An Excuse, An English Lesson, and Memories Shared

It’s been a little quiet here recently.

One reason for the lack of posts is my volunteer job. I teach English as a Second (or Other) Language at my church twice a week. We have a fantastic lead teacher who prepares all the lessons, and all the rest of us have to do is show up and work through the lesson with a small group of students.

Well, our fantastic leader is on vacation and she left me in charge. She gave me some lessons from a couple years ago (she’s recycling) that I could use – but they “need some work,” she said. I knew that any changes I made would not improve her lessons, so I decided to write my own instead.

I am not a trained teacher – I just stumbled my way into this. Preparing a lesson takes me a lot of time. So I’ve been writing lessons rather than blog posts.

I think I’ve found a way to recycle a blog post into an English lesson and then recycle that lesson into a blog post. Lazy?  Or brilliant?

The Spit-Up Chair

If you are a regular reader here, you know that I have a few posts that I refer to as “Chair Memories.” I decided to use my cousin’s poem, “The Gold Recliner” as the starting point for yesterday’s ESL lesson. Then I took an excerpt from my memory of “The Spit-Up Chair” to expand on the idea of an object that evokes a memory.

I was concerned that the sadness of the poem could be upsetting to some of our students who have suffered losses. A few of our students are refugees from war-torn countries. Others have grieved the loss of loved ones, as we all do. And I didn’t want the morning to be depressing, so I tried to “soften” things a bit by adding discussion questions about memories elicited by music, or a smell – and whether or not one has a good or bad memory…. that kind of thing.

The last part of the lesson asked the students to write about an object that holds memories for them and to share the story with their group.

I am sorry to report that I made Mrs. Li cry.

As Mrs. Li, an older woman from China, told us about the china tea cup (a real Chinese china tea cup) given to her by her younger brother who has since died, tears began to roll down her cheeks. I wasn’t sure if she could finish, but she did.

A woman from Mexico, here in town to visit her grandson, told us that her grandson reminds her of her son when he was a baby and that her wedding ring brings back many happy memories surrounding her wedding.

A young woman from Korea read her story of a pair of white athletic shoes – a gift from her boyfriend (now husband)… how the left shoe was too tight but then stretched to fit perfectly; how she would not wear the shoes in the rain or on unpaved surfaces; how she met her fitness goals in these shoes; and how she lost the left shoe. No longer in possession of the left shoe, she threw the right shoe away.

I think I saw tears begin to well in her eyes as she talked about a pair of athletic shoes.

A woman from Russia related memories of her first days in school and the kindness of her teacher.

A man from Mexico told us about his first watch – a gift for his 8th birthday. He was so proud of his watch with the Roman numerals on the clock face that he was constantly reporting the time to anyone within earshot. Eventually the watch needed a new wristband – and his mother accidentally lost the watch.

A young man from Spain told us about summers spent at his grandmother’s house in a small village and the good times he had there.

A young mother from Japan told us about a trip she took to Cambodia with her American friend (he was just her friend!). They visited the Killing Fields. They volunteered at a school where they taught a little Japanese and English to the children. To thank them, some children reached up and picked leaves from a coconut tree and formed them into two rings, then placed the rings on the ring finger of her left hand and her friend’s left hand. It was then that they knew they were to be more than friends. Now they are married with one child and another on the way.

An older man from Vietnam arrived very late to class. The other students were already writing so I gave him a quick summary of what he had missed and what the students were doing. He sat and thought while the others wrote. After the students had shared their stories, I asked if he wanted to share a memory. “No. I try to forget. Not good for me to remember. Like her (nodding to Mrs. Li), I would cry,” he said.

Photo Credit: Coconut Flower by Mohammad Mahdi Karim/Wikipedia/Creative Commons Licence


And when love in life has ended…..

May it go on in heaven above. – Fred Webber

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the marriage of Fred Myron Webber and Carol Richards on August 14, 1932. Fred was my Grandmother Abbie’s brother. I put out a request for a wedding picture and received this from their daughter. Thank you!

Carol Richards and Fred M. Webber 14 Aug 1932

Fred Webber was highlighted in the Spring 2000 edition of “The Strange-Webber Connection” family newsletter. Family members have given me permission to use stories and memories shared within its pages, so I’ll share a couple that reflect on their marriage.

This excerpt explains the title above:

“Carol Webber shared with us the following poem. She explained that, while they were both students at the University of Iowa, she and Fred  went on a picnic with friends. They fetched a bucket of water for the group. Later, Fred presented Carol with the following poem, above which he had mounted a picture of the two of them carrying the pail of water for the picnic.”

