Newlywed Love (#57)


April 30, 1970

While I waited to hear from the Danville School Board, I decided to get Mom’s sewing machine out of the closet. The plan was to work on something productive each evening, while Nate studied…. rather than just sit and stew.

Back in 7th grade I’d taken a sewing class (compulsory for girls) and learned the basics. The end-product that year was a colorful apron for Mom that tied around the waist.

MeasuringNot much sewing had happened after that, until my friend Lynn began teaching me more. She’d really taken to sewing, and I admired her custom-made skirts, vests, jumpers, and dresses.

Once Nate and I got married, our stripped apartment was desperate for a home-y touch, so I borrowed Mom’s machine and made several sets of curtains for the bare windows. A couple of tablecloths with matching napkins were easy, too — because they were all made with straight lines.

Wanting a challenge, I decided to tackle a cover for the round hassock Mom and Dad had donated. It was brown, and our color scheme (if it could be called that) was anything but. The living room was gold with red accents, dining room mostly green, kitchen orange with yellow. The bedroom was gold, the bathroom black and white.

Using extra red material from the living room curtains, my sewing technique for the hassock was to stretch fabric over the top and cut a circle bigger than that. Then I put the hassock on its side and rolled it once-around, cutting the material accordingly.

Lynn had taught me how to put piping in the middle of a seam, so I added black piping to the red material. When my measurement turned out to be too short, I cut it in half, tried again, and put more piping between the halves to disguise my error.

Hassock and floor pillow

Nate applauded the result — careful not to inspect for mistakes – and encouraged me to sew more. I covered a big floor pillow to match the hassock, adding tassels at the corners and a button in the middle.

That was followed by a bed skirt with matching bed pillow, and 3 table runners.

Still, my seam-work was mostly straight lines. That’s when I attempted to make a dress. Lynn suggested I use a simple pattern put out by a company called… “Simplicity.”

I chose kiwi green fabric and got to work. Because I wanted a floor-length dress but nothing fancy, I chose a new-fangled material called “Perma-Press.” Supposedly it could be washed and would never need ironing .

Green dressMy piping skills transferred nicely to a little lace, and Lynn taught me how to pleat the front through long distance phone instruction. A few buttons finished it off.

Best of all, the sewing occupied my thoughts for many days – keeping them off the Danville teaching job.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” (Psalm 37:7)

Newlywed Love (#56)

April 26, 1970

The interviewAt long last it was time for my interview with the Danville Board of Education. As far as I knew, the kindergarten position in the district was still open, though others were being interviewed, too.

Feeling intimidated and under-confident, I hoped my love for five-year-olds would shine through and that 3 years of teaching experience would be enough. I was thankful for Mr. Scarce’s positive evaluation, and just in case my interviewer hadn’t read that, I brought my copy.

After I was seated in front of my interviewer, the first thing he said was, “I see from your record here that you never did your student teaching. Is that correct?”

I felt like I might as well head for the door.

“That’s right,” I said. As he continued to shuffle papers in my thin file, I reminded him I’d first gotten into teaching by helping out in Chicago during the 1967 teacher shortage – thinking that might win a smidgen of approval. But it backfired.

“So,” he said, “you never really studied to be a teacher in college then?”

“Well, I wasn’t an education major, if that’s what you mean. But I’ve always loved children and have taught at summer camps and in Sunday schools.”

I saw him pick up Mr. Scarce’s evaluation sheet and study both sides. Before he could say anything I said, “I did take quite a few adult education classes in Chicago, all elementary ed courses, during the two years I taught there.”

Interview sign“But none while teaching in Danville?” he said, looking up at me over his glasses.

When I had to say no, I figured my goose was cooked. It hadn’t been required when I first applied in Danville, but I probably should have continued taking classes on my own. Without a teaching credential, my job had always been in jeopardy, but after leaving Chicago, I was too busy planning our wedding to even think of it.

