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)

Young Love (#123)

Thursday, November 27, 1969

Helen C.It was Thanksgiving, and the wedding count-down stood at 2 days. We all had much to be thankful for, starting with knowing we didn’t have to cook a big turkey dinner. Our whole bunch had been invited to the home of Helen Carlstone, a lifelong friend of both Mom’s and Aunt Joyce’s.

We knew we would fill her Chicago home to capacity, but that didn’t bother her. “We’ll make it work!” she said. So as she and her family focused on preparing a mid-afternoon, multi-course meal, the rest of us turned back to wedding stuff.


JulieAunt Joyce took on the bridesmaids’ headpieces. Though she didn’t have much to work with, she created wide, pink velvet ribbons the girls could drape over their heads with a knot in the middle. She had 7 of them finished in no time, and they would be simple enough to work with any hairdo. (Left: Bridesmaid Julie models.)

Nate appeared at noon, excited that he’d gotten a look at our wedding bands during his overnight stay with his family. His father, owner of a jewelry store, had ordered them for us, passing along a nice discount. “I can’t wait till we have them on,” Nate whispered.

After an elegant Thanksgiving dinner, we all pushed back from the table(s) completely satisfied. Helen had warmly welcomed Nate’s parents and brother to her dinner, too, after which we all readied to attend the Moody Church Thanksgiving concert.

But first, we “kids” headed to the basement to do battle with the Carlstone’s ever-popular ping-pong table. Several lively games of Round Robin helped to work off a bit of our pumpkin pie, and it was refreshing to do something physical for a change.

As we drove to church, Nate leaned over and said, “Just before we ate, did you see Helen reach into the oven and pull out the turkey pan with her bare hands? She must have hands of asbestos!”

RoasterI assured him that the bird was probably just keeping warm in a very low oven, but he didn’t believe me. “Right out of the oven!” he said. “I’ll never forget it.” And he didn’t, referring to Helen’s wonder-hands many times after that.

The concert was a time of rest as we focused on God through heart-stirring music about him. When I looked down the row, though, Mom was sketching something on her bulletin – the front of the church and where she thought each member of the wedding party should stand. In less than 48 hours, we’d all be in those places.

Back in Wilmette, we dove into Phase Two of gift-opening, this time with Nate’s family and our California people on hand. Aunt Joyce recorded each gift and giver in a book, as Nate and I opened and opened. As she wrote on page after page, both of us were powerfully impacted (for the first time) that our little apartment was about to be lavishly equipped.

Grand openingWe unwrapped dishes, silverware, glasses, blankets, sheets, kitchen utensils, pots, pans, small appliances, fondue pots, crystal, silver, absolutely everything our presently-sparse little nest could possibly need…. and then-some.

It was a mystery why neither of us had made the connection between sending out invitations and piles of gift-boxes arriving at the door. Why hadn’t we put that together? Whatever the reason, on this night, after a blessed Thanksgiving Day, opening so many gifts made a dramatic impression on both of us. We just couldn’t get over it.

“My heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 28:7)

Young Love (#112)

November 10-13, 1969

As the school year moved toward Thanksgiving break, I was pleased at how well my little six-year-olds were learning. Linda (the 2nd grade teacher) and I talked about what they would need to know before entering her class the following year, and I finally felt confident I could get them there.

My friendships with Linda and Judy were deepening, and we began doing a few things socially, away from school. We shared several dinners and included our guys, so they were getting to know each other, too.

The RobinettesThe 4th grade teacher at our school, Mrs. Robinette, was like a teaching mentor to all three of us with her many years of experience. But she was a friend, too. She and her husband lived on a farm, and she often shared her home-grown produce with us – fresh veggies and eggs.

One Sunday, she and her husband invited all of us McKinley teachers and spouses to their home for dinner.

After a delicious meal, Judy sat down at the upright piano and began playing hymns she seemed to know well.

Upright pianoLinda walked over and started singing the words, and then Judy added an alto part. I joined in too, trying to put my notes between theirs. This amateur trio probably sang well beyond the enjoyment of the others, but Linda, Judy, and I had discovered a faith-link between us. All three loved the Lord and had had experience with him. Finding this out meant something special to each of us.

For the most part, our school days went well. We’d adjusted to the 80-mile round trip commute, and the teaching staff felt like family. There was one day, however, that Judy, Linda, and I wished would never have happened.

It was time for a teacher training afternoon, and the students were sent home before lunch. All the teachers in the district were then supposed to report to in-service meetings for the rest of the day.

The three of us really didn’t want to go, so we concocted a better plan. Thinking we wouldn’t me missed, we ditched the afternoon and headed home early. But Principal Scarce had had his eye out for us and wasn’t fooled.

Principal's officeThe next day, when he called us to his office, we knew we’d been caught. Instead of a trio of hymn-singers, we had morphed into a trio of truants.

Mr. Scarce patiently listened to our side of the story, but between the three of us, we couldn’t come up with even one good excuse. His only choice was to dock our paychecks – a big disappointment, and an even bigger embarrassment. Thankfully he didn’t withdraw the permission he’d given me for 3 days off after Thanksgiving. Had he taken that away, Nate and I wouldn’t have been able to have a honeymoon.

All of us felt bad about our immature choice to skip the meetings and vowed to do better, throwing ourselves into the day-to-day work of teaching. But each evening I forgot all about McKinley School and switched into wedding mode, especially enjoying Nate’s and my favorite part of the day – crossing off one more square on our countdown calendar.

By the end of the week, there were only 12 squares left when my students could rightfully call me Miss Johnson.

“….forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” (Philippians 3:13