When I was nine years old I dreamed of being Bobby Feller. I forget about that dream for long stretches, but then something comes back to remind me of it. Recently that something was Tyler Kepner’s profile of Feller in the March 7 New York Times. I learned that at age 88 Feller still suits up every day, and that he is often called a hero because of his World War II service. He responds to this term by saying, "Heroes don’t come home; survivors come home." What good did that baseball dream do? For one thing, it's a bracing alternative to the dream talk that afflicts us now.
Draw up your chairs, younger ones, and I will describe a moment in the Age of Innocence, back in late-medieval time of 1945-1949. Bring your chairs in close so you can be sure you are hearing right. Let me set the scene: it is New Year’s Eve in one of those years. A score of us collegians are home for Christmas and—yes—have just been to church.
The Martys move their residence and parish membership every 43 years, so every 43 years I should devote a column to my parish, Ascension Lutheran in Riverside, Illinois. I have written so many articles and several books about life in the local church that readers have often expressed curiosity about my own ties.
This winter I had occasion to caress every one of my thousands of books, kiss thousands of them good-bye as I downsized my library, and decide which to save and which to give away. Reflection at such times can turn sentimental, as finding a long-buried book can let loose a flood of memories.
Christopher Niebuhr of the well-known Niebuhr tribe wrote to me recently. He is celebrating the Yale University Press publication of Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758 (edited by Wilson H. Kimnach), 800 pages of transcribed scripts and notes that make up the 25th and final volume of The Works of Jonathan Edwards.