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Ceramic Dishes



“Train up a child in the way he should go:

and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22: 6



Sally Marshall



            “The ‘A Team.’  That’s what Dad called us.  Don’t you remember, Mom?”  My 19-year-old daughter asked the question with an incredulous air.  Obviously, she remembered.  With my husband’s death and the struggle of holding everything together, I had all but forgotten.  As I pushed aside the veil of years, vague stirrings of long ago revived.  My mind played the old precious tapes, and I saw the young faces of my three oldest children.  Bright eyed tykes, awash with the importance of their new job.  Not just a pretend job.  Not just something to make them feel important.  But a real responsibility.  The “A Team” was to save the day.  And save it they did.


            Yes, I remembered.  But at the same time, I was flooded with something more.  I suddenly understood what happened 9 years later, when my kids were no longer small.  The A Team was part of the legacy their father left.  Retained either consciously or subconsciously, the lesson was a potent one.   
















            Reunions. They are called reunions. Basically, big family church camps all over the nation.  Wonderful experiences -- once all the wrinkles are ironed out.  We had decided to participate in one not too far from our home.  At this particular camp the main wrinkle was a majority of reluctant campers, young and old alike.  Reunions are run on a volunteer basis.  No paid staff.  The “campers” are supposed to willingly do it all.  But not at this camp.  They were either shy, or lazy, or sick, or something.  Especially when it came to the dish room.  Only a smattering of volunteer hands was raised to cover the daily triple - nowhere near enough to handle the week.  To make matters worse, most of the few gallant assigned to the first meal didn’t show.  Only my husband, Bob, was there.  None of the many milling around seemed to notice the lack of manpower.  Their bellies full, they were content to laugh and visit.  Bob found one other man among the departing diners who was willing to help and together they handled the five-man work load.  They missed most the evening service, and when my husband finally did take the seat I had saved for him, I could feel the frustration in him.  He fairly oozed indignation.


            He told me his story, and I was appalled.  Being six months pregnant with twins at the time I was in no condition to help. He wasn’t asking for my help, but he knew there were plenty able.  Still, he wasn’t going to beg.  Instead, he went to plan “B.”  He recruited the comrade of the night before, his son and our own three children.  He called them the “A Team.”  The ages of the kids ranged between 5 and 10 and with this seemingly puny taskforce my husband knew he could solve the problem.  He gathered them and explained the dire need.  Then he inspired them to volunteer with him.  Many times that week, the “A Team” was called to fill in for the flagging.  They worked like tiny Trojans, and when it was done, they had saved the day many times over.  Tow-headed tykes and their dads - altogether to serve. 

            Two years later my husband died in a plane crash.  The trauma and passing time had made me nearly forget.  But not my kids.  Retained either consciously or subconsciously, the legacy their father left them lived on.  Nine years after the “A Team,” our family went to another reunion many hundreds of miles from the first.  When on the first night they called for volunteers, my children had their slot picked out.  The dish room hands went up, and three beaming faces attached to three determined hands were not so oddly from my own family.  The local “old pros” of the dish-room raised skeptical eyebrows and even I wondered if my kin, without their father, could handle infamous “Hobart,” the institutional dish washer.  With some reluctance they were allowed to give it a try. 


Being in charge of the junior and senior high class and crafts, my work was already cut out for me.  I lost track of the proceedings in KP until the end of the week.  It was then people began to comment and brought it to my attention.  By week’s end the dish room had become a “teen thing.”  Not just my three, for some of their friends had joined in.  They wore the badge of work with a flourish.  The girls’ -- hairdos limp and clinging, the boys’-- shirts wet with sweat.  Their domain and their responsibility.  It was done well; it was done fast.  People were impressed.  We have returned to that same reunion four times so far.  The dish room duty has become a matter of adolescent pride.  One adult supervises, but most of the time he’s not needed.  He stops in from time to time, but he knows the work is well in hand.  The younger kids are not left out.  They pick up trays and clear tables.  They know they’re needed and if they work really hard, they know they’ll get picked to do duty in the hot, steamy dish room. 

            It was just yesterday when my daughter made me remember the “A Team.”  She recalled the dish washer that looked like a towering skyscraper when she was five.  She remembered the special plaques of recognition they received for their labors.  I remember them too - the rushed trip into town for anything we could find to fill the purpose.  Wooden spoons sanded and spray painted until they were shiny gold, bowed, labeled and handed out with a flourish.  Trifles of recognition presented to wide eyed midgets who had done a giant’s job. 

            Yes the memories came back, but more importantly, I began to see the effect of “training them up in the way they should go.”  Without knowing it my husband had left behind an eternal heritage.  It was natural for my children to help in the dish room five years ago.  It’s natural for them to help everywhere.   They don’t work at it.  It’s the way they are.  They’re not happy unless they’re doing, and helping in some way.  They don’t have time to mope, be shy or lazy.  They’re just doing too much.  They’ve been like this since they were tiny.  And, thank God, they will never depart from it. 

Doing the Dishes
Curries at Camden Market London
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