the retirement of major betty israel

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Today is my Mom's retirement ceremony, marking (if not quite concluding) 42-odd years of service in The Salvation Army.

For the ceremony, my mom assembled a bunch of photos, picked some music, and Amber used that beastly iMovie program to assemble a terrific slideshow:

(You might need Chrome or Safari to see; Firefox is angry about the video format, and IE is terrible. Sorry for any inconvenience but Chrome is easy to get)

I was asked to come up with the "Word from the Family" speech for the thing. Here's what I came up with, it has a lot of family anecdotes and describes life for an "OK" (Officer's Kid) in The Salvation Army. Some of the jokes are a little forced or corny but over all it was well-received.
I noticed the program lists this as "A Word from the Family" and lists me as "Kirk Logan Israel" and at first that gave me pause, because- growing up, when my mom busted out all three names, "KIRK LOGAN ISRAEL"- I knew someone was in hot water, and that that someone was me. But back to the names thing in a second.

As many of you know first hand, Officership is a family affair. Like you saw on the slide show, I came on the scene when my folks were stationed in Philadelphia, the city of brother love. I'm sure I enjoyed many of their famous cheese steaks before being whisked away to Cleveland at the tender age of 3 months.

Cleveland! The Land of Cleves. My folks were stationed at the Booth Memorial Hospital there. My mom tells me it was convenient being a new parent working at a maternity hospital! She got to borrow a bassinet and I became a fixture in the gift shop where my mom was doing some supervising, so Baby Kirk was a kind of a coming attraction feature for the pregnant folk there.

Our quarters were very near the hospital... this came in handy one night in particular -- I had been sleeping between my folks, and somehow I had rolled onto the floor and I banged my head-- I still have a scar over my eyebrow from that night. My dad threw on a jump suit (hey it was the 70s), my mom threw on a zip up nightgown and that's how they ran over to the hospital.

so the doctors did their thing, but on the way home, my mom was concerned... it was kind of a suspicious looking blow, and my parents had no idea how I managed to roll all the way over my mom to get it to happen... what should they say if Child Services came knocking?

My dad thought a moment, and announced there were three possible tactics they could use:
1. Indigation: "HOW DARE you accuse us of doing this to our child??"
2. Explanation: calmly describe the circumstances as they understood them, and hope for the best.
3. Or, he said, we can bring 'em to the basement and show them where we buried the other ones.

This kind of humor is about par for my family's course.

Our next appointment was our most interesting -- not to mention the warmest. St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. St. Thomas had more than its fair share of wildlife, like these little lizards ---- that our cat would hunt.... And catch..... And put in our shoes. Thank you cat!

There were also flying cockroaches. Island kids would make little cages for them and sell them to tourists as quote "mahogany birds". These tourists would then wonder why they couldn't bring their new cockroach pet back through customs... the first night my parents were on the island, in fact, one of those cockroaches flew into my dad's t-shirt. My mom always said that if it had landed in her nightgown, they would have been on the boat back to Puerto Rico that very night.

[I learned to talk there, and had a calypso accent for a number of years... they tell me my first words to my grandfather were a phone call, "Heyee, Pop-pa Samm". They talked really fast there, so if I'm talking fast during this speech, that's my excuse.]

After St. Thomas, it was back to Ohio: Cincinnati this time. Cincinnati had its own wildlife too-- tiny peeper frogs. I would catch these little frogs and carry them around everywhere in old kool-whip containers with holes in the lid. one family story is the time my mom was driving, with me napping in the back. My mom figured I was napping pretty soundly til about 20 minutes later I piped up with "Got 'Em All Back Now, mom!" -- looks like I had been studiously REcapturing my little minions the entire trip.

"Got 'em all back now, mom!" became my family's catchphrase for situations where you don't find out about a problem until its been safely resolved.

Time to move again. My parents were told the Army needed them again as corps officers, this time in the city of Salamanca. Their first reaction: "Where's Salamanca?" That would be a small town in Western New York... the only town built from land leased from an Indian reservation. My parents developed a close relationship with the people of the Seneca tribe, even being adopted into it. They also had good working relationships with several of the other churches in the area, often filling in as guest ministers. The Catholic school, St. Patricks, was just down the street... my mom volunteered at the music program sometimes, and I was one of the few kids who got a "clergy discount" from a catholic school.

I think Salamanca was where I most clearly saw the interesting gender role balance of the Army. I like telling people that the famous song only goes halfway--- I'm not just a sweet talkin' son of a preacher man-- I'm the sweet talkin' son of a preacher woman! My mom remembers how I used this as material when I had to write about gender roles for an essay contest; it was an interesting symmetry! One week, my dad would preach, and my mom would be doing the dishes. The next week, my mom would have the pulpit and it would be my dad's turn at the sink- there was a balance to it. (Plus, this kind of scheduling led my dad to astonish his friends with an ability to count forward and backwards by 7s, so he'd always know what date was what.)

And then 9PM one winter evening, a call. Glens Falls, another Empire State town, needed us and fast- we were there 3 weeks later.

then Finally, it was time to go back to Cleveland. As a form of weird, pre-teen protest at all the moving I started going by my middle name, Logan. This made for some confusion, and even now some Army folk know me as Logan, but others call me Kirk. At the Cleveland Temple corps, then-Captain Shenk said "Aw just call him Butch", and it stuck, so my full church name was Kirk Logan Brother Butch Israel Brother. Maybe you had to be there.

My dad passed away during our time in Cleveland, and the support of the community there was a blessing. Once I finished high school and my mom got her masters in social work, she was tapped to go to New York City. Her quarters where at the Williams Residence. It was still my home, even though I was at college, and she asked for a small room for me... it turned out to be down the hall from her 3 or so rooms, and it had its own little bathroom. Looking back, I realize that at this point, I had my own New York city micro studio apartment that overlooked Broadway... the gas stations of Broadway, but Broadway none the less.

But I had come back to the family stomping grounds of Boston for college , and stayed for the hot dogs. Meanwhile, my mom got to London, back to her roots in Boston, and finally down to Virginia. But now she'll be at my my family's placein Ocean Grove New Jersey -- God's Square Mile, they say, and she'll be finally free to be the true (gasp) blue-state Democrat that the family has always been at heart.

Thank you and happy retirement mom!!!