Did I mention that Cheri and I have collected Red Wing Stoneware (crocks, bowls, etc.) for nearly 40 years? Yes, actually if you were to be terribly specific, you would have to say that I have been the driving force behind hunting down all shapes and varieties of usually very heavy pieces of stoneware pottery made by the Red Wing Stoneware company of Red Wing, Minnesota from the last of the 19th century through the middle of our last one. Cheri has actually been more of the cheerleader and obliging one as I would bring home a new friend to fill the already over filled home. Also – a word of advice: if you are going to be in the profession that moves you around the countryside fairly frequently (like the ministry), it’s probably not the best idea to pick the collecting of stoneware pottery as your life’s hobby. Go with stamps, or something non-rocklike.
But here we are, and there are always new and wonderful pieces to be discovered. Of course, when you decide you are a collector of whatever it is you collect, you eventually have to join the collector’s society of that particular item, and so since 1983, when we bought our first crock to use as a planter (such blasphemy now! Buy plastic and collect the crock for what it is!), we have belonged to the Red Wing Collectors Society. Each year, the society holds its convention in – where else – Red Wing, and there are lectures and displays and a huge auction. At least, that’s what I have heard, since we’ve never gone. What we have done, however, is each year order that year’s commemorative piece, so that now we have even more pieces of stoneware to display – just miniature size.
However, this year has been a remarkable disaster. With the CoVid pandemic, the society had to cancel its convention, which is a huge moneymaker for them. They did, however, offer the opportunity to buy this year’s commemorative, which we dutifully ordered. On top of it, though, some brilliant marketer looked back in the catalogs for Red Wing and discovered that at one time, during the Spanish Flu epidemic, Red Wing had manufactured small stoneware jugs, and printed on them “Anti-Flu League.” Apparently, it was a way to marshal support for the battle against the 1918 pandemic. 102 years later, the society has re-issued the jug with the words, “Anti-Coronavirus League,” and is selling them along with the commemorative, in part to create revenue, and in part because this is an historic time, and the jug also commemorates what we have and are going through, as it transforms what we do in our culture. I have the jug sitting proudly on my office shelf, right next to other treasures.
I began to wonder what other things may be getting collected as a reminder of this season of our world. Certainly, this is a horrible time, with millions sick and tens of thousands dying, but it also has changed us, and what we do, and in part who we are. So, what will we keep to remember this? Certainly, there will be facemasks, of all sorts, sizes and creative shapes. I saw a 9 month-old with a mask on a few days ago. Hard to call a facemask cute, but you could see the big grin sticking out from behind the little mask. Perhaps there will be tickets from concerts and sporting events and other mass gatherings that were summarily cancelled or postponed for now. Unused prom dresses? Specially created programs and videos to celebrate the rites of passage with graduations, commencements, weddings, funerals and the like? I know that Fisher-Price created a set of figurines to say thanks to the heroes of the pandemic. I doubt you could even find a set anywhere. Of course, there would be the hospital wrist bands that some will keep to remind of their own battle with the disease. Will we keep and treasure the jigsaw puzzles we put together, the tie-dye shirts that were made, or perhaps even the wrapper that shows we scored that particularly enviable package of toilet paper in those earlier months? I saw one t-shirt that could be saved – it read: “I swear we are fighting TWO pandemics: Coronavirus and Stupidity!”
And I have a little stoneware jug, that simply announces membership in the anti-coronavirus league, and imaginary, and yet in some ways fully functional large membership association. I have not heard of one person who loves the fact we have been separated from loved ones, forced to change a comfortable, although accidental pattern of activity, from eating out, to going to the movies, to watching a game, and not having to been leery of someone in the grocery store. Sure, maybe the ability to stay home has brought folks together in a home, unless those are not the persons you would be safe and happy to be with…
On a television show, someone was asked when they thought we would be all done with this, and what things will look like on the other side. Her two answers were, “I have no idea,” and “it will look far different than we have ever experienced before 2020.” I suppose that is right, and perhaps what we should collect are the memories of how things were before it all started, so that we might share with the generations who never knew pre-pandemic what life had been like, both good and bad. You know the word I need to use: let’s be intentional about how we live now, and what we leave behind when we no longer need to fill a home with stoneware, or whatever that might be. Let’s be sure, through all this, that we live with love for one another, with patience and forgiveness, and hope and plans for the future, and that we also leave the legacy of love and acceptance, as this part of us should never, ever, ever change. Don’t forget your facemask.
Word for the day: Baisemain. This verb means, “a kiss on the hand.” It’s pronounced with the stress on the first syllable: baze-mang. Originally French, which makes sense for all the kissing that goes on in France, baiser, to kiss, and main, hand. Pretty straightforward. It all started out as a way to show respect to someone in authority, usually by kissing the signet ring, or the ring that was bestowed with a position. Today, the Pope’s ring is kissed when persons come for an audience. In later times, it meant to actually show respect either to a man or a woman, such as kissing the Don’s hand in “The Godfather,” or when a gentleman kisses a lady’s hand, to offer that he sees her of a “higher estate” than he. Of course, this is not to be confused with the way Groucho Marx would kiss the hand of a woman he would meet. That’s just not what they had in mind with baisemain…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.