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"Remembering Yesterday"


Prologue
Prologue

By BethShelby

It has been two years, four months and ten days since you were with me, and although I don't usually openly grieve your passing, I realize I'll never stop missing you. So many things remind me of what a wonderful husband you were. The memories are sweet. If a tear escapes my eye, it doesn't mean I'm sad. It just means I'm having a nostalgic moment, and life is still worth living. I'm so grateful God allowed us to have sixty-one wonderful years together.

You slipped away exactly one month after our sixty-first anniversary. I don't know if you knew you were going. We didn't talk about it. Until that week, I assumed we'd go back home, and you'd get better. The doctors hadn't warned me until right at the end. I don't know how much you heard, or what was going on in your head. The hospital was pushing me to take you home with Hospice. I was forced to make arrangements for them to pick us up the next day. After talking to them, I came back to the room to find you sleeping. I leaned over and kissed your lips. Your eyes flew open, and you looked startled. I had no idea that would be our last kiss. You only had about an hour left.

Today on my car radio, Elvis was singing an old Brook Benton song,"Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away" I hadn't heard that song in years, and I remembered how much you liked it back in the fifties. The words rang so true because I'm realizing more now that I'm getting older how quickly the years flew by without us being aware that each day was one less we'd spend together. This was one of those moments in which I felt my cheeks grow wet, just as they are doing now as I write these words.

I hope you were even half as content as I was with our life. I'm sure we both fell short of being the perfect mate for each other, but is anyone really perfect? For me, I think no one could have been more suited. We were different in many ways, but different isn't a bad thing. When we first met, I can't say I fell madly in love. I didn't know what love was. I just took our relationship one day at a time, not knowing where it was going or what to expect. You were nearly nine years older and more ready to find a mate and settle down. I was new at dating. It was something which I'd only assumed I might someday do. I'd never given marriage much thought. Some girls dream of a wedding and children. Not me. I was just coasting, not planning ahead, nor counting on anything in particular. One of the first things I told you was that I didn't ever intend to get married. Maybe you needed that challenge, or maybe you figured you were wasting your time. At any rate, you kept coming every weekend. I think some things are meant to be, and perhaps we really have no choice.

Author Notes In my car recently, I heard song that reminded me of times in the late fifties when i first met my husband. He passed away over two years ago, and I started thinking back to the times we'd had together and decided to write about how we met and the life we shared. The entire book will be written as I taking directly to him I started writing hoping that my children would see us the way we were and not just as their parents.


Chapter 1
The Beginning

By BethShelby

I'll never forget how we met. I was fifteen that summer and just starting to have some interest in the opposite sex. I was too shy around boys to let my feelings be known. Most of my leisure was spent lost in novels or seeing an occasional movie. It was late summer, and my older cousin was visiting from Texas. She scolded me for not wearing makeup or trying to fix myself up. I was irritated by her criticism, but still I took the time to try out the lipstick she'd given me. Pleased with the result I decided to spend the afternoon in town and see a movie. I don't remember what was playing, but I do remember identifying with the sexy female star. When I walked out of that theater, in my mind I had become the star. I was beautiful and desirable. I was sure everyone who saw me would recognize my charm.

To me, it seemed my new image was working. I left that movie with a spring in my step and gleam in my eye. Maybe it was the mysterious smile playing on my lips which caused people to react differently. More than one stranger looked at me with interest. I didn't see you, but you saw me and looked to see where I was headed. It was a short walk to my uncle's hamburger cafe. I usually waited there until Dad got off at the grocery store and came by to take me home.

As I often did, I went behind the counter and perched on a stool, available to wait on any customer who might need something. The usual crowd of blue collar workers and country people was less intimidating for a shy person than were the uptown boys and girls who attended my school. This wasn't a teen hangout, and l I felt more at ease with these accepting people. It was at this juncture, you entered the picture and took a seat across the counter from me. The way your eyes met mine, I wondered if maybe I was supposed to know you from somewhere. I'd always had trouble remembering faces. I asked if I could help you, and you asked for coffee. It looked as though you wanted to talk, but wasn't quite sure what to say. The spell I'd been under since leaving the movie had worn off and I was myself again.

You asked if I went to school in Newton, and if I knew Shirley Hunter. You said you'd gone out with her a few times. I was surprised because you dressed and acted like someone who was older. Shirley was a couple of grades behind me in school. I knew she dated a lot because she usually came to school wearing curlers below her scarf, in preparation for her evening out. You remarked that we surely served good coffee and then you left. When I picked up your cup, most of the coffee was still there. The incident was forgotten and soon afterward Dad came to take me home..

Three days later a thick letter arrived for me. The return address was from a nearby county, but the name was that of someone I knew as an old man who lived in our town. I was puzzled, but I opened it to find nine pages of neatly printed words explaining how it came to be. After I left the cafe, you returned and pumped my aunt for information. I'm sure she gave it reluctantly since she was a person who was even more insecure than I. Armed with a name and address, you were willing to make a fool of yourself writing to someone who likely would consider you nuts. We later learned the old man with the same name was actually a distant cousin and that the name you both shared had been passed down through generations.

Most likely I would have ignored a normal letter from a stranger, but your nine page introduction was intriguing and more than impressive. You'd recently returned from the Korean war. You'd gone from being drafted to achieving a Sargent First Class rank and becoming a Squad leader with men serving under you. You had a year of College and you listed a resume of jobs including drafting and engineering. You told me all about your family and all the places you had worked. It sounded as though you would be safe to make friends with. I thought it might be interesting to have an ex-soldier for a pen pal, so I wrote about six pages introducing myself to you. The next letter arrived in a few days but this one was only two pages of hurried handwriting. It fell so far short of the interesting things in the first letter that I let it sit on my desk while I racked my brain for reason to write back.

School was starting. There were new teachers to get used to, old friends to catch up with, and new ones to make. The first month of a fall semester was always a new beginning with an opportunity for setting goals and making resolutions which might last out the first month. This was my senior year. I was the Art Editor of the yearbook and artist and staff writer for the school newspaper. I was in Glee Club, Drama Club, in charge of keeping the school library in monthly posters as well as decorating and making posters for football parades. I was also trying to finish the art correspondence course I was taking at home. It was a busy time.

The guy situation, however didn't look promising. All the good-looking guys had graduated the year before. The boys in my class who were football stars were dating ninth and tenth graders. Those left were country boys who had no time for dating or were too shy to try. Your last short letter lay on my desk and was almost forgotten. From time to time, I'd promise myself to write soon, but by then too much time had passed. You'd said you were looking for a job in Jackson or some place where there was more opportunity. I was sure I'd waited too long. You'd moved on. Even if I wrote now you wouldn't get the letter. But what would have happened if I had written. That thought tormented me from time to time.

The Christmas season arrived I had a job working in a Five and Dime store for the holidays. Once I thought I caught a glimpse of you riding around in a little ugly gray Plymouth. Again I wondered what if. For a teenage girl at Christmas, there is something a little sad about not having someone special in your life. I hit on an idea. Everyone is sending Christmas cards. Why not? If you had a job away from home, maybe you'd be home for Christmas. If nothing came of it no harm would be done.

There was still just enough time to get a card there for the last mail delivery on Christmas Eve. I picked carefully. Nothing from an assorted box would do. It had to be eye-catching with an uplifting verse and an especially nice picture. I settled on a pretty blue angel. I signed my name, posted it, and waited. Christmas passed with the usual family tradition of dinner with family and presents. Two days after Christmas, I got a card in the mail with your return address. It was a New Year's card. I was elated. There was a short note at the bottom asking if I'd like to go out the following Sunday afternoon. You said you hoped to hear from me soon. We had no phone and no way to communicate except by mail. Your folks didn't have a phone either, but I had no way of knowing that. I got a quick acceptance note into the next mail and tried to explain where my house was located. The address you had was only a mail box up the road.

I was excited, but nervous. I'd never had an official date. My experience with boys was limited to a short fling with a cousin, which both of us knew was going nowhere. I wasn't sure how Dad would react. My gut told me it wouldn't be pleasant, because he'd thrown a fit when a neighbor boy asked if I could go to a ball game with him. I wouldn't have gone anyway, because I knew him well enough to dislike him immensely.

I wasn't ever sure what people did on dates. Mother had told me once, they would sit in the parlor and talk. I didn't buy it. That sounded Victorian and not the kind of occasion that I could find appealing. The further I could get from my house the better. Whatever either of my parents did was bound to be embarrassing. I hoped you'd figure out a way to get me away from the house as soon as possible. Since you'd dated before, I would try to follow your lead and hope it wouldn't seem totally awkward.


Mom seemed okay with the idea of me having a date. She'd started young and was married by the time she was seventeen. We'd break it to Dad when the time came. For the rest of the week, I thought of nothing else, but with a good bit of trepidation. I had no idea what time you planned to come, and whether or not you'd find my house. On Sunday, I started dressing early and hoping for the best. After changing clothes several times, I ended up in a simple black dress with a white collar.

Dad wasn't making things easy for me. He felt he'd been ambushed and had a million and one questions about you. First of all, you were too old for me. We figured you had to be at least twenty-five if not older with all the jobs you'd had and the time you'd spent in service. When Dad found out you lived in Jasper county and had been born in Smith County, he declared that nothing but deadbeats and horse thieves came out of either of those places. He vowed to have a talk with you as soon as you arrived. I realized later, my dad was more of a paper tiger. He was full of sound and fury, but when it came to the threatened action, he was often nowhere to be found. I was relieved when after lunch he decided to take a walk over to the back pasture. I prayed he'd be gone a while. Luck was with me, because you actually showed up not long after he left. I waited breathlessly until you knocked.


Author Notes I am writing this as though I am continuing to talk to my husband who has passed away.


Chapter 2
First Dates

By BethShelby

You drove up in a long black Pontiac rather than the little gray Plymouth I'd seen you driving in town. That was a pleasant surprise. I was sitting in the living room at a card table working on my art correspondence course. I had spread my better assignment pieces around so you could be impressed with my talent. There were some awkward moments when I invited you in. and Mom showed up to be introduced. Thankfully she didn't hang around long enough to thoroughly humiliate me.

We chatted a while about the art course. You'd actually done the "Draw Me" girl from the magazines like I did to try to win the same art course. Like me, you'd had a salesman call to try and sell it to you. After about ten minutes, we seemed to run out of things to talk about, and you asked if I'd like to take a ride. Would I ever. Get me out of here before Daddy gets back.

I loved the big car. You didn't bother to mention you were borrowing it from your brother. You'd save that for much later. You were as self-conscious as I, but at least you had dated before. We drove and you interviewed me. At least that is the way it seemed. You asked questions like Do you smoke? Do you drink? Are you smart in school? Are you petted? Now what kind of question is that? Just because I was an only child, you assumed I must be a spoiled brat?

We drove two towns over and stopped at a cafe to get a cup of coffee. I didn't tell you I'd never had coffee before. I put cream and four sugars in it and gulped in down. It would be a while before I learned to enjoy it and even longer before I could drink it black.

We talked about the tornado that came through Newton when I was ten. I told you how our house was blown away and that Mom and I had been blown up in the sky. You marveled at the fact that we hadn't been hurt. You told me about coming to Newton with your family to see the damage and that you had driven right by where our house had stood. You told me about the drafting job you had gotten in Jackson and said from now on you would only be at your folks home on weekends.

You asked where I went to church, and I told you about the big Baptist Church in town where I usually attended Sunday School. You said you were Baptist too, and had recently been re-baptized. I didn't tell you that I wasn't really a member, or that Mom was some religion I didn't figure you'd ever heard of. You took me home after a couple of hours. When you dropped me off, you asked if I'd go to church with you the following Sunday evening. I said yes. I figured I could handle that since a church date seemed harmless enough and might actually impress my folks.

My grandmother, who lived with us part of the time, was peeking out the front window when you drove away. Thankfully you were unaware of my nosy family. You had no idea of all the questions I'd have to answer about my date from Mom and Grandma. Dad never said anything when I came in. That evening he settled down and sat smoking his pipe on the front porch. He wasn't ready to admit his little girl was growing up and going out on dates, so we avoided the subject. It would be weeks before the two of you would meet.

On our church date the following weekend, I tripped on the rock walkway as I pranced along with you. I was wearing my four inch heels and hose with the black lines running down the middle of my legs that would never stay straight. Pantyhose hadn't made it to market, and garter belts were the things girls wore to hold up their hose. I'm sure you felt bad about not grabbing me in time to break my fall. I crashed into the sharp rocks embedding nylon mixed with blood into both knees. It was painful, but pride wouldn't let me show it. I jumped up quickly and insisted that we go on to church in spite of my shredded hose. Thankfully I didn't see anyone I knew. You were accustomed to small country churches and I was in pain, so I doubt if either of us got a lot out of the sermon.

I don't remember us doing church very often after that. When we got home, Mom, the perfect hostess, insisted on feeding us tuna sandwiches and fruitcake. I think you were impressed. By the following Saturday, we had graduated to evening dates at the local drive-in theater.

About that time, I got interested in my appearance and started buying makeup, hand creams and perfumes. You always looked sharp in your neatly tucked shirts and dressy pants. Your style wasn't at all like the guys at my school, who usually wore t-shirts and jeans. You always smelled like breath mints and Old Spice after shave. I was glad you didn't smoke although you said you'd started smoking in grammar school. You'd quit cold turkey when some service buddy told you that you looked bad. The ability to have that kind of discipline was on the plus side of my mental column. I doubt if you would have asked me for a second date if I had been a smoker.

You weren't bad looking, but I don't think you believed that anyone could have found you handsome. No one could accuse you of being conceited. You were self conscious about having a prominent nose with a slightly hooked bridge. I didn't even notice the nose. I was more aware of your sleepy blue eyes that reminded me of Bing Crosby. You wore your blondish hair high in front with a deep wave. Your hairline was starting to slightly recede. At five foot ten, you were slender weighing only about 145 lbs.

I wasn't bad looking then either at five foot, five and weighing 110 lbs. I had a decent figure, although I hated the fact that my ankles weren't tiny and tapered. Other than my eyes being smaller than I liked, my features were okay. You were especially enchanted with my nose which was small and slightly upturned. I wore my dark hair above my shoulders and curled, although without the aid of curlers, it was incredibly straight and fine textured. I got the feeling you were pleased with my looks, hazel eyes and all.

Our first date to a drive-in movie made some changes in our relationship. We were barely out of my yard when you suggested I might want to move over a bit closer. Up to that point, I don't think we had touched. I was willing although it felt awkward. Drive-in theaters weren't really about enjoying a good movie. The speakers you clipped on to your car muffled the sound to the point of being annoying, and the quality of the picture left a lot to be desired. The car lights that occasionally flashed across the screen didn't help. We didn't go as far as we might have, but the nature, and perhaps the purpose of the drive-in theater was to provide a private darkened spot for dating couples to kiss and get more intimately acquainted.

We kissed quite often back then, but your hugs were more satisfying. It was much later when I started wondering if your kisses were only a distraction to call attention away from roving fingers. "Swapping spit" as kids at my school called it, wasn't your thing. Your kisses were nice, but no moisture escaped your lips. It was much later before I realized how germ conscious you were. Even after we were married, you kept your toothbrush safely hidden for fear of having me pick it up by mistake. .


Chapter 3
Meeting the Family

By BethShelby

A few weeks after we started dating, you told me you had a horse, and we could go to your folk's place and ride him. I'd had very little experience with horses, but it sounded like something interesting to do. On other dates I'd always worn dresses, but this time Mom, who usually insisted on picking out my clothes, told me I should wear pants. She insisted on me wearing a pair of weird green pants she picked up somewhere. She must have been psychic because she claimed they were riding pants. Why she would have bought riding pants for me is a mystery.

One thing about you I would learn over time was that you didn't tell everything you knew as I was prone to do. I think you let things out on a "need to know" basis. I had no idea the horse was just a "meet the parents" ruse. The thing was, they knew I would be coming to meet them but I had no idea. If I'd known, I would have been nervous and would have probably been dressed more like a girl.