(Update 5/5/2019 – I recently received the original hand-written poem from one of Fred’s and Carol’s children and so I happily replace the typed poem from the newsletter with Fred’s hand-written verse.)


Just four months prior to their wedding, Fred was “publicly ordained to the work of The Gospel Ministry on the fourteenth day of April, 1932, by a Council of Baptist churches, composed of 25 messengers from 14 churches, convened at the call of the Immanuel Baptist Church at Rochester, NY.”

Fred’s first three pastorates were in Baptist Churches. In 1941, he was received into the Presbytery of Buffalo-Niagra and for the remainder of his career in ministry, he served in Presbyterian churches and other assignments within the Presbyterian Church.

Fred and Carol had four children and were married for 56 years – until Fred’s death August 30, 1988.

Also included in the newsletter are memories that Carol Richardson Webber shared about her marriage to Fred.

“After 56 years of marriage, there are many ways in which I remember Fred. I’ll try to share a few with you.
I remember Fred as a loving husband and father. He could always find time to help with or check the children’s homework, play a game of catch or something. Always ready to drive them and their friends to ball games, etc.
I remember him sitting in his easy chair surrounded by books and papers and doing crossword puzzles in ink.
I remember his devotion to work. He was a student and spent many hours preparing for a service.
I remember him as being able to fix any toy or household item – but always having to go buy a tool before he could do it.
I remember his love of camping and taking pictures. As the children would say, he was “stopping to take a picture on every corner” as we were traveling.
I remember his cluttered desk and how he knew where everything was. I couldn’t dust his desk.
I remember his love of music and how he made that a very special part of the church service.
I remember his ability to come up with a joke or a story that he hadn’t thought of in years. He had a terrific memory.
I close as I started – remembering him as a loving and devoted husband and father for 56 years.”

Carol and Fred Webber 1968

After reading the above, It seems fitting that the only picture of Fred and Carol that I found among my grandmother’s photos was this one of Fred with his camera.

The words of the poem above reflect the life and work that both Fred, as a pastor, and Carol, as the wife of a pastor, envisioned for themselves (or at least Fred envisioned) throughout their life together. Carol has since passed away.


And when love in life has ended,
May it go on in heaven above.





Chair Memories – The Gold Recliner

Woodye and Orville Kessler

Yesterday, I suggested a link to my cousin’s poetry blog at In case you didn’t visit, I’m going to share from it here. Wilda’s poem below got me to thinking about some chairs in my past. Maybe you will do the same. The cute and happy couple on the left are Wilda’s parents (sitting in chairs!).


am copying here from Wilda’s blog:

A few years ago, I wrote a poem about a particular piece of furniture, the gold-colored recliner in which I rocked many of my grandchildren. When I see it, I often think of my first grandchild, Florence Irene Penrod, who died shortly before her seventh birthday. She was the first child I rocked to sleep in the recliner. So the chair often brings poignant memories of Florrie. Though the poem only mentions two grandchildren, there were several others I rocked to sleep in that same chair, especially Florrie’s younger siblings who spent a lot of days and nights in my home while their sister was in the hospital. This poem—with the chair as prompt—recalls a journey of healing from loss. The sorrow of losing Florrie will remain with me always, but in time, I recalled more of the beautiful memories and learned to smile when I thought of her.

The Gold Recliner

Does this gold recliner remember
how many times Florrie rested
her head on my shoulder,
how she giggled at funny sounds,
how I sang “Don’t Fence Me In”
and “You Are My Sunshine”
as we rocked and fell into slumber.
Does the recliner know
she’d have been twenty
this year had she lived?

Now Lucas climbs between
the recliner’s enfolding arms,
five-year-old hands grasping
this week’s favorite superhero,
curls his tired body
into the golden lap to rest.

Only a couple years ago
Lucas let me hold him
as we read the same books
each afternoon, and finally one day
I could sing “You Are My Sunshine”
to this other grandchild,
after all those years
it had turned to dust in my throat.

~ Wilda Morris

This poem was first published on the website of Highland Park Poetry,, after winning in the adult non-resident division of their 2011 Poetry Challenge.

 ****    I will be sharing my “chair memories” in upcoming posts. What about you? Is there a chair in your past or present that elicits memories for you? Are you in possession of a chair that belonged to an ancestor? What do you know of the chair’s history?
Please comment about your chair memories! And if you like to write poetry, enter Wilda’s June Poetry Challenge and write a poem inspired by a piece of furniture. 
I look forward to reading your memories!