Young Love (#121)

Tuesday, November 25, 1969

Today was the day Nate picked up his new suit, shirt, and tie. His parents knew we were tight financially and had sent a check earlier, instructing him to make the purchases. “You need something fresh for the rehearsal dinner and related events,” they had said. “And not a sport coat. Make it a suit.”

Then they added, “We’ve sent some extra money for you to buy a new pair of pajamas, too – for your honeymoon.”

Nate and I had a long laugh over that one, although he did dutifully buy some sky-blue PJs with white piping around the collar and pocket — in case they asked. Both of us knew those ‘jammies would never make it out of the package.

IMG_5340On this day, the Tuesday of our wedding week, Nate walked in with the finished suit  zippered inside a Carson Pirie Scott garment bag. He’d chosen a dignified charcoal grey that was nicely tailored, and I made him model it — another opportunity to tell him he was the handsome-est, best-lookin’ guy I’d ever met. We did a little dance around the apartment, reveling in the knowledge that we were so close to our wedding weekend.

After that it was time to have a brief but important little ceremony, just the two of us. Many months ago, Nate and I had discussed whether or not we would use birth control after we were married…. and if so, what kind. “The pill” was new and highly controversial, and we weren’t sure it was our best choice.

But as the weeks passed and we researched other options, the pill seemed like the way to go. And many of our married friends were using it without any problems.

Taking BC pillTaking that first one with a swallow of wine, though, felt like starting a ritual I wasn’t sure I should, despite both Nate and I voting in favor. I loved children and had arranged my life to include plenty of them, as far back as I could remember. Taking the pill was saying no to our own babies, and there was a tiny prickle of doubt in the back of my brain. But I swilled it down anyway, looking forward to the years immediately ahead – with just Nate and me. It sounded blissful.

That evening we invited friends John and Cathy to share a soup supper with us. Nate wanted to work on the logistics of our getaway after the reception, and John would be our driver.

IMG_5335We shared some of the post-wedding shenanigans we knew about, including my sister’s experience. Her honeymoon luggage had been “stolen” before the end of the reception, and she wore my dress for their departure – an outfit 2 sizes too big for her. Her suitcase was deposited in Mom and Dad’s driveway in the middle of that night and then quietly brought to Bervin (by me) the next day.


Nate and I hoped to make our transition from reception to honeymoon a little smoother than that, with John and Cathy expediting it. They were up for it, without reservations.

John apologized for his old, slightly banged-up “poverty car,” but that didn’t matter to us. “Will it be in the pictures?” he asked.

“It probably will,” Nate said, “but don’t worry. It’ll be dark out.”

So we made a plan to evade mischief-makers, but more than likely they were simultaneously making a plan of their own.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)

Young Love (#118)

November 20-21, 1969

Very soon my apartment was going to become our official first home as a married couple. Although Nate and I had accumulated several cast-off furniture items, most of the space remained empty. After 4 bridal showers, we had lots of china, crystal, and silver but no place to put it. For the most part, it was still in boxes.

IMG_5339My long-term friend Lynn offered to come and help make things home-ier for us. She and I had met at Moody Church when we were both in junior high school, when her parents had come to run the music ministry.

Lynn and I clicked right away, but our homes were separated by two suburbs – which meant we didn’t see each other during the week. Since phoning friends was frowned upon, we did most of our talking in the back rows during Sunday school and church.

IMG_5343When the weekends came, we pleaded for sleep-overs until our mothers finally chose a gas station half-way between our two homes where we made the girl-transfers. Our friendship grew quickly after that. (Left: pea-shooting at cars.)

We tried cigarettes together, had our first taste of alcohol together, dated brothers together, and snuck out of our homes during the night together. We got into trouble at camp together, dyed our hair orange together, hosted parties together when our parents were out of town…. and also taught Sunday school together. Our shared history was rich.

Lynn was full of artistic ideas. Over the years she taught me to knit sweaters, sometimes with such complicated patterns we’d be using five different colored yarns at once. She could also sew up a storm and taught me to make simple skirts and jumpers. Lynn was a whiz in the kitchen, too, and showed me how to make teriyaki chicken, among other things.

I knew that if she put her creative touches on our apartment, it would take on the warmth it lacked.

FullSizeRender(3)When she arrived, she’d brought a gizmo that made flowers out of yarn or string, and went to work using our 3 colors: orange, yellow, and kiwi green. Nate and I both loved the results. She also showed me how to arrange books and knick-knacks on our shelves in artistic ways and even initiated washing windows and hanging curtains.

Lynn was going to be one of my bridesmaids and was doing more than her fair share by sewing 3 of the gowns. But she was a pro at multi-tasking and was managing well, despite a full school schedule and a job. I was appreciative beyond words.

IMG_5344Our time working at the apartment was full of laughter and love – two old friends who had been through a decade of adventures together that had moved them from middle school to marriage. (Lynn’s wedding would be the following year.)

All this reminded me of how much I’d missed girl-time with her and other buddies back home. But stepping into marriage meant stepping out of that old life. Walking down the aisle was saying yes to radical change in every area. Was I ready?

As Nate and I stood holding hands while waving goodbye to one of my dearest friends, I had the feeling everything was going to turn out just fine.

“If anything is excellent or praiseworthy…. think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Young Love (#117)

November 18-19, 1969

As Nate and I were in Champaign happily crossing off one more calendar square each night, Mom was in Wilmette wishing each square would last longer. Her kitchen was still unfinished, and new furniture hadn’t yet been delivered. The day before Thanksgiving, quite a crowd of people would be arriving to use her house as their home base – myself among them.

Brother TomIn addition to a handful of relatives and bridesmaids, my brother (right) would be coming home from his east coast college, too, and all of those arrivals were only a week away. That’s when Mom did something uncharacteristic of her. She began putting some heavy heat on her workmen and the furniture stores, as well as the men constructing built-in cabinets in her living room. And she terminated their coffee breaks — no more of her home made cinnamon rolls for any of them.

A couple of friends dropped by for a visit, and she put them to work. A few days later a happy note appeared in her diary. “All kinds of workmen here today! Furniture delivery, too!” Her pressure had produced, and just as she’d optimistically predicted those many weeks back, everything would be done before the wedding.

Down in Champaign, we received a last letter from Aunt Joyce, who was wrapping up her pre-wedding correspondence to us:

From Aunt JoyceI’ll always cherish the memory of your taking time to write me about so many interesting and delightful happenings in these your final days of Miss Margaret Johnson.

This new chapter you are entering is even better than the last, and opens the way to even greater, deeper, and more exciting chapters, each one a joy with the promise of even more to come as you and Nate commit yourself to Him and He does all the work! Our only effort is surrender!

She concluded with this:

I think about you so often and discuss you with the Lord also. And I hope I’ve remembered to answer all your questions and write about all the really important things – like I love you!

Our fireplaceAs the November days shortened and temperatures dropped, Nate and I sat on the floor in front of our apartment fireplace and counted blessings. It wasn’t hard to see how fortunate we were, especially having two supportive families who loved us.

Wrapped snugly under the same blanket, looking into the dancing flames, we felt delightfully warmed, both inside and out. It was the perfect time to pray together, asking God to show us how to give back to those who’d given so much to us. We also asked Him to teach us how to love each other as much as our families loved us.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you…. Write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3)