We drove the seventeen miles to your home. The house was a large white structure that looked as though it might have been constructed in the twenties or earlier. The yard was covered with huge pecan trees. You said you needed to get something and suggested we go inside for a minute. At the front door, we were greeted by your mom who immediately said, "We've been wondering what time you all would get here." Surprise, surprise. We were expected. We entered a large hallway and she ushered us into a parlor to the right. Your dad entered shortly wearing khakis and suspenders. Apparently, he'd just removed his hat. Your your mom scolded him gently for not combing his hair.

One thing I liked about them, they weren't the least bit intimidating. They were quite a bit older than my parents and seemed like nice kind country people. Your mom was the talker. She made me feel welcome and comfortable as she chatted on and on.

Eventually you did saddle up your horse and hoist me up to sit on his back as you led him around. I guess you realized I wasn't a cowgirl. Your little sister, Nan, came up with a playmate. She was a chubby little girl of ten who looked nothing like you. She seemed a little shy and she and her friend soon moved on. You later told me that your family liked me. It seemed I'd passed another test.

You had other siblings. Your brother, Rhomas, was still in the Navy, but one of your older sisters, Helen and her husband, Joe, were in the process of moving to Newton where I lived. They would be building a factory to make church benches. It was inevitable that I would meet this sister next. Helen, like your Mother, was a talker. She rattled on nonstop. One of the first questions she asked you was, "Evan, are you still having those spells." You appeared to ignore the question, but you had to know it rang alarm bells for me. I began to wonder what else I might not know about you, and how serious were these spells? Later, you told me you had no idea what she was talking about. "Don't pay any attention to Helen," you said. "She talks without thinking about what she's saying."

That didn't totally ease my mind, and when I mentioned it at home, my grandmother suggested that since you had been in service, maybe you came back 'shell-shocked'. In today's terms that is probably Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I kept a wary eye on you for a while, but since you seemed relatively stable, I assumed you knew your sister better than I did. In retrospect, I imagine she might have meant the migraines you suffered from occasionally.

The other sister, who was only a couple of years older than you, was next. You told me Maxine was the nice one and I'd love her. She had only been married a couple of years, and she and her husband, Wayne, lived in Laurel, which was about thirty miles from Newton. You made arrangements for us to take a trip to Laurel one Saturday night to go to a Demolition Derby with them. You were right. I liked Maxine right away. I learned to love all your family in time, but Maxine was always my favorite.

Wayne managed a tire store in Laurel and was still at work when we first arrived. They lived in a small apartment. Maxine apologized for a lamp sitting on her sofa table. It had immediately caught my eye. The stand that held the bulb was a practically nude hula girl that gyrated to music when the light was on. She said Wayne had brought it in because he thought it was funny. Wayne was a character. He appeared to be in his mid-thirties He'd also been married before, but that was another thing I'd learn later on the "need to know" basis you lived by. He loved laughing and telling jokes.

The demolition derby we attended was a new form of entertainment for me. I was horrified that cars, which I wouldn't have minded owing, were being destroyed in head-on collisions. It was loud and colorful, but for us, it was a one-time only thing. We weren't big on spectator sports.

You were late getting me home that night and Dad was still waiting up. He didn't say anything, but the porch light was shining too brightly to risk a quick kiss.

I don't remember how long it was before I finally got to meet Rhomas. He had enlisted in the Navy so his stint was longer than yours. You'd been drafted into the Army and only had to serve two years. Both you and Rhomas had been in Korea at the same time but were unaware of it until later.

There was a large framed color picture of Rhomas on the piano beside your picture in uniform. He looked quite handsome in his sailor outfit. I was a little disappointed when I eventually met him because he really didn't look like the picture. You explained that he had broken his nose and smashed his face in a wreck that almost killed him. The extensive work which had been done on his face had not totally restored his original features. He was also much shorter than I'd expected. I should have guessed when you referred to him as, "my brother Short". I never heard anyone call him that, but since the name, Rhomas, was so unusual, I imagine some of his cousins or school chums may have preferred that nickname. When I did meet him, I don't remember our conversation, but I was flattered when you told me later, he said you must have gotten the prettiest girl in Newton.

Now I had met all of your immediate family and you assured me they all liked me. I took your word for it because no one was ever rude to me in any way. I was thrilled that you had siblings, because it was something I'd always felt deprived by not having. There were many aunts, uncles and cousins that I would eventually meet but at a much later time.

Author Notes Since this was originally being written for my children who know the new people here, this might not be as meaningful to my readers here as to them. It's the next thing in the sequence so I will include it.


Chapter 4
Early Courtship and Graduation

By BethShelby

As we became more acquainted with each other, we settled into a routine of mostly Saturday night dates. We never went to the main movie theater. That was fine with me because I was a bit uncomfortable about running into school mates, who might question why I was a dating a older guy. We usually ended up at the drive-in theater.

We also managed to write a short letter to each other every week. There were no more interesting letters like the first one you'd written. I think you believed you'd given me all the information I'd ever need to know. Our letters were one or two paragraphs of meaningless words and were basically the same every week. They all ended with "looking forward to seeing you this weekend" in the beginning to something more romantic as time when on.

On one of our first dates, I told you I didn't plan on ever getting married. You had asked what I intended to do when I finished school. I said I guess I'd go to college. "Guess" was a good word for it. I knew my mother wanted me to go to college, but Daddy didn't want me to leave home. College was expensive and Dad earned a meager living. I was in limbo, waiting to be told by them what my future would hold. You had attended one year at a junior college before being drafted. It seemed a job in Jackson was your future.

I think you assumed we were a couple, and that meant we weren't seeing anyone else. I thought at your age, you might be anxious to find the right woman and settle down. I was vaguely aware you seemed depressed after I said marriage was not for me. I guess I was lucky it didn't end that night. Still for me, even though I was starting to have strong feelings for you, it didn't seem smart to end up marrying the only guy I'd ever dated. How could I know if someone else might not be better suited?

I knew you were religious having been recently re-baptized into the Baptist Church. I figured when you realized I couldn't totally go along with everything the Baptist church believed, it might mean the end to whatever this was that we had going. Since I'd spend many hours listening to Mom practically preach her doctrine to anyone who would listen, I was well indoctrinated myself.
I finally confessed there were differences in our beliefs. I was right. This did matter to you. We spent many hours parked somewhere airing our differences. As you put it, on our early dates we spent a lot of time "arguing religion." It was apparent we were both locked into our beliefs and our minds were made up. In the end, I think you decided since we both believed that Christ was the door to salvation, it would do until you could change my mind.

As my senior year drew to a close, things got busier for me. I was the lead character in the senior play. I had many term papers to write before the end of the semester. Then there were numerous parties sponsored by different people in the community who wanted to honor certain seniors. A neighbor, Bertice Boutwell and also Lucille Brantley, the wife of the grocery store owner where Dad worked, both planned parties in my honor. All of the seniors were expected to attend the parties, except the few which were for girls only. Some of them fell on weekends and involved picnics and skating parties. Also we had a five day Senior trip to New Orleans coming up, and there were fund raisers on weekends for that. All these things interfered with our time together.

The one thing that did involve you was the Annual Junior-Senior Banquet. Being a primarily Baptist town where dancing was frowned on, we weren't allowed to have proms. The banquet was simply a dinner at one of the better restaurants in town. It was a dress-up occasion. Suits and ties for the boys and long dresses for the girls were the proper attire. Most of the class members aspired to have a date if possible. The year before, I'd gone with girl friends. The dating crowd wasn't that large. A lot of us girls were slow starters.
This year, I invited you, although I knew it was out of your comfort zone. I was happy you'd agreed to come. You wore a summer suit and I wore a blue evening dress, which I'd used for a music recital the year before. We ate the food that was served, endured a few speeches and skits, and left as soon as possible. A few of the kids who had dates were dancing in a back room despite Baptist objections.
You also attended my Senior Play which was a mystery that called for me to emit an ear piercing scream when confronted with a spider in a haunted house. Instead of telling me what a superb job I'd done as an actress, you were more concerned with my scream. "You don't do that often, do you,?" you asked.

I can't remember for sure, but I think you came to my graduation. I had the senior address, so it was another opportunity to shine before everything came to a screeching halt. I remember everyone in my class gathering in a back classroom afterward. We hugged each other and let the tears flow. We were all in shock realizing that after twelve years together, for many us, as of that night, everything ended . A lot of us would never walk through those doors again. I was one of those who never did.
.

Author Notes At this point in my memory, I've been dating my future husband about five months. I'm seventeen and graduating from high school. I'm not sure I'm ready to be in a serious relationship. I write this as if I'm relating my memories to my husband although he is no longer alive. I don't use a lot of dialogue because the whole story is my voice, which is in a sense dialogue, although not in quotes.


Chapter 5
Summer Interim

By BethShelby

I think we thought we’d have more time together after I graduated. Things seldom happen according to plans. Some of my classmates got jobs. One friend got married, and I stood with her as the Justice of the Peace performed the short ceremony. Most of the kids in my class disappeared somewhere into the country. Some of them, I never saw again.  

I had no particular plans since I still didn’t know if college was in my future. Like most of my life up to this point, I’d just coasted and waited to see what the future might bring. I spent a week in the country with Aunt Chris and Uncle Harry and helped with their dairy. Unfortunately for me, I came back and mentioned that I’d helped with the milking. Mom decided that if I’d learned to produce milk from a cow, I could do that at home as well. After that, the evening milking was my task even if we had a date. She was quick to find other things to keep me busy as well. Yet I managed to find plenty of time to visit the library books which was my favorite past time. We had no television, and I didn’t drive so that didn’t leave a lot of options.  

My cousin Joy, who lived in the town of Forest, about 20 miles away, had become a big part of my life ever since we’d met at a family reunion. She and I both loved art and since we were less than a year apart in age, we seemed to have a lot of shared bonds. Her dad owned a Mercury dealership so her family always drove nice cars.  She drove a new red convertible, and still had another year of high school before she would graduate. During the past school year, she developed a crush on a local boy who was a grade behind me in school. Many days she’d drive over and pick me up so we could circle his house in hopes of seeing him. I think he was shy and might have been hiding, because we never caught sight of him. Today, we might have been considered stalkers. Back then, if he saw us, he was probably flattered by the attention. When he matured a little, he was interested in dating her. This summer as we had done in past summers, Joy and I would get together and spend weeks at each of our homes. Those were times you and I didn’t see each other on weekends. 

Since I was Mom’s only child, she thought it was her duty to guide my every decision and considered her wisdom superior to mine. I had no idea she was reading all the communication between us that she could get her hands on. Some remark I made, or something she read made her decide she needed to get involved in our relationship. We’d probably argued over something trivial and left things up in the air. Without my knowledge, she sent you a letter in which she told you she thought I was confused and needed some time to sort out my feelings She asked you to stay away for a while.   

We had a date planned for Saturday night and as usual I got ready and waited. Mom seemed uneasy and tried to warn me that you might not come. “Don’t be ridiculous” I said. “Of course he’ll come. He tends to run late, but he always comes”
When an hour went by without your car driving up, I begin to worry that something had happened to you. Hours later, I was still stewing and wishing we had phones. I didn’t sleep. When Sunday passed with no word, I began to wonder if you’d simply tired of me and decided to stand me up. By midweek with no news, I was furious. I was a woman scorned and determined not to let this ruin my life. I would show you that you weren’t the only fish in the sea.  

As it happened within days, I did meet another “fish.” He certainly wasn’t someone I found attractive, but he was alive and was definitely interested. He was the nephew of Uncle Harry’s brother’s wife who was visiting from Alabama. We met when they came by our house. He and I walked outside and got acquainted. We swapped addresses and even a kiss, and promised to write to each other. When Mom saw what was happening, she realized she’d overstepped her bounds and confessed. My fury against you suddenly turned toward her. I wrote you immediately and told you to come. I told you Mother was sorry she’d interfered, and she’d promised to stay out of our affairs. That weekend, you did come back and seemed as happy to see me as I was to see you. You said you felt you had no choice when she told you to stay away. You were afraid I was using her to break up because I didn’t want to be the one to do it.

The dates we had after that became a bit more creative. We went swimming at a couple of state parks and other spots. We went skating once although neither of us were very good skaters. Several times we drove to the Meridian Air Base to go up for a plane ride. That is when I learned you had a fascination with planes and had always dreamed of flying your own plane. You bought me records of recording artists you liked, such as Nat King Cole, Joni James, and Connie Frances. Sometimes you even surprised me with a gift of jewelry. I loved the sparkly blue necklace and earring set, but the ankle bracelet didn’t work. Maybe you hadn’t noticed I didn’t have slender ankles. It fit more like a leg brace.

You weren’t a big talker, and I was on the quiet side as well, so we learned to be comfortable with silence unless we were arguing religion. There were many things I appreciated about you. Mostly you seemed to care about me,  and you were honest and had a strong faith in God. I loved your sense of humor, which came out occasionally. You had high moral standards in spite of being all male with slightly roving hands. You were polite and not too countrified. You dressed nice and had a job.

I looked forward to our dates, but like everything else in my life, I was never sure where things were leading. Even though we said we loved each other, I didn’t know if I was in love or not. I had always assumed there would be more than one guy to date before I was comfortable with making a lifetime decision to settle down. After all, you had nine years on me and you’d dated plenty in those years. Only time tell where this relationship was going.
 

 

Author Notes This capture takes place the summer after I finished high school. Evan and I had been dating for five months. I wasn't sure, I was in love but I was starting to have feeling.


Chapter 6
College Life

By BethShelby

In August, my parents informed me that I would be going to Clarke College and living at home. I don’t remember questioning their decision although I’d hoped to at least go somewhere where I knew someone. None of the kids from Newton were going to Clarke. A few of my friends went to East Central Junior College which was only a few miles away. Clarke was walking distance from Dad’s job, but it was a Baptist preacher college. Clarke recruited from all over the world so there were a lot of foreign students there. Dad had always put Clarke and its students down. But it was Dad’s nature to put a lot of things down. Clarke was inexpensive, and it meant I didn’t have to leave home.

On the first day of registration, Dad dropped me off, and I was left to figure out what to do next. I found all the kids were ready and willing to help. Some of the boys went out of their way to show the new girl the way around campus. It wasn’t long before I decided this wasn’t a bad place to be after all. There were three times more guys than there were girls, so the field was ripe for picking.

Weekends were for you, but this was my life during the school week. You had another life where you worked, of which I wasn’t a part. It didn’t feel like I was cheating if I made friends with the guys at school. One guy and I wrote notes in class and walked together to midday singing and religious activities. Most of the students lived in dormitories. Still there was usually someone who wanted to go downtown after class. I never had to walk alone. Sometimes, we’d go to a local cafe for a coke or a snack. Since I had to wait for Dad to get off work before I could go home, it was nice to have a friend to pass the time with. You and I didn’t talk much about your job or my school. Those were parts of our lives we kept separate.

In late September, you invited me to come to Jackson to go to the State Fair with you. It involved me taking a bus to Jackson where you would meet me at the station. It also meant spending the night and returning home the next day. Mom borrowed a neighbor’s phone and called her cousin in Jackson to make arrangements for me to spend the night with them. My parents were finally allowing me a little more freedom than I’d had to this point. Since I didn’t really know the Jackson cousin, I was anxious about staying with her family, but everything went as planned. The fair was fun and Mom’s cousin tried to make me feel at home. The following morning, you came over and drove me to the bus station. I’m sure you never dreamed I’d meet a cute guy to sit with on the bus. He was service bound and anxious to have a stateside pen pal. He and I wrote back and forth for a few months. It was nothing serious. For me, it was just a way to make up for lost time in the world of relationships.

When Christmas came around, you again asked me to come to Jackson and go with you to your company’s Christmas party. Again, I would be staying with Mom’s cousin’s family. Mom saw to it that I had a pretty new party dress to wear. Meeting new people made me uncomfortable. I think my being there might have been the highlight of your year. You were so proud to show me off. You claimed later all the guys and girls at your work thought your young girlfriend was beautiful.That had to be a gross exaggeration. Still I felt beautiful that night, and I was happy I could be there for you.

Christmas was special that year. You gave me a pretty gold watch and we sat in the living room playing Christmas songs and enjoying Mom’s tuna sandwiches and fruit cake. I can’t remember being more content. I gave you gold cuff-links with a sportsman motif. I don’t remember ever seeing you wear them. I think we might have talked about getting married one day, but it was something I shelved in the back of my mind. You didn’t push it. I guess you assumed you’d have to wait for me to finish growing up. You always said I wasn’t silly like a lot of girls you’d dated, and I seemed very mature for my age. I might not have been silly but in reality, I was quite naive.

