A Well-known Storyteller, Author and Inspirational Speaker

The Red Letter Days of February

Look up everybody!  Look up, Laugh, Love and Lift.

Wow!  This is February and this is the month with all the goodies in it.  Already I have had a Humongus blessing.

Today is the third of February, and this is a red-letter day because my friend, Larry, was baptized today! Although he has been a Christian for many years, he has grown closer to the Lord in the past few years, and the pastor confronted him the first of 2013, saying,

“Larry, I know you love the Lord, but it’s time for you to be baptized and tell the world that you are dead to the old world and alive forevermore.”  It so happened that I arrived here at my daughter’s home and I attended her small group which is their Bible study group that meets on Sunday evenings in each other’s homes.  The news of Larry’s upcoming baptism was spread abroad and they were talking about it.  I was so thrilled for you see, I have been knowing them all this time, and we are good friends.

He said, “Well, I want to be baptized before Mackie goes back to Texas.”

I said, “You better hurry then, because I am leaving on the 9th.”

So he scheduled it for the 3rd and there you have it!  I was so happy that I could be here to celebrate with him.

Now I have another day that is red as far as I’m concerned and that is February 12, for that is not only Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, but it is the birthday of my son, Frank Leslie Bersch, Jr. and that means I go home on Saturday the 9th so I can make his favorite cake.

He likes the 1-2-3-4 cake with the fudge icing on it.  Both recipes are in my cookbook if you own it, but if you don’t, let me know.

Now let’s talk about the other red-letter days of February.  I note that the 13th is Ash Wednesday.  That date on the Christian calendar is the first day of Lent, which is forty days before Easter and it is called “Ash Wednesday” because it is customary in many Christian churches to observe the Lord’s Supper and then mark the foreheads of each of the faithful with ashes in the form of a cross.

The purpose of this is to remind us of our mortality.  The pastor or assigned minister will usually say something at the time of the marking to indicate that we are made of dust and shall return to dust. Of course, too, the day is one when we remain especially mindful that God so loves the people of the world that He gave His only begotten Son that we might have everlasting life. The ashes are allowed to stay on the brow as long as they will last and we sing the song, “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” (Isaac Watts-hymn)

The following day, February 14, is Valentine’s Day.  This is also rooted in a noted Christian from early days, but from Chaucer’s days, it has become known as a day when lovers exchange their greetings in flowers or candy, and love-letters.  These have evolved into greeting cards exchanged by relatives and friends, husbands and wives, as well as the sweethearts of the world. This is one of the most celebrated days in the year.  Everyone loves valentines, especially the United States Postal Service!

And of course, storytellers.  All storytellers have oodles of stories about Valentine’s day.  I loved the letters that the children sent me after my visits.  I saved all of these and I took the choicest ones to my workshops and posted them for everyone to see how rewarding it is to go to the schools and tell stories.  I had to unload a lot of the “STUFF” I had saved when I moved to Texas. I remember a third grade boy who sent me this one.

DEAR STORYTELLER,///Did you know that you are the best storyteller in the world?  Thank you for arranging your time to come and tell us stories.  I loved the songs and your instrument, and the way you YOUSED your hands! I want to be your valentine.”  (Patrick)  I imagined that he asked his teacher to help him spell such words as “arranging” and “instrument”  but he thought he knew how to spell “used.”  This gave me lots of joy and I shared it over and over.

When I was a child the teacher decorated a large box with red or white crepe paper and then the cut-outs of cupid with his bow and arrow, and hearts in the contrasting colors decorated the outside of the box.  There was a big slot in the top for our cards and we dropped out greetings in the box during the day.  The teacher then tapped the bell and  opened the box.  He allowed a boy and a girl to be his messengers in helping deliver the mail.  He would call out the name of the person who was receiving and he made sure that everyone had at least one card for he gave one to each and it was so much fun having the boy or girl to deliver our mail.

I still love the day and I have an album full of all the ones that Frank gave me, and ones I gave to him.  It is our love story and it is a beautiful lifetime of memories.

Then on the 18th we have President’s Day. Whoever thought that one up?  Now which presidents?  You see, when I came along President Lincoln was given his special day on 12 February, and President Washington had his celebration on February 22.  There was no “day off.” Hot Ziggety!  No school today!  Why?  Oh, it’s president’s day!  Which ones?  Oh, who cares!  The important thing is we have a day off.

We had special programs when we stood up and recited.  The one I loved  to say was Henry Holcomb Bennett’s Hats Off, the Flag is Passing By. There are six verses, but I will only do the first and last ones here so you can see how patriotism was instilled in us from the early grades.