The interview continued for an hour as we covered my year of teaching 1st grade and why I wanted to leave McKinley School. When he stood to usher me out, I felt like a failure. I couldn’t think of a single reason why he would give me the job teaching kindergarten.

His last words sounded cold. “It’ll be a few weeks before you hear anything.”

By the time I arrived home I was near tears. Nate could tell by my face it hadn’t gone well and quickly folded me into his arms. I cried a little in that circle of safety, telling him I probably wouldn’t ever be able to teach again. And if I didn’t teach, what would I do? After applying for summer work all over Champaign, I’d still come up empty. Our university town was flooded with people my age looking for work, and good jobs were few.

The two of us sat together talking things through. Feeling dejected I said, “This is probably the kind of thing our 4 parents thought of when we pushed to get married so soon.” (Nate’s folks had hoped we’d wait till he had his law degree and could support a wife…. but we were impatient.)

“Don’t worry about any of this,” Nate said while stroking my cheek. “It’ll all work out somehow. Besides, you don’t know for sure they’ll give that job to someone else.”

His words were a big help, and I decided to believe him. After all, we had prayed about my interview ahead of time, and we both knew the Lord had heard us. If I didn’t get the job, God would surely give me something else to do.

“I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” (Psalm 16:8)

Newlywed Love (#50)

April 7, 1970

Mom wrote to us about once a week. These days she was using carbon paper to type 3 copies simultaneously, sending one to Tom in Washington DC, one to Mary and Bervin in Chicago, and one to Nate and me. Although Mary and Bervin got together with the folks regularly, Mom didn’t want them to miss her letters.

She sometimes waxed eloquent and frequently taught spiritual principles she didn’t want any of us to forget. In this week’s correspondence, Mom had chosen to write about the blessing of family, particularly her 3 kids.

Here, there and everywhere around 1140 [their address] are bits of evidence of Mary, Margaret, and Thomas, each here to warm the cockles of our hearts (whatever they are!) and to bless us with precious memories. You are such wonderful children. The only explanation for each of you is God’s goodness, plus your great, great father. As I’ve said before, we couldn’t have all the children in the world, so we just had the best!

Mom raves

Mom had married late for brides of 1941, at the ripe old age of 28. Although she had always been the life of every party, she was the last of her friends to marry. Maybe young suitors wondered if they could handle her spirited personality.

Mom loves DadThen along came Dad, 13 years older, stable and steady, and she was the one he wanted. Mom never got over her good fortune in his choosing her, and she let him know it every single day of their 50 years married – running to him with hugs, kisses, and wild squeals of delight every time he walked in the door.

Her dream was to have a house full of children, but after having Mary and I, her #3 was a miscarriage that became life-threatening when she hemorrhaged. She lost enough blood to make survival doubtful.

But Mom had a determination to live, and after massive set-backs that landed her at Mayo Clinic for months, in the end she came through just fine. Her desire for a dozen children, however, was not to be. “No more babies,” her doctor said. “You could die.”

There was no such thing as birth control in the 1940’s, but Dad wisely determined they would comply with the doctor’s orders. He began keeping a calendar of her cycle himself, not trusting Mom — with her passion for children and penchant for taking chances.

Dad’s system worked well for 4 years, but then, quite unexpectedly, news came of a 3rd pregnancy. This put Mom in heaven and Dad into the depths of worry. Though Mom never admitted to tricking him, we were all sure she did. If so, she did it ingeniously, giving birth to Tom on Dad’s 50th birthday.

At the beach.Dad was relieved that Mom had made it through her pregnancy without incident, and of course he adored his little boy. And Mom? She graciously accepted that this bonus baby had completed her family. Maybe that’s why she frequently made reference to having “not all the children in the world, just the best.”

As for Mary, Tom and I, any way we looked at it, one thing was certain: we’d grown up immersed in love – and also the responsibility to pass it on.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” (Romans 13:8)