Maxine and Wayne gave your folks a television that Christmas. From then on, we’d often go over on Saturday nights and watch the Hit Parade. It was a nice change from bad movies at the drive-in, which we didn’t watch anyway. Between your house and mine there werer many dark secluded spots to stop and get in a little private time.together. We always stopped short of getting carried away and doing something we were both likely to regret.

I do remember one Sunday when Aunt Chris invited my family and you to lunch. We were still parked in the front yard, when Mom and Dad left expecting us to follow. We took advantage of some alone time with no prying eyes around to watch. Apparently, we let time slip away. When we didn’t show up within the next thirty minutes, my Dad drove back and tore into the driveway with wheels squealing. The color drained from your face, but Dad’s was red with anger. After he got through yelling at us, he drove behind us all the way there. I thought that display was a gross overreaction. It wasn’t as if we’d never been alone before.

Rhomas was out of the service. Much to my disappointment, we could no longer use his car. You were back driving the little gray Plymouth. Rhomas was looking for a girlfriends, so I persuaded a couple of my friends to go on blind dates with him. You and I double dated and sat in the back. Nothing jelled for Rhomas. The girls weren’t interested in second dates. Rhomas asked you how you felt about him asking Shirley out. Since you had dated her before you and I met, he thought he needed to okay it with you. You said you had no problem with it because you didn’t intend to date her again. Not long after that, the two of them became a couple.

That Spring semester, my speech teacher asked me to take on an unpaid job at a local radio station reading stories to children for an hour each week. The station manager named me Aunt WEGA which was the call letters for the station. I took the job seriously and worked there for most of the spring semester. I even wrote some of the stories I read. I don’t know how many children listened, but I thought it an honor to be asked. 

A new guy in school was interested in me. He wore a duck-tail and was an Elvis fan. I didn’t even know who Elvis was. My idols were Pat Boone, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby. This was early 1956. Elvis was new on the scene. I thought Johnny was cute, so he became a  school week diversion. He knew I had someone special that I only saw on weekends. He kept asking me out. I put him off several times, but I finally agreed to go out with him after school was out for the summer. Just in case things went South with you, and I needed a backup plan.

I had gone to a movie once with another male friend who was engaged to girl in his home town. Since I was also in a relationship, we thought going out as friends would be fine. He was a lot of fun to laugh with, but we both decided not to go out again because we wouldn’t want someone doing it to us.

Something happened just before the Spring semester ended that changed our relationship forever. That day I’d walked back from college with three guy friends who ironically were only platonic friends. Nature had seen to that. I know two of them were definitely gay, and I’m pretty sure the other was as well. In the fifties "gay" meant happy. Back then, when there was a lack of girls friends,these guys make great substitutes..At any rate, the four of us decided to go to one of the two decent restaurants in town and order cokes and fries. We had barely gotten seated when I noticed Rhomas sitting at the counter. I realized he’d seen me, and that I probably needed to speak to him. I don’t remember what I said. Telling him to keep his mouth shut would have been futile and would have made me look guilty, so I don’t think I did that.

On our next date, you came, but there was a definite chill in the air. You barely talked to me at all. We watched the movie without talking or touching. You wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, but I knew. You agreed to come the next weekend, but you acted as if you really didn’t want to. I saw the curtain closing on our relationship.

On our next date, I confronted the issue and tried to explain the guys meant nothing to me and were only acquaintances who I’d walked from college to town with. You said okay, but still you were cold and distant. I suddenly realized I didn’t want this to end. I cared about you. I couldn’t lose you, but that was exactly what was happening.

I wrote you a letter and told you we had to talk and could you please drive over on Wednesday night and see me. You didn’t have time to answer, but you did show up. We drove somewhere and parked. I had already made up my mind that if you came I was ready to do whatever it took to get you back. I knew I had to be in love with you for things to hurt this bad. 

“You said you wanted to talk?”, you asked.

“I will marry you,” I said.

 I was taking a lot of granted because I don’t’ think you’d asked recently,and I’m not sure you’d officially asked at all.

“When?” you asked.

“Whenever you a say,” I answered.

“Okay, how about this weekend.?”

You were pushing it to see if I was really serious. I wasn’t taking any chances. I’d already decided that if you’d have me, I was going to marry you. I knew the weekend would be too soon. We wouldn’t even be able to get a license by then, but I  wasn’t about to ruin this by saying no.

“If that is what you want,” I said.”

The ice was melting fast. You pulled me close and kissed me and I could tell your heart was in it. I knew I’d won. Maybe you thought you were the winner. At any rate, I hope you didn’t have second thought as you drove back to Jackson that night.

Author Notes This is set in a town in Mississippi in the late fifties when life was much different from the way things are today. It is totally true as I remember it.


Chapter 7
What Will Be, Will Be

By BethShelby

I don’t think Mother was too shocked when I told her I was engaged. She said I couldn’t possibly get married that weekend. I knew that was coming. I’m sure you realized that too, because we would have to go together to get a license. I doubt if even you wanted to be married at the courthouse. You showed up that weekend with a beautiful set of rings, which on your salary, you couldn’t afford. They were white gold with five small diamonds on the wedding band and a large diamond with four small ones on the side for the engagement ring. 
 
Daddy kept his mouth shut. He was probably relieved in a way because having a teenager had made him nervous. If I was safely married, he wouldn’t have to worry about my spending too much time in parked cars where he had no control over what went on.
 
We agreed on a date which was about a month away. I had plans I needed to cancel. I’d told a friend I’d fly to Michigan with her that summer. I even had to cancel the date I’d made earlier with the Elvis guy who was staying at the dorm for the summer. I’d agreed to go out when it looked like things were going south with you. That was embarrassing. In the end, I didn’t even confront him. I just wrote a note telling him I had to cancel because I was getting married and sent it by a friend.
 
Your mom seemed pleased about us getting married and anxious to have me as a daughter-in-law. We were at your house one Sunday afternoon. You were with your dad, and your mom and I were together. Suddenly, she asked me a question I wasn’t anticipating. “Beth, what kind of wedding do you want?” Not really a strange question, but for a girl who’d never given any thought to weddings and had never even attended a formal one, I spoke without knowing what was about to come out of my mouth.
 
What I so glibly said was, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe a shotgun wedding?” The silence was deafening. Oh dear God, I thought. Tell me I didn’t just say that. Everyone knew a shotgun wedding meant the girl was pregnant and her dad was forcing the boy to marry her. I’d been around your mom long enough to know her sense of humor was almost nonexistent. I tried to make it into a joke, but I’m sure the attempt fell flat. I did eventually tell her since we were getting married so soon, it would be a small wedding with just family. I was too embarrassed to tell you later what I had said. What I truly wanted was the wedding to be behind me.  
 
As I’d always done, I pretty much let Mother take over. I’d never thought about a wedding, and it wasn’t something I was anxious to get involved with. She decided it would be a home wedding with just a few guests. Word got around quickly. The same two ladies who’d given senior parties in my honor decided to give me wedding showers. Invitations went out and gifts started arriving. I chose patterns for china, crystal, and crockery dinnerware and registered them with a local store. Mom drove me to Meridian and I bought a tea-length wedding dress, a hat, and a going away dress. I had to break into my savings that I’d been accumulating for years. I bought a gold band for you at a jewelry store that was going out of business. As always, I’d been bred to be stingy with my money.
 
Joy was out of town with her parents on vacation, so I asked my friend Helen to be my maid of honor. We bought blue material, and she agreed to make her own dress. You asked Rhomas to be your best man. We decided to ask one of my Religion professors from the college to perform the ceremony. Mom went to the funeral home and borrowed stands and candles. From the florist. she got magnolia blossoms and Ivy vines to line our fireplace.  Dad ordered a three tiered wedding cake from a bakery, which would be delivered to the grocery store where he worked. Our wedding was coming together more smoothly than I had imagined it would.  
 
A couple of days before the wedding, you were on vacation. You picked me up and we drove to the county seat to get the license. When we parked somewhere secluded, I probably would have consented to consummate our relationship, but it was you who decided we should wait. We’ve abstained this far, we can wait a few more days. I had to admire you for that. I don’t know if you were a virgin. That is one secret you would have never shared with me. Like many of the guys in the fifties, it was important to you that the girl you married be a virgin.
  
The day before the wedding, I started getting cold feet. “Why am I getting married?” I asked. “I hardly know the guy.” I told my mother.

That was an overstatement but there was some truth there. As I’ve said before, after that first letter, you’d told me very little about yourself or what you hoped for in the future. We never discussed important things that might confront married couples like having children or living arrangements. Although we’d dated for a year and a
 half, we seldom spent over two or three hours together on the weekends we did go out. That didn’t add up to a lot of time and since you were the silent type anyway, I figured there had to be a lot about you I didn’t know.
 
Mom was horrified. “Give me the word and we’ll cancel the whole thing. You shouldn’t be marrying someone you feel that way about.”

I wasn’t about to cancel it. It would be too embarrassing for everyone. I recognized that I was having an overly dramatic moment, yet I was scared. Changes were always scary. Besides, I was afraid you didn’t realized how undomesticated and naive this girl you were about to marry really was. I’d avoided Home Economics like the plague. I was interested in Art, Science, English, Writing and Speech
. I’d never made a meal in my life. I was unorganized and had never been allowed to make decisions on my own, even concerning what I wore. What if you couldn’t handle all that? If things didn’t work out for us, I assumed there was always divorce. Not a happy thought, but at least it was more accepted in the late fifties than it once was. 
 

 

Author Notes Set in small town Mississippi in the 1956. In the story, I am reliving my days from when I met my late husband as if I speaking to him.


Chapter 8
The Wedding

By BethShelby

It was the 23 of June in 1956 on a Saturday evening. Since Mom was an Adventist and believed this was the Sabbath day, she had managed to get everything in place the day before. The house was clean and the mantel in our living/dining room was lined with magnolias and candles. In front of the fireplace, mom had placed the metal stands from the funeral home and laced them with ivy and broad magnolia leaves and blossoms. The table held a borrowed linen cloth overlaid with another lace tablecloth. On the table were candelabras with white tabors and a large crystal punch bowl with cups. The center of the table held the three tiered wedding cake which Dad had brought in around four in the afternoon when he took off work to come home and dress. All this had taken place with no input at all from me.

The night before Reverend Simmons came over and went through our vows with us. My friend, Helen spent the night and the two of us slept on the sofa which opened into a less than comfortable bed. Neither of us got much sleep. Helen went back home that morning and promised to return in plenty of time. This left me with many free hours to work my nerves into knots of anxiety.

The wedding was scheduled to take place at seven. It was one of those Southern June days when temperatures in Mississippi were flirting with a hundred degrees with no breeze stirring. Our house had no air conditioning, so until it became necessary to turn it off in order to hear, the floor fan was humming loudly. All the men would be wearing suits and ties and sweating profusely. My own dress was a thick brocade with a buttoned jacket and tapered sleeves that reached my wrist. Since it was the style of the fifties, the skirt was held flared with more than one net petticoat. I also wore a small hat and veil.

I was worried you'd be late since you usually were for our dates. Even worse, what if you got cold feet and backed out on me, I didn't need to be so concerned. You showed up on time wearing your new cobalt blue suit and tie. Among the first guests to arrive was an older couple I'd never met. Mom had bumped into them in town and mentioned that her daughter was getting married. Then she felt compelled to invite them. She did call the lady cousin, when she introduced me, but since I assumed I was kin to half the town, I wasn't impressed.

Other guests were my Grandma and Grandpa Weir, Grandma Lay, Aunt Chris, the neighbor who'd given me one of the showers, Birdie Boutwell, and her mom, Miss Mamie. On your side of the family, was your mom and little sister, Nan, your sister Helen and her husband, Joe, and their seven year old son Jimmy, your sister, Maxine, and her husband, Wayne, and there was, of course, your brother, Rhomas

Your dad didn't come because he had emphysema and had difficulty breathing in a crowd. Since our living room wasn't very large and with no air stirring, he certainly made the right decision. As to young Jimmy, he managed to photo bomb almost every picture that was taken with Wayne's Brownie. Your family was spread out across our sofa like crows on a clothes line. They all wore somber expressions.

Since Rhomas was the best man, Mom asked him to light the candles. He looked as though he was going to faint and shook his head. Wayne took over and did the job. Not that we needed any more heat or light. The fan was turned off and the wedding march begin playing on the record player. We only had a few feet to walk, so it didn't have long to play. We marched in together from the kitchen.

In the photographs Wayne took of us, my profile showed a jutted chin, and I looked as if I was on the way to the chopping block. During the ceremony, we were as nervous as feral cats. You felt certain you'd humiliated yourself when repeating the vows because you said "I will" instead of "I do" and "I do" when you should have said "I will". I doubt if anyone really noticed, but you were embarrassed because you couldn't even get the only two things you had to say right.

The minister failed to say "You may kiss the bride" after he pronounced us man and wife. I don't think it was his fault. We turned away from each other so fast we probably didn't give him a chance. Neither of us had ever kissed in public, but later, you worried that we'd missed an important step in the ritual. I assured you that I didn't think that over-sight invalidated the marriage.

Wayne took our pictures around the wedding cake as we cut it and fed each other. Those picture were the best taken. There was no Jimmy in sight since there was only room behind the table for the two of us. Some of the stress had drained away. Everyone had cake, punch, nuts and mints. I hurried to my room to shed the heavy torturous dress that was now damp from humidity and perspiration. I changed into lighter weight clothes and grabbed my bag, so thankful the moment was arriving to bid this party goodbye.

You had bought a brand new mint green and white Buick for starting off our new life together. You'd parked it in town so no one would tie tin cans to it. We didn't want to be marked as newlyweds. Rhomas drove us to your car in his black Pontiac. As we rushed to the car, everyone was outside showering us with rice pellets. I'm sure we left enough rice in that black Pontiac to feed a family of Chinese. It was such a relief to have it over. My cold feet and wedding fears were behind me. I couldn't wait to get out of town.

When Rhomas and Shirley got married several months later, they chose the Justice of Peace. Rhomas had no intention of going through all that nonsense again. The write-up Mom sent to the local paper made our simple little wedding sound like a royal event. She was a master of embellishment.


Chapter 9
The Honeymoon

By BethShelby

You decided we would go to Pensacola Beach for a quick honeymoon. Then we needed to hurry back to Jackson to look for a place to live. You’d lived in a small room at a boarding house for men, so that wouldn’t work for us. I was shocked that you hadn’t used the last month to find us a place to live, but you said you wanted me to help decide on a place. In truth, you’d been busy buying a car, rings and a new suit. Anything more would have probably been too stressful. Money was in short supply.

Being away from home without Mom making all my decisions was an adventure.  I’d gotten past my fear so I relaxed. It was after nine when we left the reception and we had a long way to go. We drove about two hours and found a motel and stopped for the night in Hattiesburg. It was in a fair sized Mississippi town. I’m pretty sure the name of the motel was the Rafters. The ceiling had exposed beams.

I hesitate here because I want our story to be complete and open, but I can imagine one of our children reading this and feeling their mom should have kept some things private. Children seem to want to believe their parents never did any of the things they’ve done. They’d much rather not consider how they came to be in this world. Sometimes I think they like to believe they were immaculate conceptions. I don’t plan on writing purple prose or x-rated material, so I will try handling this part of our story as delicately as possible.

We didn’t waste much time in small talk once we’d checked in. I do remember you saying we should pray together before we started our new life. I was up for that, but the prayer didn’t delay our first night together for long. I had always been a modest person and never been comfortable disrobing completely in front of another person. I think we both preferred to make love in semi-darkness. There was enough light that you pronounced me “well stacked.” I took that as a stamp of approval. We were soon engrossed in exploring each other’s bodies free from the garments that had held us back and the guilt of treading on forbidden ground. You were ever so gentle with me at first, no doubt knowing enough about the female anatomy to expect that there might be pain and bleeding on my part.

