Newlywed Love (#74)

July 3-5, 1970

After our landlord’s definitive word that Baron could no longer stay with us, we considered moving. Linda, one of my old carpool buddies, had a dog and it was fine with the landlord where she and Ron lived. There was an extra fee for “Rip,” but at least he was legal.

Country Fair apartments.Our lease would run out August 1st, and though we had been planning to stay there another year, I began campaigning to make the move. The Country Fair apartments had something we didn’t: air conditioning. And it didn’t hurt that there was an outdoor swimming pool, too, since the weather was hot and muggy. Both Nate and I loved to swim, and I knew we’d have lots of fun in the pool, as well as being able to spend more time with Linda and Ron.

But Nate didn’t buy my logic. “What about wintertime? And the fireplace we love so much here – not to mention the huge effort and expense of moving.” I hadn’t thought of those, and by now our 3 rooms were full of heavy furniture… three stories up.

“But what about Baron?” I said.

Nate reminded me that my parents had offered to take him — with joy. “And,” he said, “whenever they visit here or we visit there, we’ll get to see him.” But I wasn’t convinced.

Nate continued. “Only one year from now, we’ll be done with law school and moving away from Champaign. We could choose a dog-friendly apartment then and get him back.”

Law booksHe was right. I was so busy with school work I couldn’t imagine finding time to pack and move… or even swim. And Nate was considering a couple of law courses during the second session of summer school. They would be on double-time overload and very difficult, but without a job, he needed to get something accomplished with his summer. Moving would be hard to pile on top of that.

So, while holding Baron on my lap, I dialed my folks. After Mom heard about the landlord she said, “Why don’t the two of you and Baron come this way for the 4th of July weekend. We’re going to celebrate in Michigan, so drive straight there. Baron will love playing on the beach again, and… we’ll be delighted to take him home with us.”

When I hung up, it was all set, though both Nate and I felt queasy. We told ourselves it would only be temporary, which seemed to help – at least a little.

Baron gets awayThe holiday weekend in Michigan was a mix of good and bad weather, happy and sad conversation, and a very tearful farewell to our puppy. When we arrived back in Champaign, our spirits were sagging, and we almost didn’t want to go in… because some of the happy life in our little home had been left in Michigan.

“Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.” (Ecclesiastes 7:3)

Newlywed Love (#73)

June 28-July 2, 1970

My second week of student teaching was harder than the first. The 22-year-old certified teacher (to whom I was accountable) told me I would be doing most of the teaching while she sat and observed.

That meant every evening I had to study curriculum materials and prepare lesson plans. Since I didn’t know what I was doing with this new grade level, I had to dig into the seminar textbooks by the hour to figure it all out.

Job searchAs for Nate’s days, he continued making calls and pounding the pavement seeking a third job, since day-after-day his name was passed over for construction work, and his pots and pans weren’t selling.

The two of us had virtually no time together and were suffering because of it. We did sit together over our simple dinners, but the rest of the time I was either gone or busy. The only recreation was late-night coffee breaks with Cathy and John… and of course fun in the bedroom.

One evening we gave ourselves the luxury of a walk through the neighborhood, taking Baron with us. His funny antics always lifted our spirits.

DiscouragedWhen we returned to our apartment, though, we discovered we’d locked ourselves out. The only option was to knock on a neighbor’s door and ask to use the phone. Then, after calling the landlord, the 3 of us waited on the front step.

We talked about our sticky situation with Baron being there, and how it could end badly. But I had an idea. “I could take Baron around to the back yard,” I said, “so Mr. Norman won’t see him.”

Nate, with his sterling integrity, responded exactly as I expected. “Better not.”

“But what is he gonna say?”

“Well… let’s just wait and see. Maybe it won’t be a big deal.”

When Mr. Norman finally arrived with his master key, he immediately zeroed in on Baron, perched in Nate’s arms. “Who’s this little fellow?”

Nate introduced them while Baron did his best to radiate puppy-charm. Watching our landlord pat him on the head lit a tiny flame of hope in me. But then he said, “He’s not your dog, is he?”

Nate and I took a quick glance at each other, which of course answered the question. “Well… he can’t stay here. Nothing against him, you understand, but that’s my rule.”

When we didn’t respond, he continued. “I’ll tell you what. You can have through the weekend to figure out what to do. But after that, he needs to be gone.”

Our feet were heavy as we followed Mr. Norman and his key up the stairs. He didn’t chide us for interrupting his evening or threaten to evict us. But as he gave Baron one last pat on the head he said, “By the end of the weekend.” And that was that.

Baron at easeMy heart was hurting, but Nate summed it up well. “We knew this would happen eventually. And really, he didn’t even have to let us back in the apartment… with Baron.”

“I suppose,” I said. “And I guess being honest should count for something” – though right then I wished I’d done the dishonest thing and taken him to the back yard.

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.” (Proverbs 11:3)

Newlywed Love (#70)

June 20, 1970

Mom has always been good at lifting the downhearted, and she proved it again when Nate and I arrived in Wilmette. After a difficult week and a miserable drive in an old, beat-up rented van, we walked into my folks’ house feeling deeply discouraged.

Toast and tea.Mom and Dad were watching the ten-o’clock news, each with a TV tray next to their favorite chairs. On the trays was the nightly snack they’d shared every evening for as long as I could remember: buttered toast with cheese, a piece of fruit, and a cup of tea.

Walking into this peaceful scene made our lives, by comparison, seem like they were in shambles – lack of income, sky-high bills, no work for Nate, unexpected summer school for me, the Army breathing down our necks, and a slew of life-shaping decisions looming.

Mom popped out of her chair when we saw us, welcoming us and lovingly taking Baron from my arms. “Sit down, you two,” she said. “I’ll make some more toast.”

By the end of the newscast, both of us were feeling better, nourished by kindness and good food. “How was the drive?” Mom said. Nate and I regaled them with van-stories that no longer seemed upsetting… only laughable.

“We practically had to push it ourselves to get it here without overheating,” I said.

“I guess,” Nate added, “that’s why the company’s called U-DO-IT.”

As we adjourned for bed, Dad said to Nate, “What do I owe you for the van rental?” And we were thankful he remembered.

Breakfast in 1140 yardWhen we came out the next morning, Mom had breakfast set up in the yard. Our backdrop was her clean laundry flapping on a clothesline like festive flags. She was practicing what she’d always preached: “Hang your wash out to dry, and your whole house will smell sweet.”

We ate our fill while Mom told us how eager they were to make little Baron part of their household routine (as she intermittently slipped him bits of ham and eggs). Nate and I knew they would treat him royally, and it would solve the problem of breaking our landlord’s rules.

Mom and BaronBrother Tom, home from American University for the summer, was driving for a limousine service. (“The pay isn’t great, but the job is fun.”) He arrived home just in time to help us load the van with the “treasures” Mom and Dad had collected for our apartment.

As we drove away – after dark, for the benefit of the van’s engine – our smiles were genuine.


The Baron and bone


Part of the reason was the decision not to part with Baron after all. We just loved him too much to let him go. So he was safely in my arms as I knelt on the hard van floor waving goodbye to my parents.

Something Dad said as we were leaving was pretty special, too. “I’m glad you’re furthering your education this summer. More knowledge can never hurt you. And paying for it is my job, so send all your tuition bills to me.”

“God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)