Give and Take with Cake

“Let them eat cake!” That’s what newly weds and their guests do at wedding receptions. At 9 ½ minutes after three o’clock on August 5, 1967, I fed my groom a huge mouthful of cake, and he returned the favor more gingerly ten seconds later, if the clock on the wall is any indication.

WeddingCakeCliff

WeddingCakeMe

We are on the verge of celebrating our 49th anniversary. Like the seventh note in an octave, we are almost there, but have not yet reached the golden mark.

How have we gotten this far without hitting the skids? I could make a long list of suggestions, but right now I have only one:

Watch Your Words

Cake is sweet to the tongue just as our words should be to one another. Words have power. Let your spouse or partner hear “please” and ”thank you” every day. Sarcasm is out. Surely contempt must go. Public humiliation, a big NO!

  1. Say “Yes” as often as humanly possible.
  2. Wait for the best time to make a request, offer a suggestion. Everyone needs 5-10 minutes to decompress after walking through the door. Let your spouse have time to breathe before requiring a response.
  3. Once a day, notice the positive out loud: the way they look, something they’ve said, or done.

Michael Hyatt, author and speaker, affirms that “Marriage is a powerful visual of how you treat the people you value the most. (“Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse is So Important”)

Ever the tip and list maker, Hyatt in another post shares his recipe for how to become your spouse’s best friend. Many of items on the list regard minding our words, for example: “Extend grace to me when I am grumpy or having a bad day. Speak well of me when I am not present.”

“Listen without judging or trying to fix me.”

Humorist Ogden Nash adds a dash of rhyme and reason to the mix:

If you want your marriage to sizzle

With love in the loving cup.

Whenever you’re wrong, admit it.

Whenever you’re right, shut up!

And finally, Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”  

~ Colossians 4:6, New Revised Standard Version

 

Light a Candle

CandleWedding

This candle first flickered and then burned brightly on a pedestal at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. The candle came with instructions to burn for one hour on our anniversary date. Some years the candle probably has shone for more than an hour. But we may have even skipped a year or two. Nevertheless, the long, tapered candle is very short and stubby now. Yet the flame still burns brightly.

Whether you are married or not, on this day I light a candle for you and whatever family relationship is most important in your life.

 

CandleDiningRoom

 

Your thoughts, recollections, or advice are welcome here. Thank you!

 

Coming next: Drawing on Love: A Brief Retrospective

Ray & Ruth: A Sparkling 40th Wedding Anniversary

True Love

This month would be the 75th wedding anniversary of my parents, Ray and Ruth Longenecker had they lived. True, they bickered from time to time, but I knew their love was deep and abiding. I rested in the assurance that they would never divorce. There were signs: Before Daddy left for work down at his shop after the noon meal, he often played a little game with Mom, chasing her around the house to get his hug and kiss, as she pretended wanting to escape him. Daddy dried dishes once a week, on a Sunday somewhat unusual for a culture with strict divisions of labor between husband and wife.

They celebrated their 25th anniversary with the attendants at their wedding, Howard and Pearl Longenecker, also married twenty-five years.

When their 40th came along, we had a big shindig in early November, a week after their actual anniversary date of October 26, 1940. My sister Jean sent out fancy invitations:

40thAnnivCardFront

The table was set just so with the “tulip” design wedding silverware, a florist’s bouquet, and finger food with cake the grand finale.

40thAnnivTable

All four of us, my sisters and brother chipped in money to buy a chiming clock that sat for years on top of Mother’s buffet in the dining room, the ticking heart of the home. Our son Joel has inherited this clock.

40thAnnivClock

And there were sparklers – and smiling faces on this happy day when I heard Daddy say, “I could never have found a better wife!

40thAnnivCandle

How It All Began

October was a favored month for weddings, at least among Mennonite couples in the 1940s-1960s. Farmers had harvested their corn, wheat, and sweet potatoes. The sowing-hoeing-harvesting cycle was slowing down. The land was preparing to lie fallow for the winter. Thus, plain weddings were often celebrated amid the riotous colors of fall.

