By Mary Ellen Main
[Author’s Note: We had surprise visitors from Kansas City on February 3. They’d called a week ahead of time, so it wasn’t a "drop by" surprise, but still it was unexpected, since we don’t get to see each other very often. The last time we’d seen them was on our way through Kansas City in 2013 on our 35th Wedding Anniversary trip. The last time they’d been here was in 2008 at our son Gene’s memorial service. This was the couple I just wrote about who’d taken Gene’s baby pictures, whose wedding Rick had preached and who’d taken Gene’s baby-in-a-bubble picture for a hospital brochure. I’d also mentioned about when Rick had first seen part of what they were photographing, not realizing it was for a brochure on sleep disorders, and had wondered just what kind of photography they did. I’d described in layman’s terms how Marc "blurred" the pictures of Tammy lying on her left side, back and right side so that it looked like she was restless because of a sleep disorder. Actually, he said it took 45 minutes for each shot. Tammy said she didn’t remember the exact amount of time—only that she was very sore when they were done. What had been cleverly disguised as a comfortable mattress was actually a piece of plywood! This "bed" was slanted so that while staying perfectly still for those 45 minutes for each shot, Tammy also had to keep herself from sliding down the bed. Marc reminded me while they were here that they won an award for the sleep disorders brochure photograph as well as for the baby-in-the-bubble one. They do very good photography work and we also were so privileged to have them as our forwarding agents when we were in South Africa. They had that great combination of being business-minded and strong Christians. It was so great to see them once again, as it always is. We’ve stayed in touch, though not nearly as much as we’d like to, so that they’re a part of our life here but also were a part of our life in these stories I’m telling.]
Once he got past the "can’t tell you what I want stage" Gene was a very happy toddler and very articulate. He didn’t know a stranger! At that time we were doing laundry at a laundromat in Kansas City that opened onto a busy street. I had to watch him every moment because I’d be taking clothes out of the dryer and I’d see him talking to some man over by the door. Great, I thought. I’ve got a kid who’d be friendly with Jack the Ripper! I had visions of someone grabbing him and taking him out the door. He’d be talking their head off about whatever subject he decided was interesting at the time. (He was always like that.) Fortunately, this was 30 years ago and kids were not being kidnapped right and left. He was a joy to be around, though, and I hated to deprive some lonely person at the laundromat that blessing. I just had to keep an eye on him. Another thing Gene loved to do was to stand up against the washer when it was on its spin cycle. He’d stand there and shout, "Earthquake!" Ah, the simple joys in life. I’d never thought to do that. Too inhibited, I guess. He also loved to stand in any crevice he could find so that I had to make sure he didn’t get stuck between washers. Fortunately, he was chunky enough that he couldn’t fit into a really tight space.
Little Gene’s smile was disarming and he looked so cute in his brightly colored Oshkosh overalls. My sister Pam had 3 boys and the youngest was a year older than Gene. She bought the neatest clothes for her boys and was such a frugal shopper. When they were done with them, she’d pass them on to us. The little one piece snap-in-the-crotch outfits that her 2nd boy wore just didn’t fit Gene, but, fortunately, we kept them around. I don’t know why because I remember thinking, Who would buy this for a child? I couldn’t even get them over Gene’s shoulders. Then when Briana came along, they fit her body shape perfectly.
Pam had also given us a walker for Gene when her boys were done with it. It was three air-filled donut shaped rings. The largest was on the bottom, the middle one a little smaller and the top one was the smallest. They were all set on a round frame. At the bottom inside was a piece with two holes for baby’s legs. We’d slip Gene down into that and off he’d run down our hallway. He loved grabbing for toes and that walker kept him from being able to reach Rick’s toes when Rick was sitting in one of the living room chairs.
We went to a car show in one of Kansas City’s huge exhibition halls. We walked all over that place with Gene mostly in the stroller. The music was loud, the lights were bright, and there were people everywhere. When we got home, Gene was wired for sound. Wow! He’d laugh then run down the hall in his walker as fast as he could. Then he’d do it again and again and again. Rick got to stay up with him that night.
My brother and his family came to visit when Gene was just a little guy. One of the places we went was to the zoo. Again, we put Gene in the stroller, but this time he wanted to get out of the stroller and roam (with the animals, I’m sure). Neither one of us would pick him up because we knew he wanted out, but Uncle Lee was the sucker for the day. Gene would reach for him, Lee would pick him up then Gene would want down. It worked for a time or two.
Rick was working at Olathe Ford RV at the time of Gene’s birth, but he had thoughts of returning to the ministry. At one point we went to Edison, Nebraska for him to interview. The three of us had an interesting experience there, since this was the first time we had a little one with us for a church interview. For one thing, when we were invited to lunch the day we arrived, the people didn’t have any milk. Gene was weaned by then but was quite a milk drinker. I think they finally found some in their freezer. We stayed in a motel in a neighboring town that night. There was a café in that town, but it was closed on Saturday nights in order to get ready for the big Sunday lunch crowd. Because of that, we had our first taste of Red Barron Pizza. It was available at the motel. Not bad! We had a portacrib for Gene, which was so handy. There wasn’t a whole lot of room for Gene to play in the motel room plus Rick needed to work on his sermon on Saturday evening. Unfortunately, the people in the room next to us were working on a party. They were so loud that Gene didn’t sleep much at all and it was challenging for Rick to get his sermon done. It did work to our advantage with Gene, though, since he slept through church the next morning. Several people said, "What a nice quiet baby you have!" However, they discovered our little one’s voice during the fellowship dinner after church. We made the mistake of both leaving the table at the same time to get more food. All of a sudden Gene realized we were gone and didn’t know where we were (or where he was), so he wailed quite noticeably, poor guy. The funniest thing about that trip was that the parsonage and church had lots of boxelder bugs. Gene was in the habit of putting things in his mouth. We almost caught him in time. He ended up getting half of a boxelder bug eaten. Rick didn’t end up taking the position after all, but it had been one of many firsts for us as a threesome.
I’ve written about this before when I told about our daughter Briana’s surprise Mother’s Day visit a couple of years ago, but it bears mentioning again. My first Mother’s Day after Gene was born I walked in one day and found a dozen red roses on the table. I thought they were from Rick, but found out differently when I read the card. It said, "Rocky made me do it." My sister Jeanne had always teased Pam and me about names for our children when we had them some day. She said we should name our child Rocky Butch if it was a boy and Trixie Bubbles if it was a girl. Pam hadn’t chosen the name Rocky Butch for any of her three boys and we’d named Gene after Grandpa Main, but I guess Jeanne was still holding out for the name.
When Gene turned a year old, we didn’t have any plans for a big birthday bash. We had friends from church with little ones, so we could’ve all gotten together, but we didn’t have enough money to do the "birthday dance" where everyone reciprocates for each little one’s birthday. As a matter of fact, we were invited to one of the birthdays of Rick’s sister’s boy at one point in time. He was a couple of years older than Gene and this was when they were both little. We wanted to participate in this family celebration, but all we could bring was a card. Rick’s sister was so sweet in noting to her son that there was a special card from us when it came time for him to open it, but kids are too honest. His general attitude was, "But where’s the next gift?" We didn’t want to start something that we couldn’t keep up with. Anyway, around the time of Gene’s first birthday we were spending Saturdays at Rick’s brother’s house where the two of them worked on Rick’s brother’s car. Rick’s sister-in-law wanted to make a birthday cake for Gene. We stripped him down to his diaper and sat him in his high chair and let him dive into his piece of cake. He ate it with sheer delight. Lots of clean-up came after that including bathing him. They’d gotten him a little plastic toy that looked like a big telephone on wheels with a straight up and down push-handle to help a little one balance for walking. He was already walking by ten months, so he didn’t need it for that, but I still remember him walking all over that house buck naked pushing his new little phone. It was something we four adults plus Rick’s niece got a kick out of. Since it was pre-Facebook days, we didn’t post the picture for all the world to see. In those days we were more discreet (okay, well maybe sneaky). Naked baby pictures were kept until the child became a teenager so that you could threaten to show them to said child’s first date.
Another big event Gene attended was on February 19 of 1989 at the church where we’d heard the children’s choir singing his first Christmas. That event was Rick’s ordination service. Friends from the church as well as from the home Bible study Rick taught (not all attended that church) came to join in the celebration. The lady of the couple who hosted the Bible study, Tammy Carver (our photographer friend – they also attended the Bible study), and I sang a trio. Different friends who were elders and ministers gave the message, the charge from the elders and the charge to the congregation. This time Gene wasn’t squalling in the background. There were a couple of girls at that church who always loved to watch him. He’d captured their hearts with his dimple and winning ways.
The brother whose home I mentioned being at for Gene’s first birthday was wed at that same church, so the three of us attended that wedding, plus another sweet couple from church got married while we were attending there. Again, there was no lack of baby sitters for Gene.
For many years it had been just the two of us and now we were getting used to it being the three of us. It wasn’t long until Rick and I could not imagine ever having been without this child. As much as we enjoyed him, though, we began to think it might be a good idea, should the Lord be willing, for him to have a brother or sister. We went from "Baby Makes Three" to "Maybe One More." Join me next time to hear how that turned out.
By Mary Ellen Main
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: I realized the other day that both our children did not live in Oklahoma until we moved to Beaver in 2004. In that respect, they were not "homegrown" in Oklahoma, like I was. Neither was Rick, their dad, since he was born and raised in Kansas City—as he always says, "Born on the Missouri side, raised on the Kansas side." Rick and I had already moved several times by the time the kids were born and that didn’t change much once they arrived, though we may have thought it was going to. At any rate, the "Oklahoma" never left me and Rick’s farm roots (his parents were originally Iowa farmers) never left him, so even with all our moving around after the kids were born, they still had those homegrown qualities instilled in them.]
Our son Gene was born on September 1, 1987. For the first week after he was born we’d stayed at Rick’s folks’ house in Kansas City, Kansas since they were gone on vacation. Then we moved back to our second-story apartment. It was still in Kansas City in an area known as Turner. The first little bit that we were back in the apartment, we kept Gene in the bassinet in our room. There were two problems with that. One was that our room was quite small and the other was that he was rapidly outgrowing the bassinet. Soon it was time to put him one room away in his own crib. We’d moved from a one-bedroom to a three-bedroom apartment just before Gene was born. That gave us the extra space needed for the crib and Gene’s things. Even though it was a small room, there was a nice closet in it. All of his clothes and toys fit in that, so the only furniture in the room was his crib. It was right next to the bathroom and we were so nervous about waking him up at night. We needn’t have been. He slept well and would stay asleep in the mornings. Since I didn’t have to wake him up to take him to a baby sitter or daycare, I let him sleep. My philosophy has always been "Let sleeping babies lie" whenever possible. Because of that, though, he wouldn’t take naps. He loved rocking motion and would sometimes sit in the rocking chair and rock himself to sleep, but he was determined no one else was going to do it.
My sister Pam had given us pictures that I think were called puff art where part of the picture is made to stand out three dimensional. There was a clown and a duck and one other picture. They were beautiful, bright primary colors. I’d wake Gene up by picking him up out of his crib and I’d walk over so I could "talk" to the pictures. "Hello, clown . . . Hello, duck . . .." Rick and I both talked to Gene about everything around us, but we never talked "baby talk" to him. He was a cuddly baby right from the start and liked nothing better than to snuggle up with his blanket, thumb in mouth. Interestingly enough, we’d seen him sucking his thumb on one of his sonogram pictures. I’d say that meant he was pretty attached to it.
Gene’s first big social event was the wedding of our friends Marc and Tammy Carver. (They were the ones that had taken Gene’s 4-day-old pictures.) Their original wedding date was right about the time of Gene’s due date and they’d wanted Rick to do the ceremony. I said that was one time I wasn’t willing to share him. They’d postponed their wedding one month later so that Rick could do the service. Fortunately, Gene cooperated and was born close to his due date, so we bundled him up and away we went to the wedding of this very special couple. The wedding was at Edwardsville Christian Church, on the edge of Kansas City, Kansas. The reception was at the clubhouse at Lake of the Forest, an area where Tammy had grown up and where her folks still lived. This wedding was a big deal, since Marc and Tammy were professional photographers and had many clients. Still, it was so fun to see that they were just "themselves." That’s one of the many things we love about them. I was so glad to find that the building where the reception was had a huge lounge in the ladies’ restroom because I was nursing Gene at the time. He did well with the hubbub all around us.
Since Gene was born on September 1, he was still pretty young that Thanksgiving. We were able to make a trip, though, from Kansas City to my sister Pam’s in Norman. There were a couple of other trips we made when he was pretty young. The main requirement was finding a place where we could stop so I could nurse him.
We went to a church Christmas program at the church where Rick’s brother was attending on Gene’s first Christmas. The children’s choir was singing "The little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes . . ." while I was walking the hallway with Gene screaming his head off. This boy was hungry! There was no way I could nurse him in the nursery—too much coming and going. The ladies’ bathroom wasn’t big enough and had no facility for that. One lady actually came out of the sanctuary and asked if I could keep my baby quiet. I should’ve handed him to her. Finally, I went downstairs to the fellowship hall and found a janitor’s closet where I was able to nurse Gene. Ah, yes. For this I prayed. Though I’ve read stories where states are making laws where a woman can nurse in public, letting it all hang out so-to-speak, I wasn’t comfortable with that. I preferred covering Gene with a blanket when I nursed him.
I wasn’t one to take a baby out in the cold at night, but Rick taught a midweek Bible study in the home of friends of ours. We took Baby Gene with us and everyone was fine with that. However, as Gene got a little older it became difficult to nurse him discreetly under the blanket with his arms thrashing about. Also, he began to want to explore beyond the living room where we met. That must’ve been around the time I weaned him because we found friends who babysat for us. As all good baby-sitters who are close to being surrogate grandparents, they spoiled him quite a bit.
