My Photo: Diaper Collection for The Maker's Place. Read on to Learn More!
Back in December, my church did a diaper drive for The Maker’s Place in Trenton, NJ (the early December results are pictured above). I know you're thinking, "what the what? Why is she talking about diapers?" Picking up diapers for a new drive gave me the idea for the blog that will follow on Friday. But first let me give you some background on the location, name, and mission of The Maker’s Place.
The name in part comes from a bridge across the Delaware River. According to the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, “The Lower Trenton Toll Supported Bridge, also known as the ‘Trenton Makes The World Takes Bridge,’ carries Bridge Street traffic from Trenton, New Jersey to Morrisville, Pennsylvania, one of three bridges connecting these two communities. The original Lower Trenton Bridge was the first bridge to span the Delaware River and opened to traffic on January 30, 1806. It was located on the same site as now occupied by the present structure….The downriver truss displays the ‘Trenton Makes The World Takes’ sign which is mounted to the truss members; hence the nickname for the bridge. The original sign was erected in 1935 and replaced in 1981.” – Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission. (Destination Trenton)
Image from commons.wikimedia.org
Trenton once was a thriving hub of industry. But times have changed and, although it is the seat of New Jersey's government, the city is struggling. Into this environment the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church has started a new initiative. (STOP: Again, allow me to clarify that all United Methodists do not hate or fear the LGBTQIA community, not all of them see them as "incompatible with scripture," nor do we want to deny them the right of ordination and the ability to be married by a UMC pastor in a UMC church. Just to remind you.)
Anyway, the name "The Maker’s Place" has two points of reference: 1) “the Maker” (i.e. the Creator, God); but 2) as it located in Trenton, it also plays with the Lower Bridge sign and hopes to “create a place where all people are empowered to be makers, and where all people experience the abundant life of God the Maker” (The Maker’s Place).
Of itself, the church says, “The Maker's Place is a new initiative of the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey. The goal is to connect neighbors in Trenton with neighbors from central New Jersey, by opening a new neighborhood resource center that empowers poor and marginalized people in our capital city. Starting with initiatives centered around food and families, and in partnership with four United Methodist churches in Trenton, we'll cultivate transformative relationships and help people build bridges out of poverty” (The Maker’s Place).
When the initiative kicked off, we were asked to donate diapers to The Maker’s Place. Why diapers, you ask? Well, as we all know, babies are not toilet trained. For centuries, humans have swathed their infants' little bottoms in some kind of protective cloth. These days, we use disposable diapers. And this presents a problem for people who live in poverty. Disposable diapers are expensive, and babies go through a lot of them! Even if parents use cloth diapers, they need to purchase the cloth or the material, and then if they don’t have a washer/dryer in the home, they must find the time and the money to hit the laundromat - and frequently. Thus, it is tempting for a parent to leave diapers on longer than is healthy. This is the world of poverty. People are forced to make difficult economic choices all the time – i.e., “do I buy more diapers or use that money to buy groceries or medicine?”
My congregation collected disposable diapers back in December, and we are doing it again.
Okay. Fine. We’re nice people at First UMC. We want babies to have dry, clean bottoms and be healthy and happy. But the act of purchasing diapers taught me something. You see, I’m a granny-age woman. I’ve never married nor have I ever had children. So, I float through life blissfully ignorant about purchasing diapers. Imagine my surprise when I made my first purchase and discovered that a modest box of diapers cost about $16. And I realized something. It's no wonder having an adequate amount of diapers on hand is a problem for people struggling with poverty. Those little things are expensive!
As I made my purchase on Tuesday, I suddenly found myself thinking about babies in the Saint Maggie series. how babies' needs were met bottom-wise in the 1860s, and what it took to keep a baby healthy.
On Friday, we will transition from the 21st century to the 1860s and look at how and why budding physician Lydia decides to try something new on her infant half-sister Faith's little backside.
In the meantime, if you can, perhaps you might take a little time and a little money, buy a package of diapers (or some cloth diapers), and donate them to a local food pantry. Thanks!
Destination Trenton: “Trenton Makes the World Takes Bridge
The Maker’s Place. https://www.makersplace.org/
Image from the Library of Congress, "The U.S. sanitary fair, Logan Square, Phila. 1864 "/ Frank H. Taylor after Queen. Rights: No known restrictions.
There is one other person who might be getting involved with someone, and that is Chester Carson, Eli’s friend and chief reporter at The Register. Carson is gay. Why the character revealed himself as gay probably has a lot to do with how he looks and sounds to me as the author. He physically resembles a friend I had known some years ago but sounds like that friend’s partner. I don’t usually put two people together to get a character, but that’s what happened when I was creating Carson. And so it came as no surprise to me that he is gay.