I was born in July — 9 months, almost to the day, from my parents’ honeymoon night the previous October. When I got older and could figure out such things, my mother simply said, “Nothing happened before we were married.” Because she said it, it must be true, I reasoned. In those days, abstinence was the professed norm for engaged couples, and a white dress almost certainly meant the bride was a virgin. A couple whose first child arrived too soon after the wedding date had to appear in front of the congregation and confess their sin of fornication before they could be restored to church fellowship. I saw it happen once.

That was not the case for my parents, of course. I was born right on time, a honeymoon baby, possibly conceived right here within this idyllic, stone cottage.

HoneymoonNiagaraCottage

My parents were married by the bishop of Hernley’s Mennonite Church and then returned to the bride’s home on Charlotte Street in Manheim, Pennsylvania where these pictures were taken. My father was wearing a plain, Mennonite “frock” coat with bow-tie paired with a natty fedora hat on his honeymoon. My mother too sneaked in some fancy touches on her dress. Another, of course, a large, fancy bouquet on the lawn.

WeddingMomDadFlowers

And though Mother wore covering strings attached to her prayer veiling and her dress was plain with no collar or lace, tiny buttons covered in white crépe traced a vertical line on the snug cuff of her sleeves. They don’t show on the photograph, but as a child I remember seeing them all in a row, sewn on her dress then draped on a hanger and pushed to the back of her clothes closet. Were there five? Seven? I don’t know or remember, but in my mind’s eye I can see them attached there. And I thought they looked pretty!

I liked her wedding shoes too, black suede with a vamp that reached almost to her ankle, very modish, I thought. When I saw Nine West with a similar vintage shoe and a button on the strap, I knew they had to be mine.

ShoesVintage9West

When we cleared out Mother’s house after her death, we discovered a saucer I had never seen before with a charming pink & blue imprint, a prophecy of things to come. They would have a baby, a girl, in fact three daughters and then a son.

NIagaraFallsSaucerNiagaraFallsSaucerDetail

Marian_as baby_5x5_72 19-05-17

Sparkling or not, what anniversaries (or other milestones) can you recall?

Coming next: Halloween Advice from My Good Witch of the North, Aunt Ruthie

August Wedding: Love Over Time

During the first week of August Cliff and I celebrate three wedding anniversaries, our son and daughter and their spouses along with our own. Our children are beginners at marriage (sort of), but for us it’s # 47, three years away from golden.

Cliff & Marian_Wedding Day_96dpi

Our romance was of the “Some Enchanted Evening” sort, recounted in an earlier blog post which near the end merely hints of conflict to come. In the beginning, there was the clash of cultures: a high-energy, pioneer-type from the Pacific Northwest marries a Mennonite school teacher from southeastern Pennsylvania. As my mother-in-law said on our wedding day, “You two will have a lot of adjustments to make.” I knew that was true in my head but naively imagined of course we will be the exception: Doesn’t love conquer all?

Because of Cliff’s career, we settled in Jacksonville as newyweds, a city with a semi-tropical climate and an overwhelming expressway system–a far cry from the gentle, rolling hills and farmlands of Lancaster County; Southern accents, not lilting Pennsylvania lingo. Our adventures included both the typical and the unconventional: Living in a 8’ x 24’ foot travel trailer for a year and a half with a two-year-old daughter and baby son. Starting a fledgling graphic arts business in our home where we experienced both feast and famine. A miscarriage. Working on graduate degrees while raising a family. Long separations as Cliff traveled the country with his own art show. The deaths of Cliff’s mother and my father. And other unwelcome events: a mammoth falling oak just grazing the side of our house, the dining room ceiling becoming a sieve as the roof leaked, my new car totaled putting my back out of whack. Larkin Warren in her vignette “Because love grows deeper over time” illustrates her own version of marital challenge:

In the early days it was all about him. His favorite foods . . . . favorite flavor of ice cream, and whether he liked my hair up or down. I loved to make him laugh, and worked hard not to cry in front of him. I cleaned my house before he came over, always wore mascara, always had champagne in the fridge.

