In the last week, various experiences have prompted me to reflect on previous years.
Steve asked about memorable birthdays and the two I recall best are my sixteenth, my sixtieth, and my sixty-second. (Something about those sixes…) On my sixteenth birthday, a Saturday, I’d cleaned my room all day and Mother told me to shower and clean up. When I emerged, dressed for a family birthday dinner, there was far more family there than I could have imagined. It was the first time I remember having both my maternal and paternal grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins all together. What a houseful! I felt greatly honored. I was the oldest of sixteen grandchildren on my mother’s side, so MANY cousins were there.
For my sixtieth, Steve arranged quite a lovely surprise. My two closest female cousins and I flew to Asheville where we stayed at the Biltmore Hotel and had some lovely days there together, touring the Biltmore.
My sixty-second birthday was in Rome. Sound exotic? It was. We ate in one of those cozy Italian bistros where someone’s mother is back there stirring up her favorite family dishes and we got to eat them. All the family was there–only eight of us then–and I loved it.
I’ve also reflected on how times have changed. When we moved to Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1966, we had no idea of where to meet Steve’s parents, who were driving our U-Haul trailer there for us. God sent me to a local beauty salon (to get my hair “done” because Steve was graduating) two days before we left. At the time I thought Steve had sent me, but it was definitely God because the girl who fixed my hair was from Pittsburg, Kansas! She gave us good advice on routes there and where to meet. What an angel intervention that was!
When we were growing up, we both had phones on “party lines.” Eight families would share one line and each of us had a particular ring–two shorts, or one long, or a long and a short, and so on. To make a call, you picked it up carefully in case someone was already talking. You had to keep checking to see when it was available. Nosy neighbors sometimes listened in on our calls. Our family, out in the country, didn’t even get a phone until I was a junior in high school. When I filled out registration forms, I could finally stop putting my grandmother’s phone number!
When we were first married, August 24, 1965, long distance phone calls were rare and expensive. We couldn’t afford AAA and just had to find a map to figure out how to get where we were going. We had no microwaves or cordless phones and certainly no cell phones.
I think of my Grandmother Bradley, who was so dear to me. She was 70 that year we moved to Kansas. Yes, I thought she was old then, but I knew her spirit was never old, and I hope I’m that way to my grandchildren. I was her only granddaughter, with two grandsons older and two younger, so I was special to her, too. Every summer I would spend a week with her and she would make me at least three dresses. Of course back then we only wore dresses, and all those new ones were wonderful.
This Christmas, my oldest granddaughter gave me a book in which to write about my elementary school days and I’ve already finished it. Completing the information reminded me of cold playground days in cotton dresses, anklets, and leather shoes and the goosebumps on my legs, even if I wore a coat. I didn’t wear long pants to school until I was teaching in Bloomington, Illinois, between 1968 and 1972. I’m not sure exactly when the change occurred, but I do remember that when I starting teaching in rural Campbell County, Kentucky, in 1973, we could only wear pants if it were part of a suit. My, how times have changed!
I’ve also reflected on how Steve and I have changed. I don’t have nearly the temper I used to have and he is incredibly tolerant of my stupid mistakes that used to drive him crazy. We’ve lived in five states in eight houses and each one we liked better than the last. I think that says a lot about our growth in contentment. As the Apostle Paul said, we’ve learned in whatever state we are to be content.
But since we’ve lived in the same state now for almost 43 years, our contentment has come from more than just moving around. We have raised our children and are watching them be godly parents who are parenting much better than we did. They still come often to visit and seem to relish the times we are together as much as we do.
Our extended family stays in touch and when we do get together we all love it. We have a church family that constantly shows love to us, as a group and individually. I have the guidance of the Holy Spirit now and assurance of eternal salvation. I cannot imagine any life any more wonderful than mine.
I am blessed.