It’s good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand. (Madeleine L’Engle, 1918 – 2007)
Some time ago, a dear friend shared with me the quotes she receives from her church each morning. Most are thought-provoking, some are comforting. I send some of the gems to Elliot and Emma when they seem especially à propos. If you want to join the club simply go to All Souls Meditation and join in.
This morning’s quote by author Madeleine L’Engle reminds me that I’ve wanted to write about this great lady for quite some time. Her career-changing book, A Wrinkle in Time, was published 50 years ago this year and I cannot see the title without thinking of my third grade teacher, Mrs. Condrey. She was doing DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) back when it was still just the salutation to a letter, not an acronym coined by educators who looked around and said, “Oops! We are suffocating our kids with so much learning, they no longer have reading time!”
Every afternoon, after we had mastered our lessons, learned our learning and cleaned our desks, Mrs. Condrey would read to us until the dismissal bell rang. A Wrinkle in Time was one of our rewards. Those of you who’ve read the book don’t need a plot summary; those of you who haven’t, go treat yourself and open it up. A better book never started with the perennially-mocked line, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
While every page Mrs. Condrey read kept me spellbound, what touched me the most was the relationship Meg had with her five-year-old brother Calvin. The genius in a family of Mensa-worthy members, Calvin ends up in the clutches of the evil force “IT” who takes over his mind. Meg frees him, finally, by realizing that the “only thing that she had that IT didn’t was her love for her baby brother.” The passion Mrs. Condrey brought to the scene where Meg liberates Calvin, facing down his Hitlerian captor to do so, was the high point of third grade. (Except perhaps gathering pecans with my friend Cindy Wright in her back yard in preparation for our Georgia project.) “I love you, Charles Wallace. I love you Charles Wallace!” Meg says over and over until IT’s hold on her brother is loosed, catapulting the family back to its eventual reunion.
It would be a dozen or so years before I would have a brother to love, and many years after that until I learned, over and over again, that the power of love is impotent to liberate those held in the grip of damaging inner forces. (Said brother has never been gripped by any evil forces and is happily in the grips of making wonderful baked goods.) Love’s futilities aside, Mrs. Condrey, and Ms. L’Engle, brought to life love’s possibilities. They held rapt the attention of a winsome nine-year-old, revealing how solid the ground built from the grains of sand that are words.
Cindy Wright, second row, third from left.
Yours truly, end of third row on the right.
You cannot see that my beloved Mrs. Condrey
had bright red hair!