Newlywed Love (#32)

February 13-14, 1970

Since the first of the year, I had been chipping away at writing thank you notes for the hundreds of wedding gifts Nate and I had been blessed to receive. Although my original goal was to write 5 of them each evening (with more on weekends), I couldn’t keep up that pace. And though I had long since ditched that goal, little by little I was actually making progress.

Valentines DayThe week before Valentine’s Day, I was highly motivated to be extra diligent in my note-writing…. because Mom and Dad were coming.

I knew Mom would ask how many thank you’s I’d written so far. Most of our gifts had come from friends in her generation, and timely thank you’s were a must. People needed to know their gift had been received and that it was appreciated.

Earlier in the week a letter had come from her, detailing their weekend arrival and departure schedule. She had also written a few encouraging lines about my thank you notes:

“Many, many people tell me they are receiving “unusual” letters of thanks from you, Margaret. You’d be amazed at what the difference is when a bit of extra is put into such notes. You would be greatly surprised at how many people have mentioned your letters to me.”

Mom's letter

I had to admit I was giving the process my all, more for Mom than the recipients of the notes. Not wanting to disappoint her, I had taken up her challenge to put something personal into each one. And it did make me feel better than if I’d written generically – though it took a great deal longer.

Nate was my faithful cheerleader and sometimes stood next to me, asking to read a note aloud. His laudatory comments and nonstop appreciation spurred me on. And he was especially tickled if he read a note thanking for any gift made of “monkey pod wood” — something new and popular at the time for salad bowls and their utensils.

If he came across those 3 words, “monkey pod wood,” inevitably he would double over with laughter so intense he’d have to brush tears away. Then his laughter would make me laugh, and the silly joke was so potent I didn’t dare use our monkey pod salad bowls if guests were over. It became one of those inside jokes between a husband and wife that no one else understood, a little secret between just the two of us.

First time fondueWhen Mom and Dad came, they brought Aunt Agnes, and we introduced the three of them to the art of fondue. It was hilarious watching their expressions as we explained how dinner was going to be made.

And as they got into the process, their focus on cooking was intense. We all laughed each time a chunk of food would slip from their forks and disappear into the oil. When that happened, their comments were side-splitting funny. Aunt Agnes spent most of the meal on her feet, standing guard over the pieces of her dinner.

Ice CapadesThe next day we took them to the university arena where we saw the Ice Capades, a new show none of us had ever seen. Although Mom thought the girls’ costumes left too much flesh exposed, she had to admit the skating was phenomenal.

After that mid-afternoon performance, they had to hightail it back to Wilmette for evening commitments there, and Nate and I chalked up another happy connection with our relatives.

Although we forfeited our privacy whenever people visited, we had a lifetime to enjoy each other and knew we shouldn’t be selfish about sharing our lives and our home. Besides, it was always so much fun after guests were gone to once again be alone — together.

“Don’t forget to do good and to share…. These are the sacrifices that please God.” (Hebrews 13:16)

Newlywed Love (#28)

February 3, 1970

Connecting with my 1st graders each morning was always uplifting, and I’d gotten to know them well. We had an open house coming up during which I could get acquainted with their parents, and though it involved lots of preparation and made for a long day, I was looking forward to it. I was working hard to have something positive to say that night about each student — even the “problem children.”

Hoping my kids were progressing academically and also relating well to each other, I wanted each parent to be proud of their own child.

Spelling listHowever, one afternoon just before the open house, we were playing a spelling game in class when a boy named Bobby cheated to win it. Another child exposed him, and there was a class uproar over it. I told him to stay after school so we could talk about it, hoping that by then I could figure out what to do.

Bobby agreed, but when the bell rang, he raced out and sprinted across the front lawn. Of course the other children, wanting justice, alerted me. “Bobby’s running away!”

I sprinted out after him, catching him by his coat. “Remember about our talk?” I said.

“I know,” he said, looking at the snowy ground.

The two of us trudged back into school, and I explained the serious nature of cheating, hoping it was sinking in.

