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

Young Love (#105)

November 1, 1969

As Nate and I drove the well-traveled road between our Champaign apartment and my folks’ Wilmette home, we realized it was the first day of November – our wedding month! Although we’d been engaged for only 4 months, the wait seemed forever. Neither of us had any second thoughts, and we could hardly wait till November 29.

From my journal: As for my feelings about getting married, I’m anticipating it with eagerness! Everyone says marriage is a challenge, but I can’t wait to get started. Over these last few months, I’ve gotten lots of valuable advice in hash-over sessions with Mary, Mom, my girlfriends, and others. I have a lot of theories about husbands and wives and am going to try them all out. Nate and I have also talked about sex a lot. Maybe that’s why we’ve been able to abstain thus far. But that wedding night? It’s going to be sweet!

Drake HotelAs we drove, we talked about our honeymoon, making the decision to spend all 4 days at Chicago’s historic Drake Hotel. The first night we decided we’d pay the extra price for a suite of two rooms but after that would move to a regular room. During the day we’d stroll the Chicago streets, do a little shopping, walk along Lake Michigan’s beaches, and “take naps” back at the hotel. In the evenings we’d eat out and attend one live show and a movie or two.

When we arrived at Mom and Dad’s, the kitchen was still torn up, and new appliances had been delivered…. to the living room. But Mom still wasn’t worried.

Kneeling benchDad was spending every free minute at Moody Church, supervising the installation of a new sound system suspended from the super-high ceiling. While he was there, new carpet had been laid on the steps leading to the lower platform where we would be married, and a new kneeling bench had arrived. The church had also ordered new white cloth runners for the very long double aisles in the sanctuary, and they too had been delivered.

As soon as we stepped into Mom’s front door she said, “Wait’ll you see this!” She led us to the garage where a long table was piled high with tiny white boxes about 3 inches square. Our names and the wedding date were printed on the lids. “Groom’s cake!” she said. She explained how her friends had spent 3 evenings folding all 500 boxes.

Fruit cake“And I’ve ordered 104 pounds of fruit cake. When it gets here we’ll slice it, wrap each piece, and fill the boxes. You know what they say. If you’re a single lady wanting to be married, put a piece of groom’s cake under your pillow, and one day your prince will come.”

Nate raised his eyebrows and looked at me, not sure what to say. I just nodded our approval and said, “Good job on the boxes!”

That afternoon as Nate put twinkle lights on the back yard evergreens, I went to meet with our caterer. But when I walked through her door, a group of 25 friends came around the corner and shouted, “Surprise!”

It was another bridal shower!

“Rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15)