Thanks, Mum and Dad
by Major Chick Yuill –
I guess it’s the combination of the news from Littleton and the preparations for Mother’s Day that has caused me to think a great deal about my own parents and my childhood recently. There are a thousand images and incidents indelibly imprinted on my mind, some of which I’m about to share with you.
For example, I was telling someone recently of the day–way back in 1953–I could only have been about five years old at the time–when the teacher announced to the class that the entire school would be taken to the movie theater in honor of the upcoming coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. In common with many evangelical Christians in those days, Salvationists were pretty negative in their attitude towards any form of ‘worldly entertainment.’ As a good Army kid, I knew my duty. I walked straight to the front of the room and announced to the teacher and my classmates that, because of my religious convictions, I would not participate in the trip to the cinema. I can still see myself standing before the class and for more than 40 years I’ve felt sorry for that kid who missed out on a few cartoons and a black and white newsreel!
The problem is that when I tell that story to my own adult daughters, they imagine that I had a terribly repressive and deprived childhood. Nothing could be farther from the truth. My dad was a coal miner; his pay was low and money was sometimes short. We lived in a house with no electricity, so there was no TV or radio. But I recall evenings of luxuriously warm coal fires and uproariously riotous fun. Our house was full of jokes and laughter and singing and good books. A high premium was placed on a good education, and not only did my parents make sure schoolwork was done faithfully, but somehow or other they managed to find money for music lessons for my sister and myself. ‘Places of worldly entertainment’ may have been taboo, but mine was certainly not a deprived or dreary childhood.
I have to admit that my mum (where I come from it’s ‘Mum’ not ‘Mom’!) and Dad were not widely read in the literature of child psychology. They did, however, have a couple of axioms by which they brought up their kids. The first was, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.’ Believe me, I was not spoiled! (The passing of the years has done nothing to assuage the tenderness I feel in a certain spot in my anatomy when I think of childhood punishment.) And the second related to the fact that my parents regarded food as sacred. It was not to be wasted, played with, or allowed to become the focus for a battle of wills. If I refused to eat anything I was allowed to leave the table–but only in the knowledge that the same food would appear at each subsequent meal until it had been eaten. ‘You’ll eat it before it eats you!’ was the sentence that was always spoken on such occasions. I have to admit that it still possesses an unassailable logic.
What I remember most about childhood, however, is that I grew up in the home of two great lovers. Mum and Dad loved each other–enough for me to know that theirs was a union that only death could sever. Mum and Dad loved the Lord–enough to pledge one tenth of their income to the support of his work. Mum and Dad loved The Salvation Army–enough to commit to a lifetime of service in the local corps. And Mum and Dad loved us kids–enough to surround us with a love and security that has formed the foundation for my life even to this present day. They belonged to a generation and a culture which was not given to romantic protestations or any explicit reference to matters sexual. But they were lovers. No doubt about that.
One last memory: whenever I would ask my Mum for something–a cookie, some spending money, or whatever–she would always reply, ‘I don’t know. Ask me.’ Then I had to ask her all over again. For some reason that I’ve never fully understood this afforded her enormous amusement. I guess she just liked to hear her kids asking for things, and she wanted to experience the pleasure again before she granted my request, which she invariably did. I wonder if that tells us something about how God feels about us when we pray. When I get to heaven I’ll ask him, but only after I’ve found my parents and said, ‘Thanks, Mum and Dad.’