[But] we’ve seen each other at our worst, and that’s not an exaggeration. Physically ill, emotionally grief-stunned, job-panicked, or angry enough to throw crockery at the wall . . . .  Red-faced, blotchy, hoarse from yelling. Our parents grow old, and ill, or nutty: our children make mistakes that drop us to our knees. Through it all, how on earth can he love me, given what a flawed, messy, moody person I am: The artifice is long gone; he see me.

Yes, the artifice is gone. The scales, if there were any, have long since fallen from our eyes. In retrospect, we see clearly now. But we remember beholding the luster of un-tested love, the gritty struggles mingled with the shiny penny days. “We have seen it from both sides now,” says poet E. J. Mudd:

OldWivesPNG

Adam Gopnik adds metaphorical wisdom:  Love, like light is a thing that is enacted better than defined: we know it afterward by the traces it leaves on paper.

Dear reader, your traces on the “paper” of this post are welcome. Thanks for commenting. You may also enjoy reading secrets of a 20-year-marriage @ http://notquiteamishliving.com/2014/07/twenty-years-three-things-about-love-n-marriage/

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One of the beloved members of our family has gone home to be with the Lord this week. Following the publication of this edition, postings on this blog will be suspended for a time.

 

 

Anna Mae and Hiram: A Mennonite Wedding

This is the wedding portrait of my mother and father

Ruth Landis Metzler and Ray Martin Longenecker 

October 26, 1940

Ray and Ruth Longenecker_4x5_72

June is the month for many American weddings. And so is August. Because many Mennonites were farmers, Mennonite weddings often took place in October, a month that signaled a break in heavy farm work after most of the crops had been harvested. My dad was a farm implement dealer, so his work cycle mimicked that of the farmers he served, which would probably explain the October date for the wedding.

The bride and groom, my parents, are dressed in Mennonite attire and comply with the rules for weddings prescribed by the church in this era: no bridal party prancing down an aisle to “Here Comes the Bride,” no flowers, and definitely no exchange of rings.

Excerpts from Article II, Separation and Nonconformity, Section 2. Public Worship. (19) from the Statement of Christian Doctrine and Rules and Discipline of the Mennonite Church, 1968:

  • “We deem it improper to employ instrumental music in worship and church activities.”
  • “Weddings shall be conducted in a Christian manner avoiding all vain display and in accordance with the prescribed regulations for weddings.” 

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Anna Mae Longenecker’s father John is my dad’s first cousin on his father’s side of the family. Anna Mae with her brothers and sisters lived on the farm at Bosslers Corner, a farm bought from William and John Penn by Robert Allison in 1762,  and subsequently bought from Jacob Bossler by John and Nancy Longenecker and kept in the Longenecker family for five generations.  On the lawn of this homestead, one of John’s daughter’s, Anna Mae, poses  for wedding photographs with her new husband, Hiram Aungst.

Anna Mae Longenecker with her sisters on her wedding to Hiram Aungst.
Anna Mae Longenecker with her new husband and sisters posing for wedding photos on the lawn of the John Longenecker homestead.

Either the rules for wedding have relaxed a little in the ten or more years since my parents’ wedding, or brides have become more bold. This wedding accessories include corsages for attendants, a white Bible with streamers for the bride and the groom and groomsmen in non-Mennonite suits and neckties.

As the video shows, there was muted frivolity after the wedding which included rice throwing. Yes, it was real rice, not bird-seed!

Note the cars decorated in full post-ceremony regalia, worthy of any “fancy” wedding.

OldCar

 

Then and now: Your thoughts on wedding ceremonies welcome.

 

 

 

 

Purple Passages with a June Bride

Creativity

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.       ―  Maya Angelou

MayaAngelou2

[Hear her read her valiant poem “Still I Rise” here.]

