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Walt Disney and My Mom

 

A Word from Curt
A Word from Curt

A Word from Curt: The word is Mother.

Today’s blog honors my Mom, Mary Iles  

Key Prayer Need: Shane Wilber, JD Hull, Charlie Bailey and I are Up Country Uganda among the Kakwa people.  Pray for a week of connecting, teaching/learning and Gospel seed sowing.

 

Walt Disney and My Mom

 

Everyone probably believes their mother is the greatest.

That’s as it should be.

There are few relationships that connect like a mother and her child. I’ve often wondered what it’s like to carry a child inside your body and then watch she or he grow into a woman or man.

God made mothers with a strong maternal instinct.

Don’t get between the she bear and her cub.

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 8.14.41 PM

A mother will do anything to protect, defend, and provide for her child.

Kipling summed it up in “The Female of the Species”:

She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties;

Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!—

He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,

Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

 

Kipling was speaking of India, but it’s as true in America as in Africa.

The mother loves and looks out for her cubs.

I have an early memory of first realizing how seriously my mother, Mary Iles, took her children’s wellbeing.

It concerned Walt Disney.

Or more precisely “The Wonderful World of Disney.”

I can take you to the spot where Momma showed me the letter.

It was on the porch at the Old House in Dry Creek.

 

The Old House at the edge of Crooked Bayou Swamp Built/Homesteaded circa 1892   John Wesley and Sarah Lyles Wagnon
The Old House at the edge of Crooked Bayou Swamp
Built/Homesteaded circa 1892 John Wesley and Sarah Lyles Wagnon

 

Mom waved a card. “Look, I got a reply from Walt Disney.”

I was too young to read but looked at a handwritten note on a folded card.

She continued. “It’s signed by Walt Disney.”

I put my hand on the black scribbling.

There was no bigger name or face in my simple Dry Creek in the sticks world than Walt Disney.

 

Walt Disney
Walt Disney

His weekly show aired on Sundays at 7:00 PM.

The middle-aged Disney with his kind face and clipped moustache was like a grandfather figure to us.

He’d introduced me to Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

Toby Tyler running off to join the circus.

I’d laughed at Disney’s great cartoons.

If it said Disney, it had to be good.

When a “Walt Disney movie” came out, we went to the Realart or Uptown in DeRidder to see it.

If it was Disney . . .

 

However, my mom’s earlier letter to Walt Disney wasn’t a compliment.

It was a complaint.

About the placement of World of Disney at 7:00 PM CST put it smack dab in the middle of Church Training* and Evening Worship.

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 8.20.35 PM

 

That may not mean much to you but it was a part of our life.

At the Iles home you didn’t miss church.

Even for Walt Disney.

Mom sent  a letter that only a mother could write. Asking on behalf of her two children, my sister Colleen and me, to consider moving the Sunday evening airing so church kids like us wouldn’t miss Disney.

Younger folks may not understand this. This was long before video, Tivo, VHS recorders and a multitude of cable channels. `it was still a black and white world in the Iles living room.

I’ve always suspected Mom’s letter was prompted by the terrible stomach aches that often gripped me about 5:00 pm on Sunday afternoons.

A man does what he has to do.

There on the porch, Mom read the reply:

Mrs. Iles,

 Thank you for your letter of concern. I am sorry that the time of Disney conflicts with your church schedule.

 This time slot is chosen by the sponsors and network of which I have no control.

 

 The letter closed with more nice words and was signed Walt Disney.

Even as a child, I had no illusions as to whether the signature (and sentiments) was truly Disney.

It sure sounded like what kind ol’ Grandpa Walt would say.

And somebody had signed it. It wasn’t a lifeless typed form letter.

In my mind, I decided it was authentic.

 

Growing up, I saw the letter in Mom’s keepsakes.

By then I could read and judge it for myself.

I realized that a busy man like Walt Disney probably received hundreds of letters like this weekly.

 

I wonder if the Disney letter is somewhere in my Mom’s dozens of boxes of keepsakes.