We don’t hear much from Chester Carson in Saint Maggie. He’s clearly one of the secondary characters – a boarder in Maggie’s rooming house. But by the end of the novel, he is established as someone who writes for Eli’s penny-weekly newspaper and who is interested in a new art form called photography.
When we get into the second book, Walk by Faith, Carson takes on a much larger role. Carson reveals that he dislikes his given name, Chester, and prefers that Eli call him “Carson.” But he reveals something much more important to his friend. It happens when he and Eli become war correspondents and travel with the New Jersey Fifteenth Volunteers.
As the two men journey to meet up with the regiment, Eli chats about multiple topics to fill the long hours. At one point, he begins regaling his friend with stories about the years he spent living with the Sioux. Eli casually mentions that the Sioux have more than two gender roles. “…say a man prefers other men. For the Sioux, that’s all right because they have those other spheres. He doesn’t have to be a warrior, a husband or a father to be valuable to the village. Everyone is welcome to contribute regardless. They would never beat up a man just because he wasn’t like other men.”
And, to use a contemporary phrase, this is where Carson “comes out” to Eli. He heaves a wistful sigh and says, “Ah. Then perhaps I should have been born a Sioux.” As they converse further, Carson reveals that he does indeed like men, but adds that he has no interest in Eli other than being friends. In fact, he goes so far as to chuckle and say, “Have no fear, my friend. I do not find you at all appealing,” which leaves Eli “wondering whether he should be insulted or relieved.”
Throughout that book, the two develop a brotherly friendship. At times they bicker like a couple of little old ladies, other times they fight fiercely to protect the other, but they always care. That they hold each other in mutual respect, love, and loyalty is clear.
However, it bothers Eli that Carson does not have a loving relationship comparable to the one he has with Maggie. He pushes Carson on the subject in Seeing the Elephant and the following conversation ensues as Carson says:
"Homosexuality is illegal, and I no longer have the stomach for being found out, ridiculed, arrested, beaten, or killed.” Carson sighed. “Besides, the love of my life is long gone. Perhaps it is better this way.”
“How could his being dead be better?”
“My dear chap, he died before anyone found us out. I live now with wonderful memories rather than anger at a world that neither understands nor accepts us.”
Eli regarded his friend for a long moment. “I’m sorry, Carson. I really am.”
And yet… things just might be changing for Carson. In Walk by Faith, He makes the acquaintance of a man named Alfred Benning, who owns a photography gallery in Philadelphia. Benning sees the photographs Carson took while in the field and likes them so much that he offers to show the other man's work.
That seems to be the end of the story. We don’t hear much more about Carson showing his work until The Great Central Fair, when he takes Lydia, Frankie, and their beaus to visit the gallery – and Benning happens to be there. Toward the end of the novella, when the party of six visits the Philadelphia Sanitary Fair, aka the Great Central Fair, Carson and Benning have a deep conversation as they visit the fair’s photography exhibit.
Notice that the conversation between them is a bit subtle. In the 1860s, and indeed until recently, two men cannot speak openly of a "more than friends" relationship in public. Everything must be done in subdued tones and, ideally, in private. The punishment for having a speaking of such a relationship publicly is too great. However, they do not have the luxury of privacy at this moment.
Despite Carson’s insistence that he does not want another relationship, he and Benning manage to leave the door open a crack for “something more.” One of my beta readers picked up on this. I had written it thinking they would remain friends, but no more. But she read possibility in their words. So, what we have is a proposal of sorts with a “maybe eventually” answer.
Frankly, I’d like Carson to have a happy, loving relationship again. At the moment, though, as Benning points out, Carson has found a family at long last with Maggie and the others – and that is important, too. Still, I’m curious as to where he will go next.
Until Wednesday, friends!
Image from the cover of The Great Central Fair, purchased from i.stockphoto.com
In 1860, before Maggie's eldest daughter Lydia met Philip Frost, she was seeing Edgar Lape, a struggling young lawyer who was renting a room at Maggie’s boarding house. The couple marries in 1860, fearing that war is imminent and their time together short. In 1862, Edgar goes to Flemington, New Jersey with Patrick McCoy to enlist in the army. Sadly, Edgar does not survive the war, leaving Lydia heartbroken and widowed in 1863.