I mentioned that our friends Marc and Tammy were professional photographers. When we first met them, they showed us around their house. There was a huge bed in the garage set up with lights and camera. Rick said he was afraid to ask what kind of photography they did. As it turned out, though, things were set up in the garage that way for a brochure on sleep disorders. Tammy had been the model and Marc took pictures of her on her right side, back, and left side, then blurred them together to make it look like she was restless in her sleep. (I’m sure I’m not describing this quite right, but you get the idea.) Their studio was in the basement of that house as it had been ever since Marc had started his business. When Gene was a couple of months old, they approached us with an idea. They asked if they could use Gene as a model for a brochure. It was one telling about how the baby carries the mother’s immune system a little while after birth. As I said in my last article, they suggested maybe they could swap his doing this for the cost of the baby pictures they took of Gene. I didn’t quite realize what the experience would be like, but after it was all done I was glad these were people I trusted. This is what they did. First of all, they put Gene’s car seat (not a huge complicated one) in the center of a table. Next, they draped the car seat and table, all the way to the floor, in black velvet. Baby Gene, wearing cloth diapers (the only time in his life), was placed in the car seat (not fastened in). They needed him to be happy for these photos, but we came across a problem. First of all, I made sure Gene was fed so that he wouldn’t cry because of being hungry. Marc or Tammy, I can’t remember which, put him in the car seat and he was happy as a lark. I, however, was as nervous as could be with my little one sitting in the car seat up on top of the table. Marc assured me that he’d be okay if he fell since they had mats on the floor all around the table. I felt like it would’ve been better to have huge mattresses there. Every time I got anywhere near Gene he could tell I was nervous so he’d start crying. Marc finally sent me upstairs and from then on had great success in getting the pictures he needed. For quite some time he took pictures of Gene until he was satisfied with the angle, Gene’s facial expression and so on. On another day he and Tammy blew bubbles and he took pictures of all sizes of bubbles. (Stay with me here.) Finally, he put a picture of Gene together with just the right bubble picture so that it looked like Gene was floating in the bubble. Cool! The bubble represented the mother’s immune system. They gave us a couple of copies of the brochure plus a picture in a lighted frame of Gene’s baby-in-the-bubble picture. So that was Gene’s modeling career. We’ve always been amazed at the photography of these two special people so it was fun to be a part of it in this way.
We spent lots of time at Grandpa and Grandma Mains. Before Gene could walk, I’d lay him on a blanket in the middle of the floor. Soon he started rolling. It was amazing how he could go from wall to wall that way. After that came his sniper crawl, as we called it. He’d stick his rear up in the air and scoot along on his elbows and knees. His favorite thing when he was little bitty at their house was when we’d lay him on the table to put his winter outer clothes on him. He loved watching the ceiling fan that was hanging directly over the table. He was mesmerized by it!
I’ve toggled back and forth some with these vignettes of our life with Baby Gene. This hasn’t been in chronological order, mostly because I don’t remember it in a straight line. These are memories of when our home was first graced with children, something I don’t take for granted. There’re more stories from our time at the Tuner Apartments, though again I’ll be hopping back and forth some. Thanks for letting me share our lives with you. See you next time.
Once Rick came home from Nepal he was able to find work as a warehouseman at Forsythe Travel Library. (How appropriate!) They sold travel books and maps and also were distributors for the Thomas Cook Continental Time Tables for all the trains in Europe. While there he got to go to London with some of the staff. They saw Peterborough, which is a coastal town where the Thomas Cook Time Tables were printed, touring through all their printing facilities. They also saw Stonehenge, the Churchill War Rooms, Salisbury Cathedral and the play Cats. The Royal Lancaster Hotel was the place where the travel library staff stayed. It was a bit above the standards of places we were used to staying. Rick said he was sitting in his room and the phone rang. He thought, "Who knows I’m here?" It was the maid asking if he was ready for her to turn his bed down. He said "yes," then sat in a chair across from the bed to see what would happen. She came in, turned down the covers and placed a chocolate on the pillow. He remembers the food there being very good as well (including the chocolate on the pillow).
The thing Rick remembers most from that particular trip was when they went to a place called The World’s Most Unusual Museum. (I tried looking this one up, but can’t find it, so it may not be there anymore.) Visits to this museum had to be booked far ahead of time because of how long it took the people to set up the museum. It traced the lineage of a fictitious family in London throughout the generations. You saw how London changed but in the context of that family. Some time periods would be plush and others would show squalor with clothes hanging all over the place. It was a multi-story building and the each story represented a different generation. You began in the basement. There was a tour guide, but it was almost like the family had just been in the room right before you got there. There would be a cup of tea that was still warm. In the bedroom there would be an overstuffed chair by the bed and the tour guide would say, "Oh, the master just dropped his pipe" and the pipe would fall off the chair, but there would be nobody there. When you’d go through the era of Jack the Ripper, you were sitting on a couch near a frosted window. The tour guide would say, "Oh yes, this is the time when Jack the Ripper is stalking the Soho District." All of a sudden you’d "see and hear" crowds just outside the frosted window as they went by. Sometimes the tour guide would take you into a room and he’d kind of give you a little intro as to what the room was and what era it was and he would leave the room. You’d hear a voice over a loud speaker explaining what was going on. So sometimes the tour guide would be with you and other times the voice would be narrating that particular part of the "story." Rick said after a while he was convinced that the family truly had just been there minutes before. This tour was scheduled the night the people had landed, so they were all experiencing considerable jet lag. Because of that, Rick isn’t sure how long the actual tour lasted but thought it was well over an hour. They went at that particular time because it was the only time they could get in. The trip was provided by Mr. Forsythe. He had some connections that enabled him to get tickets free or discounted.
A couple of months after we returned from Nepal, I found work typing at a magazine company. It was called Modern Handcraft and I worked with subscriptions. The two magazines published there were "Workbench" and "Flower and Garden." The time I began working there was late fall, so was leading up to Christmas. The work was tedious as there were so many gift subscriptions. I had to type the information off the gift subscription onto a straight line so that the computer (which covered one wall of the room where we typists were) could read it. I attempted to make the work more interesting by trying to beat my own time, but that didn’t quite do the trick. The computer was so loud! We worked off a timeclock but were not allowed to clock in early. If an employee arrived early, they’d have to sit in the parking lot until 15 minutes before starting time. Then it was a mad rush so that no one would be clocked in late. The craziest thing I remember about the job is that they let us go home early once a year on St. Patrick’s Day. The street behind us held a very popular bar (it was the Westport area) and the traffic was terrible from the celebrations that evening, so police would even be directing us out of the parking lot. Cheers!
When Rick had still been in Nepal and I had been living with his folks, we wrote back and forth. The local pastor that we worked with in Nepal was arranging to have a house built for us (to rent) just down the lane from their compound. Rick would write to me about how the house was coming along, but I was too tired to care. I’d always wanted children and he hadn’t, but at that time he said he could picture "little feet" running around in that house. I questioned him about it later saying, "You wait until I’m too tired to care to say that?" but he explained that he was trying to do anything to help me get better. However, by the time I was recuperated and we were settling in to our home in Kansas City we both spoke in earnest about starting a family. I had quit my job at Modern Handcraft by then, so Rick had to look for a job that paid more. He ended up working as an RV mechanic again, this time at Olathe Ford RV in Olathe, Kansas. Since we were hoping to start a family and both decided I’d be a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t look for another job. My doctor had run tests to make sure I didn’t have any permanent damage from the giardia. Also we’d asked him to run a tighter to make sure my MMR shots had taken when I was a child. (I think I wrote about this in my vaccination articles.) The shots hadn’t taken, so I was vaccinated again then he told us to wait to try to get pregnant for the safety of the baby. We did, which was a good thing because when we were allowed to try, our first child was conceived.
I was probably the happiest and healthiest of my whole life during my pregnancy with our son Gene. My doctor discovered early on that I had a condition known as Partial Placenta Previa. He insisted that I lie with my feet above my heart twice a day. When you do that, all you can do is sleep, so I was napping twice a day. I was glad this was happening with my first child! Also, about halfway through the pregnancy my doctor ran a routine test and found I had gestational diabetes. That meant frequent visits to the dietitian. My motivation to remain on the diet was when my doctor said, "If we can get it diet controlled, you won’t have to go on insulin." The dietician was a very practical, down-to-earth soul who took what I was already eating and adapted it instead of having me eat a whole bunch of different stuff. Because of that, I was eating healthy. I was also looking forward to what I’d always wanted—the opportunity to mother a child. Since I was driving Rick and his sister across town to Olathe sometimes and our car wasn’t air-conditioned, I usually drank a huge Coke or Pepsi. Because of the amount of sugar in it, that was one of the first things I had to quit doing. Also, we had this weekly tradition of going to a donut place near Edwardsville on the edge of Kansas City. We’d get there just as the man was taking the honey bun-type cinnamon rolls out of the oven and icing them. They were warm and delicious! No more donuts now, either. The gestational diabetes meant that I had to do weekly blood tests. I’d take Rick to work then go get my fasting blood work done. After that I almost always went to a fast food place there near the clinic, ate the same thing each time then returned for my non-fasting bloodwork.
A couple of noteworthy things resulted from the gestational diabetes situation. One was the fact that once I ate at a different fast food chain, though the same item. My blood sugar showed a little different. One of the doctors in our family practice clinic found that quite interesting, since he liked knowing about all things regarding nutrition. The funniest thing, though, was Rick and I would often go to the Denny’s near where he worked. Rick would eat a big breakfast but I wouldn’t eat anything since that was during my fasting time. One of the waitresses there would teasingly call him a "brute" for not feeding his pregnant wife. I did feel good during that time and I’ve always hesitated to tell friends who experience great bouts of morning sickness that I didn’t have any morning sickness. Maybe it was because I was so relaxed and didn’t have to push myself—after all, it was doctor’s orders.
During the sonograms that we had done we opted to not know the sex of our child. I don’t know about nowadays, but the technician in those days explained that the machines were pretty accurate, but sometimes the technician could make a mistake. Sometimes a couple would be surprised to find that their bouncing baby boy was actually a girl. That was also way before the days of the reveal parties that are so popular these days. We didn’t want anyone to tell us . . . the doctor, the technician, our friends. We were just looking forward to meeting our little one. Besides, onesies and sleepers worked for a boy or a girl. One thing about when I was pregnant with Gene is that I measured a month farther along each time. I was huge. One friend used to describe her own pregnancy as saying she was "as big as the side of a barn." That would be an accurate description of me pregnant with Gene. One friend at the church we were attending at the time kept saying, "You’ll never make it till due date." He might’ve been coming to that conclusion because I sang in the choir so he saw all of me standing up front each Sunday. We sat (and stood to sing) behind a rail behind the pulpit. I had to be in the front row because I wouldn’t fit behind. Also, when Rick and I went out to eat and all that was available was a booth, I had to make sure I would fit in it. Yes, I was pretty much as big as the side of a barn.
I don’t remember what Gene’s due date was, only that he was born very close to it. The ironic thing was that he was born on September 1, 1987, nine years and two months after we were married. A couple of people had indicated that maybe we’d eloped because I was pregnant. That would have been a mighty long pregnancy! Because of his impending birth, I was very pregnant with him during the heat of the summer. The apartment where we lived had air-conditioning, sort of. We were on the second floor. Heat rises and our air unit wasn’t too efficient. The apartment below us was often vacant, so it wasn’t cool. The temperature at our place wouldn’t go much below 80 degrees. That may sound kind of moderate, but when you’re in your last months of pregnancy, it’s very uncomfortable . . . downright miserable! I think our front windows opened at the apartment, but we were always getting dust in from the street. Also, we couldn’t get much of a cross-breeze since our apartment was long from front to back. It had a hallway that went from the living room toward the back of the building. The right wall of the hallway was the outside wall that was against the stairway. It was solid brick with no window. On the left along the hallway was the bathroom, the room that was going to be Gene’s room and our bedroom. Across from our bedroom (above the stairway) was another bedroom. (We’d moved one apartment down from the one-bedroom we’d originally moved into.) All the bedrooms were boxy things, very little. So, it wasn’t great for getting much airflow. At that same time, Rick’s parents had gotten a new air conditioner in their house. They only lived a few blocks away from us, so we spent a lot of time visiting Grandpa and Grandma Main. They didn’t mind, or at least were gracious enough not to mention it.
We had attended pre-natal classes in anticipation of Gene’s birth. It was a special time together, since Rick would barely make it home from work in time to clean up then we’d drive back across town (in the direction he’d come from). The classes were at Humana Hospital in Overland Park, which was near where our doctor practiced at a clinic called College Park Family Care Center. Humana has changed names since that time and I’m not sure if the clinic is there anymore either. That was a long time ago! At any rate, at that time certain doctors were to practice at certain hospitals. That’s why we drove back across town for classes at Humana. Pregnancy classes can prepare you for a lot of things, but, as we were about to find out, sometimes there are surprises waiting just around the bend. Fasten your seat belts for this next turn because, though you’ve met him in some of my other articles, this next one will be about when Gene made his first appearance. See you then.
By Mary Ellen Main
Rick went to Nepal on a short-term mission in the fall of ’83 while I stayed in Kansas. When he returned home he’d had a lot of praying time and decided it was time to resign from Paint Creek. He gave them a couple months’ notice but didn’t know for sure what he’d be doing next. In the meantime, I went to Garber to help at my dad’s tax office. When Rick had completed his work, he joined me there. We lived in a trailer house on the back of the lot where the office was. (The office was located in a small house.) Rick helped my dad set up his computer at the tax office then began looking for work.
It was a difficult time because it felt like we were stepping backwards. We’d been in the ministry and now we were just doing "stuff." Not only that, but something more came to light about the difficult time we’d had when we came home from Scotland that made it even worse. This was another one of those tests to see whether our marriage was truly founded on Christ.
Toward the end of tax season, Rick began looking for work in Oklahoma City. He still had his tools, as well as his ability to learn that had seen him through all his early jobs in Kansas City. He ended up applying at McClain’s RV Superstore and became an RV mechanic. Even though some areas of the work were new, he was a fast learner. That particular job paid by book rate—a certain job paid a certain amount no matter how long it took to complete it. Some of the mechanics would rush the work in order to make more money, but Rick would end up actually losing money by doing a better job. It frustrated me that he wasn’t making as much money as the job advertised, but I was glad he was doing what was right. His supervisor would even give him the jobs that came back because the other guys hadn’t done them right, knowing Rick would fix the problem. Sometimes he’d get a tip for working late hours or doing such a good job, so that helped our finances. Occasionally he’d get to work on an RV of someone well-known. He got to meet Dale Robertson once when he worked on his RV and said he was larger-than-life, just as he appeared to be in some of his pictures, but was very friendly to visit with.
At first Rick drove from Garber to Oklahoma City and back. He was following a routine of wake up, eat, drive to work, work, drive home, eat (if he wasn’t too tired) and sleep. Once I was done at the tax office, one of my sisters helped me scout out an apartment for me and Rick. We found a complex called Spanish Gardens in Bethany, located a couple miles north of McClain’s on Rockwell. Rick and I moved to a 2nd-story one-bedroom apartment. There was no phone in the apartment, but there was a payphone in the courtyard. We didn’t have any problems with bugs there because the management sprayed every month. That meant every month we had to cover everything up with sheets. We didn’t have much furniture so we lived out of boxes. We covered them up and made sure nothing was on the kitchen counters. It was a pain to have to do every month, but was much better than the cockroach migration some apartments have.