A teacher's letter“So…. what do you think we should do about this?”

I was surprised when he said, “I think…. write a note to my mom and tell her.”

He stood next to me, watching me write. When I was done, I folded the paper, and asked him to take it to his mother. He said he would.

But then I decided to add one more sentence: “Please sign this note and return it with Bobby so I know you received it.” I drew a line and put an X in front of it, showing him I wanted his mother to put her name there. His brow furrowed, but he pocketed the note and said goodbye.

The next morning Bobby walked in with a smile, handing me my signed note as well as 3 pages written by his mother. “She’s not mad,” he said.

His mother’s note agreed that cheating was a big deal. She’d had a serious talk with Bobby, telling him that if it happened again, “stronger action would be applied.”

She wrote that Bobby wanted me to be proud of him, and that he had run away because he knew he’d disappointed me. She explained that the source of his bad behavior might have been baby brother Billy. Bobby was jealous of Billy getting to stay home with her all day, saying it wasn’t fair.

A mother's letter.

There was sibling rivalry with lots of teasing and follow-up discipline, the stress of which was “spilling over on the other members of the family.” And she thanked me for “taking the time to talk to Bobby and to let her know the problem.”

A mother's letter

I decided to give Bobby extra attention — starting with praising him for delivering my note to his mother and bringing hers back to me. In the end, I felt like the whole incident had worked out well.

That afternoon it occurred to me that in many respects I was like a mother-away-from-home for my young students, and I wondered if some day I might get to be a real mother. If so, I was fairly sure the job would be challenging, and I hoped I would be up to it.

“To discipline a child produces wisdom.” (Proverbs 29:15)

Newlywed Love (#27)

January 31, 1970

It was time for Nate’s parents to visit our Champaign apartment, their first glimpse of the home where their son now lived. My mother-in-law, Lois, was an excellent homemaker and cook, and I hoped she would approve. I was thankful we now had a table and chairs so at least we wouldn’t have to eat our meals with plates on our laps.

Rump roastNate had worried that fondue might be too “new-fangled” for his folks, and he had hoped I could make something more traditional. So, after studying my cook book, I decided to try a beef rump roast with baked potatoes and peas. A tossed salad, store-bought dinner rolls, and ice cream sundaes would fill out the menu. The only thing I could mess up would be the meat.

I thought it might be a good idea to cook a “test roast” before the weekend, kind of a dress rehearsal, and we would invite a few friends over to share it. Early that morning, before I left for school, I put the prepared meat and potatoes into our little oven, carefully instructing Nate when and how to turn it on.

After work, when I walked in the door, our apartment smelled delicious! A few of Nate’s friends joined us for that dinner and had no trouble eating everything. Although I didn’t know these young guys, it was interesting listening to their tales of law school and the stress of being singled out to be “tormented” by the professor throughout one class period.

Test roast“If you arrive unprepared,” George said, “somehow the guy figures it out, and for sure he picks on you.”

“Yeah,” said Bill, “but if you cut class to avoid that, you can be sure he’ll get you the next day.”

They laughed through the meal, deciding by the end that if they could only bring music into the classrooms, everything would go better.

I watched them gobble up the entire rump roast, all the potatoes, and a half-gallon of ice cream slathered in chocolate sauce.

Their compliments gave me new confidence, and as they left, one of the guys said to Nate, “Man, you’ve got it made, marrying a good cook like her.” (Little did he know….)

Dinner with the in-lawsWhen Nate’s folks walked in on Saturday, the house again smelled delicious, and Lois commented about that. I winked at Nate, and could tell he was pleased. She brought a box of Fanny May chocolates, which was a classy grand finale to the dinner.

That night we gave his parents our bedroom, which meant Nate and I were back on the Murphy bed. But it turned out to be an especially fun time of reminiscing about our first married nights cradled on that swoopy mattress. We concluded that the dinner with his parents nourished us in one way, but snuggling up in the Murphy bed nourished us in another way — a way that was equally important.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality.” (Hebrews 13:2)