I was concerned about that too, but my fear, unlike yours, was that there wouldn’t be. As somewhat of a tomboy, I was always climbing trees and riding bikes. I remembered a time when there was pain and bleeding in that sensitive area. I’d fallen rather hard on the crossbar of a much too large boy’s bike which I was trying to ride. It was possible that the part of my anatomy that declares a girl to be a virgin might no longer be intact.

I was right. I remembered stories I’d read of Arab Princes having their new wives beheaded after finding they hadn’t married a virgin. How would my new husband react? I wasn’t afraid of losing my head, but I was afraid of having my virginity questioned. I knew you would be the kind of guy who expected to marry a virgin. In the fifties most men found that very important. You did ask me about it later, and I hope my explanation satisfied you. However at that moment, you had other things on your mind.  

I don’t know if I was your first. I asked later, but this wasn’t something you wanted to discuss. Another one of those “need to know” secrets, and I guess you didn’t figure I needed to know. You appeared confident in what you were doing. Whether that comes from raw instinct or experience, I’m not sure. I loved the intimacy we shared. The act itself was less earthshaking than I had hoped it would be. However, the fact that you seemed to be finding so much pleasure was enough for me. In time, I was sure I’d adjust and learn to enjoy it as much as you. Time proved me right.

I vowed to myself you would never know that you weren’t giving me the same pleasure as my body was giving you. I also promised myself I would never turn you down if you had the desire to make love. I think you know I kept that promise. You were well stocked with condoms that night, so suffice it to say, we never bothered trying to sleep. At three, we dressed and went looking for an all-night restaurant and got breakfast.

I’d brought along an iron, because back then it was important to look neatly pressed. My clothes were wrinkled from being packed in my bag so when morning came, I looked for a spot to press my outfit. There was no ironing board and the bed was too soft. Looking around I found the closet shelves weren’t nailed down. With a quilt across the plank, it made a fair substitute surface on which to iron.. After dressing, we figured the maid could put the room back in order, so we got our things together and checked out.

We weren’t far down the road when I realized I’d left something behind. I can’t remember what but anyway, we returned to the motel. Back at our room, we found a very distraught manager. He was holding the closet shelf and staring at the big wooden ceiling beams wondering what had fallen. He wasn’t at all pleased with us. I think he seriously considered charging us for damage to his establishment.

Eventually, we saw the signs that read, “Entering Florida, The Sunshine State”. I was elated to be in Florida since the states I’d visited totaled three. Now I had another one to check off, even if Pensacola was just barely out of Alabama. We spent a short time on the beach before you confessed you were about out of money. Luckily I had my life savings derived from my one quarter a week allowances and a few dollars I picked up from birthdays and Christmas. There wasn’t much left after buying my wedding dress and your ring, but we hoped it would hold out another day or two.  Our one day in Florida was all we could afford, so we headed back toward home to pick up more of my clothes before going to Jackson.

Author Notes This is a bit more intimate than the other chapters but I don't think it rises to the level that it needs to be restricted.


Chapter 10
Beginning Our Life Together

By BethShelby

Since we needed to conserve our dwindling funds, we spent our third night of marriage back in my own home. My room had twin beds, so this night was nothing like the previous nights. What we both needed was a good night’s sleep. Even if we’d had a double bed, there would have been no love making under my parent’s roof. You and I would have both been too embarrassed to risk that.
  
The next morning, Mom must have sensed we might need to eat, because she packed enough food to last a week. Included among the sandwiches, she’d packed the top layer of my wedding cake. Since we had no way to freeze or even refrigerate it, there was no chance it would be around on our first anniversary as tradition dictated.

We got on the road early. By the time we reached Jackson, it was already sweltering humid weather. It tuned out your new car was pretty on the outside, but missing a few things inside, like a heater and an air-conditioner. In the fifties, those items weren’t considered standard equipment. For now, we could do without the heater, but baking even with the windows down wasn’t easy to endure. We splurged and bought a newspaper and a bag of  ice, and begin to explore our options.

We thought a higher power was with us when we happened to see a lady tacking up a Furnished Apartment for Rent sign as we drove through a fairly nice neighborhood. We stopped to ask and it sounded perfect. It was in a tiny private cottage behind her main house. She’d just finished cleaning it after a couple of college girls moved out. We looked and loved it. We paid the first month’s rent and moved in with our clothes and Mom’s care package of food.

We were still celebrating our good fortune when night fell. That is when reality set in. When it got dark, huge roaches, invaded from all directions. I was familiar with spiders and ants and even a few water bugs, but I’d never even seen three inch long flying creatures like these. I was terrified. We had to do something, but we weren’t ready to give up our cute little love nest.

Rushing to the nearest grocery store, we purchased three of the strongest cans of roach spray we could find. Back at the cottage, we emptied them on every inch of the walls, floor and ceilings. We spent the next couple of hours at a drive-in theater watching some horror film about the end of the world by nuclear fallout. After we thought enough time had passed, we returned to the cottage. We didn’t see any roaches, so we opened all the windows to air out the place and sank into bed exhausted. Almost immediately, something fell from the ceiling and hit you in the head. We switched on the light, and to our horror, punch drunk roaches were falling everywhere.

Needless to say, we grabbed our clothes and fled. We had no choice other than to use more of our dwindling funds on a hotel room for the night. The next morning, we moved out. The landlady was sympathetic enough to return our deposit. She should have paid us an extermination fee, because I have a feeling we solved the roach problem for the next renters.
 
The following morning, we used the hotel phone to check out the few leads we found in the newspaper. Most were either spoken for already or unfurnished. Finally one lady said she had an apartment that would be ready to rent in a few days. She suggested we come by and talk to her about it, and we’d see what we could work out. After she looked us over and interviewed us, she decided we were decent people, and she made us a deal. She said we couldn’t see the apartment because people were still moving out, but she described it as a one bedroom, bath and kitchen with a walk-in closet. We would enter through the front door of the house she lived in. There were two apartments at the top of the stairs. She told us she had another house across town next door to her daughter and son-in-law. She would let us use it until she checked out the apartment and got it ready. We did see the outside of the house where we would be renting. It was in an older but decent part of town and only a block from the bus stop. We jumped on this offer and agreed to rent the apartment sight-unseen. Since nothing else was available, we had little choice.

The lady gave us a key and directions to her other house which was in a more modern neighborhood. We were delighted when we found the house. It was a treat to have a nice place like this for our own private use. The first thing you wanted when we arrived was a cup of coffee. Your mom boiled her coffee in a kettle. I was used to the drip pot my mother used. We looked around and found nothing like that available. There was a pot that looked like it had a place to plug in a cord, but we couldn’t find a cord. We debated what to do, but in the end we put this on the stove and attempted to make coffee. We realized our mistake when the plastic base started to melt.

We gave up on the coffee and decided to try out the bed, when suddenly we heard a door open and people talking.

“What’s that funny smell? It smells like plastic burning.” we heard someone say.

It turned out to be the daughter next door and her husband who came over to do  laundry, and no doubt, check on us. We couldn’t have been more embarrassed. What a pair of ignorant clowns we were turning out to be. We ended up spending only one night there. I think our new landlady made quick work of getting the apartment ready before these new tenants burned down her house. The next day, we got to see what we’d rented sight unseen. 

 

Author Notes Set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1956


Chapter 11
Apartment Living

By BethShelby

Mrs. Jennings led us up a dark, steep stairway to show us our apartment. Our unit was connected to another one by a locked door. There was a couch pulled across the door with large red flowered slipcovers. The room was L-shaped with high ceilings. Other than the couch, it had a double bed and a chest of drawers, a stuffed chair and a table and lamp. A door lead out onto a flat pebbled roof. She told us we must never go out that door because it might cause a leak in the apartment below.

Beside a small closet, there was a door about six inches up that led to a walk through bath. It had an old fashioned tub on claw-foot legs, a sink and mirror, and a toilet. There was barely room for one of us to walk through at a time. Luckily we weren’t big people. The only way to the tiny kitchen was through the bathroom. There was a 6 inch step-down to get there. It contained an apartment size stove and refrigerator, a small table and two chairs. We had to exit our apartment to get to a larger closet with no lock, which would serve as a pantry and anything else we needed to store. She told us we could use the washing machine in the basement if no one else was using it. There was a clothes line out back for drying our clothes.

The rent was $60 a month. Even that was a stretch for us, but we didn’t complain. We didn’t realize then how hot the place would be with no air-conditioning. We also weren’t aware that both Mr. and Mrs. Jennings would have keys to our apartment and would feel free to walk in any time they chose without bothering to knock. We found that out the first day. You sat in our one chair and pulled me into your lap just as the door popped open and Mr. Jennings walked in saying he thought he should come over  and get acquainted. Embarrassed, I struggled to stand but you held me. He was a big man with balding hair. He said he wouldn’t be around all the time because he was a traveling salesman. That was a relief to know, but it turned out he was around much too often.

You insisted that we get a telephone in case our folks needed to get in touch with us. Not being used to one, I found it intimidating and refused to answer it. You went back to work on the following Monday. I got a newspaper and starting searching the want ads looking for any job I might be suited for. Having no work experience, prospects were slim.

In the evenings when you were home, we often went to a movie just to cool off for a couple of hours. The heat was unbearable. You told me to take your credit card and go buy us a fan. Unfortunately, with no previous purchasing experience, I paid about three times as much as you expected. You didn’t get upset with me, but I think you decided you’d better go with me when I shopped.

You decided we needed a pistol for protection so you bought one and decided I needed to learn how to use it. There were no free pistol ranges around, so we went into the country looking for a private place to practice. We thought we had found the right spot, but we’d barely gotten there when a man stopped by in a truck and yelled at us. He told you that you should be ashamed for taking a young girl out in the country for immoral purposes. You told him I was your wife, but he didn’t believe you. I did look very young back then and it was obvious you were older.

Summer was almost over. I assumed when I got married my school days were over.  One day, you told me if I wanted to finish college, I should go. “We can’t afford it,” I protested. You said we would manage somehow. I was excited because I’d really wanted to attend a college with an art program. After checking out the two local colleges, we drove over to Clinton which was about ten miles away. Mississippi College did offer an Art degree. Since they were affiliated with Clarke, the junior college I’d gone to in Newton, all my hours would transfer. The drawback was that I would have to take a city bus to the main bus terminal and catch another bus from there. It would be a slow trip because the bus would stop at practically every corner. It wouldn’t be easy, but I was willing to try. I registered at the college and signed up for as many hours as they would approve. I thought if I did that and attended the summer semesters, I could graduate in two years.

In world events, there were rumors of trouble brewing in the Middle East. Of course that has always been an unstable part of the world where war is always just around the corner. I wasn’t that interested and wouldn’t have been concerned except that you were still in the reserves and could be called back into active duty. You always listened to the news on the radio, but I stayed away from hearing anything negative. Thinking about what could happen made me uncomfortable.

In November, Eisenhower won a second term as president. I felt good about him because he was the subject of a paper I’d written in high school. I assumed a general like him could handle things.You weren’t an Ike fan, so I didn’t ask you how you voted. I couldn’t vote yet, because I hadn’t reached the magic age of twenty-one, when people of that day were declared to be adults. By that standard, we had children fighting our wars, because you could be drafted to fight and die in service at eighteen.

Since you were supporting a wife and paying for my college, money became even tighter than before. My family had never been in debt. If we didn’t have enough to pay cash, we didn’t get it. Growing up in the Great Depression, being in debt was not an option, They were able to live debt free. You were making payments on a car, my rings, a gasoline credit card, a Sears card, rent, utility bills and now my school. You started picking up as much overtime as you could get. Still, your Friday paycheck was gone by the time we mailed out bill payments on Monday. Even with summer ending, our upstairs apartment was roasting with no trees around. We were pawning your gun and both of our watches just to have enough for food and movie tickets so we could cool off in the air-conditioning.

To make matters even worse, one of those “need to know” moments arose. We got a large bill from a mortgage company for a yearly payment on property you owned.  This is when you got around to telling me your family didn’t own the house they were living in. They had another smaller house nearby which they were renting out. You’d paid down on the place they were in while you were in service. You were the one who had to make the yearly payment on it. You said your family would pay you back if they could ever afford it. When you lived in a one room alone, you could manage the payment, but now you were supporting a wife. You were forced to make another bank loan that could be paid back monthly. It wasn’t long until we were making side loans from loan companies with astronomical interest rates. I remember one occasion when we owed the bank, three loan companies and the pawn shop as well as all of our other creditors.

It’s a good thing we were young and in love. That kind of stress is what causes ulcers.  Money problems often puts too much pressure on marriages. Being older and realizing you were now responsible for another person probably made you suffer more than I. I hoped you weren’t having second thoughts about what you’d gotten yourself into to by marrying me.. I was dealing with my own immaturity and trying to get used to life in a city without Mother around to make all of my decisions.

Author Notes Mississippi in 1956


Chapter 12
Learning Our Roles in Marriage

By BethShelby

All that maturity you thought I had, surely must have disappeared before your eyes when I was thrust into the role of a married woman. If you thought you might have a wife who could cook like mom, you were in for a huge letdown. My culinary skills consisted of using a can opener. Even heating up canned food was a challenge. You decided you could save money by coming home for lunch. I had to catch the bus and go to school around ten, so I was never home when you got there. I would open a can of peas, spaghetti, or corn, heat it, and leave it in the oven for you to find. I used only the top of the stove for heating. The oven was to keep bugs off the food. To make up for the lack of a properly prepared meal, I got in the habit of leaving a love note for you to read.

For a wedding gift, someone had given me a set of Tupperware bowls. Tupperware is basically high grade plastic. One day for some reason, I turned the oven on. Maybe I thought a low heat might actually make the food warm enough to be more palatable. When you arrived for lunch your meal was sitting in the middle of the front yard, blackened and mixed with colored strands of pink,yellow and blue plastic. Our landlady had made an unscheduled visit to our apartment when she smelled plastic burning. I imagine after the episode with her electric coffee pot, she was on the lookout for pyromaniacs anyway. I was humiliated and I’m sure you were as well. What bothered me more was that she’d probably read my steamy love note.

The visits by our landlord grew more frequent. If he knew I was home, he was sure to pop in with any excuse. I learned he was someone I couldn’t let get too close because he seemed to be looking for an excuse to touch me. I started making sure there was a chair or table between us. He’d say things like he wanted to check my laundry because he was missing a sock, and maybe it was accidentally mixed with mine. I began missing socks too. He’d claim he’d found an extra sock in his laundry.

When I told you what he was doing, and that I found him creepy, you got very angry and was ready to go settle the score. You were so unset you frightened me. I could visualize the headlines of your arrest for an assault and battery charge. I begged you not to go and eventually convinced you that maybe it wouldn’t happen again. He’d said something about going back on the road. I realized you would do anything to protect my honor. I was also learning you had a temper. I remembered the pistol and made a mental note that some things were best kept to myself. I needed to learn to handle my own battles.

Another couple lived behind the locked door leading to the other apartment joining ours. The man played trumpet in a nightclub until late at night. He and his girlfriend would come in late after drinking and would get into verbal arguments or fights. We were sleeping one night when there was a sudden scream from a woman yelling “Help me! Help me!” Still asleep, I yelled back, “Hold on, I’m coming.” You shook me awake. “Hush,” you said. “Who knows what those people might do. We don’t need to get involved.” We lay very still and listened. Not a sound from next door. They may have been waiting on me to show up, or they might have been afraid we’d call the police. It was the last time we heard them fight. Soon after that they moved out.

We hadn’t lived in that apartment long when your mom, dad and sisters, Helen and Nan let us know they would be coming up to visit us. Maybe they’d gotten the word I didn’t cook, because they said they knew I was busy with school so they would bring the food. It wasn’t an apartment suited for guests. There was barely enough room for us. Besides, the step-up bathroom leading to the step-down kitchen wasn’t an architectural feature I was proud of.

Most weekends, we traveled back to visit our parents. Mother, who was thrilled to learn I’d be going back to college, bought material and began making clothes for me so I’d be properly dressed. She also made sure we had plenty of food to take back home. The weekend before, she had given us an apple pie, which I promptly put into the oven and forgot about. Some of the food your Mom and Helen brought needed to be heated. I opened the oven and found the pie. I still didn’t remember it was a gift from my mom, and I thanked your folks for bringing such a yummy looking pie. Helen looked at me blankly and said, “We didn’t bring a pie.” She pulled it from the oven and saw that it was covered with a gray inch-high growth of fungus. My humiliation was complete.