Once we moved in, I started looking for work. Soon I was hired on at Southwest Electric. When I interviewed, the boss asked if I was familiar with computers. I said I wasn’t. After I was hired, she asked me where I’d said I’d learned computers. I explained that I hadn’t worked with them. That actually worked out fine with the Controller. He preferred training me and didn’t want me messing with any other accounts than the ones I was trained to work with. I did various tasks, such as answering the phone and filing, but the computer work I did was balancing two of the bank accounts at the end of the month. It was pretty basic, but all new to me.
Rick walked to work and I took our little Nissan pickup. It didn’t have a fast take off, but once I got it up to speed it did fine in traffic. Fortunately, the entrance ramp from where I worked onto the highway was nice and long. Since I got off work before Rick did, I’d go pick him up. He worked south of the complex and my job was located north and east. One fun thing I discovered was that Grandma Miller’s (Dad’s mom) sister was in a nursing home between our apartment complex and Southwest Electric. I’d stop by and see Aunt Ina for about 20 minutes then would excuse myself to go pick up Rick. Sometimes she knew who I was, other times she recognized me by my dad’s name ("I’m Everett Lee’s daughter") and other times she had no clue who I was. It didn’t matter because she knew someone cared enough to stop by for a visit.
The times we’d lived with our friend the pastor we’d attended Antelope Valley Church of the Brethren (near Billings) and Jackson Park Church of Brethren in Jonesboro, Tennessee. We’d attended various other churches when we were at different locations: Paint Creek Church of the Brethren (when Rick was preaching there, of course), Garber Christian Church (when I worked at the tax office), Central Assembly of God in Enid (I’d attended there some in college so we visited there some) and Willow Road Christian Church. Often we attended because we knew someone that attended there. Once we arrived in Oklahoma City, though, we didn’t know anyone, so the "church hunt" began. One church we tried met in a warehouse. The minister was singing some special and the sound messed up. Let’s just say he didn’t exactly exhibit the fruit of the Spirit toward the sound crew as they tried to fix the error. Another church was very friendly, but it seemed like the members were all from the same family. I guess they could’ve adopted us, but it just felt a little awkward. One day we were eating Chinese food at our favorite Chinese restaurant, called Chopsticks. They had the best eggrolls in the world and, since we always seemed to be on a tight budget, we could go and have hot tea and eggrolls for a very reasonable cost. We noticed a sign across the street from the restaurant that said Amazing Grace Chapel. It was a little non-denominational church that we ended up falling in love with. The people had such a love for Jesus and He used them to be a support for us through some difficult times. Hopefully they were encouraged by us as well.
Rick and I both had Memorial weekend off. We planned on going to the farm to see Dad and Judy, my step-mom, visiting with Grandpa and Grandma Miller and maybe seeing friends who lived in Garber. Dad didn’t go up the hill with us to Grandma’s house because he hadn’t been feeling well. While we were at Grandma’s she got a call saying Aunt Ina had passed away. I was so glad I’d had that special time with her, especially since it had been years since I’d seen her. A couple of days before she died, she asked me to read a letter to her that her daughter had sent. What a privilege! When I was growing up my family would see her and Uncle Ike (passed away by this time) every once in a while, since they lived in Oklahoma City. We always loved to hear Grandma tell about her visits with her sister since they were so close. One of my sisters remembers Grandma calling her once to tell her about a visit she’d had with Aunt Ina. They both loved Furr’s Cafeteria. Grandma was laughing so hard that Pam couldn’t understand her at first. Finally Grandma was able to get the words out. "Ina and I ate a whole chicken!"
After visiting everyone Memorial Weekend, we returned to Bethany, but Dad still was not feeling well. His doctor thought maybe the problem was his gall bladder, so they ran some tests for that. Shortly after that he was in the hospital, which was very unusual for my dad. He just didn’t go to the hospital unless he was "dying." This time he was. He was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor. The doctor said he may have had it 3-6 months and would possibly live 3-6 months more. That Friday he was to have a major surgery, so Rick and I both took off work to go to Enid, where his surgery would be. The biggest concern for such a long surgery was Dad’s high blood pressure. The doctor had one more test to run before Dad’s surgery, but the machine had broken down. By the time we arrived, they’d been able to run that last test and had said, "Oops. We got it wrong. The cancer is inoperable." However, they still needed to operate (minor surgery) to reroute his bile duct, since he was jaundiced. His surgery went fine, but there was nothing more they could do for him surgically. That weekend was Father’s Day. We walked to his hospital room and there was a sign on the door that said, "No Visitors" so we started to walk away.
My step-mom heard us and said, "That doesn’t mean you guys."
I guess Dad had been overwhelmed by visitors, but still wanted to see family. We hadn’t been able to decide whether to get Dad a funny or serious card but had opted for a funny one. When he read it, he hurt himself laughing. We spent the afternoon watching some movie on television with them and later Dad and Rick walked the halls. Dad told Rick how much it’d meant to go on the motorcycle trip with us. Their relationship had been rocky, at best, when Dad first met Rick. He’d looked over his reading glasses and said, "Oh, hi" and walked away. Now they had become fast friends. After Dad recuperated from surgery they sent him home.
The following weekend all four of us kids tried to get there to see him. My brother was in the Navy but had gotten time off to come help Dad with harvest, so he and his family were already there. My one sister and her husband lived in Norman and my other sister was at a special Navy training school. It would generally have taken quite a bit of time for her to get permission to come and, even at that, there was no guarantee it would be allowed. As it was, she was able to get special permission and be with all of us that weekend. My step-mom’s kids were all still in high school, so they were already there. Dad slept most of the time because he was was on pain medication. We went back to Oklahoma City Sunday evening, took my sister to the airport and went to work the next day. I got a call at work some time that Monday morning that Dad had died. That was 2 ½ weeks after he’d been diagnosed. Because of that, we came to look back on that time at Garber with Dad and Judy as treasured time. At the time we hadn’t known it would be our last days with him.
When I was a little girl, my dad was a pallbearer at nearly every funeral at our small church. I know. I was there. I was not sheltered from death. I always hated how sad everyone was. I always wondered why they were whispering. Often I knew the person who had died, sometimes not. But when Dad died it was a loss I didn’t know how to deal with. I hadn’t realized how close I had been to him.
I hate to leave my article on this note, but that’s kind of how life leaves us sometimes. Hopefully my next article will begin to show a ray of hope for what were very dark times for me. Thanks for being with me for the good times and the bad. See you soon.
By Mary Ellen Main
We’d been living in eastern Tennessee. Though the cost of living was terrible, the scenery had been some of the most beautiful we’d ever seen. We could see the Blueridge Parkway from Jonesboro on a clear day and we often went there on our motorcycle on weekends. The fall in Tennessee was amazing. At first we’d see a touch of color here and there, like someone had snagged their bright red bandanna on a tree limb. Then the colors would show more and more, with bright oranges and spectacular yellows. There were more trees than I was used to and more variety of trees, so the colors were also some I wasn’t used to seeing in the fall. Not only that, but the moisture perked up the colors until they were brilliant. We knew we couldn’t stay, but we didn’t know where we’d be moving next. No matter where it was, it was doubtful that it would be as beautiful as eastern Tennessee.
As it turned out, Rick ended up interviewing at Paint Creek Church of the Brethren near Uniontown, Kansas. Kansas? I knew how flat Kansas was because all my life we’d driven from the farm to Miltonvale and Lyons to visit relatives. I knew about the Flint Hills but my brain just connected Kansas with flat.
The drive from eastern Tennessee to eastern Kansas was interesting. As I mentioned, we didn’t have much money at all. The church was going to reimburse our travel expenses once we got there, but we had to get there first! We ate our meals from snack machines along the way. We planned on spending the night before the interview at Rick’s folks’ house in Kansas City, so Rick kept saying, "We can eat when we get to Mom’s house." We had a choice between eating real food or putting gas in the car. We had a cassette player that plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter so we could listen to music, but that drained on the battery too much. It was foggy the first part of the trip, so we had to choose between running the lights or running the cassette player. We chose to run the lights so we wouldn’t be running into other cars!
Once Rick interviewed the church reimbursed his expenses. We couldn’t stay for the congregational vote after Rick’s sermon because there was an ice storm blowing through. By the time we got back to Kansas City the church had voted unanimously to hire Rick. They said it was the first time that had ever happened. Soon I had to resign my favorite job so we could move again.We rented a 14’ U-Haul and a tow-bar to tow the car. After we went a little ways, we found the car was towing crooked. We found a U-Haul place along the way so we could turn the tow bar back in, but they wouldn’t give us a refund. They said we had to send for that. We were running short on funds to start with, so that didn’t help. To make matters worse, they were going to charge to unhook the tow bar so Rick got to his tools and, while we were still parked in the U-Haul parking lot, unhooked it himself.
We met some very special people at Paint Creek. One couple let us live with them while the church was finding us a trailer house to set in behind the country church. We’ll never forget their hospitality! They became like a second mom and dad to us. There were others in whose homes we spent hours of visiting time, not necessarily on "church business," though we did that, too, but as friends. That isn’t always possible in the ministry.
So we’d moved to the flatlands of Kansas barely having made the trip. We’d wondered about the shock of moving to such a flat area, but southeast Kansas isn’t exactly flat. It’s not like eastern Tennessee by a long shot, but has some beauty all its own. By the time we moved into our trailer house we discovered many simple joys. The early morning mist would lift slowly from the surface of the pond across the road. The quail would march across our yard from the pasture behind us, their little top-knots bobbing to and fro, and the bunnies would do their early pre-dawn dances. It was so peaceful!
There was other wildlife, of course – a skunk or two, a couple of bull snakes and, from the pasture behind, our old pals the rats. A neighbor’s cat had just had a litter of kittens and we asked for the feistiest one. Thus Mazda GLC (Great Little Cat) became a member of our family. (I wrote about him in an earlier article.) I use the word "member" loosely because I had no intention of sharing ice cream with a rat-eating, you-don’t-know-where-that-tongue-has-been cat, much as I loved him. Mazda lived under the trailer house (I couldn’t have an indoor pet because of allergies) and did his job well as the Great Rat Slayer. He loved rubbing against our feet (trying to trip us) as we walked along the boardwalk from where we parked to the trailer’s front porch. It was as if he was saying, "Kick me, push me away, wool me around . . . I love it!" He grew to be a big Tom and the only time I saw him twitch his tail at the end of a long tedious day was during Vacation Bible School when the children would try to ride him. Another reminder that he was a "pet" member of the family was when we had to leave him behind with a farm family when we moved. We had no idea where we’d be "lighting" next and didn’t know if we could bring a pet. Were he a "people" member of the family, we wouldn’t have done that, though at one point when we were on the mission field friends suggested we "leave" our two kids in the States for schooling while we return to the field. We felt like we needed to stay together as a family. After all, we DID share our ice cream with them.
When we first moved to Kansas, I worked for my dad at his tax office in Garber. That was quite a bus ride, but it helped us financially. Then I got a job at Western Insurance Company in Ft. Scott. Since we only had one vehicle, we had to make some arrangement for me to get to work. Three other people from the area, a couple and a friend of theirs, also worked at Western. The couple didn’t live too far from us, so every morning Rick would drive me to their corner and I would ride with them to Ft. Scott. Every evening he’d pick me up there again. Once when we got to the corner he wasn’t there, so they took me on to the trailer house. I think he’d fallen asleep. Another time he’d barely made it in time. He’d been in Ft. Scott on a hospital visit and had lost track of time. Rick generally goes the speed limit, but this time he was pushing it to get there in time to pick me up. As he popped over one hill a lady and her husband were standing out in their yard.
The man looked at his wife as Rick sped by and said, "Who’s that (since everybody knew everybody)?"
She said, "Oh, that’s our new minister."
On that same drive Rick topped another hill and hit a chicken dead-on. He described it later like this. "I think the chicken had a death wish. It was standing in the middle of the road with a cigarette and wearing a blind fold." He said feathers flew everywhere as the chicken literally disintegrated. He stopped to see if the people that lived at the farm right there were home (which didn’t help him to get to our corner on time) and they weren’t, so he left a business card. That sounds kind of like, "Call me if you need a chicken killed" but I think the idea was that he would be happy to pay for the chicken. I worked at Western for a while, but it was challenging, since most things that happened at the church were in the evening. I never have been much good at taking in long days, so eventually I quit and went back to being a minister’s wife full time.
Our time at Paint Creek was a time of mixed memories. I do recall that part of our time there was a time in which I felt closer to God than I’d ever been. I had an early morning quiet time, I had a one-on-one Bible study with a lady who was a new Christian (which was an encouragement to both of us), and I had a couple of opportunities to give freely of myself to friends.
While we were still at Paint Creek, Rick and I attended a church conference on the East Coast in which the church was initiating doctrines that Rick could not agree with. When Rick had become ordained, he’d stated that he upheld all the beliefs and doctrines of the Church of the Brethren. He didn’t feel like he could do that anymore. After he turned in his ordination, someone from the head office called him and said, "Well, you could get together with others who feel the same way you do," but he didn’t feel like he could since that would mean he wouldn’t be true to his word.
We went to a different conference in Pennsylvania with friends from Kansas City during our time at Paint Creek. I picked up several brochures about various ministries while we were there. (I confess, I’m a brochure-picker-upper.) Rick read one (he’s a brochure-reader) and said, "Did you read this?" I said, "No, it says ‘For Men Only, 16 and Over.’" It was a brochure about the work in Nepal that we were eventually to become a part of. I read the brochure at Rick’s request then both of us began to pray in earnest for God’s direction concerning Rick going on the short-term mission to Nepal that this brochure mentioned. We prayed and as each thing was needed – the money for the Rick’s plane ticket, the time for Rick to have off work, money for me to live on while he was gone – God answered at just the right time. It was another boost for our faith and Rick said it helped him through the tough times when he was training to go into the mountains and when he was facing challenges during his trip. In the same way, it helped me to get through the time without him.
In the next article I’ll do some skipping and hopping around, since I’ve already written about our Nepal trip in my Postcards articles. If you feel like these articles move back and forth a lot, you have an inkling of how it felt to live it. Keep holding on as the ride continues.