Knowing how Mary Iles never throws away anything sentimental, I bet it’s somewhere in the house at the end of Clayton Iles Road.

(Colleen and Claudia, when y’all have time look for that letter.  Just kidding.)

To me  the reply from Walt Disney wasn’t the big deal.

 

It was the fact that my Mom wrote to Disney. How did she get the address.  This was decades before the word “Google” became a verb.

It was an act of love.

She loved us enough to take time from her busy life and pen a letter asking something for her children.

Momma wasn’t willing to sacrifice what she saw as our spiritual formation even for Disney.

We kept on faithfully marching into Church Training for the reading of parts when we knew Pollyanna or Ol’ Yellow was playing on that square box back at home.

However, Mary Iles loved seeing her children enjoy themselves. That’s what I love about my mom and dad. They loved God but also had their feet planted squarely on earth and wanted us to enjoy life.

It’s a gift Mom continues to give her grandchildren and now great grandchildren.

 

As I’m separated this Mother’s Day by the Atlantic, I realize this Disney story is from over fifty years old.

Mom turned eighty within the next year.

She may have forgotten this story.

I never will.

I could tell dozens, no hundreds, of stories why Colleen, Claudia, and I think she’s the best.

Mom, for the second Mother’s Day in a row, I’m a continent away, separated by the Atlantic.

I love you more than ever and thank God for your life, love, and example.

 

I read recently that discipleship is simply, “You follow me as I follow Jesus.”

That’s the kind of example Daddy and you set for us.

I’m grateful but not enough.

Gratefully,

Curt

 

`My Mom and Dad's Beech Tree   CI  MP  (Clayton Iles and Mary Plott) carved about 1951.  Photo by Curt circa 2011
My Mom and Dad’s Beech Tree CI MP (Clayton Iles and Mary Plott) carved about 1951. Photo by Curt circa 2011

 

*P.S.

In addition to Church Training, we also never missed Prayer Meeting.

This was a Wednesday evening service held in all of the local rural churches.

Once our family was on vacation in Houston, which meant the Clayton Iles clan would make our religious pilgrimage to Astroworld.

My preteen sister, Claudia, not quite being in tune with the big world outside Dry Creek, excitedly said, “Let’s go to Astroworld on Wednesday evening. The rides won’t be crowded ‘cause everyone will be at Prayer Meeting. “

 

A Final Word:

I didn’t add this to the main body of the story but it must be told:

I’ve just finished reading the Autobiography of Sam Childers, better known as “The Machine Gun Preacher.” He shares a story, accompanied by a gruesome photo of a hand with the fingers cut off.

A South Sudanese woman was captured by the cruelest group there’s ever been: the misnamed “Lord’s Resistance Army.”

They gave the woman a choice:  they’d cut off her breasts or the fingers of her hands.

She chose to lose her fingers.  She later explained why, “I wanted to be able to feed my babies. Taking care of them was more important than anything.”

Even in the midst of inhuman barbarity, the divinely-inspired love of a mother couldn’t be quenched.

 

 

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Mom, for the third Mother’s Day in a row, I’m a continent away, separated by the Atlantic.

 

I love you more than ever and thank God for your life, love, and example.

 

I read recently that discipleship is simply, “You follow me as I follow Jesus.”

 

That’s the kind of example Daddy and you set for us.

 

I’m grateful but not enough.

 

Gratefully,

 

Curt

 

 

*P.S.

 

In addition to Church Training, we also never missed Prayer Meeting.

This was a Wednesday evening service held in all of the local rural churches.

 

Once our family was on vacation in Houston, which meant the Clayton Iles clan would make our religious pilgrammage to Astroworld.

 

My preteen sister, Claudia, not quite being in tune with the big world outside Dry Creek, excitedly said, “Let’s go to Astroworld on Wednesday evening. The rides won’t be crowded ‘cause everyone will be at Prayer Meeting. “

 

 

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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