Susan Cooke Kittredge


Susan Cooke Kittredge is Associate Pastor of the Charlotte Congregational Church.

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My mother was politically engaged and her driving issue was abortion. Before Roe v. Wade was passed, she’d had friends who’d desperately sought illegal abortions in the tenements of Harlem, sometimes with tragic results.

Jane Kittredge

When I turned 40 I started two routines that somewhat eased my mind. First, I began to wear make-up. Second, I started buying myself birthday presents before my birthday.

Since Barrie Dunsmore died last Sunday, he’s been my constant companion – rowing with me on the lake as the sun rises, walking around meadows and offering amusing peanut gallery perspectives on the news. It’s odd that when people die, they seem not gone but ever closer.

Kittredge: Noble Endings

Apr 16, 2018

I’ve had several recent encounters with an issue that affects a demographic not generally considered pop culture trend setters: the elderly.

The initiative to wear black at the Golden Globes was commendable as a stance against a culture historically focused on women’s bodies and clothing as sexual ignitors. But it didn’t eliminate the need for careful and thoughtful consideration of the complexity of the situation at hand.

Members of Black Lives Matter have suggested that stemming the rising tide of racism in this country cannot be led by people of color. Ebony Nyoni, co-founder of the Vermont chapter of the organization said recently, “This isn’t our battle anymore; it’s yours and we can’t forgive you if you don’t ask for forgiveness.”

Today we observe Memorial Day and I use the word “observe” with intention. We might easily say that we’re “celebrating” Memorial Day and, indeed, that may seem more appropriate. This is the start of summer, the first lifting of the dusty, gritty grill lid, the washing of the deck chairs, the crack of bat on ball, the first dipping of toes in chill mountain streams, the move outside for the duration of the season. After a Vermont winter, it’s certainly something to be celebrated.

I’ve recently spent some time in New York City welcoming our newborn grandson, tending his three little sisters, cooking and trying to reassure their parents that everything really was going to be okay.

When I was eighteen I dropped out of college before the first day of classes. I was working as a reader at Random House, a job I figured Radcliffe graduates would envy, and I didn’t want to give it up. When I told my parents my decision, they yawned and said, “Don’t worry; you’ll go when you want to.”

Most of us can remember times in our childhood when things at home weren’t going well, when the ambient air was charged with electricity and discord and we knew things were out of whack. For others, the disharmony wasn’t noticeable because friction was the norm and moments of tranquility were, sadly, greeted with suspicion and distrust.

There’s a short book in the Bible called Lamentations; it’s a collection of poems written after the destruction of Jerusalem in roughly 587 BC. But the Hebrew word for “lamentation,” “ekah,” doesn’t mean to weep or mourn. It doesn’t ask “Why?” but rather “How?” As in “How can this have happened?” “How do we go forward?”

I don’t usually answer calls from 800 numbers, but for some reason I did a couple of weeks ago. Adding to my tendency to dismiss these calls, it was an automated message, but it quickly got my attention.

I used to cross country ski for hours from my front door. Then we moved to the Champlain Valley, where I’ve not yet gotten in the habit of driving to snow, so aside from running and walking outside, I’ve been looking around my house more than usual.

Here we are at the time of year when we roll out family traditions with bravado. For many this is a great solace and comfort, but for others it can be a clashing symbol of what’s changed, what’s missing, who’s gone. No wonder the air seems charged, having as it does such conflicting emotional ions butting about: anticipation and joy, anticipation and dread.

How fitting that Pope Francis came to the United States from Cuba, a country with whom we have a long history of friction and distrust. It was indicative of his core message of reconciliation and healing. By so doing, he also modeled the immigrant experience and touched an inflamed nerve in this country.

Until 1967 Memorial Day was called “Decoration Day.” The tradition of placing flowers on the graves of lost soldiers is an ancient one dating back to long before the American Civil War. It was, however, during that war that the practice became widely observed.

I was recently at a gathering where people talked about their memories of Easter. Granted, it was a group of church folk, so stories of Easter dresses, sunrise services, and interminable Easter sermons abounded.

Winter in the North Country requires that we live a bit on heightened alert. We shrink from those around us who are sneezing and coughing; judiciously count the logs in the woodshed, drive cautiously and pad about on slippery walks ever watchful for a patch of ice.

Our sons grew up watching Star Wars and constructing elaborate space ships out of Legos - not uncommon for young boys in the late 1970s and 80s. One of our boys, Zeb, always wanted to work in space. “Sure, sure,” we said, “you can be anything you want to be.”

But when, after graduating from U-32 in East Montpelier and getting his Bachelor of Science from Stanford, he was then admitted to a Coop program at NASA as part of his graduate work at Stanford. We figured we’d better start taking him seriously.

By the time the passengers of the Mayflower finally got off the ship for good in March of 1621, they had been on the boat for seven months. They had boarded in early August ready to launch, but she was an old ship and kept springing leaks so it was a full month before they even set sail. In the meantime they were crammed together consuming their precious stores for the journey. After a treacherous crossing of the Atlantic, they landed on Cape Cod in early November.