Newlywed Love (#81)

Aug. 1-2, 1970

After Nate’s rough week with his rural paper route, we took a much-needed break over the weekend – not that there wouldn’t be plenty of studying for both of us and also the difficult weekend paper route. But we hoped to do two happy things: investigate new car possibilities and attend a party given by one of Nate’s law school buddies.

Big carsDad had asked us to do some vehicle research, so we started with the dealerships in town. Since we didn’t have children, we thought it might be one last chance for a sports car and set out with that in mind.

We learned, however, that the only good lookin’ American sports car was the Corvette… way out of reach. Muscle cars abounded: Pontiac GTO, Chevy 409, Ford Thunderbolt, Chrysler Charger. But those had no appeal.

Finally one frustrated salesman said, “Why don’t you look for a foreign car. But be careful. Most shops won’t work on them, since they need European tools and stuff like that.”

When we tried to follow up on his suggestion, all we found was a VW dealer. The sales guy there told us about VW’s sporty Karmann Ghia but didn’t have one to show us. In another showroom, though, we found something that had instant appeal – a Fiat 1245 Spider, made in Italy.

Fiat from yesteryear

It was love at first sight. But we couldn’t even think about buying it till we sold the Mustang. We called Dad to say our research was complete and gave him the specifics, emphasizing that it was an economical car nothing like our other sports car, the Corvette.

He asked lots of questions, but the price seemed realistic to him, and he didn’t try to dissuade us. This was impressive from a man who had always and only bought American.

For him the main selling point was the Fiat’s excellent gas mileage. After all, gasoline had risen to 36 cents a gallon. “Just get busy and sell your Mustang,” he said. “Then we can move forward.”

At the partyThat evening when we readied for the party, we were in good spirits. Nate’s old friend Bill from college grad school counseling days (now head resident at Bromley Hall) had invited a group of former counselors for a get-together in the dorm apartment.

It turned out to be a festive time reconnecting with many who had graduated and left the area. Although beer flowed and cigarette smoke filled the room, the conversations were fascinating – a patchwork quilt of what 20-somethings were thinking in 1970.

I spent a great deal of time with Bill’s beautiful dog, satisfying my longing for snuggle-time with Baron.

Friendly doggieWe knew we’d probably never see this group of pals again, so I brought my camera, inviting Nate to take pictures of everybody. And as always, he took a bunch of me.

“A friend loves at all times.” (Proverbs 17:17)

Newlywed Love (#80)

July 28-31, 1970

Nate and I were learning that taking on a pet was a bigger commitment than we thought… especially a dog. We were both keen on keeping commitments in general, and part of that was doing the work connected to them. Tossing that to someone else made it their commitment, and that’s what we’d done to Mom and Dad with sweet Baron.

But we tabled those thoughts to tend to more urgent matters: selling the Mustang, finding an economical vehicle, studying hard, and running Nate’s paper route. This job, which began with such promise, had morphed into a disaster. Though Nate had faithfully made his deliveries, never missing a day, he hadn’t made a nickel.

Courier officeAt the end of the first week, his boss told him something he had probably purposely withheld: payment would come only as his customers paid him. At the office he showed Nate how to hand-write the bills on a payment envelope and band them to the papers once a week.

The problem was, virtually none of his customers actually paid. He had to walk up to each house, usually at dinner time when people were home, and plead for the money. It didn’t take long to learn that once a product had been received, a buyer was reluctant to pay for it.

This felt even worse than failing to sell pots and pans. After all, the people on his paper route had already agreed to buy the product. Worst of all, Nate had had to pay up front for all the newspapers, purchasing each bundle before going on his route. He also had to pay for the required rubber bands, and these expenses had up-ended our meager budget.

DollarsOne evening after delivering papers every day for almost 4 weeks, he returned empty from another bill-collecting trip. His frustration had reached the boiling point, and he erupted. “I’m basically giving the gift of a  free Courier subscription to each one of my customers – every week!” He stomped back and forth in his own protest march while venting his anger. “And then they slam doors in my face when I ask them to pay what they owe!”

“Well,” I said, trying to be positive, “you’ve collected $70 so far. At least that’s something.”

“But that went toward paying for papers and rubber bands!” he said. “And my boss is mad, because we’re still in the hole with him.” Nate was right, of course. It was a big mess.

In one last effort to lift his spirits I said, “Well, we may be poor, but at least we’re happy.”

Even as I said it, we both knew it was only half true. But there was one genuinely hopeful development – the Mustang. People were responding to our ad, several had come to see it, and two seemed almost ready to buy. “Maybe we can get a bidding war going over our polluted little car,” I said, hoping Nate would laugh at such an absurdity.

But he didn’t even smile.

“Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Newlywed Love (#79)

July 19-25, 1970

Nate and I were happy to spend some weekend time washing and waxing our sleek, black Mustang with the terrible “bad breath” — hopeful that its handsome appearance would sell it quickly. It was enjoyable working together on a project that didn’t involve mental strain, since it seemed like all we ever did was study.

Mustang grill

I felt overloaded with student teaching, seminars, and homework, but once Nate got deep into his law classes, there was no comparison as to who was busiest. He won, hands down.

Mom's letterAfter we finished the car, I opened a long letter from Mom, thanking us for their time in Champaign. She also wrote about Mary and Bervin getting a dog, a Cocker Spaniel. Rusty and Baron were becoming friends, and Mom wrote two paragraphs describing their antics.

As I read the letter, a new thought came. Did they really want to keep Baron for us, or were they just doing it as a sacrificial favor? Were we taking advantage of them by asking them to keep him?

Mom wrote, The Baron is A-OK, tearing up a box right now in the basement here. He brightens our lives.

But I pictured Mom, on her hands and knees, cleaning up shredded cardboard and I had my doubts. I knew she worried about Baron running off when they were outside and had no good answer for what they would do with him if they went on vacation.

And all of a sudden I began to cry. Nate came running and put his arms around me. “What’s the matter?”

Tuckered out Baron“I feel guilty that Mom and Dad have to keep our dog. They have to feed and house him, watch over him, and she just wrote that they took him in for his first round of puppy shots. We should be doing that.”

“Yes, but your mother really does love him – genuinely.”

“I know, but it isn’t just that.” And through tears I began remembering aloud all the ways my parents had helped us – going along with our rushed wedding plans, accepting Nate with enthusiasm, providing furniture, rugs, virtually everything in our apartment.

My familyThey had loaned us money, which moved my thoughts back to the cost of my college education… and so much more. I thought of my childhood as I grew up in an atmosphere of listening and love. Best of all, they had introduced me to Jesus Christ from the beginning, modeling lives committed to him.

As I sat with Mom’s letter in my lap and Nate’s arms around me, I sobbed and sobbed, overwhelmed with how much I’d been given and wondering if I had taken these gifts for granted. Did they know how much I appreciated everything? Had I thanked them enough?

Nate suggested I put all my thoughts into a long letter. “It’ll make you feel better to write it, and they’ll love receiving it.”

He was right, and I began. But even as I penned page after page of gratitude, my thoughts were on the Baron-dilemma.

“If you honor your father and mother, things will go well for you.” (Ephesians 6:3)