BIRTHDAYS

By Lloyd Streeter

July 18 should be a national holiday. Maybe it is for some nation, though I don’t know which nation it would be. It was a very important day in the history of the world; at least it was that important to me. It was the day I was born. If I had not been born, the world would have been much different! Think of it. Karen would never have had a husband. Well, not one as good as me, though I am sure she would have married someone. After all, she has always been beautiful, smart, and resourceful. And there were three babies that would never have been born. Oh, Karen would still have had children, maybe eight or ten of them, instead of the perfect number of three, but none of them would have been the three that now exist. They could not exist without my DNA which, of course, would not have existed if I had not been born. So, imagine a world with no Bill, the film and documentary maker; without Sandi, the pastor’s wife and school teacher; and without Rich, the lighting producer and deacon. And, equally astounding, think of a world without my children’s children. The world would have been much poorer without Tori, Tina, Ainslie, Brady, Sam, Anna, Jake, TravE (Travis Everett), and Arden. They came, all nine of them, with no effort on my part. They came, like blooms on my hibiscus plant, with regularity and beauty, they came to our world and caused Karen and me to exclaim, “Oh, here is another one, and it is so pretty!”

It was a sad time for many people back there during WW II. It was a bad time for a raven haired young girl in the Kentucky hills. Her drunken father had been shot and killed when he was 46, and her mother would contract TB and would die at age 44. That young girl had given up on her education when she was thirteen and had gone to work for well-to-do people—gone to work washing and ironing other people’s clothes and cleaning other people’s houses. She would have a baby girl and she would be expecting a baby boy (me). She was always ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it for it was not like today when children are born to single mothers and there is no embarrassment at all. She was embarrassed, and I would never have written about it while she yet lived, because I would not have hurt her for the world. But she is in heaven now where she can never be hurt by anyone and where she will never again be embarrassed. She survived her miserable childhood, survived the poverty and the pain that a brutal father delivered in his drunken rages. She survived and she escaped, escaped to northeastern Michigan, escaped to Mikado, and married a man who was nearly twenty years older than she. The circumstances to which she escaped were as dreadful as the place from which she had come. She was not accustomed to the unforgiving Michigan winters when the snow would pile up in six foot drifts and the icicles would hang from the eaves of the house, sometimes for a week before they would melt and fall. At least, in Alcona County, Michigan, she had a husband who loved her and wanted to protect her. It was a sad and difficult time for most people, and especially for that young Kentucky woman. She would receive news of her brother’s death, a casualty of the war, killed at age 19, in Belgium. She would receive news of her mother’s death, the TB winning another pitiful battle. And, because there was a war, times were hard for most people. Canned food, shoes, tires, and sugar were all rationed. There was a long wait for anything made of steel. And the winters in Michigan were hard. But, I was not born during winter. I was born on July 18. They tell me that the average income in 1943 was $2,041. But, the Streeter family income was well below that, probably only a few hundred dollars. A new car would have cost $900, but, because steel was rationed, very few people could get a new car. Because tires were rationed, some people had an old car up on blocks in the backyard or in a barn as they waited for the war to end so that they would be able to get tires and drive again. A loaf of bread could be purchased for ten cents, but Mama made her own bread. A gallon of gas cost 15 cents, but the Streeters did not use much gas during the war and went to town only occasionally by steel-wheeled farm wagon drawn by big Percheron draft horses. Now and then, we went by horse and wagon up the Klondike Road to visit my Uncle Jim. A gallon of milk would set a person back 62 cents, but we got ours fresh from the cow!

The years dragged on through my childhood. We had to make our own entertainment. I ran a thousand miles through the snow playing Sargent Preston of the Yukon– “On, King!” For my birthday, and for the birthdays of my brother and sisters, Mama would sometimes make a cake. It was always a simple white cake, not from a box, homemade from scratch (strange phrase). She would make her own frosting to put on the cake, make it from powdered sugar and a little margarine and water. It was wonderful cake. I would like to have one again.

I struggled on through my school years. I was sick a lot, strep throat, ear aches, mumps, tonsillitis, hydroceles, and lice infestations. I missed a lot of school and could never catch up. I was “held back” a couple of grades and I hated school. I planned on quitting school when I reached age sixteen and when it would be legal to do so. But I was surprised and overtaken by God’s grace before I could become a dropout. I was born again, saved by God’s free grace. It changed me. It changed the course of my life. God called me to preach, and I knew that I had to get through high school. God helped me to get through good ole Oscoda Area High School. I went on to a great university where I earned a BA degree. Since that time, I have earned several post- graduate degrees. God may make a learner of me, yet!

Pastoring three Baptist churches (only one at a time, thankfully!) occupied my time during the next forty years. Birthdays went by faster than mile posts on the expressway when you are going the speed limit. Birthdays have been tolerated as a necessary evil, something like the way April 15 is tolerated every year as we fill in our tax return. They were another milestone, but there was no joy in them. I guess I should not look at my birthday that way. After all, God has given me another year of life, and that is something to celebrate. I never expected to get this far. To reach the biblical three score and ten is indeed a blessing, and I have now gone three years beyond that. It seems like an even greater blessing when I realize that life expectancy was only 63 when I was born in 1943. So, God is good. I enjoy life. We just spent two days at Daytona Beach. We enjoy our home in Florida. And Karen tells me that we are having lunch at Ruby Tuesdays today to celebrate my birthday!

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