Newlywed Love (#29)

Newlywed Love (#29)

February 6, 1970

Nate and I had been married for 70 days when we hit some “white water rapids” in our adjustment to being husband and wife. Much like the misunderstanding that occurred when he bought the Christmas tree without me, this episode was similar. It was a minor disagreement related to how our varied upbringings had taught us differently — neither was right or wrong, just not the same.

As with the Christmas tree, my response was not to ask rational questions or use logic but to burst into tears.

I wasn’t weeping to manipulate Nate or get my way. That hadn’t even occurred to me. The crying was completely involuntary, and as always, I made no attempt to hold it back.

What I hadn’t considered was how upsetting my tears were to Nate, just as they had been in December. He immediately blamed himself for causing me to cry, which he saw as a catastrophe. This compounded the issue at hand and tipped the blame heavily in his direction. And that wasn’t right.

After our clash, we had restored our relationship quickly with lots of hugging and affirmations of love. But the next morning, as I tried to teach school, I was still bothered by my irrational tears and the extra stress they added to Nate.

I kept picturing his grief-stricken face as he tried to comfort me enough to stop my crying, and I felt terrible about it.

During my lunch break, I decided to write him a letter.

The only paper I had was a sheet of newsprint from my students’ art bin, but it was good enough. I wanted to reassure Nate of my unshakable love and also thank him for putting up with my tears. And I wanted him to know that my weeping wasn’t “the end of the world” as he seemed to think it was.

Letter.

I knew I couldn’t ask Nate to just get used to it, and I didn’t want him to go to the other extreme, disregarding my tears as insignificant. I loved when he comforted me. But I hoped he could learn not to see it as a disaster but just as one of the foibles of his bride.

I wanted him to know, in writing, how grateful I was for his patient, caring response to me the day before, and in a way, I wanted to apologize for upsetting him so much.

By writing a letter, I hoped to build up my young husband and sympathize with him for his having to accept me “as is.” And rather than hand it to him that evening, I decided to mail it – from Champaign to Champaign.

Envelope

That way the message would have greater impact than if I just said it out loud. He could read and re-read it, hopefully being uplifted each time.

I thought back to our pre-marriage days when both Nate and I had prepared for marriage by reading books about it. All the authors agreed that difficult challenges were sure to come, and we had said, “Oh, not with us.”

Now we were beginning to see what they meant.

“After you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.” (1 Peter 5:10)

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)