Creativity is intelligence having fun.     ― Albert Einstein

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

           Galatians 6: 4-5  The Message

 

Giving and Health

Dr. Stephen Post conducted a survey at forty-four major universities that revealed that giving protects your overall health twice as much as an aspirin protects your heart against disease. Why Good Things Happen to Good People (7)

Original art: C. Joel Beaman
Relief print: C. Joel Beaman

 

Being Young in Heart

Another belief of mine is that everyone else my age is an adult whereas I am merely in disguise.”  ― Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

 

June Brides & Marriage

Wedding of Ruth Longenecker and John Weaver, 1950s
Wedding of Ruth Arlene Longenecker and John Weaver, Bossler’s Mennonite Church, 1950s Bride carries white Bible with lacy handkerchief Groom wears plain (frock) coat

 

Marriage is more like an airplane than a rock.

You have to commit the thing to flight, and then it creaks and groans, and keeping it airborne depends entirely on altitude attitude. Working at it, though, we can fly forever.             ― Michael Grant in the San Diego Union

 

The Educated Mind & an Opposing Viewpoint

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

― Aristotle, Metaphysics

 

Life’s Irritations

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.      ―  Psychiatrist Carl Jung

 

Memory and Time

Remembering is so basic and vital a part of staying alive that it takes on the strength of an instinct of survival, and acquires the power of art. Remembering is done through the blood, it is a bequeathment, it takes account of what happened before a man is born . . . . It is a physical absorption through the living body, it is a spiritual heritage. It is also a life’s work.      ― Eudora Welty in                her book On Writing in which she quotes Faulkner (103).

In fiction, time can throb like a pulse, tick like a bomb, beat like the waves of a rising tide again the shore; it can be made as the whisper of attrition, or come to an end with the explosion of a gun  (98).

Memory is deceptive because it is colored by today’s events. ― Albert Einstein

Memory. . . is the diary that we all carry about with us.  ― Oscar Wilde
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Add more color to June’s Purple Passages!
Reply with your own quote. Or respond to one above. 

grapes

I promised an answer to the puzzling question from the last post.

BrokenPianoBenLeg

How did this happen? Here is our best guess:

Our children, now in their forties, were in their late teens when Cliff and I decided to leave them at home alone while we took a short weekend trip. One of the children was very mature and responsible (or so we thought), so we felt safe to leave. When we returned home, pictures on the walls were askew, there was evidence of under-age drinking, and one leg on the piano bench had obviously been broken off but bandaged up with rough, brown U-Haul tape. Our kids’ explanation then was that they had a small party but more came, uninvited, when word spread that there were no parents at home. Yes, the cliché fits here exactly: “When the cat’s away . . . !”

At the time of the first break, Cliff repaired the leg with a wooden dowel, which has lasted until a few weeks ago. Then Mr. Repairman had to reinforce the leg with a sturdier steel dowel. The END. (We hope!)

Coming next:  Hats Off to Dad

HatsOffGift

 

 

 

 

Grandma’s: A Wedding under the Willow

  GossHats

Here we are, Juliets without our Romeos

When Mom says “sca-doo!” at home, we know we can find amusement at Grandma’s house. Aside from the mysteries of the woods behind her house, other attractions include a slope where lilies of the valley blossom in April. A chicken house big enough to actually play house in. An out-house equipped with a Sears & Roebuck catalog for wiping, its little roof-top smothered by lilac bushes–wonderful air freshener! And a willow tree. We love that willow tree by a trickling brook where we play Bride, with a cast-off piece of netting like my mother, aunts, and grandmas use for prayer veilings.

At ten, I’m the oldest, so I direct my sisters at first. “Jeanie, go to the chicken house for the veil.” There are no chickens in Grandma’s chicken-house anymore, just a bunch of crates and wooden boards we use other times for make-believe. Jean goes off to retrieve the big square of white netting in its hiding place inside the door in a crate on the right. “Janice, let’s find some flowers for the bouquet.” Off we go in different directions, and Janice comes back with dandelion blossoms, and I find some irises.