November 2, 2017
By Mary Ellen Main
We raised cattle on the farm. They lived out in the pasture. We lived in the house. We didn’t have any cows as house pets. However, one calf was born during freezing temperatures which meant Dad brought him in to rejuvenate him. Apple Butter, named after what Dad was eating when he finally let me take a turn massaging the calf, grew up to live a long a healthy life – out in the pasture. Occasionally we had calves we had to bottle feed. It gave us a great sympathy for cows with their nursing calves. Man! Those little guys sure could butt. We’d fill a glass pop bottle with milk and put a rubber nipple on it. The nipple was such a tight fit, but even at that the calf’s eager eating was enough to jerk it off. They were pretty special little guys – fun to watch romping around in the pasture. There’s nothing quite as cute as a baby calf with its little wet nose and long eyelashes. We knew, though, that they lived "out there" and we also knew not to get too attached to them. The only milk cow I remember was Stuff. Though she had a name, I didn’t exactly consider her a pet. Our Charolais bull had a name, which was Charly, but that still didn’t put him in the pet category. Many people consider their horse as a lifelong (the horse’s life) companion, similar to other people’s thoughts about their "best friend" dogs. However, I wrote about our horse White Lightening, which we called Lightening for short, in my article "I Think I’ll Live." I didn’t think of Lightening as a lifelong companion nor as a "best friend."
Our barn cats were a little wild to be classified as pets. I was able to catch one a time or two and dress it in doll clothes, which might explain why they were on the wild side. When a cat would have kittens, some of them were tame enough to play with. But it seems like our cats were more of the kind we named for identification than ones to have a relationship with. We might point and say, "Look, there goes White Face," but not sit around cuddling her in our lap.
Once we got sheep for my brother’s FFA project, we enjoyed watching the lambs play "King of the Mountain." They’d stiffen their little legs when they ran, which caused a spring in their step. (We called it "boinking.") We had some orphan lambs, which we kept in a pen in the backyard. There was Buttons Honey and Maude Frickert – alias Maudi – alias Cutie (whose proper name came from one of Jonathan Winters’ characters), and some others whose names escape me. As my sister so aptly put it, those pets always came to a less-than-favorable end (like the calves).
I remember a little about when we had chickens, though I was pretty young at the time. I went with Dad to pick up a crate of chicks at the feed store in Enid one time. Now those little guys were cute! They grew up so fast. Just as with the calves and sheep, chickens were also destined for the dinner table (or to be sold), so it wasn’t a good idea to get too attached to them. I can recall the smell of scalded chicken feathers when we were dressing out the chickens that had fulfilled their life’s span. That was a smell that lingered for days. I think we all agreed that it was difficult to get too attached to something that ran around after its head was cut off (nor would a pet be put in that situation – hopefully!) Even when the hens were in their prime, they weren’t very cuddly. They mostly scowled and pecked at us. Of course we were robbing their nest of eggs, so I guess that made sense. And since the rooster was a smaller version of our bull (they both had an attitude problem), we weren’t planning on giving him the "Pet of the Year" award.
All of us have memories that have changed and adjusted through time. I audited a Criminal Psychology class a while back through edX.org and they talked about some memory studies and how they relate to the fallibility of eye witness testimonies, but I think it applies to any memories. They said some studies have been done that suggest that when we have lapses in our memory, we tend to fill in the blanks. That would make sense because as I get to visiting with my two sisters about their recollections, I get varied answers plus their memories are often a little different from mine. My sister Pam told me at one point that my memory was great because I remembered something she couldn’t recall at all, but I explained that it was probably just that I had a better imagination. My sister Jeanne is five years older than I am, so I texted her some questions about some of the earlier animals in our family. There were some that I’d heard stories about, but whose background I wasn’t sure of. The things Jeanne told me that I’d only heard about were very helpful, but the funny part was that when we began to compare shared memories there were noticeable differences.
One of the before-my-time critters was a skunk named Daisy. Jeanne said that Daisy was a very young skunk when Dad found her. She was young enough that she hadn’t learned to fear/spray people. As goofy as my dad was about a lot of things, he wouldn’t have taken a young animal from its mother. Because of that, he must have found Daisy abandoned or her mother dead. Jeanne’s pretty sure that Daisy’s home at our house was under the front porch. She had no idea what happened to her in the end; whether another animal got her or whether she just grew up and moved on. Joe the crow was also a pet I’d heard about but never knew. Jeanne remembers Dad teaching Joe to sit on his shoulder and say, "Hello Joe." She thinks he migrated with the other crows as he wasn’t around too long but I always had heard he flew into a highline wire during a storm.
A couple of wild animals I do remember were a squirrel with no name and a raccoon named Kitty Coon. I’m not sure how we acquired the squirrel but it was very young and lived an extremely short life. I’m surprised that Dad let us keep it because I’m sure he knew it wouldn’t survive. We fixed a box for the squirrel on top of the air conditioning unit in my bedroom window (on the outside). We tried to take care of it, but I remember coming home from school and finding it dead. I was so sad! One thing that stuck in my mind was the feel of the squirrel’s fur. At a distance their fur looks soft and fluffy, but this one’s fur felt almost wiry.
I think Kitty Coon’s mom drowned when the creek flooded. Dad brought Kitty Coon up to the house. His home for a little bit may have been the famous box atop the air conditioner but when he became too active for that, he came and went as he pleased. He often went back to the trees along the creek. Sometimes he’d come up to the front porch, though, and climb the screen door. We’d have the inside door open and he’d "talk" to us. He made sort of a shrill purr sound. We’d play with him when he was little (always outside), scratching his belly while he "wrestled" with our hand. Much like a cat, he’d play harder one time than another. We finally had to stop because his teeth and claws got too sharp. One night Dad heard a ruckus at the hen house. He ran outside and there was a raccoon. He hadn’t grabbed his gun but was able to chase the coon away. Kitty Coon was at Dad’s feet. The second night Dad was ready. When he heard the commotion he grabbed his gun and shot, wounding the coon, who limped away. That time it was Kitty Coon. (This is an excellent example of the "memory" thing. My sister only remembers the second night. I don’t know whether she "lost" part of the memory or I "added" some. I guess I could run a sibling survey, but the study done on memory suggested that majority doesn’t necessarily mean reality. That’s a whole other topic, but it relates to all my stories of the past.)
Dad accidentally ran over a rabbit’s nest with the disc one day. Since he killed the mama, he brought the babies to the house. He put a box down on the living room floor and brought one of our cats in. This cat acted as surrogate mother to any abandoned kittens in our "farm cat" community. With the mama cat in the box, he gently put the bunnies in one at a time to see if she would allow them to nurse. She did! I guess she didn’t like being the center of attention, though, because soon she began to relocate her new family. Dad decided at that point that it was time to take them back out to the field. He knew it was only a matter of time before the cat discovered her "inner self" as well as the fact that those weren’t kittens she was nursing. It was very special to see those bunnies, but we understood why they wouldn’t have made good pets if they were going to be mama cat’s lunch. (Even if the mama cat stayed true to her mothering instincts, the other farm animals probably would’ve still thought, "They sure look, smell, and taste like rabbits to us!")
We had a lot of brief encounters with critters. It made it fun to get close to some of the animals that we’d otherwise only see at a distance (sometimes with wisdom – such as skunks). My exact memory of which one came when is about as fuzzy as the fur on some of the critters (though not the squirrel!) Next time I’ll take a closer look at our official pets on the farm. Join me then.
By Mary Ellen Main
Doctors and dentists all seemed the same to me as a kid . . . "have needle, will poke." I don’t suppose very many people like going to the doctor for a visit, even if they like their doctor as a person.
When I was very young the concept of pediatricians, at least in my folks’ price range, was just not thought of. There were family doctors and I assume there were specialists but there was not the array of doctors there seems to be nowadays. One doctor "size" sort of fit all. It wasn’t quite like the Doc on the old westerns, but maybe it was somewhere between then and what we have now.
Though there was a doctor in Garber at the time, we usually went to Enid for our doctoring needs. One family doctor I remember when we were kids was very stern. (One of my sisters remembers him as being shy. Our perspective definitely colors our memories, as I’ve mentioned before.) He scared me most of the time. It always seemed like he was mad at me for being a kid, or at least for coming in to see him. Maybe that was his way of discouraging me from getting sick – sort of preventative medicine. The clinic waiting room, however, was a little more kid-friendly as I distinctly remember reading Highlights for Children magazine while there. Sometimes I was there while mom had an appointment, which worked better for me. I could enjoy the magazine and not have to feel like I was bothering the doctor. Still, having Highlights for Children magazine in the waiting room was nothing compared to more modern family practices where there’s often a large play area. (Even as long ago as when our son was a toddler we saw this. We went to a family practice clinic in Overland Park, Kansas that serviced a huge number of patients. In that office’s waiting room there were two separate play places. One was for sick kids and the other was for well kids. The kids paid no attention to which was which and the parents didn’t seem to either.)
According to Wikipedia, the complex that is now INTEGRIS Bass Baptist Health Center in Enid, Oklahoma is the oldest hospital in Enid. The part of the hospital that has been at its Monroe Street location has been there since 1914, founded on October 5, 1910 by Dr. Fredrick Auld Hudson. In 1914 it was incorporated as Enid General Hospital and Training School for Nurses. It became associated with the Baptist General Convention in 1953 and in 1968 was named for Harry W. Bass, Jr., president of H.W. Bass & Sons, Inc. and the Harry Bass Drilling Company. INTEGRIS Health Corporation purchased the hospital in 1994.
We knew the hospital as General Hospital when we were growing up, which seemed kind of funny since Grandma Miller watched a soap opera by the same name. We kept waiting for Nurse Jessie to show up with some tragic problem. For the most part, though, we spent time in the clinic waiting room. The doctor’s clinic was behind the hospital somewhere, though I’m not sure what its exact location was. The waiting room was a huge open area with fairly comfortable chairs lining three walls. The reception desk was off to one side and back behind it was a pharmacy. The exam rooms were off in the other direction. Since the waiting room was so big, or seemed to be at the time, I’m assuming there were several doctors practicing at that clinic.
I’ve already written about some of my medical mishaps in my 4/18/16 Homegrown article, "I think I’ll Live," but there were other times I visited doctors and hospitals. In those days tonsillectomies were a very standard procedure (though my husband Rick somehow missed out on that – must have been because he was a city kid). Mom checked me into the hospital and shortly before my surgery I was given something to help me relax. The general idea was that I would be asleep by the time I was wheeled down to surgery. For some reason I decided not to relax so when they came to wheel me down, I was still wide awake. I remember the elevator ride (in the hospital bed) down to the surgery area, through the hall and into the operating room. The doctor was working across the hall on another surgery, so they left me there – with the door to my room open and the door to the other room open. I watched whatever surgery was going on, though I couldn’t see all that much. By the time the surgeon, who was also the angry regular doctor, came in, he was even angrier than usual since his staff had left both doors open. He wasn’t too pleased with me for still being awake, either. They placed the mask on me and started the ether. Since I was already low on points with the doctor, I didn’t win any more in the surgery area because I kicked and struggled against that awful smell. On reflection, I realized relaxing and going to sleep ahead of time would have been a way better plan!
I must’ve been around 7 or 8 years old when I had my tonsils out. A few years later I was to visit the hospital again. I’d been to the clinic and Dr. Gripehead had now died. I was seeing a doctor for my asthma. He was the best asthma doctor I’d ever had because he had asthma himself and understood the problems it posed. Mom took me for a visit with him because I just wasn’t feeling well and he declared that when I coughed it was like other people with asthma wheezing. He wanted to try some medicine but wanted me in the hospital for a short visit to monitor the situation. I hoped I didn’t have to stay too long, because a friend was having a birthday party in a few days and I wanted to be home by then. This time I was sent to St. Mary’s Hospital.
Mom took me to the hospital where I went through all the admitting procedure and a young Candy Striper (volunteer) took us up to the room where I’d be. There were two beds in the room, one occupied and one unoccupied. The lady in the one bed was under an oxygen tent. She looked like something from Grandma’s soap opera except that her hair was messed up. In the soap operas only people on their deathbed (with beautiful hair and flawless makeup) used those things. I’d seen the shows. I knew. I made a comment to Mom and the Candy Striper said in her cheery little voice, "Oh sweety, you’re going to get one of those!" I knew I was a goner.
Once the staff got me all set up under the oxygen tent, though, I remember thinking, This is the cleanest air I’ve ever breathed!! I could’ve stayed under that thing forever. However, I decided I still wanted to head home before too long because of the medicine the doctor had prescribed. It was a syrup, as thick as the stuff I was supposed to be coughing up, and it tasted like black licorice. I’m not picky about most things, but that’s one taste I can do without. The medicine did exactly what it was supposed to, which made sense. It brought up all that gunk inside my lungs. (I figured the stuff was calling "its own kind" to come out.) I was out of the hospital in short order and got to attend my friend’s party, but I wanted so badly to tell that volunteer to be careful what she said to the patients.
I know the Candy Striper was trying to be encouraging. She wanted her words to make a difference to people who were coming to the hospital for all different reasons. I have to give her credit for that. Even at an early age I wanted my words to make a difference . . . such as when I tried to get on the good side of my dentist’s hygienist. We’ll leave that for Part II where you can join me for more poking, prodding and pain. Hope you can take it!
By Mary Ellen Main
Rick and I had arrived at the airport terminal parking lot, successfully guided by our car Sharkie’s navigation system. We’d been together up to this point, but now I had to start thinking about being on my own. I parked in a place where I, hopefully, could backtrack to and find my car after seeing Rick off. I’m not great with directions, so I kept trying to remember things backwards. I was tempted to leave a trail of bread crumbs, but I was afraid someone hungry might be close behind us and eat them. We unloaded Rick’s luggage then walked into a glassed-in area where there was an elevator and escalator. I noticed a huge sign above the escalator that read TERMINAL with an arrow pointing downward. Make a note, I thought to myself. We opted to take the elevator. Inside were buttons for "2," "1," and "T." We guessed that the "T" stood for "terminal." (They assume you know all this stuff.) When the elevator stopped and the doors opened, we exited to the right. There was an underground hallway that contained two moving sidewalks going opposite directions from each other on either side of an open walkway. We turned sharp left and took the sidewalk leading toward the terminal. It seemed strange that there weren’t more people around, but considering the time of the morning I guess it wasn’t that unusual. Once we got to the main area, we took the escalator straight in front of us to the next floor up. At the top of the escalator was a sign with flight updates, but as we looked around there were mostly luggage claim carousels. This didn’t seem to be the right place. We saw a sign that said "tickets" that pointed to the next floor up, so we took an escalator up one more flight. Ah! This looked more like it. We walked to our right reading the different airline names behind counters and at one place we saw a group of people standing in one of those winding "maze" lines waiting to be screened to go beyond that point. To the right of that crowd we saw the desk for United Airlines. There were two gentlemen with United vests on in front of the desk (on the passenger side) who noticed that we looked like we had no idea what we were doing. United has been in the news for dragging a customer off one of their flights, but these two gentlemen exhibited their "Fly the Friendly Skies" motto. (That was their motto from 1965 to 1996 and again starting from November 13, 2013.) In a very friendly manner one of them asked, "Do you need to check in?" I said, "He does, but I’m just seeing him off." I stepped back and the man directed Rick to one of two computers on the check-in desk. The computer faced Rick because, unlike when we’d traveled before, now the passenger checks himself or herself in.
