Newlywed Love (#66)

June 3, 1970

Toby #2As Nate and I got ready for this special day, we were both excited about welcoming someone new into our relationship. I was anticipating Nate’s happy expression when he met our new puppy, and Nate was pleased to know we would soon have our very own doggie.

Since it was the last week of school for me, and Nate’s classes had already ended, he came to Danville with me. My students were thrilled to meet “Mr. Nyman,” and he brought new energy to every part of our school day… especially on the playground as he pushed swings and spun the merry-go-round.

Burger and fries.The two of us went out to lunch together, a very special treat. And as we munched on burgers and fries, we talked about a name for our puppy.

“I think he just has to be Toby,” I said, “since he’s a twin to Toby #1.”

“Not necessarily,” Nate said. “He might want his own special name.”

“Like what?”

“Something powerful… like King or Duke.”

“But he’ll only be a medium-sized dog. Aren’t those names for big dogs?”

“I suppose. But we could scale it down and call him Prince or Baron.”

“Maybe,” I said. “But I bet when you see him, you’ll see a Toby #2.”

Puppies...The afternoon passed quickly, and soon we were kneeling in front of a box of squirming 6-week-old puppies, each making an effort to get to us.

“There he is!” I said, pointing to our little guy.

When Nate reached in and lifted him up, his broad grin told me I’d picked the right one. “He’s so soft,” he said, stroking his back.

While he and “Toby” cuddled, I gave the other pups a little attention. My student’s mom watched us, probably grateful to find a home for at least one of their 8 dogs.

“Will our puppy suffer,” I said, “being taken away from his mother and siblings?”

“Oh no,” she said. “He’s ready to go. In a day or two he’ll forget all about them.”

“They’re so adorable,” I said. “I wish we could take them all.”

Nate’s head made a quick turn toward me when he heard that, and he said, “OK, let’s not get crazy now.” Then he paused. “But maybe we could take just one more?”

I couldn’t believe it! “Really? A second puppy?”

“It might be easier for them to adjust if they have a buddy.”

This was astounding… and the best idea ever!

Puppies drinking milkIt didn’t take long to choose a friend for our little guy, another black and white male. And as we drove back to Champaign, thrilled with our new babies, Nate summed it all up well. “Now we have Toby #2 and… the Baron!”

“For everything there is a season… a time to love.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1&8)

Newlywed Love (#62)

May 18, 1970

As the school calendar wound down, I was getting nervous about not having a firm plan for the fall. I hadn’t heard from the Danville Board of Ed after my interview and had no way of knowing if I’d be teaching or not.

ConcernedNate reminded me that patience was a virtue and suggested we talk about anything but that when we took our evening walk. Just before we left, we got a call from Mary and Bervin. She was breathless with excitement, and I wondered what might be happening. “Guess what!” she said. “Today I felt life!”

I didn’t know what she meant, but she continued. “The baby! I felt the baby move inside of me today!”


Ultrasound.I couldn’t believe it! Something about her statement made this new little person more real than ever, and I just couldn’t wait to hold him or her in my arms – the first new baby in our small family of six adults. It snatched my thoughts away from teaching and gave Nate and I something special to talk about as we walked around the neighborhood that evening.

Inevitably the topic morphed from Mary and Bervin’s baby to the possibility of one for us some day. It was no secret that I loved children, but Nate hadn’t had any experience with kids at all. When I told him he would make a wonderful father, he responded with doubt.

“Well,” he said, “at least we don’t have to decide that anytime soon.”

Loving babiesHe was right. Although I had wanted my own babies since I was a child myself (left), I also pictured myself as a stay-at-home mom. With Nate still in school and me supporting us for another year, that dream would have to wait — more virtuous patience.

As we walked along hand-in-hand I said, ”I just wish I knew if I would be able to have babies or not, if there was some way to tell ahead of time. Then I wouldn’t have to wonder.”

“My guess,” he said, “ is that we’ll have a houseful of kids and your dream will come true — just not yet.”

We fantasized about what our children might look like and what their names might be. Nate said, “I’ll be OK with any name, as long as it’s not named after me.”

“How come?”

“Because I’m named after my dad – nothing but confusion. He’s Willard Nelson Nyman, and I’m Willard Nathan Nyman. Everybody calls him Willard, and calls me Nathan. But when I was living at home, if someone called the house and asked for Willard, no one knew if it was for Dad or me. And when mail came for Willard N. Nyman… again, no one knew. Let’s avoid all of that.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I know I’ll love our babies even if we name them A, B, C …. or X, Y, Z.”

And that night when we climbed into bed, I realized I hadn’t thought about my teaching predicament even once.

“Children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)

Newlywed Love (#58)

May 6, 1970

As Nate and I looked forward to celebrating our 6 month anniversary, we were excited about celebrating something else, too. Since January, I had been steadily writing thank-you notes for wedding gifts —  and had only 3 more to go. Unfortunately, all 3 had become separated from the names of their givers, and I didn’t know who to thank.

Gift recordIn a letter to Mom, I described these orphan-gifts, none of them written in our blue record book, hoping she could help me solve the mystery. Amazingly, she remembered two of them, having had conversations with both givers before they made their purchases. But neither of us could figure out the third.

I felt terrible. It was bad enough people had waited so long for our acknowledgment, but never to hear from us? That was unacceptable.

Mom and I talked it over – again and again. Sometimes I woke during the night wondering who it was we were neglecting to thank. But after we’d explored all possible avenues of discovery, Mom challenged me to let it go. With her characteristic optimism she insisted the answer would come eventually.

Mystery giftThe stray gift was a three-section serving dish – carved out of monkey pod wood. For some reason Nate found that fascinating (and humorous), calling it “the perfect conclusion” to my long thank-you project. When I brought out the dish and put it in his hands, he laughed so hard he had to take out his hankie and wipe his eyes. Something about monkey pod wood just tickled his fancy.

When I told Mom I “wouldn’t rest” till I’d solved the mystery, she said she wasn’t as concerned about that as about something else that was greatly bothering her — and it had nothing to do with thank-you notes or monkey pod wood.

Vietnam protestors carrying anti-war signs during march from dowtown Market Street to Golden Gate Park's Kezar Stadium for rally called "Spring Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam".

She and Dad had been watching the nightly news as a fresh round of riots had broken out on the University of Illinois campus. Four unarmed students had been killed on the Kent State campus while demonstrating against the Vietnam War. In response, riots broke out on many university campuses, the U. of IL included.

Mom and Dad were concerned for their new son-in-law, knowing he was on campus every day. After watching the National Guard invade the campus once again, Mom wrote:

The violence at the U. of I. disturbs us. We know you are too sensible to become involved to endangerment.

But it was more than just that:

We Christians must rise to stand in our faith. Jesus Christ is the only answer to society’s dilemma. How now to communicate that? Youth longs for truth. If parents cannot reveal truth, and the church fails in her appointed task, how can the young be blamed?

I had a hunch that if Mom lived in Champaign, she’d be on that campus every night, walking among the rioters, using kindness to urge them toward peace. She would also look them in the eyes and listen carefully to their complaints. She loved kids, and they loved her – always. And in her mind, college student were kids.

She wrote further:

The poor students – those who are sincerely seeking education like our Nate. If students can’t learn and practice law, to what end will criminals go?

Mom was right. Her thoughts about kids longing for truth were more important than my angst over an anonymous gift – of monkey pod wood.

“It is wrong to say…. the Almighty isn’t concerned…. He will bring justice if you will only wait. (Job 35:13-14)