Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Object Lessons

Marash Girl's dad loved to give object lessons, particularly after hearing his children bicker.  

Calling his children into the back yard, and holding out one stick for each, he would command, Break the stick if you can.  Marash Girl and her brother and sister dutifully broke their respective sticks in half.

Holding up three sticks, he repeated the command.  Break this bunch of sticks if you can.  Not one of the children could halve the bunch of three sticks.

His lesson: That's what happens when the three of you 'stick' together!  No one can break you apart.

In the winter, when the back yard was covered in snow, Marash Girl's dad would depend on whatever was at hand for his object lesson.

Holding up his right hand and slapping it towards his left, he would ask the three children,  Did you hear anything?
No . . . came back the chorus of three young voices.

Holding up both hands and slapping them together, he would ask,  Now do you hear anything?  His children dutifully nodded.  They got it.

Marash Girl's mom got it too.  The children never heard her argue with their dad.  In fact, one day, when Marash Girl was grown up, her mom told it like it was: The only reason there's peace in this house is because I keep my mouth shut! (and by house she meant the whole house with Uncle Paul and his family of five on the second floor and Grandma and Grandpa on the third floor).

(She didn't add this but let Marash Girl add here that her mom 'kept her mouth shut' . . . at least while the children were in hearing distance!)


  1. Matthew 5:9: 'Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.' mother's sister and own mother were non-stop talkers, uberfraulein/frau. Mother's lack of litigiousness did not mean she lacked conviction. To illustrate, it seems that mother became acquainted with a woman from Lebanon, an armenian woman, who, like mother,sang in the armenian church's women's choir. the newcomer from Lebanon could not speak english, but, could speak Turkish, a language in which mother was fluent. over time, mother gained the confidence of this new arrival only to discover that the woman was married to a wife beater. because this immigrant woman could not speak english, she had no way of escaping her domestic nightmare, because she could not get a job and walk away from the monster husband. mother, quietly, took it upon herself to find this woman a job as housekeeper/cook in the home of one of the well-to-do in Weston (or, as the occupy wall streeters would say, the 1%). however, the woman did not have a driver's license and could not get from Watertown to Weston in a timely manner, as public transportation did not accommodate such a need. we lived in Newton, midway between the two domiciles. So, what did mother do? did she keep quiet. yes. she kept quiet. did she act? yes, she acted. she chauffeured the woman from her home in Watertown to Weston and back again every day of the work week for six months, through the Autumn and winter, consuming @3 hours of her day, every day, five days a week. Because dad knew the husband of this woman to be violent, dad was concerned mother was exposing herself to possible harm, and advised mother not to get involved. mother did not argue. she acted. she acted as chauffeur long enough for the woman to get her driver's license and save up enough money to buy herself a used car. mother discovered one day in late Fall, that her husband's concern was not an idle one. mother discovered she was being followed by someone hired by the wife-beater to find out where his wife was going and with whom. you see, mother took this woman shopping,as well. one day when mother was getting into the driver's side, and the woman had entered on the passenger's side, a man came up to mother, swiftly, and snatched mother's car keys out of her hand. mother did not resist the man, but flew into the driver's seat, slammed the door, locked it, and the other doors. she drew from her purse another set of keys, looked at the thief and laughed at him, leaving him choking on the dyspepsia of her car as she slammed the accelerator down to the floor and left the man standing there with the set of keys dangling from his hand. mother, undeterred, continued her rescue of this woman for the ensuing months until Spring arrived. the next part of this story is purely speculative, but is grounded in the reality of knowing just who my father was and what he was willing to do to protect the members of his family. because mother never had another incident like that in the ensuing months, i would have to believe my father had 'words' with the wife beating husband. you have to understand that Peter was a person who could not be intimidated, nor would he back down when it came to the safety of his family. he had blue eyes that turned deadly, when confronted by a threat. I witnessed it a couple of times growing up in the house; once when we went fishing in Maine, and once when marashgirl was pushed down on the ice by some tough who thought it was funny and entertaining to do such a thing. dad was built like a middle weight boxer, and he had fists of stone. dad spoke with the boy's father and gave him an option. either the father would 'take care of the boy', or dad would. the boy 'was taken care of', and so i believe was mother's would-be assailant. 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.'

  2. @petersonIn answer to Peterson: Thanks for the memories, Peter's son, the memories of the courage of our fearless parents.

  3. The first object lesson involving the three sticks/1 stick is rooted in the classical Roman experience. The word for the three sticks bound together and unbreakable is 'fasces'. It is the root word of ‘fascism’. Mussolini used the same example to promote his brand of socialism. An object lesson can be used for good or for bad, just like a gun.

  4. Mussolini used it for evil, dad used it for good.

  5. I should have added, that a gun can be used for murder, or getting food and self-defense, for evil, or for good.

  6. My mom gave me and my 2 brothers a similar, but not identical "object lesson" - she held out the three sticks, bound together, and gave it to us in turn, saying "try to break this" - and it was too strong, none of us could. Then she untied the the sticks and gave us each one - "break this" - which we did easily. Her lesson - if we work together, each doing part of a big job, we can get it done, or done more readily, than if we attempt it alone.