Rick figured out the computer check-in process with a little more help from the United employee. By the time he and another passenger at the computer next to him had finished and were ready to check their luggage, a woman had appeared behind the desk to help with that. (I guess people still do that part.) Once that was all done we had to say our goodbyes, unless I wanted to watch Rick stand in the long line waiting for the first checkpoint. I couldn’t go beyond the screening area. That seemed weird. I couldn’t wait with him. We hugged and kissed and I headed back to the car – hopefully.
I came to the escalator we’d ridden to get to this floor, but it was an up-escalator, so unless I was extremely athletic (and I’m not), I couldn’t go down that way. I walked around the corner, but couldn’t find the down-escalator. Fortunately, there was an elevator, so I got in and pushed "T." (At that point I figured the "T" stood for "tunnel" rather than "terminal," though technically from the parking area the tunnel does lead you to the terminal . . . ) So far, so good. Once I was in the tunnel, I found the moving sidewalk and walked on it until I got to its first stop. Off to the right was where we’d come down from the parking area. Instead of taking the elevator, I decided to take the escalator. I rode it up one floor and saw the big sign that said TERMINAL (with the down arrow) so I knew I was at the right place. As I looked out, though, the car was nowhere in sight. As a matter of fact, there were no cars at all! How was that possible? I walked to the elevator that Rick and I had ridden down originally and saw that the number "1" was taped over on it. Hmm. Was I on a floor that didn’t exist? Even though it felt strange that I was the only one there, I was glad there was no one watching me wander around trying to figure out where I was. Before too long, I saw another up-escalator and went up one more flight. To my extreme joy, I looked out to where my car should be and it was there. You never know how nice it is to find your car until you’ve lost it!
I’d taken Rick to the airport on the 19th of October. After spending a wonderful visit with my two sisters and brother-in-law, plus my daughter coming there for an overnight visit, it was time to pick him up again. I was so glad that this time I didn’t have to be there at 4:00 in the morning. His flight would be arriving at 9:12 in the evening. I planned on leaving my sister Pam’s house around 8:00, since by that time the United website was showing that the flight was running a little early. (That website was a fun tool to have during Rick’s trip, since he didn’t have phone service overseas. I could at least check on how the flights were running.) Sharkie had done great the whole time I was in Norman, though much of my driving there had been in my sister Pam’s car. (She had an injury to her ankles and it was easier for her to get in and out of her car.) When I’d traveled to Pam’s on the 19th, there had been some recognizable landmarks along I-240, though knowing which exits to take had been challenging. The I-35 part of the drive had been familiar as I’ve traveled that road many times in the past. The same was true on my trip back to the airport. The drive from Pam’s to the street where I’d be exiting onto I-35 wasn’t difficult, but I was already having problems seeing in the dark. Sharkie couldn’t help me there. She was shining her lights as good as she could, but I couldn’t see where the actual lane was that I needed to turn into. As I got close to it, I prayed that the car in the approaching lane would lead the way and, sure enough, it turned into the lane. Now I could see where I needed to go. That happened a couple of times. Several friends were praying for my travels and I could tell those prayers were being answered. I-35 itself was not a problem – very familiar – but I couldn’t remember how to set the cruise control. There was no way I was going to mess with it while busting down the highway with cars and trucks on either side, so I just kept my foot on the pedal. I paid for that later.
It got kind of interesting at the exit for I-240. Sharkie’s directions were very clear when I needed to be in the left of the two exit lanes – extremely helpful! I got onto I-240 and from then on it was up to Sharkie’s talking dashboard. I’m still not sure what road I took, though I know SW 59th was in there somewhere. I think it was right after I’d taken that exit that I was sitting at a red light waiting to go onto the actual street. There was a car on my right, but both lanes could turn left onto SW 59th. When the light turned green, I pulled onto the street and, sure enough, the other car was beside me. I couldn’t see where my lane was this time because the lanes weren’t marked well. Not only that, but since I’d kept my foot in one position and was pretty stressed on the trip, my right foot started to cramp. Couldn’t stop, couldn’t pull over. Fortunately, it didn’t go into a full cramp. The street wound around to where I thought I was headed toward the airport, but the next thing I knew, I was being sent on another exit (from the right hand lane) then told to turn left and NOW was facing the airport. I was so turned around, but was extremely grateful for this piece of technology! I’d discussed a couple of possible routes with my sisters, but I’m not sure I could’ve pulled either of those off. Just as before, once I got to the hourly parking sign above the lane, I followed that instead of the voice. There weren’t many cars in the parking lot, though a few people were milling around putting their bags in their cars. I was able to park in the same spot as before, which I figured was to my advantage. This time I also knew that there was a "middle" parking area that was deserted, so I knew I was 2 stories up from the tunnel.
I’d made plans ahead of time not to carry my regular purse with me in the airport. That’s something I’d learned when we lived in Johannesburg. There we found that when you’re in a crowd, it’s better to carry a belly pack (aka fanny pack) with a jacket over the strap and with the strap at the back. That way you can rest one hand on the pack in case anyone tries to grab it. It was a precaution I always took then and it still seemed like a good idea. So, both times I was in the Oklahoma City airport, I opted to wear my belly pack rather than carry my purse. The only thing was, as I took the 2 escalators down to the tunnel, there was no crowd. Not only that, as I walked along the walking sidewalk, there was not a single soul in the tunnel besides me. Not one. I didn’t even see any security people. It felt like something out of The Twilight Zone. Creepy! This was Will Rogers WORLD Airport. Where were the people? There were probably security cameras, but that was little consolation. If someone did show up and wanted to do me harm, I guess at least it would be recorded for posterity!
This time I decided to start at the baggage claim area. I checked the sign at the top of the escalator and made sure Rick’s flight time agreed with what I’d read on the website. It did. Even at that, I was a little early. Now I needed to find out exactly where to go. I saw an airport worker that was pushing a luggage trolley so I asked him, "My husband is arriving at Gate 9 at 8:50. Where do I go to meet him?" He looked at me (he was reading my lips because he had ear buds in) and said, "You can’t go to the gate without clearance. You’ll have to meet him over there." He pointed to Carousel 6. "All passengers will be coming down this escalator." He pointed at the escalator next to where we were standing. I still had some time to wait, so I went to the restroom. As I walked in the room, I saw rows of empty stalls, which was about as weird as the empty tunnel. When I came out of the restroom, I walked to the carousel area and sat on one of the plastic chairs. There was a lady there with her suitcase placed closely beside her, so I sat a couple of chairs away from her. I was going to smile and greet her, but she was concentrating on her cell phone. Three gentlemen sat against the far wall apparently making some kind of conference call on one of their cell phones. Eventually the lady got up, went into the restroom, then left the airport. I assumed she’d been texting her ride on her cell phone. I checked the information board nearest the escalator and saw that Rick’s flight had arrived. At that point I stood at the base of the escalator and watched people’s feet coming down (the rest of their bodies were coming down, too . . . I assumed – there was a wall blocking the top of my view.) It was a funny exercise as I’d think, "No, no. That’s not him" then, "No way is that him." Soon I could see his tennis shoes, then his jeans, shirt (with backpack strap), that lovely white beard, and his smiling face. He saw me and pointed. I couldn’t get too excited because there was a man directly in front of him on the escalator and I thought he’d think I was making googly eyes at him. Shortly the man in front was off the escalator and Rick was in my arms. We walked over to the luggage carousel where I took his backpack and he walked over to wait for his one suitcase to come out on the conveyer belt.
As I stood there, I was amazed. Rick’s earlier flights had been packed, but this one from Houston hadn’t been. Still, there were several people on it. I was the only person waiting to greet someone. Once Rick got his suitcase, we went to the elevator and trekked back to the car. We talked about how different this scene was from our earlier airport experiences.
Earlier when I’d checked out the airport terminal’s parking lot map online, I’d noticed they had areas called cell phone parking lots. (My sister Pam says she likes to wait in those.) I knew Rick could’ve called me once he arrived at the airport, since his phone would work Stateside, but it seemed more intimidating to me to be sitting out in my car in a parking lot in the dark than it would be to go inside the airport. (Of course that was before I realized how spooky it would be to walk through an empty tunnel!) Apparently it’s not that way for other people. As a matter of fact, one of the articles I read said the airport authority had added 2 more cell phone lots because so many people use them. I guess people wait in their car until their arriving person calls them, then they drive to the curbside arrivals area and pick them up. I can see how that helps keep traffic moving. I think other people even wait in the short term parking area and those traveling walk out to the people waiting for them. But it seemed so strange. There were no airport scenes as we remembered them. People couldn’t hang around with their loved one(s), waiting with them until their flight took off. I have such fond memories of that and how those times helped the transition that travel often brought. It has been a long time since those travel days. Times have changed; stricter security has been called for. I get that. But I wonder if we aren’t missing out on something so needed – human interaction. I don’t blame people for waiting out in their cars, though, since there’s really no place for them to wait inside anymore.
When we were getting in our car at the airport, there were people putting their luggage in the car next to us. I made a comment to Rick about waiting for the lady to shut her door so I could pull out of the parking space. Rick answered that they were probably road-weary travelers. You do come home from travels all worn out, but I don’t think anything will ever take the place of someone with a friendly smile and a warm hug waiting there to greet you when you get off the plane. That’s not happening.
Rick and I both had great trips. We’re grateful for all the friends and family that helped make them possible through their prayers and financial gifts. Rick so appreciated the opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at Strategic Impact by way of participating in their ministry. All that being said, it was still good to see each other once more. As crazy as it was walking down the Twilight Zone Tunnel all by myself, it was worth it to have my homegrown honey back in my arms again.
This "postcard from abroad" has to do with something that was with me throughout our travels. It has to do with memories of home. We saw some pretty spectacular landscape in Switzerland, the lush, deep green of the Scotland countryside, and the breathtaking view of the Himalayas. What’s my favorite of the things I’ve seen of the natural world? The Oklahoma night sky. In 2014 I wrote a piece for Oklahoma Writer’s Federation’s writing contest in their Nostalgia category. I was honored with a Third Place prize. Though the piece was written about a mid-summer night, looking up in the night sky the last few nights (as of the writing of this) at the clear, bright stars reminds me of those days. I thought my readers might enjoy the journey back with me to that…
STARRY, STARRY NIGHT
The oppressive heat bore down on my sister and me. To our young minds, each miserable moment felt like a lifetime in that stuffy bedroom. The old black oscillating fan wasn’t much help. Its heavy, greasy frame sat strategically between the bunk beds we shared and the bunk beds our older sister and brother shared. Momentarily a wisp of moving air would brush across my skin. Even that was hot.
To make matters worse, the sound of the fan burned into my brain. With no other distractions, the fan droned on and drew me into my dream world. I had a recurring nightmare about a monster coming around the edge of the house, always with the background noise of the fan. For some reason, I was sure if I didn’t completely cover up, the monster would get me. As the sound continued my dream progressed, till I finally made myself wake up. Drenched in sweat, I had the dream fresh on my mind. The fan sound made it seem like I was still in the dream.
"It’s too hot to sleep inside," I mumbled, flipping my pillow so I could lie on the cool
side of it. I turned on my side, leaving a damp sweaty place where I had been lying.
"It’s too hot to sleep inside!" I repeated, this time loud enough so I thought my sistercould hear.
"I heard you the first time," Pam said. "I’m just as hot as you are." Our tempers rose with the heat index.
I finally whined enough that Pam hollered for Mom. "We’re hot! Can we sleep out on the
rollaway bed tonight?" Our older sister and brother cast their vote for us to go so we’d be quiet.
Mom finally agreed after Pam persisted. Dad helped take the bed outside and my sister and I grabbed a sheet and some pillows.
The rollaway bed lived up to its name in our yard. Though our part of Oklahoma was flat, our yard was slanted. Fortunately, our propane tank stood where the yard met the side of the driveway. Besides being Silver, our trusty steed, the propane tank was also a good place for our rollaway bed to rest against.
Oklahoma is known for its gales, but we only slept outside on calm nights during that mid-60’s summer. However, when we slept outside we did hope for a little breeze, preferably coming from any direction but the south. The propane tank was located straight north and a little west of the sewer. Any breeze from that direction was not welcome, even in the heat.
The clothesline stood just to one side of the sewer ditch. I’m not sure which came first, the sewer or the clothesline, but it was poor planning either way. It was a great learning tool, though. We learned at an early age which direction was south and avoided it at all cost. No one wanted to step in the sewer ditch or get strangled by the clothesline.
Once the rollaway was all ready for us, my sister and I piled in. Our farm dogs, Curly and Sport, came running over to see what we were doing, but lost interest pretty quickly. As we lie there looking up, the stars began to appear one by one. Before we knew it, a whole group was in one section of the sky. Lightening bugs joined the twinkling at first, little warm flits of light glowing first here, then there, all around us. Soon they disappeared and we realized all the twinkling was coming from the far sky. Like glitter flung across the immense darkness, the stars shone bright and clear from horizon to horizon.
"Look!" I whispered, as if the night was quieter, more magical than the daytime. "There’s the Milky Way!"
"I see the handle of the Big Dipper," Pam said, nudging me to look where she was pointing. Together we found the Little Dipper.
I never was much on the specifics of astronomy, but the sky was so clear that it wasn’t hard to see the different formations we were familiar with.
"Over there!" she exclaimed. "A shooting star!"
I looked quickly, hoping to see the spectacular display of trailing light. "I see it!" I tried
to take in the whole sky at once so I wouldn’t miss one of those rare falling stars.
"I love the stars!" I exclaimed loudly, so caught up in the magnificent display of light that I forgot to whisper. I threw my arms out accidentally smacking my sister.
"Hey!" she answered back quickly. After a moment of silence she said, "Me, too."
"I read somewhere that when a star dies, it takes millions of years for us to realize it because most stars are so far away." I knew Pam was wondering with me which of those shining stars really wasn’t there anymore. I tried to count the stars, but lost my place before I got very far. "How many did you count?" I asked.
"Forty-seven…no, fifty-two…," she said, trying not to lose count. Then we laughed because we knew we could never count them all.
I never liked nighttime in the house and was afraid of what might be roaming around in the dark outside, but when I looked at the stars, none of that mattered. When I looked at the stars, I was there with them in another place. All of a sudden my world, and my problems, looked small.
