In order to deepen our understanding of Sabbath, the theme for January, our worship services on January 27th focused on the subject of family, both the family you inherit and the family you choose. We asked members of the congregation to share their experiences of family and how they use Sabbath to replenish these relationships.
The following reflection was written by Judy Brewer, a member of our congregation.
It was my job to carry the paddles, fishing rods and life preservers. As the youngest member of our family of five, no one expected me to haul the canoes or bags with the large canvas tents. Even the packs with the canned food and powdered milk were too heavy for my eight-year-old frame. My brother, sister and I dreaded the portages, the tediously long footpaths linking one pristine lake to the next, but at the far end, were happy to reload the canoes and continue on our journey into the wilderness.
My dad was the one responsible for planning these summer vacations in the wilds of the Quetico Region, across the border from northern Minnesota. He revered nature, loved the challenge of living simply with few modern conveniences and shared his skills for setting up a campsite on a woodsy lakefront property that showed no trace of prior human habitation.
My mother, a former gym teacher, was a good sport. She indulged and embraced my father’s grand plans. She donned a flannel shirt, ate dinner from an aluminum plate, and slept on the ground with good cheer. Her presence complemented my dad’s. While he offered us adventure and the opportunity to explore beyond what we knew, my mother gave us a sense of security and freed us from worry about returning safely home. She would have made sure that we had all we needed to stay safe. Band-Aids, bug spray, and more.
My husband, Ted, and I have never taken our daughters on a wilderness camping trip, yet they each have displayed bold adventurousness in innumerable ways. Currently one, a Peace Corps Volunteer, is living in Africa in a one-room thatched house devoid of electricity and indoor plumbing, and the other, after teaching for two years in Taiwan, is successfully pursuing her passion in the food industry in the wilds of Brooklyn, NY. Their innate talents and interests, coupled with the resources, encouragement, and sense of security of a loving family, have guided them on their path to adulthood.
When asked to choose an appropriate symbol for our family, I found myself circling back to my childhood story, the one with me carrying the lightweight stuff, and borrowing its imagery. In fact, I marvel at the accidental symbolism found there and will claim it for my family’s enduring, present-day icon: A canoe…equipped with a paddle, a fishing rod and life preserver…the tools a family would need to propel itself, provide nourishment, and to stay safe on the journey.