While living in that apartment, I got a bladder infection and had to find a doctor. Mrs. Jennings said she had one who was wonderful. I was too naive to recognize his way of examining patients was unorthodox. In the first place, I was embarrassed to be undressed in the presence of a strange man. There was never a nurse in the room when he was examining the patient. He kept me coming back even after the medicine cleared up the infection. He said I was extremely anemic and needed weekly B12 shots. I had to undress every week and he insisted on examining my breasts weekly to make sure I wasn’t developing any cancerous lumps. I quit going after a few weeks of this. I didn’t need to add medical bills since your paycheck wasn’t covering the debts we already had. Several years later, I heard he’d lost his license to practice medicine.

Mrs. Jennings was an odd character. She was a member of a Pentecostal church. I often heard her shouting prayers and speaking in tongues in the middle of the day. I didn't question her faith, but it seemed inconsistant with her love of gossip about all of her tenants. She let me know that she couldn’t stand her husband and had no physical relationship with him. That might have offered some explanation as to why I instinctively knew I needed to keep a piece of furniture between us when he came around. I was relieved when he did go back on the road.

During that first year, my paternal grandmother suffered a second stroke and was near the point of death. We went home that weekend, and I watched as she took her last breath. You and I went back to break the sad news to Mom and Dad. They left us alone at the house when they went to make funeral arrangements. I turned to you for comfort. I’d spent every possible hour of my childhood in that house. Many days, Grandma had dumped the money from her fruit jar which she made from selling milk and eggs and played store with me. She taught me how to make change. I’d followed her weekly treks to the back pasture to mend fences. I was her only grandchild and she adored me.
 
You were sympathetic and loving as I clung to you, but having me in your arms always seemed a form of foreplay for you. We never made love when anyone was near, but on this day, we had the house to ourselves and nature took over.

During the next week my parents had plumbing problems. The grinning repair man was quick to let them know that what clogged their pipes was a used condom. Naturally, my mom had to let me know the offending object didn’t belong to them. I think she took sadistic pleasure in seeing me blush.

 

Author Notes Jackson, Mississippi 1956


Chapter 13
Moving On Up

By BethShelby

Because of the heat in the apartment, I’d gotten in a habit of using the downtown library for studying. It happened to be right across the street from where you worked. You were working a lot of overtime in the evenings. Sometimes when you were there alone, I’d come over and use one of the offices to do my work. You liked having me there. For me, it beat taking a bus back to an empty apartment.
 
Sometime before the end of the Spring Semester, rumors were circulating around your office that the company was thinking of relocating. Finally the word became official. Your architectural firm would be moving in a couple of months to a small town in Southern Mississippi. Neither of us wanted to move back into what we considered `the sticks’. However if you didn’t locate another job, we would have no choice. For me, it could mean the end of college. The ads in the local papers didn’t look promising. You went to the library and checked ads in the of state papers. In the New Orleans paper, you found a couple of places needing Draftsmen. One was in New Orleans and the other in Baton Rouge.
 
Maxine and Wayne were living in New Orleans at the time. You called your sister and made arrangements to stay with them while we came down and looked for job possibilities. I was excited because we seldom went anywhere other than back to our parents on weekends. I’d been in New Orleans twice before. It seemed the kind of place where things were happening. Things were happening alright. You witnessed someone threatening to jump from a tall building. You saw that as a bad omen.
 
We were in New Orleans for two days. On the first day, you went for an interview and found it to be a different kind of drafting than you’d done previously. It was with an oil company and involved maps rather than architectural plans. The interviewer thanked you for coming, and said he’d let you know something within the week. We drove out to Tulane University where I picked up a college catalog.
 
That night, Maxine and Wayne wanted to take us out to Pontchartrain Beach, a local amusement park, while we were there. It was an exciting treat for me. I’d never had the opportunity to visit anything other than a local county fair and once a state fair. You and I decided to ride the big roller coaster. Neither of us had ever been on one before. Once seated, the operator pulled a heavy steel bar down across our seats and locked it into place. I was terrified of heights, but up for facing my fear and determined to try new experiences. You put a protective arm around me to reassure me. The cars began the climb to the top of the ramp. I kept my eyes closed as we went higher and higher. The steel bar was designed in such a way that it would give about an inch, but we didn’t know that. As we started gaining speed on the long decent, the bar moved. You yelled “It’s broken! Hang on!”
 
Your arm left my shoulder as you grabbed both sides to save yourself. The ride got faster and faster as our knuckles turned white from gripping the edges of our seat. It seemed the torture would never end.  When we finally came to a stop and were freed from the bar, we could barely walk. Luckily the park wasn’t extremely well lit because my pants were soaked. Yours might have been as well, but you wouldn’t admit it. I never let you live down the fact that when things really got rough, it was every man for himself. I knew it was a gut reaction on your part, and you would always be there for me. Still it was fun to tease you about letting go of me on that roller coaster.
 
The next day we went to Baton Rouge and you interviewed for the other job with an engineering firm.
You were told again someone would let you know in a few days. This time I checked out LSU. If you got either of these jobs, I’d still be able to enroll in college. Both Tulane and LSU were much larger  than the college I was attending in Mississippi. The idea of going to either place was intimidating. I knew a lot of my hours might not transfer. Besides it would likely be more expensive.
 
While we were there, we did a little sight seeing and visited the State Capital. A tour guide took us around and stopped in the hallway to show us a spot on the marble where a bullet was fired at Huey P. Long, the flamboyant governor known as the Kingfish. Long was one of a line of colorful but corrupt governors in Louisiana. However, from what I knew about Mississippi governors, Louisiana didn’t have a monopoly on corrupt politicians. We had our share as well.
 
There was a mystery surrounding Long’s assassination. A local doctor, whose relative had been fired unjustly by the governor, was shot and killed by Long’s body guards but whether the doctor fired the fatal shot was never confirmed. Rumors were that Long was actually killed by one of his own body guards and that a gun was planted as a cover up. It was an interesting tour.
 
When we left Baton Rouge, we headed back to Jackson hoping to make it home before dark. Our money had run out. We used the last of our change for coffee. Coffee was only a dime a cup so that’s how broke we were. We would have been in trouble had you not had a credit card for gasoline. We were starting to get hungry when we saw a sign for grand opening for a grocery store. It advertised free drinks and samples. We went in and pushed a cart around pretending to be shopping and took advantage of all the food they offered. This way we managed to get home without our stomachs growling too loudly.
 
We anxiously waited several days for a phone call. Too often, promises to let an applicant know one way or the other never materialize. Eventually, the phone calls did come. Amazingly, you were offered both jobs. The engineering job might have been more suited, but the one with the Oil company was the one you took because they had a Jackson office needing a draftsman as well. I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be moving to either of the big cities. Our year’s lease was up on the apartment we were in. It was time to make our escape from the crazy landlady and the architectural nightmare of a weird apartment.
 
Once again, we started reading ads for furnished apartments. Thankfully our search paid off. We found one nearer downtown and much larger. It, too, was in an older home but in a nicer section of Jackson. The bus stop was practically in front of the house. This time we’d have the use of a garage and the rent was five dollars less per month. Five dollars wouldn’t buy a decent lunch now, but in 1959, in might mean a week's supply of food. We went from paying $60.00 per month to paying $55.00. That was a big deal. This house would afford us its share of adventure and misadventure. But at that moment, leaving Alexander Street was enough to make us feel like celebrating.

Author Notes Jackson, Mississippi in 1957 This takes place about a year after my marriage.


Chapter 14
Our Second Year

By BethShelby

Our new apartment was in a stately old house with columns that was owned by a retired Baptist pastor and his wife. It had a long porch across the entire front. On one side of the hallway leading in was a lovely living room with a chandelier and an equally pretty dining area. The pastor and his wife didn’t use those rooms anymore. They now lived beyond them in a smaller sectioned off area on the same side. The other side of the downstairs hallway contained two separate rooms that were rented out to single men. Each room had its own bath. Further down the hallway was an impressive stairway with a landing leading to the second floor. The apartment we rented contained three large rooms with high ceilings and a fair sized bath with a claw-foot tub. There were large windows in all the rooms and even a trestle over the main door leading into the hallway.

Our kitchen was almost as large as the whole apartment we had just moved from. The windows across the back opened onto a roof. Since the ceilings were high and the place was surrounded by large trees, we were able to stay cool enough without air-conditioning. The bedroom was furnished with a bed, dresser. and chest of drawers. There was also a day-bed with pillows that served as a couch. Best of all, there was a large lighted walk-in closet in the bedroom as well as one like it in the living room. The living room had a fireplace and sofa, coffee table, and several other chairs and lamp tables. Across the hallway, there was another apartment much the same as ours. When we moved in, there was a middle-aged couple living across the hall.

The only drawback this time was that we didn’t have access to a washing machine. Whoever had rented this apartment before, had strung up clotheslines across one section of the large kitchen for drying clothes. There were no hookups for a washing machine, but I wasn’t about to do laundry by hand. Taking our laundry to a commercial laundromat got old quickly. We felt we had no choice but to buy a washing machine. Your Sears credit card came in handy. We could plug the machine in, but in order to drain the water, we had to push the machine over and let the hoses drain into the kitchen sink. This worked as long as we were nearby to make sure the hose stayed in the sink until the water was out. It wasn’t ideal to have clothes hanging all over the kitchen, but after a few hours, they would be dry enough to take down.
 
You started your new job shortly after we moved. Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly get off to good start. The grumpy German man who was your new supervisor wasn’t thrilled that he’d had no input in hiring you. His superior in New Orleans had informed him they were sending him a new draftsman. Now it was his job to train someone who had never done this type of drafting before. There were five or six other draftsman in the department who seemed friendly and helpful.

You weren’t suited for working under stress, and your first day proved that when a migraine hit with a fury. Your migraines involved your eyesight to such a degree you were only seeing half of objects, and they were distorted with balls of light that seemed to be bouncing around them.. After the vision interference cleared, you would have nausea and headaches that lasted for hours.. It was not a good impression to make on the new boss when you were forced to leave after a few hours. I was shocked when I got in from school to find you in bed trying to sleep off the headache.

The second day, you went back to work with a great deal of trepidation hoping you still had a job. This time Seitz, the supervisor, turned your training over to the assistant supervisor, who was a kinder man with more patience. You were starting to get to know some of the other draftsman. The first impression of Seitz lingered, however, and never completely went away. The headaches were more frequent. They had been rare with the other drafting job. From that day forward, I think you decided that working for someone else wasn’t something you wanted to spend the rest of your life doing.

Not long after we moved in, the two of us were in the car together. You parked it in the garage we used under the big house. When we exited the garage, we heard a shrill sound that at first. we thought was some kind of bird. Then we realized someone was calling us. We looked for the source of the sound and saw a frail bent, but lively old lady coming out the door of an apartment behind us. She was carrying a covered bowl and a paper plate with a napkin over it. She said her name was Miss Jack, and she wanted to welcome us to the neighborhood. She gave us a plate of homemade cookies and a bowl of tuna salad. She fit my definition of “a character’. She lived alone in her tiny apartment and loved to cook.You said it was the best tuna you’d ever eaten. When she learned how much we liked her tuna, she made it for us often. She put a lot of pecans in it, which we’d never thought of doing before. To this day, I still put pecans in tuna salad. After a while, Miss Jack and I became friends and sometimes, I’d go over and play card games with her.

We hadn’t lived in the apartment but a few weeks when one weekend after visiting our folks, we came home to find a wreath on the door. Our new landlord had suffered a heart attack and died. His children took their wheelchair bound mother to live with one of them. Things changed some after that. We got a notice as to where we should mail our monthly rent check, but we never met a new landlord. Apparently a rental agency was now in charge. Before long, the area where the old couple had lived was rented out as well.

It was several weeks before we met the couple who lived across the hall from us. The lady, Audrey, was much younger than her husband. I learned he had some slight mental retardation due to an injury he’d received in service. He was unable to work, but he was on disability and from a wealthy family. They saw to it that he had everything he needed. Audrey had married him because he’d provided her with a ticket out of the little town where she was raised. One day they drove up in a beautiful new car. Her husband saw me sitting on the front porch and asked, “Did you see the new car I bought for Audrey?” I thought nothing of it at the time, but shortly after, he suffered a stroke and was taken to the Veterans hospital where he remained about a month until his death.

I went with Audrey to the hospital a couple of times when he was still alive to see him. After his death, his family, who resented Audrey, wanted his car. Audrey told me I needed to go to court and testify that her husband had bought the car as a present for her. In the end, she managed to keep it by letting them know she had a witness to the fact he bought it for her. After that, she often invited me to go out with her on various errands. We went to the court house and a few other places. However, I soon realized she was a flirt and was the kind of person who would get me in trouble. There was always men in her apartment and often, they were still there the next morning. She was a Jehovah Witness, and she claimed the visiting men were guys from the Kingdom Hall, who were there to have Bible studies with her. You and I were fairly sure it wasn’t a practice of that church to conduct all night Bible studies.

You decided that we needed to be in church. There was a Baptist church in North Jackson that you had attended occasionally before we were married. We made an attempt to get back to Jackson earlier from our weekend visits to see our parents in order to attend the Sunday night service. I’d never joined a church because of Mother, who had left the Baptist church for a different faith. A Baptist church was the only kind I’d ever attended, and I was a student in a Baptist college. It seemed the best thing for our marriage was that you and I belong to the same church. I knew this would make you happy. It meant I would need to be baptized. The next time there was an altar call, both of us went down together and joined. The following Sunday I was led in the baptismal pool in the front of the church and dipped beneath the water. I had mixed feelings, because I knew my mother had hoped I would one day become a member of her church. My beliefs were more in line with hers, but it was you who now had my allegiance. I hoped God would understand and approve.

Since I’d grown up in the outskirts of a small town, I’d seldom seen a squirrel. Unless there were a lot of large trees around, squirrels tended to live in city parks or deep in the woods. My dad often told stories of the pet squirrel he had as a boy. The squirrel lived in his coat pocket and often sat on his shoulder. This gave me the idea that squirrels make good pets. The house we lived in had a generous supply of these cute little creatures in the yard. With big trees around and a roof line that terminated against our kitchen window, I had a perfect view of their antics. They were often running around the roof and peering through the glass into our kitchen.

Since our window had no screen, I decided to open the window and lure one inside. I figured with the proper training I’d soon have one sitting on my shoulder. When they seemed to be ignoring my open window, I decided to give them a reason to come inside so I tried tossing nuts on the roof. The squirrels would grab the nuts and scamper out of reach. Then I tried placing the nuts closer to the window. Finally I  made a trail of shelled walnuts coming all the way across the window sill and onto an ironing board I’d pushed against the window. At last, one brave critter fell for my ruse and actually came all the way inside.

I made a lunge for him. Big mistake. He leaped off the table and began moving at warp speed, apparently trying to move in every direction at once. You heard the commotion and came in to see what was happening. By that time, I realized I’d made a serious error in judgement. You grabbed the broom and both of us began trying to shoo him back out the window. He eventually found his way back out, but not before practically destroying our kitchen and leaving both of us out of breath. I decided a grown squirrel wouldn’t be trainable, and perhaps a cat would make a better pet after all.

 


Chapter 15
The End of My Formal Education

By BethShelby

I took a lot of basic art courses my sophomore year, since art was my major and I wasn’t in a school that taught art in my freshman year. I also took College Algebra, which I barely passed because my high school teacher was a coach who didn’t care if we learned anything or not. In order to make sure his star football players' grades stayed up enough to keep them playing, his tests were generously sprinkled with questions about the latest game or even things from the funny papers. My getting A’s in high school algebra translated to D’s in college. Even though my GPA dropped a bit, I still loaded down my schedule so I could finish in the summer of `58. I was minoring in Education in case I decided to teach at some point.

The education and psychology courses were extremely boring. Actually, it was mainly the teachers that were boring. In Adolescent Psychology class, I’d managed to humiliate myself by not reading the material thoroughly. I’d tried to bluff my way through a test by answering questions from what I thought I’d observed from my own experience. Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with the word “pubic”.  I thought pubic hair was a beard. The test question was “When do adolescent boys develop pubic hair?” I argued with my professor that my answer had to be correct, because from my own observation, the boys I knew didn’t get pubic hair in their early teens. He gave me a strange look, and told me he needed the textbook answer.

