Finding Meaning


One Family

By Skip Hellewell

Kind readers responded to last week’s column, “Happy 100th, Mom,” so I should report on the event. A quiet dinner with Mom, her 10 kids and the spouses had been my idea. But I grew up in the middle of five strong-minded sisters and they were thinking large. We did it their way, of course, and it was a great success. The event was less a birthday than an affirmation of the meaning of family.

We’re a family like any other, just bigger because our parents reared 10 children who have multiplied to 134 living descents, counting spouses, spread over four generations. The first child of the fifth generation, a girl, is expected in March and Mom is hoping to be there for a five-generation photo of four moms plus the newborn future mom.

A family is a laboratory for learning and many do it well. The older members are rich in wisdom, gleaned from the lessons of their lives. The younger have more to learn, with the advantage it could have many years of use. It’s an age-old dynamic. The more intact a family is over the generations, the greater the sum of their family wisdom. While watching slides of past family reunions, we were saddened by the image of a young smiling face lost to suicide. We learned from that, but that smiling face reminded that our loss was greater.

My group was assigned to provide a play period for the 45 kids between kindergarten and college age. We organized the gym into sections, each with toys for group play including a large jump rope where up to six could jump together, balls for four-square, and a parachute for group action. We had considered how to organize it all, even buying a bullhorn, but when the kids arrived and saw the toys, they simply started playing. We learned something we had forgotten from our own youth: When it comes to play, children don’t need adults to organize them, thank you. We had also forgotten the language of play: shrill shouts of joy and laughter.

For our family, two groups dominate our American origins. Our pilgrim and Puritan ancestors came in the early 1600s. These pious people, England’s yeoman, came in groups led by ministers who founded towns like Concord. The other group, the Scots-Irish, came in the 1700s and settled on the frontiers. They were enticed there by the offer of land, in exchange for protecting city folk from predatory Indians. You could characterize the two groups by their use of Saturday evenings. The Puritans used it to prepare for Sunday worship; the Scots-Irish worshiped on Sunday to repent for their Saturday night.

We’re not all church-goers. There’s a fault line that runs through our family today with respect to religion. Most follow the church we grew up in, but not all. Some have chosen to be spiritual in their own way. The former have more children; the latter not so much. Other sources have noted this connection between faith and fecundity. Darwin may have missed the point. For humans, it’s not fitness but rather faith that best survives. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 6 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, Sunday 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish). Saturday: 4 pm Reconciliation, 5:30 Mass.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.

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