Susan Cooke Kittredge


Susan Cooke Kittredge is Associate Pastor of the Charlotte Congregational Church.

Here we are at the time of year when we roll out family traditions with bravado. For many this is a great solace and comfort, but for others it can be a clashing symbol of what’s changed, what’s missing, who’s gone. No wonder the air seems charged, having as it does such conflicting emotional ions butting about: anticipation and joy, anticipation and dread.

How fitting that Pope Francis came to the United States from Cuba, a country with whom we have a long history of friction and distrust. It was indicative of his core message of reconciliation and healing. By so doing, he also modeled the immigrant experience and touched an inflamed nerve in this country.

Until 1967 Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day.” The tradition of placing flowers on the graves of lost soldiers is an ancient one dating back to long before the American Civil War. It was, however, during that war that the practice became widely observed.

I was recently at a gathering where people talked about their memories of Easter. Granted, it was a group of church folk, so stories of Easter dresses, sunrise services, and interminable Easter sermons abounded.

Winter in the North Country requires that we live a bit on heightened alert. We shrink from those around us who are sneezing and coughing; judiciously count the logs in the woodshed, drive cautiously and pad about on slippery walks ever watchful for a patch of ice.

Our sons grew up watching Star Wars and constructing elaborate space ships out of Legos - not uncommon for young boys in the late 1970s and 80s. One of our boys, Zeb, always wanted to work in space. “Sure, sure,” we said, “you can be anything you want to be.”

But when, after graduating from U-32 in East Montpelier and getting his Bachelor of Science from Stanford, he was then admitted to a Coop program at NASA as part of his graduate work at Stanford. We figured we’d better start taking him seriously.

By the time the passengers of the Mayflower finally got off the ship for good in March of 1621, they had been on the boat for seven months. They had boarded in early August ready to launch, but she was an old ship and kept springing leaks so it was a full month before they even set sail. In the meantime they were crammed together consuming their precious stores for the journey. After a treacherous crossing of the Atlantic, they landed on Cape Cod in early November.

With maples turning, and frost on the pumpkins, there are fewer customers at our farm stand. In comparison to the many robust farms with roadside sales, our farm stand is tiny, but I love it. Last spring, however, when the push to plant and organize and clean up in winter’s wake pressed hard, I decided I had to cut back on something. Serving a church, running a catering business and having a farm stand was just too much. Since I love being a minister, there was no way that would end. At first, I thought the stand would go. But as soon as the vegetables started coming in, that changed.

When I wasn’t attending camps in New England, the summers of my childhood were spent at the end of Long Island in a small beach house atop a sand bluff. Until the vineyards arrived about 30 years ago, there wasn’t much happening on the North Fork except lush fruit and vegetable farming. The small peninsula called Nassau Point on which my parents’ house stood jutted out into Peconic Bay and was, if you can believe it, pretty remote.

The subject of obesity and its impact on individuals and on our society as a whole is running the risk of redundancy. As often happens, repeated mention of a certain topic leads to our not really hearing it anymore; we don’t process information when we hear it over and over and over again.