I managed to get through the Spring semester and take a couple of easy courses during that summer. Now I had enough hours to classify as somewhere between a Junior and a Senior. When my classes were over each day, I had to walk a couple of blocks to catch the bus back to Jackson. Often the weather was horrible, and occasionally I had to wait in the rain.

One day it was really storming. A young guy stopped his car and offered me a ride into Jackson.  I hesitated, but I had no umbrella and was getting soaked. I assumed he was a student so I got into his car. That was a mistake. Right away he wanted me to go with him to get something to drink. I told him “no”, because I had to get home. We argued and I pleaded until he finally agreed to take me home.  When we got to my street, I didn’t want him to know where I lived. I pointed to a house several doors down. When he let me out, he kept watching as I went up on the porch of the house. I couldn’t walk into a stranger’s house, but he kept watching. I finally sat down on the porch and opened a book like I planned to study outside. When he gave up and drove away, I vowed to never take another ride with a stranger. I didn’t dare tell you how stupid I’d been. You were dealing with enough problems of your own.

When Christmas came that year, I’d been so busy trying to get all my work turned in before the holidays that I hadn’t had any time to think about the decorating or presents. After school dismissed for the holidays, thus ending the fall semester, there was only a few days before we would go out of town for Christmas with our folks. Even though your salary on the new job had improved, money was still tight. I had to hurry to find a few inexpensive gifts for the family. It was depressing that our apartment showed no signs of Christmas. The previous year, we had cut a small cedar tree on Dad’s property and brought it home. We’d decorated it with things we made from popcorn and construction paper. Both of us felt a bit down this year, because Christmas had always been special for both of us.

The day before Christmas Eve, you came home with a surprise for me. You’d gone by a Christmas Tree lot that had almost sold out. The owner had closed down early and tossed the remaining trees by the curb. You picked up a nice sized spruce and brought it home. I was so excited, we spent half the night decorating it. When Christmas was over, it remained up for most of January. Once again, I was too busy to deal with it. When most of the needles were gone, we put the tree, decorations and all, in the walk-in living room closet where it stayed until April.

You’d made a few friends at work and you invited a young guy named Bill Brewer over a few times for a meal. My cooking skills hadn’t improved much, but he wasn’t picky. He was divorced and had a little girl in Texas who he seemed to miss a lot. He had me do a pencil portrait of her from a wallet photo.  I was glad you were making friends. I didn’t have anyone I could call a friend, because the dorm students had no time for married students who rushed away from class to catch a bus. 

January 1958 rolled around and I was scheduled to do practice teaching in one of local Junior High Schools. I didn’t know how to relate to young teens and the idea of having to deal with them made me very nervous. I was pretty sure, teaching was not my thing. I only had it for a backup.

Several weeks of working with city teenagers made this small town girl even more certain she didn’t want to be a teacher. My assignment involved teaching seventh, eighth and ninth grade students. Most of them were taking art because they expected it to be an easy class. The eighth graders caused the most discipline problems. I was too insecure to test my book knowledge of discipline. I did, nevertheless, earn an A and a glowing recommendation from the supervising teacher. I think she was just happy to get away from the classes for a while.

One good thing did come out of the teaching experience. It came from something I overheard in the teaching lounge. One of the teachers related an experience she had with severe migraines that involved vision interference like yours. She had gone to a doctor who sent her to a psychiatrist. He convinced her the blind spells were all in her mind. Once she was able to believe he was right, she never had another one. I must have told you her story in a very persuasive way because you bought it. From that point on, you never had the blind spells and nausea again. You still had stress headaches, but they weren’t as severe as the migraines were.

The ironic thing was I started having the same kind of vision experiences you had described. Mine were later diagnosed as a type of migraine. I never had the headaches as you did and my vision interference lasted only about twenty-five minutes. My mind must not have been as susceptible to suggestion as yours, or maybe that demon had to go somewhere once it departed from you.  
  
As we neared the end of the semester, I was so snowed under with work that I began to wonder if I’d survive or just go crazy. I had term papers to write, tests to prepare for and I was way behind in finishing my art projects. I needed help and you had too much on your plate for me to add to your stress.

Mom felt sorry for me and came to see what she could do. I had her doing some of the research on my term papers while I finished some of the advertising art projects, water colors, and oils. Graduation was around the first week in June. I would march in the graduation ceremony and be handed an empty diploma cover. My actual diploma would be mailed after completing the two summer semesters which were six weeks each.

Your family as well as mine attended my graduation. The ceremony  was held on the football field. There were hundreds of students, so it was a tiresome affair. Still, everyone seemed pleased to have a college graduate in the family. I’d saved easy classes for the summer semesters. I felt I could coast the rest of the way. By September, I planned to find work and start helping you pay off some of our debts.

 

Author Notes I continue talking to my deceased husband as I remember our years together. We are living in our second apartment and I'm finishing College. He working as a draftsman for an Oil company.


Chapter 16
Pros and Cons

By BethShelby

I had a couple of summer classes to complete. You had some vacation time coming and wanted to go spend time in the country with your folks. We decided I would stay in the dorm for two weeks before taking a bus back to meet you at my parents’ house. I’d never lived in a dorm and I wanted that part of the college experience. Most of the students were home for the summer, so I had a room to myself. I enjoyed the experience, but if it had been longer than two weeks, I’m sure it would have gotten old.

While I was away from home, there was no way for me to receive mail or phone calls. Some things had happened which I had no way of knowing about. After grandma died, my parents had taken in my grandfather. He was getting senile and somewhat verbally abusive. Mother and Dad’s relationship was a powder keg of explosive tempers and emotions. As the man of the house, Dad thought he had the right to decide everything. When Mom changed religions, he’d gone ballistic and forbidden her to have anything to do with this new church or its members.

Additional tension, which came about with Grandpa’s declining state, exacerbated their problems. Mom decided she’d had all she could take, and it was time to leave. She had written to a Christian college and told them her situation. She wanted to enroll and become a teacher. They sent her a ticket to come to Tennessee. She had written me about her plans, but I’d not been home to get the letter.

When classes ended, I caught the bus as planned.  Arriving in my home town, I called Dad and he met me at the bus station in a state of turmoil. Mom hadn’t told him she was leaving. She knew he’d stop her, so she left him a letter. He thought I knew about it and expected some help from me. He’d hired a maid to stay with Grandpa and clean the house. I was overwhelmed by the news. It wasn’t home without Mother.

When you and I returned to Jackson, I left Dad not knowing which way to turn. My own life had been turned upside down as well. I couldn’t feel too sorry for Dad because he’d never made life easy for Mom. At the same time, I was upset with her for leaving. I took the whole thing personally and refused to see it from either of their points of view. It seemed Mom had only stayed with Dad for my sake, and now that I was no longer there, she felt free to act.

After a few weeks, they settled some of their differences. Dad wrote and told her how much he loved her and missed her. He begged her to come home and promised she could worship any way she chose and he wouldn’t object. He told her he was going crazy trying to work and deal with his dad. She felt sorry for him and caved in. 

One of the reasons Mom came back was because she had no money. The school was having to pay for her education. I knew she was giving up something she really wanted. She hoped things would be better at home, and for the most part, they were. Shortly after that, Grandpa fell and broke his hip. He had hip surgery but never walked again. In a way, Mom had even more to do, but Grandpa was bedridden, and he became more docile and grateful for her care.

After my summer classes ended, you decided to take me on a short trip to the beach for a few days. The suitcases were packed. We planned to leave early the next morning. Shortly after midnight, we heard a fire alarm go off. You jumped up and opened the door to the hallway. Smoke poured into our room. In a panic, you grabbed the phone and called the fire department. Both of us were feverishly trying to get into our clothes. We were thinking if the fire was on the first floor, we might have to go out the kitchen window and jump from the roof.

About this time, the younger guy who was renting one of the downstairs rooms came running up yelling, “No, No, Oh please don’t call the fire department! It’s OK. I’ve already got it out.”

Of course, it was too late by then. The guy was a heavy drinker as well as someone who often smoked in bed. It was a miracle he woke up in time. He’d yanked his mattress off the bed and thrown it into the bathtub.The fire trucks, with sirens blaring, had arrived and were entering the house.

Knowing things were under control, and that we wouldn’t be able to sleep in a smoke filled room, we opened our windows, grabbed our suitcases, and headed for the car. Let the rest of the neighbors, who were gathering on the streets, wonder what had happened. As for us, we were leaving in the early hours on a well-deserved vacation.

We were many miles down the road before I noticed my pants were on wrong side out.
 

 

Author Notes This is a continuation of my memories of life with my husband. I am speaking to my deceased husband as I am remembering our early life. I'm writing this so my children and grandchildren will know us as we were when we were young.


Chapter 17
Reunion With an Old Friend

By BethShelby

Now that I didn’t have homework, we decided it was time to get a television. I was so captivated by it, I found it almost impossible to get any housework done. It sounds silly now, since I find most TV programs boring. Then, it was the novelty of having something I’d never had before. Everything about it was fascinating. You and I enjoyed the evening shows. We were willing to give up movies to stay home and watch TV together. In that sense, it seemed a worthwhile purchase. In other ways, not so much.

One day I was doing the weekly laundry in the kitchen, but was hurrying back to watch “I Love Lucy” in the front room. I was so absorbed that I didn’t even notice the sound of a fire truck on the street below.

My attention only left the set when I heard someone banging loudly on my door. It was a fireman telling me I had a leak somewhere, because the ceiling was collapsing in the apartment below. We went into the kitchen to find the hose had come out of the sink. All the water in my washing machine had emptied onto the floor, and from there it continued on its destructive path to the floor below.

This little accident put a severe strain on our budget as we paid for the damage to the ceiling. I’m not sure why the tenants below felt a call to the fire department was the correct response for dealing with water pouring from above. It was the second time in a month the fire department had been called to our apartment house.

Not long after this episode, the transmission on our Buick went bad. The car was barely out of warranty, and another expense seemed overwhelming. Bill Brewer, your friend from work, told you not to worry because he was a whiz at fixing cars. “We’ll take it apart, repair it, and have it up and running in no time,” he assured you. That night, our kitchen gained a new purpose for existing. We spread newspaper all over the floor. You and Bill lugged the greasy transmission upstairs and began taking it apart, bolt by bolt.

This went on nearly every night for the next month while you caught a bus to work every day. The parts somehow multiplied there on the kitchen floor. In defeat, you placed what was once a transmission and all the loose pieces into garbage cans and took them along with you to the repair shop as our car was being towed. You were humiliated when the repairman cracked up laughing. Soon after, we begin shopping for another car. This time, we decided we’d had enough of making car payments. We would find something we could pay for with cash, or we would walk.

Raised a country boy, hunting had always been one of your favorite hobbies. I was anxious to share everything you enjoyed. You’d showed me how to handle the pistol you bought, and you’d already taken me to an archery range several times. You even bought a bow for me which wasn’t as hard to pull as your bow. I wasn’t very good at it because, even with the arm guard, I held my arm in such a way that the string popped it every time I released an arrow. Seeing me always sporting a black arm likely made people assume I was being abused. 

One weekend when both of us were at your parents’ home, you invited me to go squirrel hunting with you. I’d always loved walking in the woods, so I went along, happy to be invited. You brought along your shotgun on this trek, but I was mainly along for the walk.

After a while, you saw a squirrel and aimed at him just as he ran into a nest. Unfortunately, there were babies in the nest. The shotgun ripped the nest apart, and the big squirrel and all the babies tumbled to the ground. Two of the babies had been hit, but were still alive. I grabbed them up and nestled them in my jacket. You saw how upset I was and felt terrible that you’d hit a nest with babies. The babies died within a few hours and I shed tears over each of them. I pretty much ruined squirrel hunting for you forever. After that, you were only interesting in dove hunting or pursuing deer. For some reason, I wasn’t invited on future hunting trips.

When September rolled around, I started looking for a job. So far, the ads had yielded no leads. I took the teaching exam and got my license to teach art in junior high. Unfortunately, we were in a recession and most of the schools were phasing out their art and music programs. There were no ads for commercial artists either. For the time being, I had no alternative other than to stay home and read the ad section of the daily paper, and wonder what the next chapter of our lives would bring.

The new school semester brought my friend and cousin, Joy, back into my life. During the previous years, she had been studying at an all-girl school. Over the summer, she had met a student who attended Mississippi College, and he encouraged her to transfer. She was also an art major, as I had been. She called me from the dorm almost daily and came over every chance she got. Usually, when she made arrangements to stay with me on the weekends, you would go to Mississippi to spend time with your parents.

Joy had been more domestically inclined than I. She had taken a lot of home economic courses in high school, and she knew how to cook a few easy dishes. One thing she taught me to cook was a simple version of a dish that tasted something like spaghetti and meat sauce. It involved boiling the thin spaghetti noodles with a little salt and then finely mincing ground beef with onion and adding chilli powder, ketchup, and a little water. We would pour the meat over the softened noodles and top it with shredded cheese. It was a quick, easy, and cheap way to make a meal that you and I both liked.

It certainly wasn’t something one would serve as a gourmet meal, but you didn’t know that when you invited another of your work buddies and his wife over for a meal. You told them what wonderful spaghetti your wife could cook. I was embarrassed, but I had to do it since you’d issued the invitation. They ate it, but they let me know that they were used to spaghetti that had been cooked for half a day. Served with salad and French bread. I guess it was better than opening cans, but not by much.

One reason you had an excuse to leave when Joy would be staying there for the weekend was because we didn’t have an extra bed, other than the day bed. It would have been awkward for all three of us to be in the same room. You were more than happy to give up your bed so you could go and visit your parents. It gave you a chance to walk over the land, ride your horse, and check on the cattle you had started buying.
 
One particular weekend, Joy suggested we go to the grocery store and buy drink mixers and ginger ale. We also got a couple of beers, since neither of us had ever had a beer. It turned out, we both hated the taste. We made Pina Coladas with the mix and the ginger ale and dropped in a cherry. I guess we were pretending we were worldlier than we were.

Back then, it was illegal to buy hard liquor in a grocery store.  In fact, the whole state was dry which meant it was illegal to buy liquor, period. However, that didn't keep Mississippi from having a Black Market liquor tax. I never quite understood that.

That night Joy and I told ghost stories in bed and managed to make ourselves as nervous as teenagers on a camp out. All of a sudden, Joy whispered. “What is that?” as she called my attention to the darkened wall. A tiny light seemed to drift right through the wall and into our room. We were both frozen with fear, until the light flashed on and off a few times. A firefly had gotten into the house and moved from the hallway into our room through the open trestle over the door.

There was a married senior student at the college, who was an excellent artist and something of a flirt. He’d tried making passes at me the year before. Joy was intrigued with him. He told her his marriage was on the rocks, and before long, they became more than friends. She knew it was a bad idea to get involved with someone who had a wife, but sometimes the heart gets in the way of common sense. When she was staying with me, he would call and talk to her.
  
Early the next morning, Roy, the guy Joy had developed a crush on from the college, called to say he was in Jackson. He asked if he could come over for coffee. He said he would be bringing donuts. Joy told him it would be fine, and within a short while he was there. We didn’t expect you back until late Sunday evening.

However for some reason, you got up at daylight, and drove the hour it took to get back to Jackson. I was so embarrassed when you walked in and Joy and I were having coffee with a man you had never met. I’m sure you wondered if he’d been there all night since it was still so early.

He made a quick excuse to go, which might have made things seem even less innocent. I’m not sure you completely trusted what I might get myself involved in with my cousin around.

 

Author Notes Continuation of memories I am reliving, while speaking to my deceased husband.


Chapter 18
Pitfalls Of the Working World

By BethShelby

On weekends, when you and I were both able to go to see our parents, your mom often asked when we were planning to start our family. Both your sister, Maxine and Rhomas’ wife, Shirley, were pregnant. You and I talked about whether or not we wanted children, but we couldn’t decide if we did or not. Neither of us had been around little kids. You’d been away from home most of the time your little sister was in the picture. You’d lived with an Aunt in order to finish high school after your parents had moved from Smith County. Then you’d been in the dorm for a year of college. After that, you had taken out of state jobs before being drafted into the army. In my case, being an only child and not enjoying teaching junior high kids, I wasn’t sure I was cut out to be a mother. However, neither of us was ready to rule it out, so we’d put the decision on the back burner.
 
