMMY [accusingly].  You tripped me!
FATHER [indignantly].  I did not trip you!
TIMMY.  You did, too!
FATHER.  I did not!
MOTHER.  Boys, please.  We’re going to keep our voices low tonight, remember?
TIMMY.  [more quietly].  You did, too.  Hey, Maw, why don’t you put the lights on?
MOTHER.  They are on, dear.
TIMMY.  What’s that potato sack doing on the chandelier?
FATHER.  That’s a good question.
MOTHER.  I got the idea from a magazine.  I don’t have time to explain it now.  Timmy, do you have a match so I can light the candles?
TIMMY [producing packet of matches]. I want to light the candles.
[Enter, from hall, eleven-year-old Vonnie, a Very Noisy Girl.]
VONNIE [raucously].  I want to light the candles!
TIMMY [yelling].  I’m going to light the candles!
MOTHER [blocking ears and looking reproachfully at burlap-covered chandelier.  It threw the sound right back at me.
VONNIE [shouting at Timmy].  Why should you light the candles?  I'm older than you are!
MOTHER [firmly].  I’ll light the candles.
TIMMY [holding matches behind his back].  They’re my matches.
FATHER and MOTHER look at each other.]
FATHER.  He has a point there.
MOTHER.  All right, Timmy, you may light the candles.
VONNIE [tearfully].  Why does he always have to get his way?
MOTHER.  Don’t suck your thumb, dear. I’ll tell you what, you can blow them out—would that make you happy?
VONNIE.  Oh, boy!
[She blows out candles and room is shrouded in darkness.]
MOTHER.  I meant after dinner, Vonnie.
[Timmy relights candles.]
VONNIE [pouting].  Timmy got to light the candles twice.  When it’s my turn, I want to light them twice, too. 
[Enter thirteen-year-old TEDDY, an all-American boy with a diversity of hobbies and interests.  He is riding a motorcycle, wearing his football uniform, and carrying a .22 rifle in one hand and a copy of DUDE magazine in the other.  A cracker-jack marksman, he recently succeeded, at two hundred paces and with one hand tied behind him, in breaking every pane of glass in Mr. McKenna’s barn.]
FATHER.  Teddy, you know you’re not supposed to ride that thing in the dining room.
MOTHER.  Yes, Ted, put your toys away now, it’s time for dinner.
TEDDY [slinging the rifle over his shoulder].  I won’t shoot it at the table, honest, Mom.
MOTHER.  Well, all right, but remember—you promised.
FATHER [sternly].  I’ll take that magazine, Ted.
TEDDY [reluctantly handing magazine to father].  Awww, why don’t’cha buy your own?
MOTHER [going to hallway and calling upstairs]. Kathie, dinner’s ready.
FATHER [eyes bulging as he studies an artistic representation in Dude magazine.  Wow!
MOTHER [sternly].  I’ll take that magazine, Ed.
FATHER.  Awww.
[Enter the oldest child in the family, a moody fifteen-year-old girl.  Her noisy brothers and her very noisy sister don’t see much of Kathie, since she is usually locked in her room.  This is not a disciplinary measure but a self-imposed exile.  She doesn’t like noise.  In fact, she finds her family in general almost more than she can bear.  Engrossed in a book called Horses Are the Best People, by Ima Morgan, she bumps into Teddy’s motorcycle.  It crashes resoundingly to the floor.
KATHIE [heatedly].  Teddy, MUST you bring that stupid contraption into the dining room?
TEDDY [mildly].  What do you expect me to do—walk?
KATHIE.  Someday I’m going to ride my horse in here.  If you can keep your motorcycle in the house, why should Heidi have to stay out in the barn? 
[All members of the family speak simultaneously.]
TEDDY [considering the matter].  Well, for one thing, my motorcycle is housebroken.
VONNIE [eagerly].  Will you let me ride double, Kathie?
MOTHER [nervously] I’d rather you didn’t, dear.
FATHER pacifically].  Now, Sunshine. . .
      What does Mother finally do?  She fires off a letter to Miss Vanderbilt:  Having followed your advice, may I suggest a burlap bag for your head?
                                                                    Distraught Mother of Four Noisy Children

*In all seriousness, dear visitors, I strongly recommend that you drop in on Kathie's blog, Engaging Peace.  Below is comment by one of her visitors, Jan Krause Greene:
Malley-Morrison has communicated with people all over the world hoping to learn their views on war and the possibility of creating a world culture that uses nonviolent means to solve conflict.   I was so impressed with the work of Malley-Morrison that I went to her website   

(This address doesn't seem to work here, so please copy and paste on your browser.)

Her mission is to educate about alternatives to warfare, and to foster engagement and activism for the cause of world peace. Her blog, as well as her award-winning monthly newsletter, Choosing Peace for Good, offer articles that bring academic peace studies and stories of activism to the general public.
For me, this website is like a treasure chest of resources! It includes not only research and articles, but also books and films about war and peace. Even if you never read one book or article on the site, just watching the movies would give you an education on the place of war in our culture, in our national psyche, even in our hopes and fears.  Some of the films, most notably for me Beyond Belief (the story of 9/11 widows who go to Afghanistan to help poverty-stricken women and form a tremendous bond with them),  show the possibilities for peace through individual person to person interaction.
I urge you to check out this site if you are interested in any of their goals:
1. Promote optimism concerning the possibility of peace
2. Explore how people in power and the mainstream media persuade citizens that various forms of government-sponsored aggression, such as war and torture, are justifiable
3. Present examples of serious conflicts that have been resolved without warfare
4. Demonstrate that a major pathway to peace is through responsible activism
5. Translate into user-friendly language the best of relevant scientific and academic work contributing to the understanding of war and peace. In particular, we will periodically mention some of the major results from our own international research team.
6. Help readers find useful tools and important resources to support their own efforts to seek and promote peace.
7. Encourage readers to share their opinions and contribute their own stories and examples of “engaging peace.”

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