Newlywed Love (#70)

June 20, 1970

Mom has always been good at lifting the downhearted, and she proved it again when Nate and I arrived in Wilmette. After a difficult week and a miserable drive in an old, beat-up rented van, we walked into my folks’ house feeling deeply discouraged.

Toast and tea.Mom and Dad were watching the ten-o’clock news, each with a TV tray next to their favorite chairs. On the trays was the nightly snack they’d shared every evening for as long as I could remember: buttered toast with cheese, a piece of fruit, and a cup of tea.

Walking into this peaceful scene made our lives, by comparison, seem like they were in shambles – lack of income, sky-high bills, no work for Nate, unexpected summer school for me, the Army breathing down our necks, and a slew of life-shaping decisions looming.

Mom popped out of her chair when we saw us, welcoming us and lovingly taking Baron from my arms. “Sit down, you two,” she said. “I’ll make some more toast.”

By the end of the newscast, both of us were feeling better, nourished by kindness and good food. “How was the drive?” Mom said. Nate and I regaled them with van-stories that no longer seemed upsetting… only laughable.

“We practically had to push it ourselves to get it here without overheating,” I said.

“I guess,” Nate added, “that’s why the company’s called U-DO-IT.”

As we adjourned for bed, Dad said to Nate, “What do I owe you for the van rental?” And we were thankful he remembered.

Breakfast in 1140 yardWhen we came out the next morning, Mom had breakfast set up in the yard. Our backdrop was her clean laundry flapping on a clothesline like festive flags. She was practicing what she’d always preached: “Hang your wash out to dry, and your whole house will smell sweet.”

We ate our fill while Mom told us how eager they were to make little Baron part of their household routine (as she intermittently slipped him bits of ham and eggs). Nate and I knew they would treat him royally, and it would solve the problem of breaking our landlord’s rules.

Mom and BaronBrother Tom, home from American University for the summer, was driving for a limousine service. (“The pay isn’t great, but the job is fun.”) He arrived home just in time to help us load the van with the “treasures” Mom and Dad had collected for our apartment.

As we drove away – after dark, for the benefit of the van’s engine – our smiles were genuine.


The Baron and bone


Part of the reason was the decision not to part with Baron after all. We just loved him too much to let him go. So he was safely in my arms as I knelt on the hard van floor waving goodbye to my parents.

Something Dad said as we were leaving was pretty special, too. “I’m glad you’re furthering your education this summer. More knowledge can never hurt you. And paying for it is my job, so send all your tuition bills to me.”

“God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Newlywed Love (#69)

June 15-20, 1970

Nate, Baron, and I arrived back in Champaign facing a big change in our relationship. In one week we would swap roles – I’d become the student, and he would be the breadwinner.

Donated bloodSince none of his job applications had borne fruit yet, Monday morning’s first order of business was for both of us to donate blood – an easy $50 (half-a-month’s rent). But after my schooling began, I would be busy morning (student teaching), noon (classes), and night (lesson prep), so Nate really needed to find work.

He combed the newspaper for opportunities, but the best he could do was the chance to join a construction crew. He knew very little about that but was confident he could figure out whatever they assigned him.

A local union hall invited men to show up for a day’s work with a day’s pay, and Nate decided to try it. The two of us prayed God would give him a job, and he drove to the designated parking lot to sign up. A crowd of other men were already there, but he remained optimistic.

When he walked back into our apartment by mid-morning, I was surprised. “All the jobs got assigned,” he said, “but a bunch of us didn’t get called.” He wasn’t discouraged, though, telling me he’d show up every morning till he was called.

Stress relieverMom and Dad, always encouraging, offered to lift some of the pressure we were both feeling by taking little Baron for a while. It was becoming more and more stressful to have him outside yet keep him hidden, though we loved him to pieces. Besides, our landlord had always been gracious to us, especially when our rent was late, and it didn’t seem right to sneak around his pet-rule.

Although Baron was as much a stress-reliever as a problem, we decided a little time with Mom and Dad would be OK… just for now. Dad made it clear they weren’t officially adopting him, and we made it clear he wasn’t up for adoption.

By the end of the week, Nate’s name hadn’t been called even once. Our bills were mounting, we still needed a car to replace our noxious Mustang, and my summer school tuition was due.

Rented vanWhen Saturday came, we decided to drive to Wilmette where the folks had accumulated a few more items for our apartment. “Rent a van at our expense,” they said, “and you can take all of it back at once.”

We arranged for the cheapest one we could find, a well-dented, hollowed-out thing with only one seat – the driver’s. So while Nate drove, I sat on the floor holding Baron, unable to see out the window – and quickly got car sick. But I wasn’t the only sick one.

The van was sick, too, continually threatening to overheat. So our 3 hour trip took 6, and by the time we walked in at Mom and Dad’s, both of us had sunk to a new low.

“Delayed hope makes the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12)

Newlywed Love (#64)

May 26, 1970

With only 7 days of the school year left for me and even fewer for Nate, we were anxious to leap into summer. I would be student teaching and attending summer school. Nate would be working full time (we hoped), though we didn’t know at what.

SchoolroomAs I began emptying my classroom a little each day, thoughts of teaching kindergarten in the fall were front-and-center in my mind. I was confident I could teach them well and, thanks to my 1st grade year, now had a thorough knowledge of what we were shooting for.

My mind filled with happy scenes of marching around the room in a rhythm band and singing songs at the start of each day.

Linda and Judy, my carpool buddies, wouldn’t be commuting to Danville anymore, so the long drive would be a solitary one for me, come fall. But I could play music and sing along, a different kind of enjoyment.

As I cleaned out my classroom desk, I also thought of Principal Scarce having lost 3 of his 7 teachers simultaneously. He didn’t seem to hold any ill will toward us and invited us all to his home for a bar-b-q on the last day of school, June 5th.

As for Nate, he was burrowing in on the books for another round of grueling finals, hoping to find a summer job that might let his brain rest a little. He had his eye on construction work, maybe holding a stop-and-go sign or sweeping up debris.

An ad in the local paper sounded promising. Young men would show up to a local parking lot early each morning to sign up for road construction crews. When their names were called, they’d be assigned to a specific project and then trained at the site. The pay was good, and the work was physical. And I thought of another advantage: a nice sun tan.

As we planned our summer we were excited about something else, too – getting a dog! One of my students had a mama-dog who’d given birth to 8 puppies about a month earlier. She had begged me to come to her house to see them, and I had, taking Linda and Judy along on our way back to Champaign.

The old Toby.In 10 seconds I’d fallen in love with a puppy who was a dead-ringer for Toby, our family’s dog as we were growing up (left).

The minute I saw this miniature look-alike I was committed to him and couldn’t wait to introduce him to Nate.

“Not till after finals,” he said, though he did share my enthusiasm. “It’ll be perfect timing to train him, too, with summer weather and all.” We hadn’t discussed who would be making those frequent potty-trips outside, up and down to the 3rd floor, but we knew having a new Toby was going to be great fun.

The new TobyOur little guy would be ready to come home with us the week school ended, when he’d be 6 weeks old – and there would be no charge. This was going to be the best summer ever, as we became a family of three.

“You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.” (Psalm 36:6)