Since I had finished college, we weren’t being quite as careful with birth control. One problem was that you refused to go to a drugstore to buy condoms. You found it too embarrassing. You discovered a restroom across town that sold them from a vending machine. Many times you went out in the middle of the night to stock up when the urge was strong. Recently we’d been trying other methods that weren’t quite as foolproof. Maybe without actually being aware of it, we were allowing chance to make the final decision for us. Still we kept telling ourselves, we shouldn’t plan to have children until I’d worked for a while to help you with expenses.
 
Since there didn’t seem to be any jobs in my field, I decided I needed to take whatever was available. I started answering any ad I thought I might be able to handle. The first real job I ever had was working as a clerk typist for a loan company. One drawback was that I was required to work a half day every other Saturday. This cut out a lot of weekend trips when I would have gone with you to visit our parents. My mother was very unhappy about this. She considered it wrong for me to work on Saturday, which according to what she read in the Bible, was the seventh day and therefore the Sabbath Day.
 
The job propelled me into a world I hadn’t realized existed. The manager’s wife, who worked there as assistant manager, had the dirtiest mouth I’d ever heard. She loved telling filthy jokes and putting sexual connotations on everything. One of the ladies who worked there was a victim of spousal abuse. She came to work with black eyes and bruises, and tried to cover by saying she was accident prone and had walked into a door. There was another man named Guy, whose job it was to take away the cars or furniture or whatever the person getting the loan had put up for collateral. It was sad to see the people losing their possessions when they defaulted on their loans. Often a wife wouldn’t even be aware that her husband had made the loan. Then Guy would go to her house and pick up her possessions. It was my job to interview the loan applicants, find out what collateral they could put up, and type up the loan applications.  
 
We got coffee breaks for fifteen minutes mornings and afternoons. I was assigned to take my break with Guy. We had to walk down the block to a restaurant to get coffee and whatever else we wanted. I didn’t particularity like Guy because I knew he was an alcoholic and I hated that he had the job of repossessing people’s possessions. Still I tried to be friendly since he was a coworker. Guy often played popular love songs on the Jukebox when we went on break. What really concerned me was that Guy would get drunk in the evenings and would call me at home. It appeared that he’d developed a crush on me. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you getting upset about it or having to fight my battles. Besides, I was afraid you’d think I’d done something to encourage him. I was a nervous wreck every time the phone rang in the evening. Begging him to stop calling me hadn’t worked.
 
One weekend when I couldn’t go out of town because of having to work, you went alone. You assured me you would be back at least by Sunday evening. When you weren’t home by late that night, I went to bed uneasy and was unable to sleep. By morning, you still hadn’t gotten home and you were due at work. I was beside myself with worry, fearing you’d been in an accident.
 
Mom and Dad had gotten a telephone after we married, so I called home and told them how worried I was. Dad drove down to your parents home to find out if you might still be there. They said you’d left about five o’clock on Sunday, so now your parents had something to worry about as well. Dad called the highway patrol to see if there had been any accidents on the highway. None had been reported, but they promised to keep a lookout.
 
Since I didn’t know what else to do, I went to work. My coworkers all assumed you’d abandoned me. I knew that couldn’t be true. About eleven that morning, you got back into town and called me. You said you’d had car trouble along the way and tried to get it going until you’d worn yourself out. You had to walk to the nearest town and have the car towed. No one could work on it before Monday morning. By that time, you were so exhausted that you found a motel and fell into bed.
 
“Didn’t you know I’d be frantic?”, I asked. “Couldn’t you have called me?”
 
Only then did you realize how that oversight had affected others. You were so embarrassed when I told you about my dad having to drive down to your house, and how your family was now worried as well. It was even worse knowing the highway patrol was looking for you. You promised that it would never happen again no matter how tired you were.
 
After that, you became a lot more thoughtful about my needs and those of others. You’d been on your own so long before we met, but now you were responsible to others for your actions. The Buick had caused us serious problems for the second time recently. This time we got serious and traded it for a 1957 Chevy Caprice. It was a sun-gold and cream two-tone with both heat and air. It became our all-time favorite vehicle.
 
I continued to work for the loan company for about four months, although I hated the job. One day, on the street, I ran into the owner of a Graphic Arts business. I’d met him before when I was in college, and he remembered that I was majoring in art. He told me he was firing his artist because she kept going out and getting drunk and ending up in bed with strangers. He said it kept his cameraman upset all the time because he liked her. He offered me a job.
 
I should have asked more questions, but I was so happy to have an excuse to leave the loan company that I didn’t. Life is all about learning experiences, and this would be one of them for me.
 
My new boss had no intention of training me. He hadn’t warned me that I would be the receptionist, the bookkeeper, and payroll clerk, along with doing art work when I could find a spare minute. I had no experience with any of this. It was taking all the time I had to try to figure out how to do the work I’d not been trained to do.
 
The truth was he had fired the other girl before he thought it through. She begged for her job back. Besides that, his cameraman was more upset than ever because she was gone. After a few weeks, he told me he was sorry, but he’d been too hasty about hiring me, and the other girl was coming back to work. I was relieved in a way, because this job was driving me crazy. At the same time I felt humiliated because he was letting me go.
 
By that time, I had missed a period, and since I had always been so regular I began to count the days before I could go to a doctor and know for certain if I was pregnant.. When I did go, the test was positive. We were both excited to know we were going to be parents. Once it was a certainty, it became something we decided we wanted after all.

“Don’t worry about getting a job. You don’t have to work. Stay home and take care of yourself so we’ll have a healthy baby,” you told me.
 

 

Author Notes I continue reminiscing while speaking to my diseased husband about the Fall or 1958 when I get my first job.


Chapter 19
First Pregnancy and Our Own Home

By BethShelby

About the time we found out I was pregnant, a devastating hurricane named Audrey struck in Louisiana. One of the parishes where you had worked was hardest hit. You‘d stayed with a family while you worked there and even dated a girl while there. You were concerned as to how they might have fared and mentioned taking some vacation time to go check out the damages.

Since I wasn’t working and was always anxious to travel, I was all for going. Interstate highways were few in those days, so we drove through a lot of rough country. We even had to wait as cattle moved slowly across some of poorly maintained roads in Louisiana. We did see a lot of severe damage from the storm.

You asked around and found out that the family you knew had sustained some property damage, but they had survived the storm. I tried to get you to go visit them. I was actually curious to see the girl you’d dated. You said there was no need since you were satisfied that they were all right.

You really never talked about the girls you’d dated before you met me. Apparently you felt that wasn’t on my “need to know” list. You did admit to dating three others, not including my sister in law, Shirley. I knew there was one near where your parents lived. Beside this Louisiana girl, there was a girl from Iowa you had met at a USO dance, when you were stationed near Washington. The two of you had written to each other while you were in Korea. You told me about making a trip to Iowa after getting out of service to visit her. How things ended with any of them, you never told me.

I wasn’t jealous, but was curious about the one that signed her letter “Snooks”
This was the closest I came to feeling betrayed because right after we started dating, you said, “I think I’ll call you Snooks,”

 “Why?”, I asked.

“I don’t know. I just think it’s a cute nickname,” you replied.

So you wrote “Dear Snooks” letters to me and for a while, and I signed my name as “Snooks”. Later for no apparent reason, we dropped the “Snooks”.

I thought no more about it until one day, you got a letter from a girl who didn’t realize you were married. I never knew who she was because the name was signed “Love Snooks”. When I asked you said, “Oh just some old girl I used to date. She wasn’t important.”

Maybe not, but that meant I was Snooks number two. No one wants to be number two. So the mystery of Snooks is something I’ll never learn. I guess we’re all entitled to a few secrets. I’ll admit some subjects shouldn’t be brought up, even among married couples. There are a few things I didn’t tell you. I was learning how the “need to know” thing worked.

Since the Parish in Louisiana was so close to south Texas where many of my cousins lived, I suggested that we go there as well. I’m sure you preferred not visiting people you didn’t know, but you wanted to please me and agreed to go. I called my cousin Jeanine and she invited us over. I had spent six weeks with her and her husband when I was fifteen. We spent one night with them and shared a meal. The next day, my Uncle Lee took us to lunch at a nice restaurant. Since there had been so few out of town trips in my life, it is a memory I still cherish.

Just after we returned, there was a death in my family. My grandpa who had fallen and never walked again after hip surgery passed away. He’d been bedridden and Mother had the full time job of taking care of him. When I was young, I considered him my favorite grandparent, and he adored me. Time had taken a toll. He was almost completely deaf from the loud noises of running a gristmill. He was never the same after my grandma died. He contracted pneumonia and never recovered. We went home for the funeral. I was sad but relieved for Mother’s sake. I knew she needed a break. She was a caretaker type, but she took on too much.
 
For several months, you were the only one who knew I was pregnant. Mom was thrilled when we finally decided to tell our news. She immediately started buying baby clothes. My pregnancy didn’t become noticeable until I was past five months. Back then, most companies didn’t like women working after it became obvious they were pregnant, so I didn’t bother looking for work. Mom loaned me a sewing machine, and I taught myself to sew. I made most of my maternity clothes.
 
When we told your parents I was pregnant, they insisted that we sell the house they were living in, which you had bought while in the army. They would move back into the smaller house which they were using as a rental house. They said they weren’t able to buy the house, and we shouldn’t be making yearly payments on a place where they were living. We should be buying our own place. It was good timing, because we had gotten a notice that the apartment  house where we were living had been sold. The new owners planned to tear it down and build condos. We were given a month’s notice to move out.
 
We turned the house where your parents lived over to a Realtor, and while it was on the market, we cleaned out your parent’s rental place and started re-papering rooms and painting. You bossed Nan and me around like a slave driver, but I knew you were mostly kidding around.

When your folks moved to the other house, we had to paint and repair the house they moved from. It is a good thing I wasn’t working and you had some vacation time left. There was a profit when we closed on the house. You split with your dad since he'd worked to improve the place. Once back to Jackson, we started looking for a house to buy for ourselves.
 
That September of 1959, I turned twenty-one. The first thing I did was go out and register to vote. In Mississippi back then, you were required to pay a poll tax and take a test. It involved reading a section of the constitution and answering questions about what you had read. The South was in the middle of a civil rights battle, and the whole reason for this was to keep black people from voting. The man who registered me confided that the test for black people was different and much more difficult. Even if they could read, they likely would fail the test.

The whole thing sickened me and made me ashamed of my state. There was too much discrimination against the races and against women as well. Not only were we not paid the same salaries as men for the same work, but we couldn’t even get a credit card in our own name. Women hadn’t even had the right to vote that long.
 
It wasn’t long before we found a two-year-old house in an area that had large lots and was convenient to shopping areas, churches and schools. It was a two bedroom, one bath home with a living/dining combination. It also had a knotty pine paneled den with a walk-in closet which could be used as a third bedroom. It had an attached carport and storage area. There was a washer connection in the kitchen and a clothes line in the backyard. It was a frame house with gray asbestos shingles. The small front porch was trimmed in white. The front and back yards had a sprinkling of pine trees and landscape plants such as gardenia bushes and running roses.

The best thing was that we could move in with no money down. With a 30 year FHA loan the monthly payment would be $90.00 per month.  It was no mansion but it was clean and well-kept. We were thrilled to be homeowners. Since we had no household possessions, except a washing machine and a small apartment size refrigerator, we needed to acquire a few things before we could move in.

 

Author Notes Continuing to relive memories talking to my deceased husband. The year is 1959 in Mississippi.


Chapter 20
Shady Lane Drive

By BethShelby

We moved from our apartment in October 1959. We were starting our fourth year together and fifth month of my pregnancy. We were excited with our new home. Our street was long and connected two main thoroughfares. The name of our street was Shady Lane Drive.

The lot was close to an acre. The house next door had a fenced yard, which meant we had a chain link fence on one side for about half of our lot. This lot wasn’t as deep as ours. It belonged to the Schultz family. They had two children, a girl about five and a little boy about two. George worked with an engineering firm and Dot, his wife, was a stay at home mother. Like me, she was also pregnant.

The family on the other side had two boys. The younger was about two. They were the Gatewood family. He was a truck driver and Bobbie, his wife was a supervisor with the telephone company. They had a maid who took care of their children. Their yard was deep like ours but wasn’t fenced. The Crosby family lived across the street. They had a little girl about six and a baby boy.  He was a tile layer and she worked at home keeping books for her husband. Past the Schultz’s fence was farmland with a wire fence. The back side of our lot led into some undeveloped woodland.

One of the first things we did after moving in was to find a new church. We had never felt completely comfortable at the church in North Jackson. The new church fit our personalities much better. The pastor was young, enthusiastic, and sincere. He was interesting to listen to. We started attending church and Sunday school more regularly, which meant going back to visit our parents less often. For some reason Baptist Sunday schools had separate classes for women and men. They also separated people according to their age. I wonder if they still do that. This meant you and I weren’t in Sunday School together. In fact since you were nine years older than I, we weren’t even in the same department. I found this irritating.

I was never bothered by our age difference until we attended one of your Sunday School outings. I felt like a kid among a bunch of adults. I think you thought they were too old for you as well. We only did that once.

On one of our first trips back to see our parents, you brought back a desk you made when you were in high school. It had a slanted top that lifted for storage. It made a great drafting table for you and an art table for me. We put it in the empty bedroom.

We also brought back a puppy. Your parents’ Cocker Spaniel, Sparky, had puppies. Your parents didn’t know anything about the guilty male dog, but this puppy looked nothing like his black and white mother. He was totally gray. We named him Dusty. This was a worse idea than the cat we’d had for a short while at our first apartment. In the end, I had given the cat to my mom and dad for his own protection. You couldn’t handle sleeping with an animal who was convinced the bed was as much his as yours

An untrained puppy on hardwood floors with equally untrained pet owners was a recipe for disaster. The black spots that kept appearing on the floors of those empty spaces was enough to make you decide our yard had to be fenced. Until you finished it, our poor puppy was chained to a tree in the back yard.
 
You’d made friends with several guys from your work. One guy you seemed particularly compatible with had a wife who was also pregnant. Jerry and Julia Robinson became good friends. Since I had to make monthly visits to the gynecologist and I still didn’t drive, Julia volunteered to be my driver.

I had tried once to get a driver's license, but I’d failed the written test. There were ten questions and four of them had to do with distance. Anything that had to do with numbers, gave me brain freeze so I ignored them. Those were the four questions I missed. I didn’t want to try again right away because the city traffic made me nervous.

I never had morning sickness or weird food cravings the way most women do. Everything was going well except that I was anemic and on an iron supplement. The doctor wanted me to keep my weight at a 15 pound gain. I stopped putting sugar and cream in my coffee. Then I stopped drinking coffee. I was basically living on boiled eggs.

I spent my days sewing in the den, exercising and reading a prenatal book. I celebrated when I figured this new life growing in my stomach had made it past the tadpole stage. We were both so excited when the baby started to move. Sex was more fun now that we didn’t have to worry about birth control.

I was still not particularly skilled at cooking. One of the foods, I’d learned to make was french fries. I still wasn’t used to how fast a gas stove heats a thin aluminum boiler filled with oil. One day just before you got home from work, the grease caught on fire. I panicked when I saw flames shooting toward the ceiling. The only thing that occurred to me was to try to get the fire out of the house. I grabbed the handle and started toward the back door with four foot flames streaming upward. I made it almost outside when a breeze caught the flame and blew it back toward me. I yelled and tossed the boiler away from me. The hot grease splattered back on my hand. The pain was almost unbearable.

Taking the pan outside was probably the stupidest idea I could have come up with. I was fortunate I didn’t set myself on fire. I stuck my hand in a pan of ice water and bawled like a baby until you got home to take me to the emergency room. The pan of ice water went with  me. The doctor sprayed my hand with something to help the pain, peeled the burnt skin away, and bandaged me up. I still have scars on my right hand.