Lydia is made of strong stuff, however, and since she is a budding physician, channels her grief into attending wounded soldiers during the Battle of Gettysburg. She imagines and hopes that if she can save one life then she also will save the man’s wife, mother, sister, or girl the terrible pain of loss.
After the battle is over, Lydia meets Capt. Philip Frost, a doctor who has been sent to count the number of wounded men being cared for in homes and public facilities throughout the town. The men eventually will be transferred to Camp Letterman, a tent hospital that is going near Gettysburg.
Philip immediately is attracted to Lydia, but realizes that she is newly widowed and still in mourning. They also have a rather heated disagreement over some action that Lydia and her sister have taken. Despite this, they manage to mend things between them and become friends. They go on to continue their friendship by exchanging letters after Philip is sent to work as a doctor at a hospital in Washington D.C. and Lydia returns to Blaineton.
In June of 1864, Lydia learns that Philip will be going to Mower U.S. General Hospital in Philadelphia to serve as a doctor on staff. Coincidentally, Patrick also is being sent to Mower, but as a steward (a doctor’s assistant).
When the two men arrive in Blaineton for their week's leave before reporting for their new duty, they and their young women decide to take a short vacation to Philadelphia. Of course, they can't go unchaperoned. It is the 1860s, after all. After casting about for a compatible chaperone, they settle upon Chester Carson. Carson is a good choice, since he is familiar with Philadelphia and can show them the sights.
It is in Philadelphia that Philip and Lydia formally pledge themselves to each other – and in a most Victorian way. Here is the excerpt from The Great Central Fair. Enjoy the Victorian way Lydia says, "Dude, I feel happy when I'm with you," and Phil's 1860s version of "Hey, girl, I love you." Or something like that!
Note that nothing is said directly about marriage. At the same time both are making it is clear to the other that marriage is where they want to go. Also, their agreement is reached in a public space, like Frankie and Patrick. But unlike the other couple, Phil and Lydia do not broadcast what they are doing. They only exception is that Phil takes Lydia’s hand, something that does not go unnoticed by Frankie. You’ll have to read the novella to see what the couple does next.
I suspect Lydia and Philip will become another Saint Maggie power couple and they very well might have adventures of their own in another series. Nothing like looking ahead!
There is a final couple for us to look at on Monday. And they exist outside the norms of the time, so what goes on between them is done quietly.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Image: The Enlistment Cover. Frankie is looking at the tents of Camp Fair Oaks, where her beau, Patrick has enlisted. Not only does Frankie disguise herself as a boy, but she breaks another norm of the time!
Maggie’s youngest daughter from her first marriage is Frances, better known as Frankie. In Saint Maggie, Frankie is all of fourteen years of age. In the beginning of the story, she develops a crush on the new pastor, Jeremiah Madison. But cold water gets splashed all over that idea when the pastor becomes involved with her older cousin, Leah.
At the end of the book, after a long winter it finally is April of 1861. Frankie finds her first love: Patrick McCoy, the undertaker’s apprentice. In the last scene, she and Patrick bounce out of the house and Frankie announces to her mother that the two of them are going for a walk around the square. Then Patrick reaches for her hand, which she gives to him.
Maggie says, “Why, I do believe they are courting.” Eli calks it all up in one word: “Spring.”
When we arrive at The Enlistment, it is 1862. Patrick goes off to join the army. Frankie gets a brainstorm and follows him, disguised as a boy. However, she is unsuccessful at enlisting – so she ends up joining the laundresses for Patrick's company. When she finally finds her beau, he is doing his own laundry.
By 1863, Patrick serving as an ambulanceman with the New Jersey Fifteenth Volunteers and finds himself in Gettysburg on the last day of the battle. Frankie, meanwhile, has moved to her stepfather's family home in Gettysburg, and is living there with her mother, the other women from the old boarding house, Grandpa O’Reilly, and Nate Johnson. During the battle, Frankie gets separated from her home, spends the night at the home of a friend's family, and ends up volunteering in a field hospital. Once the battle is over, Patrick goes out looking for his girl. When he finds her, the two of them return to the Smith House. This time it is Patrick's turn to make a proposal – and he does it in quite a public manner.
The war, of course, continues to keep the young lovers apart, so does Frankie's age. Will they ever get married? The answer to that is yes, of course. When and where and what happens for them next is still in the works. But you can be sure it will not be conventional. I have plans for Frankie and Patrick, who have been come a well-loved couple among my readers.
However, Frankie isn’t the only Blaine daughter to get a proposal. We’ll look at Maggie’s oldest daughter and budding physician, Lydia, and her love life on Friday.
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder