December 31, 1969
As 1969 moved into 1970, Nate and I quietly brought in the New Year alone-together, in our little apartment, satisfied to be tucked away rather than at a party, a fireworks display, or even a church service. Life would pick up speed soon enough, starting with Nate’s January finals in law school.
On New Year’s Eve, we had our supper on the floor in front of a cozy fire and recounted all that had happened in the year now ending.
He and I had gone from pen pals into a dating relationship, to an engagement, and then into marriage. I’d left my teaching post in Chicago as well as my apartment and roommates, and he’d finished his commitment as a dorm counselor at the university.
I had said goodbye to friends and family, then moved to Champaign. He’d moved from dorm room to rented room to our apartment. I’d driven a Corvair, then a Corvette, and then had no wheels at all. He’d gotten his first car, a VW.
I began teaching a grade level I knew nothing about, and he’d put another year of law school under his belt. With all this going on, to bring in the New Year with gentleness seemed just right.
Back in Wilmette, Dad was moving through his last workday on the 31st, before his official retirement. He was 70 years old and had dropped one weekday of work each year for five years, retiring in a slow and orderly manner. He and his partner, another Mr. Johnson, had built a Chicago engineering/architectural firm from the ground up, nurturing it from just the two of them into 250 draftsmen with building projects all over the country.
Their firm had designed and built everything from churches to factories and had had a successful run. We were all proud of him. Coming from an immigrant family where no English had been spoken till Dad enrolled in school at age 6, he had done well. And it was time to rest.
I had asked if he was nervous about that last day, wishing he could work a while longer, but he had said it was just the opposite – “time to get out of the rat race.” I was glad for him. He’d even married off his “wild” daughter to a stable man, which must have helped his new sense of freedom. I had put him through his paces, especially as a teen, and was grateful that after all our “wars,” he still loved me.
As for Mom, she wrote in her diary:
It’s so beautiful. I stood by the window and cried. Snow falling – colored lights on evergreen. O God! Your gift!
I think she was referring to Jesus having come to earth, but it could have just been a sense of overall wellbeing.
And I had to agree with her. Life was indeed beautiful, nearly to the point of tears, and oh so full.
“…. pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap.” (Luke 6:38)