I loved my Gramma Murphy. She would rock me in her wicker rocking chair. I remember looking down and noticing nervously that we tipped way, waaaay back, held breathlessly in one of those forever moments on the very tippy tip tip of the runner. No way was she rocking me to sleep in that thing.

She didn’t have a TV but she had a radio and couldn’t miss The Arthur Godfrey Show every day. When reception was a little static which was often, she would hit it until it came in better. Lots of tape later, the thing still operated, still produced static, and she’d hit again.

She liked to fix me snacks like any good grandmother would. She would ask what I wanted probably thinking I would say cookies, or cake, or pie, but I said peas. Peas? Yes. With butter, please. Peas. Salt, too. Coming right up. (this kid is weird)

And we would play dominos. Sometimes I would just line them up and tip the first one delighting in the inevitable tumble and she and I would marvel and laugh.

Gramma was born in 1879. Her brothers were the farm hands, she and her mother were the house slaves. At 18 she married Butler. She lost her first child at 4 months to a fever, her preemie boy/girl twins, born at home died after 4 hours, and a daughter was stillborn. Herman and Dad lived, her only surviving babies. Wanting a daughter so very desperately, she put Dad in dresses until he was 6. Fortunately, this did not scar him. When Dad was about 11, Butler was told his gum disease would move to his brain, causing insanity, and he would kill his family. He prevented this by hanging himself. I don’t think Dad fully recovered. Ethel didn’t completely. She didn’t become totally bitter. But some hurts did transfer…. selectively. My heart aches for her, her hurt and those she hurt.

It’s important to me not only to understand my own hurts but to understand the hurts that are handed down. Somebody stop the dominoes.

I have a friend in our church family who shares a common memory with me. As all little girls do, she asked her mama if she was pretty. Like my mother, one of her mother’s biggest fears was that her pretty little girl would get the dreaded Big Head. Her answers were something like “Pretty is as pretty does” or “Beauty is only skin deep.” (Sigh). I guess I’m not pretty.

I don’t know if Ethel ever asked her mother that question. I don’t know what her overworked mother would have said to such foolishness while her own hair dragged in her eyes, and her calloused hands were busy with one more endless chore with no end in sight.

Generally, hurting people hurt people, not only their own children but anyone else that crosses their path. But, sometimes the first domino is the person who’s been led to believe he or she is the center of the universe; someone who hasn’t been taught or even comprehends the essential people skills like compassion or respect; someone who must be in control and on top at all times.

Parents, tell your children they are beautiful creations in the likeness of God. Hug them. Kiss them. Praise their ‘fridg art. Give them practical people skills. Show them how to have joy in the midst of sadness and hurt. Tell them how to repel the inevitable cruelties of the world and how to seek healing on their knees. Balance that with a healthy humility in God’s presence, gratitude, obedience, and the ability to give and forgive.

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