I’ve lived all over the world and seen some beautiful sights, but none rivals those early memories of the clear Oklahoma nights as a child. I don’t camp out, nor do I live in a place where I can see the stars very well at night. But every once in a while, on a clear night, I get a glimpse of them. It reminds me of those simpler times, lying there under the night sky with my sister. Some things have changed so much since then, but the night sky is still just as spectacular as ever.
THAT ENDS THE PIECE.
Johannesburg, South Africa, was a city of 12,000,000 people when we lived there. You could travel many miles without leaving the city area. The first time we landed there was at night and the lights looked like the night sky turned upside down. I’ve always loved the city lights, though there were many things about the city I wasn’t that fond of. But because of those lights, there was no way the night sky was going to show up very brilliant. However, during our stay in South Africa we did go to the farm of the couple that owned the mission where we worked. You could see the sky at night from their farm. Something fascinating about that was that I couldn’t find the star formations I’d found when my sister and I had admired our night sky. We were in a different hemisphere. A noted star formation in the southern hemisphere is the Southern Cross. As I looked up at that cross, it amazed me that this was the same night sky as at home, but a different group of stars. It reminded me, again, of just how vast the sky was.
The mysteries of the universe are beyond my comprehension. I don’t even know what makes a star twinkle. But I have no doubt that there are stars. Just because I don’t understand them doesn’t mean I question their existence. I don’t understand how the Creator of the Universe could become a baby, flesh and blood, and be born of a virgin. I don’t understand why the Creator of the Universe would want to reach to earth to give every single person the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. I don’t get it. But I don’t have to understand it to know that it’s true. Just as sure as the stars twinkle on a clear night, His love burns brightly for each and every one of us. One big difference is, His love will never fade or fall away. Make Jesus the Star of your Christmas this year. Then you will "…shine like the brightness of the heavens,…and…like the stars for ever and ever." (Daniel 12:3 NIV)
By Mary Ellen Main
There are many times in our lives when we need direction. The first summer my husband Rick and I lived in Kansas City I worked for Kelly Services, a service that provided temporary employees to companies. My jobs would last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the need. Rick was familiar with the Kansas City area, having grown up there, but I had never lived there before. In those days I was a courageous driver. All I needed was someone to show me the way to go and I’d go. Since it happened to be a rainy summer, Rick also showed me alternate routes to take in case of flooding. Once I got a new assignment, Rick would take me on a trial run the night before the job was to start. Because I had such a great navigator on the first run, I never had trouble getting to the new job and back home at the end of the day.
When we lived in Johannesburg, South Africa, and were working at a local church, we had friends that lived across town from us---way across town. In order to get to their house, we had to pick up the concrete highway not far from our house then get off of it and go into the downtown area until we entered into another suburb area (a very nice description of "another part of the city") until, finally, we’d arrive at their house. One day Rick took great care and got us to their house, but when it was time to go home, we had an added challenge. It was dark by then. We headed out but by the time we hit the downtown area we were in trouble. We found ourselves too deep into the inner city. We knew the rules. A red robot (stoplight) meant slow down, glance, and go, because anything could happen in the blink of an eye if you stopped. Rick finally figured out a route out of that jungle and we made it home all in one piece, though he vowed not to do that again. The next time we were invited, another couple went with us. Rick drove, but the man of the couple showed him the way. Because Rick had such a great navigator that time, we had no trouble getting to our friend’s house and, more importantly, back home at the end of the day.
Rick often transported people to various activities when we lived in South Africa. Once our friend Blossom had some serious medical needs and couldn’t afford to tend to them. She had a relative in Port Elizabeth, however, that wanted to help her out. The only problem was, she needed a way to get to Port Elizabeth. Rick insisted on driving her there. They had a nice trip together, he dropped her off then he returned to Johannesburg. His understanding was that she would call when she was recuperated enough to travel and he’d bring her home. He went on about his usual activities but after some time had passed he was surprised she hadn’t called. Finally a call came in from her, only she wasn’t in Port Elizabeth, she was in Johannesburg. Apparently her relative had given her money for train fare so she could return to Jo’burg. From the train station she would need to walk to the taxi rank to get a ride home. Unfortunately, at the end of the long train ride and the painful walk, she found that the taxis were on strike. It was at that point that she decided to call Rick. He was surprised that she was back in Johannesburg, but glad that she’d made it okay. Misunderstanding her location, he headed to the train station to pick her up. When he didn’t find her there, he called her back.
Sister Blossom’s accent was not that hard for Rick to understand, but he had trouble understanding the directions she was trying to give him. Finally she gave her phone to a policeman who was standing nearby and he gave Rick directions. The new problem was that Rick couldn’t understand the policeman’s thick accent. Rick was in a quandary. Sister Blossom was stranded, she couldn’t give directions that Rick could understand, and Rick couldn’t understand the directions the policeman was giving so that Rick could go pick her up. In Johannesburg many people sell their wares along the sidewalks. Outside the train station is no exception. Rick finally walked up to one of the vendors, handed him his cell phone and said, "Can you tell me what this man is saying?" (When he related that story to me later, I said, "You what?! You handed your cell phone to some guy on the street?" Apparently he was desperate.) The vendor listened intently for a moment, nodded his head then spoke in a voice that Rick could understand and showed Rick the way to the location where he would find Sister Blossom. Once Rick had someone show him the way, he was able to rescue Sister Blossom and get her safely home at the end of the day.
We attended two wedding feasts in Soweto, one at the home of the bride’s family and the other at the home of the groom’s family. When we went into Soweto the second time, we went down this street, turned, down another street, and around several corners. The streets were unpaved and narrow so it was sort of like driving along a series of alleys and there were little block houses everywhere. When we were getting ready to head back out of Soweto from one of the feasts, someone asked our host, "Do they need someone to show them the way?" They were asking because it was not particularly safe for us to be driving around Soweto, especially if we didn’t know where we were going. Not only that, but we were the only white faces for miles around in an area where there’d been much unrest in the past. Our host, however, answered confidently, "No, they’ll be okay. They’re Christians." What was funny was that Rick did take a wrong turn somewhere and we found ourselves on the wrong road. People milled about everywhere in Soweto; children played in the yards and the streets, adults sat on door stoops and gathered in groups, and many people walked on their way to and from work or at least to a taxi rank so they could get to work. There were any number of people Rick could have asked to direct us, but how could he know the best choice? We prayed and Rick pulled up beside a man who was walking, rolled down his window, and explained our situation. The man was very helpful, explaining that we weren’t far from the main road after all, and directed Rick as to how to best get back on track. Once we had someone to show us the way, we were able to get back home safely at the end of the day.
Many, many years ago a journey was begun by some men from a far country. No one knows exactly how many men were on this journey, but they were of high standing. They had studied the stars and knew that one star in particular was the one they were to follow. Of all the things they needed for the trip, the most significant were three gifts---gold, incense, and myrrh. They could not leave on their journey until the star appeared. They needed it to show them the way. They traveled until they reached Jerusalem, where they consulted with King Herod. Surely he would know of the King of the Jews that was to be born. Herod panicked secretly, fearing for his own kingship. He consulted with the religious leaders to see where this great one was to be born. "In Bethlehem of Judea," was their answer. Back in the presence of the travelers, Herod shared what he’d learned and asked them to be sure and let him know if they found this great one, so that he too could worship him. They continued on until the star rested over a house in Bethlehem. The travelers were filled with joy! They found a couple, Mary and Joseph, and a toddler, Jesus, in the house. They fell down and worshipped the child and offered him their gifts. Herod didn’t intend to worship the child, he intended to destroy him. Warned in a dream, the travelers went home by a different route. They were shown another way so that they made it home safely. Joseph was also warned in a dream to take Mary and Jesus and flee into Egypt to escape Herod. Because Joseph was shown a way of escape, he and his family made it safely to a new home and Jesus was kept safe for all his heavenly Father had planned for him.
From the time we’re born, we’re created with a need for someone to show us the way home. Unfortunately, there are many paths that don’t lead home. We’re generally willing to look for the right road home when we’re going through a tragedy or when we’re in need, but when things are going good we figure a nice, wide, smooth path is the only way to go. If you were headed home and couldn’t wait to get there, would you take a road that looked great, even if it led you somewhere else? God in the form of Jesus Christ came as a baby in a manger to show us the way home. We have someone to show us the way so that we can return home safe at the end of the day. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and that this year you find the Path that leads home.
By Mary Ellen Main
I often miss Beaver’s community Thanksgiving service because some years it conflicts with Writers of the Purple Sage’s monthly meeting in Woodward. This year, however, the WOPS meeting was scheduled for November 29th, so I was able to attend the community gathering. There’s a slightly different flavor to each get-together, depending on how the host church decides to organize it for that year. This year’s service was a pleasant mix of music specials, congregational singing, an encouraging message, an opportunity to give financially toward community needs, and the traditional afterglow of food and fellowship. I enjoyed seeing one lady I hadn’t seen for quite some time and catching up on news with some other friends.
Sometimes when I attend events with Rick, my husband, I have this crazy idea that it might be fun to sit together. I gave up on that idea long ago when it came to funerals he was conducting, since he sits up front. Friends often adopt me for the day when I attend. I don’t even expect Rick to know I’m there at those times as he tends to be quite focused. However, at other community events there is an outside chance that he might consent to be seen with me. It’s often up to me to maintain this togetherness as this scenario is quite common: We arrive in the same vehicle, walk in the building side by side and the next thing I know, he’s disappeared. I scan the crowd and notice he’s talking with someone across the room. He continues mingling as I find a place for us to sit, hoping he remembers that we came together. When we attend events hosted by the Ministerial Fellowship, there’s an added twist. Sometimes the ministers decide to sit together. Anyone who is familiar with this group of gentlemen knows that they can be dangerous when they get together. Often by the time the service has begun, there’s a possibility that they’ll have to be separated like children who are unsupervised. Actually, they get along so well and are an asset to the community and the county but they know that camaraderie and laughter help with the heavier side of life.
So as we walked into the Baptist Church for the community Thanksgiving service, I led Rick to the pew where we’d possibly be sitting (so he could find it after his mingling moments) and waited for him to find out if the ministers would be sitting together. Rick learned that his assignment was to do the welcome and opening prayer, so he decided to sit with me. That made the service particularly meaningful because, aside from our mutual participation in the celebration, we were able to share in a few memories that the service brought to mind.
Both of the memories had to do with Pastor Miguel, pastor of the Hispanic Mission in Beaver. I’ve had some delightful conversations with Pastor Miguel about his interpreting experiences. During our Missions Conference last year at First Christian Church here in Beaver, one of the guests was Gonzalo Flores, president of Colegio Biblico which has a campus in Eagle Pass, Texas and one in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Mr. Flores had been the interpreter the year before at an event called the International Conference on Missions. Our daughter, Briana, had attended that conference but hadn’t been able to make it to the main session where Mr. Flores was interpreting. I mentioned the event to him, but he said it didn’t go all that well. The problem was, he wasn’t able to get with the main speaker before the man’s presentation. If he had been able to, he’d have explained a few things that are crucial when interpreting a speech. Two things he mentioned to me were that poems and songs are very difficult to interpret, especially on the spur of the moment. Apparently the speaker that year had both. When I visited with Pastor Miguel a little while after visiting with Mr. Flores, he agreed and added that jokes are another thing that can’t be interpreted without a great deal of explanation. Even then, sometimes the humor in different cultures varies, so it can be tricky.
When Pastor Miguel walked up to interpret for the brother who was going to sing a solo at the Thanksgiving service, it took me by surprise. He interpreted the welcome and praise that the man shared then the man began to sing. I half expected Pastor Miguel to burst out in song, even though I knew songs don’t always translate well, but he just stood there. I guess he was only there for the speaking part. At our Missions Fair three students from Colegio Biblico had sung "How Great is Our God" in Spanish and the congregation had joined them, singing in English.
I guess if the song is simple enough, it works. But another thought is that the interpreter may not be a singer! We appreciated Pastor Miguel interpreting the beginning words of the brother then sat back and listened to the beautiful song that was presented in Spanish. It reminded us of listening to some of the songs in Nepal and South Africa where we didn’t understand the words, but the music still ministered to our hearts. The brother’s voice rang out loud and clear and I admired his courage for standing up in front of the congregation and sharing with us. From our own experiences, we know it can be intimidating when the majority of the people around you speak a different language, even in the church. The song reminded me so much of special music at Eldorado Park in Johannesburg, except for one thing. At Eldo when someone sang a solo, it was common for the congregation to join in (all of them but us knowing the language). Since the majority of us didn’t know Spanish or the song our brother was singing for this year’s community celebration we couldn’t do that, but I would’ve loved to hear the Spanish speaking people raise their voices and join the soloist. When voices joined like that in South Africa, it seemed the song was less of a solo or performance, and more of a participation in praise. Occasionally we caught ourselves singing parts of the song that repeated, even though we didn’t understand the language.
Sometimes in our local services the congregation is invited to join in for part of a song that is being sung by a group or individual, but in South Africa it was the rule rather than the exception. It was just a different way of doing things but a reminder to us that sometimes different can be beautiful.
Pastor Jeff of the Methodist Church in Forgan was chosen to speak at the community service this year, being the "new kid on the block." Pastor Miguel’s presence up front to interpret his message into Spanish triggered another memory for us, the memory of having someone interpret our speaking. When we were on our survey trip we went to Maputo, Mozambique to visit with some missionaries. (I wrote about that experience in my postcards article "The Place We Didn’t Live," published May 2, 2013.) Rick traveled farther north to a church that met in the bush in order to preach. Our missionary friend he traveled with interpreted his message into Portuguese and the local pastor interpreted that message into Shangaan, the local language. Rick said it felt like he had an echo, particularly since he didn’t know either language. He had to wait until the local pastor was completely done speaking before he could continue. I experienced something similar at the school on the compound in Maputo. It surprised me that I was asked to speak, but I guess it was their custom to ask visitors to share something from the Scriptures. I decided to share the story of Zacchaeus, the man who wanted to see Jesus so badly that he climbed up in a tree to catch a glimpse as Jesus passed by. Before sharing the Bible story, I shared with the children about how I grew up on a farm. It felt like I was talking in a barrel as I had to speak slowly so the interpreter could understand me then I had to remember what I’d just said so I knew what to say next. That was with just one interpreter. I’m so glad my memory was better in those days! I’ve also shared in another article how I spoke at a Ladies’ Day not long after we arrived in South Africa. Again, I had an interpreter, only this time my speech was interpreted into Xhosa. Unfortunately, I had a poem to share. When I read it, the lady who was interpreting just looked at me. She said, "You’ll have to explain it to me and I’ll explain it to the ladies afterwards." That’s kind of a blow when you think you’ve shared something truly inspirational and discover your audience would have no clue as to what it meant. Rather humbling.