Hats off!  Along the street there comes

The blare of bugles

The ruffle of drums,

A flash of color beneath the sky

Hats off!  The flag is passing by.

(the verses show that not only the flag is passing in review but all that our nation stands for is described  then the last verse is almost like the first one.)

Hats off!  Along the street there comes

The blare of bugles

The ruffle of drums

And loyal hearts are beating high

Hats off!  The flag is passing by!

Here again the storyteller has so many stories to tell.  One of the favorites that I loved to tell was about the little girl who was sick with a fever and could not go with the family to see General Washington who was going to be passing through the village on a certain day. I will give a little synopsis of it.

Her mother wanted to stay at home with her, but the little girl insisted that she go, and said, “Please, I want to hear you tell about it.  I will stay right in the bed.”   After thinking it over, the mother did do that, and cautioned her not to open the door to anyone, however, the story goes that the little girl dozed off and was awakened by a loud knocking on the door, and a strong voice saying, “Is anyone at home?  This is General Washington. If anyone is at home please open the door.  My men have marched all night ad they are hungry and thirsty”

Then Mary put her robe on and went to the door.  She invited them to help themselves, saying that her mother and father were gone to the village to see him, but she was sick with a fever and could not go.  She said, “There’s plenty of bread, butter, cheese, honey and molasses as well as milk to drink.  My mother and father would be honored if you would rest here and eat all you want.”

General Washington said, “Now you get back in the bed and I will give you some medicine.”  He opened his saddlebags and gave her a teaspoon of something that he mixed with some honey and as soon as Mary swallowed it she knew she would be better.  Soon she heard Yankee Doodle being played by the fife and drum corps as the men marched away.  She dozed off and slept until her parents came home.  They were so excited as they told her about the General and the fife and drum corps and her mother said, “Oh, Mary I wish you could have been there and heard the music as they played and the men were singing the song as they marched.”  When she told them her story they thought she was delirious from the fever or else she had dreamed that, but then they found the letter of thanks from the general and he thanked them so much, and hoped that Mary would soon be better.  He told them of the medicine he had given her.  They framed that letter and kept it hanging on their wall and when Mary grew up and had children of her own she showed them that letter as she told them this story.

Here is one of the letters I saved from a little girl in the fourth grade who drew a big heart around her words, even though the stories were about George Washington..

Dear Storyteller, // “When I grow up I want to be just like you! I want to have an autoharp and go about telling great stories and singing beautiful songs to all the boys and girls.  And I hope I can always remember the story you told of the little girl who was sick and couldn’t go to see Gen. Washington, and how he came to see her!  That was the best story you told today!  I am always going to remember you.  Thank you again.  (Angela.)

Now that I am 94 years of age, I wonder about all the precious children who are now grown up and have children of their own!   I do hope and pray that they will tell  stories to their children. From 1952 right on up until now, I have told stories and taught others how to tell them. I love to remember all the great audiences, especially my grandchildren.  I have gone to visit each of their classrooms and told stories.

This month, so full of red-letter days, is a special one –and I almost forgot Leap Year that happens every four years!

What is so great about that, you might ask—and I’ll tell you right now!  This is the year we’ve been waiting for!  Now we don’t have to wait around until the one we are carrying the torch for decides to pop the question!  Now we are allowed to do the proposing!  And, naturally, we do not neglect the preliminaries.  We’ve had four years to carry on the campaign that will guarantee success.  Just as soon as the New Year’s Eve party is over and we get that special kiss—we are gonna be good and sure that it packs a wallop, and that he never quite recovers from it, and while he is in that state of mind, ZAP! That’s the time to strike! And put that ring on my finger!  Put that piece of paper in my hand!

There’s no excuse for anyone ever ending up an old maid, when the good Lord supplied us with an extra day every four years and ordained that to be the Day.  If that guy has been dragging his feet, he will either put up or shut up.  We are not going to be wondering when or if any longer!  And for Pete’s sake don’t drop any hints what the next year’s calendar is about—it wouldn’t be cricket.  Remember all is fair in love and war, and the last I heard this is love—just a few days after exchanging Valentines to pave the way.  I am glad I remembered to add this—another red letter day every four years! Now all you single gals be prepared.

Now after this great month we have 6 glorious red-letter days coming up in March—One of them—the 25this red on MY calendar because a lovely niece and a lovable sister-in-law share a birthday on that day, and that makes it American Beauty Red as far as I’m concerned, so I’m looking forward to it.  Of course, Ole March is blustery, but she can’t fool anybody!  We know she brings the robins back.

When I publish the blog for March, I hope to report the completion of the memoirs including rewrite!  Then all I lack is editing and publishing.  I think it will be under cover by June 1.

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