Newlywed Love (#120)

November 19-23, 1970

The weekend before Thanksgiving, Nate and I hosted a party for our Sunday school class. We cleaned, grocery-shopped, put a party menu together, and readied for our first “big” company.

J.O.Y. party

I pulled out a couple of my wedding-gift cook books and told Nate I would make an attempt at some interesting recipes. Thankfully it wasn’t a dinner but just dessert.

After baking two cakes, one a “wine cake” and the other plain, I made a raspberry sauce to drizzle over the plain one. If it seemed strange, we could always smother it with whipping cream from the squirt-can.

Of course we bought chips, dips, soft drinks, and even a little wine, though we weren’t sure what Pastor Ralph would think of that.

As we prepared, John and Cathy seemed interested, so we invited them to join us, hoping they might one day attend our lively Sunday school class, too.

All 20 guests threw themselves into a game of charades, and laughs were plentiful. We continued till 1:00 AM – despite the next day being a Monday. John and Cathy were the last to leave, close to 2:00 AM.

Teaching was a challenge the next day after such a short night, because the children and I were preparing for an open house before the Thanksgiving break.

Tee pee exampleTo accompany our unit on American Indians, we were building a six-seater canoe… and a full-sized tee pee! I wondered what ever possessed me to agree to such extreme projects — probably the enthusiasm of some adorable 5-year-olds.

Arriving home to Nate’s loving welcome made everything better, though, and he suggested we nap together before dinner. Two hours later, the world looked brighter, and we were energized to make it through a long evening.

Nate went back to his books, and I wrote the November newsletter for my classroom parents. Many had said they appreciated the monthly communiqué about what their children were doing in school (below) and felt like they were part of the team. My real goal was to let them know how much I loved each of their kids.Parent letter

Open house went well, and the next day was our party send-off to the Thanksgiving weekend. Usually it made me sad not to see them for four days straight, but not this time. My mind was racing with Thanksgiving preparations.

That evening, our family would arrive for 24 hours, and there was much to do. A year earlier we’d eaten Thanksgiving dinner as unmarried singles two days from our wedding. This year we would be hosting as a couple – and it felt great.


The RidlensMom and Dad would be bringing brother Tom and three aunties. Mary, Bervin, and baby Luke would come the next morning. And we invited our Danville friends Rick and Barbara (left), who had no local family and no Thanksgiving plans.

Finding beds for our four older relatives would be a logical challenge, but we were glad they wanted to come at all. It would be a holiday to remember!

“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters [and families] get along!” (Psalm 133:1 The Message)

Newlywed Love (#116)

November 4-6, 1970

DadWhen I called Dad to tell him I was thinking about a masters degree at Northwestern, he was pleased. As an alum, he loved the idea of me attending his alma mater.

“I’ll go over there tomorrow to pick up an application,” he said, “and will mail it to you.”

Dad had earned two degrees from Northwestern, both in engineering. He told the story of how he had graduated #2 in the class of 1922 but berated himself for not having been #1. He remembered #1’s name and mentioned how he was the guy who always got to carry the flag in the alumni parade .

A youthful DadBeing #2 was highly impressive to me, since I’d been way down in the ranks of my own class. Dad’s advice for doing well in college was interesting. “Don’t take notes in class. Just commit to listening well. Then view every exam as an opportunity to show the professor how much you’ve learned.”

But Dad and I were very different. Maybe that’s why we got along so well and why I was very attached to him. Through all the ups and down of my life, he’d always been in my corner. Success or failure, compliance or rebellion didn’t matter as much as my being his daughter – and I never once doubted his love.

When the Northwestern application arrived in Champaign, it was full of difficult questions requiring lengthy essay answers. After writing my name and address, I stalled, not sure I should even proceed.

Northwestern UniversityBut Nate urged me on, one question at a time. Then he edited my responses by eliminating half of the babble I’d used to pad my answers.

It took several days, but my application and I finished on a positive note with the question, “Have any of your family members attended North- western?” I was thankful I had three names to put down: Dad, my Uncle Edward (Dad’s brother), and my Uncle Jack (Mom’s brother).

Nate and I walked to the mailbox together to send off the application. “If I get in,” I said, “I wonder if I can even do the work. If I don’t get in, maybe that’ll be a good thing.”

He challenged me to stay positive. “I’m sure you’ll get in.”

Back at the apartment Cathy came over, toting our chilled chocolate candy – which was ready to be wrapped. We’d done our best to find appropriate boxes, though some had been used for other things.

Chocolates on the ironing boardBut when we lined them all up on my pull-down ironing board, it was a sight to behold. We sealed the boxes and divided them up between us with our goal of homemade Christmas gifts now in view. And we’d spent very little money.

As Nate and I got ready for bed that night I said, “You know what? I think making chocolates and candles is probably more up my alley than studying in grad school.”

But I shouldn’t have even said it, since I knew how he would respond. “Don’t worry,” he said. “You’re gonna love it.”

“I will show you the most excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 2:31)

Newlywed Love (#109)

October 15-18, 1970

As the week passed, we eagerly awaited Mary and Bervin’s call about their baby. I told Nate, “She must feel like a ticking time bomb.”

ConcordsWhen I finally decided to call her, she was in the middle of making grape jelly from Concords growing in their back yard. No idle sitting and waiting for her.

And then it happened! On Thursday, October 15, Bervin let us know they had become the parents of a healthy baby boy named Luke Charles —

8 pounds 9 ounces with mother and baby doing great!

Baby LukeThis news sent me into a happy tailspin like a wild kite that couldn’t decide where to fly. I wanted to jump in the car immediately and head for Chicago, but when I finally talked to Mary, she said I should wait. She and Luke would be in the hospital for 5 more days, and visiting time was limited to the father and two approved visitors per day for just a few minutes each.

Swedish Covenant Hospital was determined to protect new moms from overdoing, and strict visiting hours were part of that. Mary invited us to come the following weekend, October 24-25, when they would be home.

Mom was ecstatic about her first grandchild and waxed eloquent in her diary:

Thank you, Wonderful Lord. Thank you! Luke will always belong to you first. By 7:00 we were at the hospital and saw LIL LUKE! The 4 of us stood and adored the wee boy. Our cup is full and running over indeed! Called Margaret and Tom…

Mom's diary, Oct. 15

Meanwhile Mom was limited in her visiting time, too, and wouldn’t get to actually hold Luke till he was at home. It would be a challenge for her even then, because she had taken a fall a few days earlier, badly breaking her arm and bruising her tailbone.

Mom holding LukeHer cast and the constant pain reoriented her life in an unwelcome way. Mom loved to work hard, and being side-lined was the worst possible fate for her. She didn’t take it well.

Her first loss was having to stop playing the Moody Church organ for 6-7 weeks. She also had garden bulbs she had hoped to plant, along with several small trees. And there was her annual fall canning project — cherries, peaches, applesauce, grape jelly, and tomatoes.

She’d also had scheduled herself to lay some indoor-outdoor carpeting, paint the sun porch, and organize the small greenhouse she and Dad maintained through the winter. Her entertaining schedule was packed with hosting dinners at home, as well as cooking every week at the all-church supper.

She was hoping to antique four chairs, rake the yard, and bring potted plants inside before the first freeze. Dad understood her struggle but did his best to slow her down. “If you overdo, the bone won’t heal right.” But he knew his warnings were falling on deaf ears. After all, it was MOM.

Dad admiresShe wouldn’t be a typical orthopedic case… nor would she ever be a typical grandma.

“I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” (Revelation 2:19)