As we sat at this year’s community Thanksgiving service approaching our 12th Thanksgiving in Beaver, we couldn’t help but be reminded of what experiences we’ve come through to bring us to this moment in time. We’re thankful to God for bringing us here, not only physically but spiritually and emotionally. I’ve mentioned many times that this is the longest Rick and I have lived anywhere in our married life, but when we begin to get comfortable with our little world here, we’re reminded of some of our experiences around the world. We’re reminded what it feels like to be the minority in a place and culture that is either just unfamiliar or outright hostile to our own, but that, through Christ, this world is not our home anyway. No matter what language, tribe, or nation, around the throne of the Lamb of God we’ll have a community Thanksgiving service that no one has to miss. Hope to see you there!
By Mary Ellen Main
The savory aroma wafted through the fellowship hall, down the hallway, and around the corner where I was standing conversing with friends. I stopped mid-sentence and breathed deeply.
"Turkey," I said in answer to their puzzled looks. "You can’t mistake the smell of turkey cooking."
Since it was the church’s annual Thanksgiving meal, a few of them shrugged as if to say I’d stated the obvious, but a couple of others grinned and smiled. They understood. It wasn’t just the smell of turkey, it was all that it brought to mind.
When I was growing up, my family always spent Thanksgiving a quarter of a mile up the road at Grandpa and Grandma Miller’s house. My dad’s brother Jon lived with my grandparents and helped them with the farming. Dad’s sister Mitzi lived close enough, so she and her family were also around for Thanksgiving. Uncle Tommy lived farther away, so we generally saw him at harvest time, which ended with a family 4th of July celebration, though occasionally he and his family would make it for Christmas.
A week to a few days before Thanksgiving, my folks would have the same conversation. Mom would wait until she couldn’t stand it any longer then would finally ask, "Did your mom say anything to you about us coming for Thanksgiving?"
Dad would shrug and answer, "We always go. We don’t have to be invited."
That conversation took place all year long at our house in various forms and regarding various subjects. Mom was a planner. Dad was spontaneous. We’d always end up going, even without an official invitation. Dad was the designated turkey cooker, so I guess he felt like he had job security and didn’t need an invitation. Because of Dad’s "job," that glorious aroma would begin the night before Thanksgiving as he cooked a bird that would feed all thirteen of us.
I don’t remember exactly what all was at our meal, but I do remember Aunt Mitzi made pecan and pumpkin pies and Grandma made the old-fashioned stuffing and mincemeat pies. Even though I didn’t like everything we had there, the aroma of turkey cooking triggers a simpler time, a special memory of those people and that place.
It even brings me back to one Thanksgiving when were in a volunteer service. We’d just finished our training and were on our way to the organization’s headquarters. We’d be spending Thanksgiving in one of the group houses with some of the other volunteers. A staff member of the organization was driving the bus as we traveled non-stop from New Windsor, Maryland to Elgin, Illinois. It was an old school bus in which we had our stuff strewn about. One of the people in the group had put a sign in the back window that said, "Honk if you love Jesus." Several people who ended up following us along that trip would honk and wave as they passed us. The bus wasn’t capable of moving too fast. The only thing I remember about the actual meal we had for our Thanksgiving celebration that year, though, was that we had fried chicken. The reason I remember that was one of the young men made the statement that he hated fried chicken because it always got on his glasses. (Don’t try to figure it out. We couldn’t and we were right there with him.)
That special aroma also triggers the memory of the time we went to my sister’s for Thanksgiving. It was our son Gene’s first Thanksgiving. I don’t remember what vehicle we owned at the time, just that it wouldn’t make the trip from Kansas City, Kansas, to Norman, Oklahoma. Rick’s sister and her husband let us borrow their pickup for the trip. (Kindness brings sweet remembrances!) Since Gene was born September 1, he was still pretty little, so traveling with him was a challenge. The trip went well, though. As far as the meal itself, I don’t remember what all we ate. I’m sure there were the traditional goodies, since my family’s pretty big on standard traditional foods, but the funny tradition that has happened several times has to do with the person cooking the turkey. My brother-in-law cooked the turkey and, as far as I know, is still the main turkey cooker of the family. For some reason, though, the pop-up thermometers don’t cooperate for him. Everything else is ready to eat, but the turkey cooks longer and longer and longer until it is finally done. I don’t think anyone in that bunch gets bent out of shape as there is always plenty to eat as everyone waits for the turkey to get done.
The Thanksgiving memories triggered from my husband Rick’s family are of a house full of people and then a long table surrounded by a large family. Often there is a card table off to the side, laden with extra goodies. The funniest memory of Thanksgiving with Rick’s family was one year when they were in the house where they lived when I came into the family. The first room in the house was the den or great room, as they called it. From that room you stepped into the dining room, where it was just wide enough to get around the large rectangular table when everyone was seated. It was especially a tight fit when the whole family was there. This particular year we sat down, Dad said the prayer, and people began passing food. It seemed we’d never get a bite to eat, but eventually the chatter and movement began to slow. It felt and looked like we were moving and talking in slow motion until, finally, both stopped altogether. As is often the case, though, once some of the food was eaten, people began asking for seconds. Since Rick’s dad was at the head of the table, when he asked for seconds, much of the food he wanted was at the other end. No one said anything, but soon there was a secret, hidden message circulating amongst us. We decided to just keep handing things down to Dad. He didn’t refuse them. He ate them. We watched him as his eyes began to glaze over from all the food. Finally we took pity on him and quit sending food his way. I think he took a huge nap that afternoon.
As I stood there that day at church and got a whiff of that familiar aroma, my shoulders visibly relaxed, my tenseness began to dissolve, and my worries and cares floated down the hall with the sweet smell. It was a temporary reprieve from a much more complicated world. It’s amazing what a simple little smell can do.
I can remember a time, though, when a cooking turkey didn’t smell all that great. We were at the mission in Johannesburg. It was during the time when we lived in a downstairs flat. We had a small oven of our own by that time, so part of the time we ate meals at the dining room and part of the time I cooked our meals. This particular weekend we’d been given a turkey that had come in as part of a food donation. Its "use by" date had expired and its history was questionable. That was the nature of donations. I realize expiration dates on some products is not all that vital, but somehow a turkey whose "use by" date had expired made me a little nervous. Old poultry that has possibly been thawed and refrozen puts me in mind of an oft-used expression of Sam the Eagle, one of the Muppet characters. He was always saying (about something very obviously dangerous), "This seems unsafe." I asked several people about it, but they all assured me that it would be fine. As I prepared the turkey, I still wasn’t convinced, but decided I’d give it a try. I did everything according to the instructions, placed it in our little oven, and headed upstairs to church.
Even with my misgivings, it was fun to think that we’d have a nice, special lunch waiting for us in our own little home when we got back from church. The service was over, we enjoyed the fellowship afterwards then I excused myself to go check on the turkey. I anticipated the same spectacular aroma I’d come to recognize, knowing the minute I opened our door I wouldn’t only be greeted with a lovely smell but an experience; a moment of reminiscing. Lost in thought, I rounded the corner into the hallway that led to our door and was greeted, instead, with a somewhat foreign odor. It wasn’t exactly a horrible smell. I thought perhaps I was catching a whiff of one or more of the many unpleasant smells that can accompany inner city community living. However, when I unlocked our door and walked into our flat, there was no question. The smell was from our cooking turkey, and it wasn’t good. We would be eating in the lunchroom for that meal and this turkey wasn’t going to bring back fond memories.
It’s fair to say that "one bad turkey (smell) don’t spoil the whole bunch," since the great smell of a good turkey cooking is truly "aromatherapy." Remembering fun family gatherings, the warmth of friendship, and the familiarity of those special holiday times can help us remember the important things in life. It’s like taking a deep breath of fresh, clean air, closing our eyes and forgetting whatever is troubling us in our fast-paced, crazy world—calming and gratifying, if only for a moment.
Take a moment this Thanksgiving to enjoy whatever it is that brings that momentary reprieve, but consider this. When you’re done and open your eyes again, the world will still be here, more vivid and wilder than ever. If you really want to celebrate this Thanksgiving, be thankful to God for Christ Jesus. Let Him open your eyes so that you can have peace in Him, in spite of the world around you. His peace is not a momentary reprieve; it lasts forever. The "aroma of Christ," the sweet promise of eternal life for ALL who will believe in Him, is better than any momentary reprieve or temporary holiday. Let the real celebration begin!
August 27, 2015
Postcards: The Bread Truck
By Mary Ellen Main
We’ve been known to name our vehicles at times. There
was Pokey, a yellow ‘66 Ford van that lumbered down the street pretty
much from curb to curb. Whitey was an ’82 Datsun diesel pickup, King was
an ’84 Nissan diesel pickup and The Flying Dutchman was what we called
the first motorcycle we owned together. I’d rather not say Rick’s name
for the car I had when we met. (It was a ‘73 Opal Manta. I guess it was
hard to find parts for and had a few problems. All I knew was that it
was cute and sporty.) One vehicle we owned was named by a man in the
church where Rick was preaching at the time: He called it the Bread
August 6, 2015
Postcards from Abroad:
Writer’s recent travels, Part III
(EDITOR’S NOTE: We ran what we thought was Part III of Mrs. Main’s column last week. Indeed, it was the wrong piece. So, we would like apologize to her and are running the correct version this week!)
By Mary Ellen Main
We spent Friday and Saturday night at Golden Bell Camp and Conference Center (Camp Bell) near Divide, Colorado then on Father’s Day we headed to our next destination. It was going to be a "memory" destination for me, but not for Rick. We were headed for Manitou Springs, Colorado to stay at the same motel as Stephen’s folks and to have breakfast with them on Monday morning. With all the wedding activities we hadn’t had an uninterrupted visit with them. The reason this part of our trip was a "memory" destination for me was that my family had gone on vacation when I was a young girl and had stayed at a motel in Manitou Springs. We’d driven up Pike’s Peak, gone to Cave of the Winds, and seen Garden of the Gods. It was fun this time to pass those signs as we arrived in the Manitou Springs area. Before we got too far from Divide, though, we stopped for breakfast at a place we’d passed several times during the wedding days. It was a cute little restaurant in Woodland Park called Grandmother’s Kitchen.
The road from Divide to Manitou Springs cut through the rocks and had some more of those streams alongside the road. Sometimes there’d be a meadow off to one side and other times there’d be mountains. The traffic wasn’t too heavy so it was easy to watch for our road signs. As we took the Manitou Springs exit, it sloped down into a picturesque little downtown area.
At the bottom of the slope was a roundabout that made it easy for the downtown traffic to run smoothly. We drove through that area and just a little past the shops was the Silver Saddle Motel, the motel that Laura had found for us.
Since we were too early to check into our room, we drove back to the downtown area, parked, and got some much-needed exercise by walking around town. For the most part, we looked in the windows of the shops, but there were a couple of them we went in. Rick’s favorite shop was a mountain man shop. Years ago he’d owned a muzzle loader, so he enjoyed looking at all the paraphernalia they had available. He was amazed that they had such reasonable prices, since it was a touristy area. He didn’t buy anything there, but I bought a book by Agnes Moreley Cleveland called "No Life for a Lady," a first person account of Mrs. Cleveland’s experiences in the Southwest. (She was born in 1874.) I thought reading it might help with a western short story I’m writing. Across from the mountain man shop was a large park. We crossed the street to check out the shops on that side of the road, but stood for a minute listening to the music that was drifting up from the park. There was a stream between us and the park, so we looked at it and enjoyed the cool shade from the trees along the walkway. I finally got to hear my babbling brook at something other than highway speed. After a short rest we wandered across a footbridge down to the park pavilion. The mountain music we’d heard earlier was clear and sweet. We glanced around while we stood there listening and saw that there was some kind of pet event going on. It was then I remembered seeing posters here and there that said something like "Paws in the Park." There were a couple of tables set up around the park where people were selling t-shirts, and we noticed one booth said something about animal rescue. There was a play place for children and several people were sitting in the chairs under the pavilion, along with their dogs on leashes, listening to the music. We’d also noticed that many of the people walking around town had dogs.
Though we’d anticipated cooler temperatures in Colorado, it was quite warm as we walked around town. We decided to go into the Sahara Restaurant and get something cool to drink. We each had a diet Coke and I even "needed" some ice cream to cool me off. We asked to see a menu, for later consideration, and the waitress had given us a takeaway menu. There were several types of gyros sandwiches, which Rick isn’t all that keen on, so we decided we probably wouldn’t return there for lunch. After walking around some more, we decided to look for a different eatery where we could have a nice, leisurely lunch. We found The Loop Restaurant which was, understandably, right at the roundabout. It specialized in Mexican food but also had a couple of other items on the menu. The food, service, comfortable booth, and air-conditioning were all great but my favorite thing about the place was their ice water. I think I had about 6 glasses of it. One of the waiters kept an eye on my water glass and when I’d empty it and put it on the outside edge of the table, he’d come to my rescue. At one point when he mentioned how good it is to remain hydrated, I said, "Well, they do call this place Manitou SPRINGS, don’t they?" The water was very refreshing!
We checked into the motel around 3:00 and I texted Laura to let her know we’d arrived. She and Gerald and some of their kids had left Divide not long after we had, but had opted to go to Pike’s Peak for a little sightseeing. After they arrived at the motel, which wasn’t all that long after we did, Gerald headed to the Denver airport with their two daughters and one son-in-law so they could pick up their flights home. Laura stayed back in Manitou Springs. She needed to look for a couple of gifts for the people watching her dog, so she and I headed back to the downtown area while Rick relaxed in our room.
Laura found her gifts at the first place we stopped, which was a shop Rick and I hadn’t been in, so that was fun for me as well. We walked around a little more then began a search for where we might have breakfast in the morning. Our main goal was to find a place that had booths, since Rick is more comfortable in that type of seating, and a place where Laura could find something other than wheat products to eat. The booth situation was the trickiest, since many places had beautiful wood furniture – nice to look at but very uncomfortable for sitting on. Finally we headed back to the room and asked the desk clerk about the motel’s breakfast-only restaurant. She shook her head when we asked about booths, explaining that they had tables and chairs only. There was one other place we’d seen, but it wasn’t open that time of the evening so we couldn’t see inside. It was called Uncle Sam’s Pancake House and was just down the road from the motel. We asked the clerk about that place and she said not only did they have booths but they had the best biscuits and gravy she’d ever tasted (and also had things on the menu that weren’t made with wheat). Uncle Sam’s Pancake House got our vote!
