Domino Transitions

Domino Transitions

The Transitions Galore blog generated responses referring to transitions as hard-knocks, second-hand transitions, rolling with the punches, forced, inherited or domino transitions citing negative effects but emphasizing benefits as well, which will be our focus this week.

The first use of Domino Effect: was in 1966; Ripple Effect is a close synonym. Probably all of us can recall one person’s selfish decision evoking toxicity or adversity in the entire organization/family. Domino transitions often follow that of broken homes or frequent moves. By the same token, some families being subjected to domino transitions are not damaged but fare very well in the end.

We moved every three years when my dad was in the Air Force which meant changing schools. That transition affects so many children in a negative way. You are the new kid.  How will you fit in? Will others make fun of you? The prospects can be devastating. First and second grades were parochial; third and fourth grades, non-parochial and were behind the parochial schools so I excelled. Fifth and sixth were parochial. Seventh and eighth grades, NH we had to go to L’ecole St. Charles because the non-French parochial school was filled. Needless to say, there weren’t many exceptions made for us so we had to learn some French. The morning was French and the afternoon was English. The following year it switched, English in the morning and French in the afternoon. When we moved back to Columbia, needless to say, we remembered a lot of French. I started St. Joseph Academy where we wore uniforms, which I loved but none of the other girls did. I never had to worry about what I was going to wear and no one showed off the clothes that others of us couldn’t afford. In remembering all these transitions, I was never the odd kid, but always fit in. Being the child of a Master Sergeant in the Air Force probably had a lot to do with adjusting to changes and learning self-confidence.  H.

I’ve heard many ‘Military Brats’, as they call themselves, refer to the moving around lifestyle as excellent preparation for life and that they wouldn’t change a thing, just as H reminisced. Our family’s adjustment to the domino transitions stemming from Dad’s impulsive splintering-off could have turned sour, but because Mom set the bar by not criticizing Dad or complaining about our financial situation, never apologizing for what she couldn’t help but focused on depending on God for wisdom and provisions abated possible anger or anxiety. Our family was not broken. Dad chose to leave but he could never offer a valid reason, saying only, “I don’t know why I left.”

The move from the 14-room farmhouse with a large yard and plenty of space for playing softball and basketball, into a dilapidated three-room shack on a small parcel of ground on the outskirts of town was traumatic. The structure belonging to our maternal grandmother and scheduled to be torn down had been unoccupied-for-years. It had electricity but no water or bathroom; one small closet. That was it! We were stunned but asked no questions.  We were thankful for a place. I don’t recall that we complained about having no inside bathroom with the exception of rainy or bitter-cold snowy days.

The first positive from the domino transition was seeing strengths in Mom that we would never have known otherwise. She was quiet, gentle and peaceful, exuding confidence.  We watched her and listened. We were comfortable with her parenting and trusted her implicitly.

David was 6, Mac 13, I was 14 and John was 17. Our two sisters, 19 and 20 worked in a nearby city and shared an apartment.  Mom sought employment outside the home for the first time in her married life which automatically gave David three new bosses.  We walked him to first grade on our way to school. Mom would be at work when we got home, so my job was to help him with homework, take care of him and put him to bed. By the way, he went on all my dates.  Right away, we learned responsibility for David and each other which was a great benefit.

We hunkered down and worked together having no time or desire to argue or disagree which was another positive. Each of us chose a specific area of responsibility. Mac carried water to the house from a neighboring pump; John put a sink in the kitchen and a drain; cared for the little coal furnace in the living room which kept the house toasty warm. A space on top was just right for a big water kettle that provided warm to hot water for bathing. I chose to keep the johnny house clean and supplied, assisted Mom with laundry carried to Grandma’s, and ironing. Everything needed to be pressed, including sheets and dish towels. I wasn’t used to working steadily, but discovered it was gratifying.

We cooperated as we cleaned the house, washed windows and pooled our money to paint inside and out. The boys restored the circular drive and the yard. Since the house was small, everyone was obligated to keep their clutter cleaned up. We experienced pride and joy in fixing-up that place. I’ll never forget the day when Mac came home with shutters purchased with his hard-earned money. That’s when we all agreed that the shack—a haven now--had transformed into the Little House at 246 Annis Court.

Without a car, we had no option but to walk 20 minutes to Sunday School and church---four kids and mom walking, talking, and enjoying each other. Then, on Wednesday nights, even when Mom was at work, we did the same thing. Can you beat that?  No wonder we have such a strong bond.

Because the domino transition forced us into the workforce while we were still in middle and high school each of us paid for school supplies and other needs. As soon as David was big enough to ride a bike and carry papers, he got a paper route. The building of self-confidence was another domino benefit.

Interview any of us and you’ll hear that our positive adjustment to a critical situation rested heavily on our individual personal relationship to Christ.  We not only worked together but we encouraged each other spiritually. We all agree that this was the greatest comfort and benefit from the domino transition.

David was too young to remember much about dad, but he was affected as well. Here’s his story that he sent last week.  Benefits from the move to Chillicothe:
  Well, you became my mother---we walked to many places etc.; we had to make our own fun---mostly with each other, use of the yard and family, and chores became a part of the daily schedule---and prepared us all for constant responsibilities of adult life.
  We had to learn to do with less or without.  I played with Scottie from down the street--he had nice clothes and I remember him asking why I had patches on my jeans.  My best friend had a 16th birthday party, but his mother wouldn't let him invite me because my parents were divorced. That was shocking and sad for him and me---but he is still my best high school friend to this day---we talk often.
 I inherited Cousin Dick's hand me downs. We got to go down to grandma's for chicken and noodles and for sweet rolls (some without raisins!) We all got mumps at the same time.
 After college, seminary and ordination--and serving churches: Obviously I had similar experiences with those who came in for counselling: divorce, single parent, need for frugality but also, of course, many illustrations in preaching about a happy family and church and a personal relationship with Christ. God is miraculous. D.

After we three older ones were off to college, Mom and David lived in the Little House for several years.

We made the most of the negative effects of Dad’s irresponsible domino transition, building character, cooperation, being responsible and encouraging each other. We are stronger for what we went through. Mom always loved Dad but said she had only compassion for him.  We wouldn’t change a thing. And once again, the old adage applies: “It’s not the situation you’re in but the attitude you take.”  A good caution for all of us is to be mindful and very careful about impulsive or irresponsible decisions that may precipitate domino effects harming or inconveniencing others in its wake.

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and bloom. Isa. 35:1 (NIV).

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. James 3:17 (NIV).

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you. Eph 4:32 (NIV).

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my load is light. Matt.11:28,29 (NIV).