Blue Willow book from parents early 1950s

Blue Willow book from parents early 1950s

We meet back at the willow tree, its arching fronds our sanctuary for many a glorious wedding. We need a bell ringer, a bride and a groom. Before I can get a word in edgewise, Jean pipes up, “Let me be the bride this time; I wanna be the bride, pleeease.” Well, I guess we can give in this time. Then Janice and I dicker for who plays groom and who rings the bell. Next, we have to get the bride ready.

Janice places the netting on Jean’s head just so, and I pull her pigtails up behind her ears and use the light brown braids to tie the veil securely to the top of her head. Now, we’re all set: Groom Janice loops one arm around Jean’s, and I rush over to the longest willow branch I can find and pull on its thin, sinewy length until the wedding bell chimes overhead, and then we all, including the bride, sing together in warbly voice: “Here comes the briiide, please step asiiide.” It’s a magical moment. A breeze blows gently through the willow branches and fans the bouquet of purple and gold. But before the bride has a chance to whisper, “I do,” we hear Daddy’s truck drive in the lane. He’s come to pick us up and bring home a big kettle of saffron-flavored pot pie from his mom’s stove for our supper at home on top of the hill.

There are no crystal balls to visualize our own weddings in the future, but we are careful not to duplicate color choices for our attendants. Jean starts with blue, Marian with pink, and Janice has yellow, a pleasing bouquet of hues. But our veils are white.

Wedding on the Cheap

The year 1967 was historic: It was the year of the world’s first heart transplant. There were race riots in Detroit. Polaroid cameras were all the rage as was Twiggy. The average annual income was $ 7300.00 while a house cost about twice that much. Gas was a mere 33 cents a gallon.

It was also the year of our wedding. On the cheap. In August, not June. After moving from Lancaster, PA to Charlotte, NC, my teaching salary increased by only one hundred dollars to about $ 3500.00 stretched to pay for most of the wedding expenses. I was on a pay-as-you-go, no-credit-card system! Today’s Bridezillas would freak out at my teeny tiny budget for a church wedding. Ever the list-maker (call me OCD), I began my planning with a double-columned list: item + amount spent. The cake, flowers, napkins, photographer, and honoraria are missing here. Probably on another list! I was not very good at justifying my bank balance. I remember standing in front of a teller at Wachovia Bank unable to choke back tears at my overdrawn account just weeks before the wedding.

. WeddingNBcover              List-Expenses

January through May was consumed by pattern-buying, fabric-cutting and sewing a gown heavily influenced by Jackie Kennedy’s style. How is it that the fabric for the bridesmaids and the bride, including a train with appliques cost only $ 83.05 then?

BelkReceipt  WeddingPattern

My hair was still in a bun but without the prayer veiling. One day in June, about six weeks before the wedding, I got the courage to dramatically change my hair-do. Off I went to a beauty salon, recommended by my roommates, to experiment with a bob. The stylist began, oddly, by braiding my hair into one long braid, almost waist length. And then she CUT IT OFF! I will never forget the sensation of hair still attached to my head swinging free. Was it in shock? Dancing? I’ll never know, but I do know the agony of trying to get my hands and fingers to contort themselves in odd ways to comb, brush, tease my shorter locks into the new style.

HankofHair

                       Heaven only knows why I still have this hank of hair!

Half the guest list were Mennonite friends and family from Pennsylvania, and they came to North Caroline in droves. Frugal Daddy gladly footed the hefty bill for the full course rehearsal dinner. Families from Charlotte Christian School put up my immediate family. Grandma and Aunt Ruthie were thrilled to stay in the home of Billy Graham’s mother, who had also hosted a bridal shower for me. Except for the bridal party, the wedding itself was a curious blend of plain and fancy: plain-coated, bow-tied Daddy with fancy bride.

 Wedding Day_Marian+Father_8x10_150

You may ask, “Why didn’t the groom help more with the wedding expenses?” A teacher/preacher at the time, he spent the summer as a rigger at the Jacksonville Shipyards carrying heavy chains on his shoulders up and down ladders trying to pay for the honeymoon and all that followed. No metaphor intended here!

The summer months are traditionally wedding months, particularly June. Do you have a wedding memory to share? Your own? Someone else’s?

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