After Gerald arrived back from the airport run, he and Laura had to take Stephen’s car back to Divide where Holly’s family lives. It was about a 30 minute drive one way, so they were anxious to get on their way. After they got back to Manitou Springs they ate supper and headed to their room. Rick and I relaxed and watched old movies on TCM. We all looked forward to the next morning’s breakfast visit.
The motel clerk had been right, the biscuits and gravy at the pancake house were stellar. Rick and I can both attest to that. They were only exceeded by the visit we had with our friends, who we see far too infrequently. After our visit and breakfast, the Riffes headed to meet a friend who was riding with them back to Kansas City and we headed for home. Rick had studied the map the night before to decide what our route would be. The most straightforward way, he’d decided, was to take Highway 24E out of Manitou Springs to Interstate 25S, which we’d pick up in Colorado Springs. From there we’d head to Pueblo where we’d pick up Highway 50E then in Garden City we’d get on Highway 183S. The car would know the rest of the way from there as we’d take Highway 64E to the Forgan "Y" and Highway 23S on to Beaver. (The last part of that route is so automatic I had to ask Rick the names of the highways – I don’t usually pay attention to that.) We arrived home around 7:15 Monday night, June 22, after a fun, full week of visiting, traveling, sightseeing, relaxing and spending time together.
The day we left was the memorial service in Richardson, Texas, for my dad’s younger brother that I’d hoped to be able to go to; Rick, our youth minister, and our intern youth minister were all going to be out of town at the same time; I needed to get some work done before our October Missions Fair; I owed Brent an article; and there were several undone projects that needed attention. Sometimes the only way to take a vacation is to just do it, so we were thankful for the "excuse" of Stephen and Holly’s wedding to spur us into action. And, as is usually the case, the place didn’t fall apart while we were gone and the things that needed done were still waiting for us when we returned. (I’m working on that one…wouldn’t it be nice to return from vacation and have the work all done up that was left undone?) Still, the Lord provided us with a window in time to do some remembering and some looking toward the future as well. (One of the Riffe’s daughters and her husband are expecting a baby in September – this is a young lady that used to play with Briana when we first moved to town.)
Another huge blessing was the timing of this trip. Because of the date Stephen and Holly had chosen for their wedding, we chose the week prior to that for one of Rick’s vacation weeks. That also happened to be part of the time that our daughter, Briana, was gone overseas on a short-term mission trip. Her trip this year would be different than any she’d taken before because it would be the first time she’d be "flying solo." Always before when she’d traveled she’d either been with us or with a team from her church. This time she’d gone over with the team, as usual, but would be staying in Eastern Europe for a few days when the team returned to the United States. She was going to travel to visit a young lady she’d met in Joplin whose home is in Kosova. The friend had invited her to "stop by" since she was going to be so close. It helped us to be out and about traveling while she was gone because it made the time pass quicker. She arrived home the day after we got back from vacation. Now we’ll both have fun stories to share with each other about our trips as well.
From Beaver; to Kearney, Nebraska; to Ft. Collins, Colorado; to Castle Rock, Colorado; to Divide, Colorado; to Manitou Springs, Colorado; and back to Beaver for Rick and me, and around Eastern Europe for Briana – I guess the traveling continues in a new way for us. Rick and I are traveling more in the United States (he’s way ahead of me there!) and Briana…well she’s going wherever the Lord will take her, both in the United States and overseas.
July 16, 2015
Postcards: Writer’s recent travels, Part II
We’d spent three days vacationing and visiting and now it was time to travel to something a little more business-oriented, at least for Rick. The funny thing was, the wedding Rick would be conducting would be more family-oriented than business-oriented, since we consider the Riffes family. We became good friends when they were still living in Beaver. As a matter of fact, the day we arrived Laura and her youngest daughter, Elizabeth, stopped by to welcome us to town. Our daughter Briana and Elizabeth hit it off from the very beginning. Before long our son Gene and Stephen Riffe, the young man whose wedding we were headed for, became friends and Briana got to know Anna, the Riffe’s oldest daughter as well. Many hours were spent with either our kids up at their house or their kids down at our house. Rick and I were also good friends with Gerald and Laura Riffe. Sometimes Rick and Gerald had business things to discuss, but sometimes we just spent fun "couple" time together.
One night Laura and Gerald, and Rick and I double-dated to go see the 3-D version of the movie "How to Train Your Dragon," which was showing in Liberal, Kansas. We were about the only people at that particular showing, but I thought how funny we must look sitting there with our 3-D glasses on. That ended up being a night we’ll never forget because it was also the night our son, Gene, died in a car wreck just past the Beaver River bridge. We’d crossed paths with him on our way home from Liberal as he headed toward Liberal that night. We’d left Liberal early because Rick was needed to take a lady to the Garden City train station so she could get away from a bad situation. Briana was going to go with him, since he wouldn’t drive a lady by himself. The lady also had a couple of children with her so Briana took some things for them to do on the way. I was in town by myself when Allison Bennett and a nurse came to take me to the emergency room. When I got to the emergency room and found out that Gene was dead, I called Gerald and Laura, asking them to come to the hospital. I didn’t tell them the whole story, but just asked if they’d come. I found out later that while they were throwing their clothes on they got another call. Rick and Briana were still on their way back from Garden City. They’d gotten a call telling them that Gene had had a wreck and asking them to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Briana called the Riffes just as they were heading out the door to ask them to be praying. The Riffes (along with several other people) sat with me at the hospital and stayed there after Rick and Briana arrived as well. That was a tremendous gift to us. They were right there with us that following week, and the weeks and months after that. All that served to cement an already close friendship. We hated to see them move to Kansas City when Gerald retired, and Rick felt bad when he was not able to fulfill Elizabeth’s request to conduct her wedding when she and Owen Hawbaker, a friend from school, got married but all that made our anticipation toward being a part of Stephen’s wedding and getting to see the family again that much greater!
Our plan was to arrive in Divide, Colorado sometime Friday morning so Rick could visit Stephen and his fiancée, Holly, to work out the details of the wedding. When Rick is asked to do a wedding, he always requires the couple to come for counseling. However, since Stephen and Holly were so far away, they’d arranged for someone else to counsel them. That left only the specifics of the service itself to work on. We got past the Denver area and began looking for a town that wasn’t too far away from Divide, but that would allow us to stop and rest and get ready for the next day. Rick had looked at the atlas that morning and had seen a few possibilities. Soon we saw the sign for Castle Rock, one of Rick’s choices. There were three exits, so we took the middle one. That ended up being a good idea because we found a Super 8 right off that exit. It had a room available, so we decided that would be the place to stay. We drove across the street for supper at a nice restaurant, filled up the car at the gas station right next to that then swung around the corner to a Laundromat to wash a few things. By the time we got back to the room there was a sign taped on the front door of the motel that said "No Vacancy." We were glad we’d stopped when we did!
On Friday morning we traveled to Divide, arriving around 11:30. The drive was beautiful as we headed back into the mountain area. This time the road cut through rock walls on either side. We passed a sign that said "Cliff Dwellings" and could see some of those back off the road. We also passed the drive that sloped up to Cave of the Winds. Once we arrived in Divide we called Stephen in order to get specific directions to the camp where all the wedding activities would be taking place. He was on his way there from Colorado Springs and estimated that he’d be arriving in about 30 minutes. After Stephen gave Rick directions to the camp, he explained that Holly would meet us in the front parking lot when we got there. Following Stephen’s directions, we turned off the main road and followed a smaller road. Sometimes there were trees on either side of the road, other times there were meadows and other times there were lots with horses in them. Off in the distance we could see Pike’s Peak. After a while we rounded a curve and saw a sign on our left that said Golden Bell Camp and Conference Center. (We found out later that most people referred to it as Camp Bell.) As we turned into the main parking lot and parked, we realized we were in a bit of a predicament. There were several people walking around. Now we needed to figure out which one was Holly. Stephen had just called us back to make sure we were finding the place okay, so I asked him what vehicle Holly would be driving. He said she’d actually be walking over from her folks’ house. That was no help! We got out of the car and did our best to appear to be looking for someone as we walked toward the front of the lodge, so Holly would recognize us.
There was a young lady sitting on the front steps of the lodge and all of a sudden I told Rick, "That’s her!" He asked if I was sure and I said, hopefully loud enough that she could hear me and respond if it really was her, "Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s Holly." I realized by that point that it was no miracle that I recognized this young lady I’d never met in person, because I remembered seeing pictures of her that Stephen had posted on facebook. When I said her name, she looked up and smiled.
We introduced ourselves and Holly welcomed us. She gave us a brief tour of the lodge then we headed out back to see the area where the tent was set up. We walked down the hill past the miniature golf course and the sign that said Adventure Trail (or something like that!) and on into an area of trees behind another building. Just beyond the trees there was a clearing where a large rectangular tent was set up. Holly explained that originally they’d planned on having the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner and wedding reception at the tent area and the wedding in the chapel, but there had been a problem with the chapel reservations. Because of that, the wedding would also be taking place in the tent area. I know it was a big change for them, but everyone handled the situation very well. It meant figuring out how to set up chairs for the ceremony itself then use those same chairs at the tables for the reception, as well as needing the weather to cooperate, among other things.
Stephen arrived before too long, so he and Holly decided to take us to a restaurant in Woodland Park, a town near Divide, where they could discuss the wedding details with Rick. Once we arrived at the restaurant (a fun barbecue place), the first thing we needed to do was to get better acquainted with Holly and have her get better acquainted with us. The more we talked with Holly, the more we liked her and saw what a fun couple she and our friend Stephen made. They’d actually met at Camp Bell. Holly’s folks live just around the corner from the main lodge, so she’s worked at the camp several years, and Stephen has worked there for the past few years as well. If I understood their stories correctly, Stephen usually worked the Adventure camp and Holly usually worked with the Itch-ee-ow-ee camp. I asked about that name, since I’d heard some campers using it and had also heard Holly say that was the camp she worked with. She explained that they use that name because they sleep outside in tepees and are often visited by mosquitoes. One summer Holly needed an assistant leader and Stephen happened to be available. They worked together all summer long. Holly’s brother, Cameron, explained it well at the wedding reception when he said he noticed they were together quite often. Finally it occurred to him, "Hey, I think Stephen likes my sister!" We met the director of the camp after the wedding and, with a huge grin, he explained, "You can see why we have a ‘no dating’ policy for our staff." He told us that Holly’s brother, Stefan, and his wife, Jenn, had also met at the camp. He explained that it gave an excellent opportunity for the young people to get to know what it was like to work together, but to remain in a group setting.
We told Stephen and Holly stories about our getting married in Miami, Oklahoma almost 37 years ago. We’d planned on a small wedding, but things were getting way too complicated, so we’d eloped. We told them Rick had on his mechanic’s uniform and I was wearing knit slacks and a Star Wars t-shirt (our good clothes were in the car but we didn’t have time to change into them). They’re both Star Wars fans, so they thought it was pretty funny when Rick said he married C-3PO.
We took time to enjoy the delicious food then it was time to talk about the wedding plans. Stephen had shared some of their ideas with Rick over the phone, but the time in person gave Rick a chance to get a clearer picture of what they were wanting. After we arrived back at the camp, he worked on a few of the ideas so that he was more prepared for the rehearsal that evening at 5:00.
By the time of the rehearsal, all the Riffes had arrived. We also had a chance to meet Holly’s family. We even had the special treat of meeting two friends of Holly’s family, Annette and Verena, who’d come all the way from Germany to be at the wedding and to see what an American wedding was like. We were so happy that they got to see this beautiful event as their example! Everyone got along well and the atmosphere was very light and comfortable, even as everyone worked at getting their "part" straight. We were getting ready for a serious event that was to be a joyous celebration! Once more of the details were worked out, it was time for the rehearsal dinner and some more visiting and getting acquainted.
The next day Rick spent most of the morning working on the service and the family was busy decorating and getting ready for the wedding, so I read part of a book I hadn’t found time to read at home. (I may not get it finished until my next vacation!) We walked down to the tent area at one point to see how preparations were coming and found both sets of parents, along with a couple of other people, busy decorating tables and getting the food ready. Finally around 2:40 we headed down for the wedding itself, which was scheduled to begin a 3:00. (Fortunately we were staying on site. Otherwise Rick would’ve wanted to arrive about noon…he’s the early bird in our family!) At 3:00 the word was circulating that the service wouldn’t actually begin until 3:15. A few people that were planning on coming to the wedding hadn’t arrived yet. There was concern that they might be having trouble finding the place, though signs had been carefully place at the main road and along the side road to direct them. After that slight delay, the wedding began.
Originally I was just there to be an observer at the wedding, but some fun things happened at the rehearsal to make me an "honorary" participant. At one point during the rehearsal, when the ushers/groomsmen were practicing the part of bringing the mothers (parents) and grandmothers down the aisle, Laura was gone on an errand. I’d stood in for her. At another point she was there but Gerald had had to go pick up the pizzas for the rehearsal dinner. They still had a little more "walking down the aisle" to practice, so I’d stood in for him. By the time of the wedding their oldest son, Joseph, had asked if I’d hold a few things for him. I laughed and said, "But I don’t know who I am." His reply was, "You’re no one. You’re just you." He didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but I gave him a hard time anyway. Even though I wasn’t technically a part of either family, Laura invited me to sit next to her during the wedding, which I considered a special privilege. Her brother and his family didn’t even mind "adopting" me into their row. Sometimes it’s a little difficult for me to know where I fit in when Rick is asked to do something (I’ve even lost him before at funerals he’s doing because he gets so focused), but this time there was no question that I was "one of the bunch."
The afternoon consisted of a memorable wedding, a fabulous reception, fun storytelling by siblings, official documents being signed and pictures being taken. It had turned out great, but after it was all over, Rick needed what would be his first cup of coffee of the day. We headed to Woodland Park and ended up at the McDonald’s that we’d passed by several times. While we were sipping our drinks, the Riffes and the Schlumpfs, Holly’s family, were cleaning up from the wedding and reception. We timed things just right as we arrived back at the camp just as they finished up. The Riffes were getting ready to go somewhere for supper and we were heading to our room to go to bed.
Even though the main reason for our trip was over, we still had something else planned. Laura had texted me when she’d heard Rick was going to do the wedding to see what we would be doing on the Monday after the wedding. She wondered if we’d like to get with Gerald and her for breakfast and a visit once all the excitement had died down. We’d originally planned on heading home on Sunday, but their Sunday would be full of sightseeing with some of their kids then taking them back to the Denver airport .We decided to take Laura up on her suggestion. I asked her to get us a room in the same motel where they’d be staying on Sunday night, which was in Manitou Springs. As we headed out from Divide, then, we were on the last leg of our trip but not, by any means, at the end of our fun.