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He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4

Poverty with its multi-faceted violence scours psyches of survivors eking out a living—but not all are left in dust-pommeled gangways—throughways for rats—as recounted in Vivian Gibson’s memoir, The Last Children of Mill Creek (2020).

As a pre-teen, she witnessed the 1959 demolition of the historic four-hundred-square-foot neighborhood of twenty thousand underpaid African American workers in St. Louis, Missouri; its benign neglect, for decades, had contributed to the Mill Creek’s “blightedness” that green-lighted government funding for another Interstate for suburban workers, needing faster access to their city jobs. After the quick work of the medicine balls and tractors, Mill Creek’s bombed-out landscape became known as “Hiroshima Flats.”

What could have been a scorching account of disrupted families, churches, and businesses—a viable through invisible community to the world around it—it was told with honesty, humor, replete with wisdom. Life inside those cold-water flats, heated by coal and wood-burning stoves, many with no indoor plumbing, was not without its rules and consequences. Unique patterns of communication developed among families, bonding them for life.

Such experiences had unfolded within the Ross’s 800-square-foot flat in the 2600 block of Bernard Avenue where lived the author’s seven siblings and her parents, their teachers of positive self-regard, resourcefulness, and the value of education and hard work. All moved through daunting hardships—at times—with ease. Detailed accounts jumped off the pages: their Saturday morning “shopping” at Soulard Market, returning home on the streetcar with bags of bruised fruits and vegetables, left on the ground by the farmers. No one was ever hungry in the Ross household.

Vivian Gibson’s unflinching acceptance of her hardscrabble beginnings contributed to the accomplished woman she has become: author, fashion designer, cook, wife, and mother. She has much to teach us in her memoir, The Last Children of Mill Creek.

At 6:15 A.M., I awoke with these dreams:

I’ve joined a large group of animated women who are working for global peace. All wear dresses made of the same cotton fabric: blue with pastel flowers. My A-line dress with the scalloped hem fits perfectly.

The first dream emerging from my unconsciousness describes the total engagement of a large group of animated women, each distinct, but focused upon achieving global peace. I’m honored to be identified among them. Their task is daunting: developing relationship skills among all individuals and nations. Only heartfelt prayer can bring this about. Yet, this is happening and has been for all millennia. Planet Earth still survives, with yet another spring’s coloring.

A tall strong man hurries in my direction intent upon harming me. I see him and call out to him: “Such dithering nonsense! There’s nothing you can do to upset me. Besides, you’re not a man—Just a large fish, with scales scintillating in the sun. Quite distinctive, actually.”

The second dream depicts an ugly man, a nasty scoundrel: Scowling eyes, beefy biceps, and ropy muscles that ripple with each stride in hot pursuit of me. For some reason, I hold my ground and wait as he morphs into a large fish, with scales scintillating in the sun; their beauty stuns me.  

The Fish looks back at me and knows I’ve identified with its Greek equivalent icanthus: acronym standing for the ancient Christian symbol meaning Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.  

Admittedly, such a tall strong man can accompany death’s assault upon body-mind-spirit, mine included, but it’s all a ruse. Beneath, lies release and eternal life, its foreshadowing, a welcome reprise as I wait.

Available on Amazon

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