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Lisa was one of our favorite babysitters. Her family lived in our neighborhood and Lisa included us in the neighborhood goings-on. We loved that about her, especially as we got older and recognized the generosity required to include dorky little neighborhood kids in her social calendar. As if she couldn’t be any cooler, Lisa also wore blue mascara. As a kid, I thought that was amazing, (and I kind of still do).

We also had this fun young married couple that would babysit us from time to time. I recall one night they put nylons over their faces and scared the bejeezus out of us. It was funny at the time (though I suspect it would be a lot less fun in today’s world). However, one of my other lasting memories of this fun babysitting couple is their dramatic recitation of an old book, Fortunately, by Remy Charlip.

It went something like this:

Fortunately one day, Ned got a letter that said, “Please Come to a Surprise Party”

But unfortunately

the party was in Florida and he was in New York.

Fortunately

a friend loaned him an airplane.

Unfortunately

the motor exploded.

Fortunately

there was a parachute in the airplane.

Unfortunately

there was a hole in the parachute.

Fortunately

there was a haystack on the ground.

Unfortunately

there was a pitchfork in the haystack.

Fortunately

he missed the pitchfork.

Unfortunately

he missed the haystack.

Fortunately

he landed in water.

Unfortunately

there were sharks in the water.

Fortunately

he could swim.

Unfortunately

there were tigers on the land.

Fortunately

he could run.

Unfortunately

he ran into a deep dark cave.

Fortunately

he could dig.

Unfortunately

he dug himself into a fancy ballroom.

Fortunately

there was a surprise party going on. And fortunately the party was for him, because fortunately it was his birthday!

The book makes me think of life during the quarantine, when I see both the anxiety and fear as well as the capacity for love and care of our neighbors. During this crisis, we spend time naming our fears and our blessings.

Unfortunately, I recently celebrated a birthday. Social distancing made my birthday not nearly as much fun as it has been in past years, particularly because I love a themed party. Fortunately, I am home and safe and, so far, healthy with my lovely family.

How do you manage your current ‘fortunatelys’ and ‘unfortunatelys’?

If you can, you should read Remy Charlip’s book because the illustrations are as much fun as the text.
Remy Charlip, Fortunately. (New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1964).

Rebecca Koerselman

Rebecca Koerselman teaches history at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA.

6 Comments

  • Lynn Setsma says:

    Fortunately I am safe. Unfortunately I also have an April birthday. 🎉🎊

  • Rebecca,

    Thank you for this. It reminds me a bit of a scene toward the end of Charlie Wilson’s War. When the CIA agent is speaking to Congressman Wilson about Zen.

    May God bless you and keep you safe.

    Blessings,

    Mark

  • RLG says:

    Fortunately, I had a good read this morning. Thanks, Rebecca.

  • Nolan Palsma says:

    Is fortunately the same as providence? 🙂
    By the way my birthday was in April too!

    • RLG says:

      Nolan, providence has to do with a manifestation of divine care or direction and assumes God is personally involved in the lives of all people. Whereas being fortunate, unfortunate or lucky removes God from the equation and implies that receiving good comes from uncertain or unexpected sources. So it is either unfortunate that the world has come under the influence of the global pandemic, Covid-19, or it has come by the providence and direction of God. In the story of Ned, as told by Rebecca, the constantly changing circumstances of Ned would indicate that luck (good and bad fortune) was the predominate factor over that of divine providence.

  • Harvey Kiekover says:

    Fortunately, my birthday is in May. Unfortunately, May may be much the same as April! Fortunately, as your blog reminds me, all’s well that ends well!
    .
    Thanks, Rebecca.

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