Joy still came over often when she got the chance. When she spent time with me on a weekend, you often found other things to do. You still didn’t have a good relationship with your boss, but you had discovered there were others in your department who felt the same way you did about him.

On this particular day, a co-worker named Tom had called you and suggested you meet him somewhere. Joy and I spent the day playing monopoly and card games. I told her about what a great guy I had married. I mentioned your high moral standards, and that you didn’t have bad habits, like smoking or drinking. 

I hadn’t expected you to be gone all day when you left that morning. When you returned late in the evening, I took one look at the stupid grin on your face and realized I was looking at someone who was highly inebriated. You and Tom had spent the entire day drinking beer and trashing your boss. I choked on all the good words I’d said about you. I insisted that you get in the shower to try to sober up, but afterward you fell into bed and slept it off. During all our years together, that was the only time when you had even one alcoholic drink.
 

 

Author Notes I am remembering my years with my deceased husband as I address him while relating my memories of our life together.


Chapter 21
Blessings and Heartache

By BethShelby

Having a new house seemed to give you a shot of energy. There was so much you wanted to do. You turned our small storage room into a work shop and began spending hours creating and building your own design of a tilting table saw. You bought a small jigsaw and begin to find projects to make from wood crafting magazines. You worked on drafting plans to built a bigger workshop at the end of our property. You completed the fencing around the lower part of our yard that joined our house. You built a dog house for Dusty and even used the jig saw to cut wooden letters spelling his name.
 
I think you might have been looking for another career path that would have allowed you to get away from having a boss and be on your own.
 
My Sunday School Teacher, Irene, had taken a special interest in me and my pregnancy. She invited you and me over for a meal. Irene liked to do ceramics, and she insisted I go with her. Once a week we were over at a ceramic studio sanding green-ware and painting or glazing pieces to be fired. She made you promise that when I went into labor you would call her. My Sunday School class gave me a baby shower.
 
By Christmas, my stomach was getting big although I hadn’t gained that much. In those days, whether the baby would be a boy or girl was any one’s guess. I was buying baby outfits in pastel greens and yellows because those colors didn’t specify any particular sex, We invested in a new baby crib and bought some used pieces of baby furniture which we repainted. Our empty bedroom was starting to look like a nursery. According to the doctor’s calculations the baby should arrive around the 28 of January.
 
Winter was unusually cold that year. In early January, we had a big snow which was rare for Jackson. You went to the back of our lot and followed  rabbit tracks leading into the woods beyond the house.

Since it was so close to my the delivery date, I was now doing weekly visits to the doctor. It was disappointing when my due date went by with no sign of a baby. Still it was a relief to know I’d passed the chance of a premature delivery or miscarriage.
 
The evening things changed, we’d gone out to eat and I’d had a heavy meal. It was two weeks after the scheduled delivery date and had about decided it wasn’t ever going to happen. When I got home my panties showed a bit of bloody tissue. Some time during the night my stomach began the regular tightening and cramping of early labor. We called the doctor, and he told us to come on in. I was examined and prepped and put in a room where I would be for one of longest days of my life
 
The pains continued regularly becoming gradually more severe. I wanted you by my side all the time.  I probably came close to breaking your hand by squeezing it so tight. I know you had to be bored and anxious at the same time. By nine-thirty, Irene was there hovering over me and driving me crazy. I begged you to get her to go home. You had called my parents, and Mother wanted to come. I told you to ask her to wait until after the baby came. I didn’t want Mom telling me how to have a baby.
 
By afternoon, they broke my water and then the pains really accelerated. They gave me a hand held device to inhale if the pains were unbearable. I was inhaling the medicine constantly, but It didn’t seem to be easing the pain. The truth was they couldn’t let me have anything strong enough to harm the baby. What it did do was make me nauseated enough that I kept having to throw up. I moaned and groaned but I refused to cry out, although I could hear other women in labor screaming.
 
We were both worn out by the time I was dilated enough to be taken to the delivery room. You were sent to the waiting room. Back then fathers weren't allowed in the delivery room. I had to breathe into something which put me out long enough to deliver the baby. When I woke up I was talking crazy. My brain and tongue were on different pages. You would ask if I knew we had a little girl, and I would say something about a model T car.

Our healthy baby girl weighed eight pounds and two ounces. You were thrilled. When they finally got me back in a hospital room, you stayed with me until after midnight. We could see a rare snow for Mississippi falling outside our window. I insisted that you to go home and get some rest. I remember watching that beautiful snow drift down and thinking I had to be the luckiest person in the world.

We named her Susan Rene. After spending another night in the hospital, we took her home and started trying to learn how to care for babies. Having Susan was like playing dolls again. It was so much fun to bath and hold her. She had a lot of very fine textured dark hair. I wanted to inhale the soft sweetness of her. I couldn’t wait for her laugh and coo and sit up.
 
Mom came and took over for most of the first week. Joy came over and volunteered to baby sit so we could go out. We let Irene’s daughter baby sit too, but we never left her for long.

I was breastfeeding her. At her one month checkup, she was still healthy but weighed several ounces less than her birth weight. I worried that maybe my milk wasn’t rich enough.
 
By two months, she was starting to smile and laugh out loud when we played with her. When I took her in for her second checkup, the doctor pronounced her healthy and beginning to gain weight. He said it was time to start her DPT three-in-one vaccinations. He told me, it might make her cranky, and she could run a low grade fever.
 
When she didn’t seem to be feeling as well the next morning, I wasn’t too concerned. She slept through most of the day. When she woke up, she cried loudly and refused to nurse when I tried to feed her. When you got home from work, I’d been doing everything I knew to do, and I couldn’t stop her incessant crying. We called the doctor and he told us to meet him over at the clinic, and he’d check her out.
 
When the doctor first looked at her, he didn’t appear too concerned, but then she went into a screaming session and drew her body backward. The doctor said that wasn’t natural and that maybe we needed to admit her to the hospital. At Baptist Hospital, they assigned us to a ward on the children’s wing. There were four beds in the room, but only one was being used. The bed was occupied with a girl about nine year old, who had been severely burned. You went back home, and I stayed with Susan all night. I had to get a breast pump because she wouldn’t take the milk. When she wasn’t sleeping, she was screaming. My stomach was tied in knots of fear. I tried to pray. but I wasn’t feeling any comfort about the situation. In the morning when you came by on your way to work, she was no better.  
 
Later several doctors came in and checked her. They took her to run some tests, and then they came in and had me sign permission for them to do a spinal tap. I could hear her screaming in the distance. It was heart wrenching knowing our baby was in pain and I couldn’t help her. When the doctors finally returned, they said they were going to have to quarantine her. The spinal tap indicated that she might have encephalitis. They took us to a room with just one crib. After they brought Susan back to the room she wasn’t crying. I thought they’d given her something to make her sleep. I learned later that wasn’t the case. She was in a coma.
 
I’d called Mom, and when Dad got off from work, they both came over. Since I’d been up all night the night before, you and Dad decided to spend the night in the room with Susan. I went home with Mother and went to bed with a heavy heart. I was afraid my baby wouldn’t last the night.
 
 
 
  
 
 
 

 

Author Notes I'm continued to talk aloud to my deceased husband as relive memories of our years together.


Chapter 22
Dealing With Grief

By BethShelby

The next morning you came home to get me, and we went back the hospital. Susan had not moved all night, but she was still alive. Somehow I wasn’t relieved. A choking feeling in my throat told me all was not well. Daddy went back to Newton taking Mother with him.

Alone in the hospital room, you and I looked down on the pale still face and held each other as we watched her chest rise and fall. The nurse had given you swabs and Q-tips to clean her throat when she sounded congested. You stood by her bed watching every breath. I moved near the window and stared out seeing nothing, praying, but somehow knowing the answer wasn’t going to be what I wanted.

It was about nine o’clock when you suddenly reacted and yelled “She stopped breathing!. “ You pressed the alarm button and sprinted into the hall grabbing the nearest nurse and shouting, “We need help. Get somebody quick.” I froze. My legs refused to move.
 
Seconds later, the room was full of people. There was a crash cart and technicians putting things on Susan’s chest and yelling, “Clear”. I watched, silent and unmoving, as her body rose and fell four or five times from the shocks. Finally, they stopped and called the time of death. Still, I didn’t react. The room emptied, and you stood staring down at the lifeless body. Finally, I came over and said, ”We have to call people.”
 
The doctor came in and told us how sorry he was. “I meant to get here earlier. I never thought this would happen.” He asked permission to do an autopsy. We signed the papers for it. We needed to know what happened in case we had other children later. We were sure it had been the DPT injection, but it would be years before we would have the final proof that it was indeed the culprit.
 
They told us we needed to make arrangements with the funeral home. I made the necessary calls, and we left without really saying much. It was as if I’d stepped out of my body and became someone else. Someone who could act without emotion, and do whatever needed to be done, one step at a time. There was no concious decision as to how to respond. I was on automation. My intellect reacted, but my emotions were numb. In spite of my prayers not being answered in the way I would have liked, I felt God was handling things for me in a way I could never have managed on my own.
 
By the time we got home, word had gotten around, and somehow the neighbors all seemed to know. A couple of friends had already been to our house and packed away the crib and all the baby things so we wouldn’t have to look at them for a while. Food was coming in from our Sunday School classes, our neighbors, and your work. I wasn’t hungry. Nothing would go down. That night, we held each other tightly and said very little.
 
Susan had died on Good Friday. She was a little over two months old. The viewing was on Easter Sunday. I wore the new dress I’d bought to wear to church that day. A lot of people came to show sympathy and friendship. Susan lay in the tiny casket wearing the new frilly pink dress a friend had sent as a shower present. Everyone talked about how beautiful she was. I thanked my friends and chatted with them as though this wasn’t the sad occasion that it was. I shed no tears, and I wonder if they thought I didn’t care.
 
I remembered other funerals of my grandparents, people I loved dearly. Mother had been concerned because I didn’t seem to grieve. It was much the same as now. For me, some things in life can’t be shared. My grief came later when I went home and wrote poetry about them. I poured out my feeling on paper and in private. I am capable of loving deeply, but I don’t show it in ways that is expected. It is just the way I’m wired. Your feelings run too deep to come to the surface as well. In many ways, we are both private people.
 
The funeral was a graveside service on Monday morning. The cemetery plot was one of four in a beautiful cemetery. We had purchased the lots a few months before when a salesman called on us shortly after we moved into our house. We had second thoughts about spending the money and tried to get out of contract, but it wasn’t possible. We could have never guessed we would need a lot so soon. It was as if something beyond ourselves was helping us plan ahead.
 
Your cousin, who was a ministerial student, and our pastor both spoke at the service. It was short but moving. As soon as it was over, you and I left the crowd and headed for our car. Just as we were about to leave, someone came up to the car with an odd request. They said some people came late to the funeral home and wanted to see the baby. Would it be okay to open the casket again. I wasn’t thinking straight. I just wanted to go home. I said yes. Big mistake. As soon, as we pulled away you exploded. You were so angry at me, and I was deeply hurt by your words.
 
“Who would do that?” you asked. “She was our baby. You don’t just leave her with strangers staring at her.”
 
“Why didn’t you speak up and say ‘no’, “I asked. “I wasn’t thinking straight. I’m sorry.”
 
“How could I.” you said. “You spoke for me.”
 
I felt terrible. I knew my mother was behind it. I’m sure she told people `you should have seen how pretty she was. She probably told them to go ask if they could open the casket again. It is exactly the kind of thing she would do without realizing how improper it was. My mother was a good person, but she was endowed with a healthy dose of pride. Even in death, she wanted to show off her granddaughter. It would take you a while to get past that hurt.
 
When we got home from the service, neighbors were still coming over to express their sympathy and offer words of encouragement. Some who came, we had not even met before. One man apologized because his wife wouldn’t come. He said they had lost a child as a baby, and she’d never been able to get past her grief. She never allowed herself to get pregnant again.That was a sad thing which I didn’t want to hear. This must never happen to us. Life goes on and so must we. 

Other neighbors tried to get me to eat. I still couldn’t get food down. Since Susan had been sick, I’d lost at least ten pounds. My weight was down to 110 lbs. It was the smallest I had been since junior high school.  
 
You had asked for a week of vacation. We needed to get away. We packed our bags and headed out the next morning. We went to Dolphin Island, Alabama. It was early April and the Island was practically deserted. Together we walked the sand dunes hand in hand and took time to grieve. At night in our motel room, we cried together. When we made love, I didn’t want you to use a condom. If we got pregnant again, so be it.

The doctor had told me to wait at least a year, but I didn’t want to wait. My arms ached to hold and love another baby. It wasn’t about replacing Susan. You can’t replace your children. Susan would always have a place in my heart. But she had taught us something about ourselves we didn’t know before; we were meant to be parents. Another child deserved the love we were capable of giving.  
 
After a couple of days on the beach, we went to Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, and walked among the beautiful flowers. We came back through our home towns and spent a little time with our parents. Back home again, we tried to make a new start and put the grief behind us. It lingered but became less acute each day as we got involved in daily living.
 
I found an ad for an art related job at a glass factory. I applied and was hired on the spot. At least, I could help pay off some of our debts and not spend time moping around the house. This job would present another kind of unique problem, not all of which I could share with you. Life is full of ups and downs. The future would hold plenty of those for both of us.

 

Author Notes This is my story as if I'm speaking to my deceased husband while remembering our years together. This chapter takes place after the birth of our first child, who is sick as a result of a DPT injection.


Chapter 23
New Job, New Problems

By BethShelby


The job I took in May of 1960 has long since gone the way of the dinosaurs as many of my jobs have. The plant would call it quits in 1968, but when I went to work there, Knox Glass was a thriving company with three shifts and hundreds of employees. There were many buildings on the complex, but the one I worked in contained two work rooms, a darkroom and a small restroom. I worked in this building with only my supervisor. He appeared to be a very kind and fatherly man in his sixties. To someone twenty-three, that was old. My dad was just in his forties. He insisted I use his first name, Lee, rather than call him Mr. Peterson.
 
I was given a large drafting table and all of the art supplies I would need. His table, which was exactly like mine, was only a few feet away. Lee showed me around our area and took me on a tour of the grounds. I got to watch molten glass being dropped into molds and become bottles. Lee explained what kind of art we would create and showed me some of his own creations. I decided he was a talented artist and would make a great mentor for someone like me, who was just starting out in the field. 
 
Back then, almost all soft drinks were in glass bottles and the labels were printed directly onto the glass by the silk screen process. People returned their drink bottles and were refunded around two cents a bottle. The bottles were thrown into a big pile where they were melted down and recycled. At that time, it was very popular for peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise, and other condiments to be marketed in tumblers that could be reused as drinking glasses. Our job was to design decorative motifs for the tumblers and design labels for the soda bottles.  
 
When Lee learned we had just buried our first child, he couldn’t have seemed more concerned. The loss was still fresh and I was vulnerable and needed his understanding. Not having my own parents around to console me, Lee was like a surrogate dad.
 
Designing the tumblers was something I enjoyed. Some of the work was tedious such as cutting out small type, letter by letter, and positioning them to become paragraphs describing ingredients, weights and other information included on the drink labels.
 
We took morning and afternoon breaks. Lee would go to the other room and make coffee and call me in to join him. Usually one of the engineers from another department would also come over and have coffee with us. At lunch time, Lee would drive me in his car to another building where a hot lunch was provided for the employees.
 
 
I got acquainted with some of the dye makers, the engineers, and the guys who burned the art onto the silk screens. Most of the women were in the big office building or deep in the factory doing shift work. While Lee and I worked we would talk. He was a storyteller and he’d tell tales of growing up in Texas during the Great Depression. He told how he hopped a freight train and bummed around the country, picking up odd jobs and making a living doing sign painting.
 
By July, I realized I was pregnant again. You and I were both delighted, but naturally we were concerned that what had happened with Susan could happen again. I kept calling Susan’s doctor to see if he had results of the autopsy, but he seemed reluctant to talk to me. We were sure her death was caused by the DPT shot, because he’d checked her and pronounced her in good health before he gave the vaccination. He finally told me that the autopsy didn’t show anything conclusive. He said it was probably a virus that wouldn’t show up on one so young. They had quarantined her with encephalitis after the spinal tap but he didn’t mention that showing up on the autopsy. He kept saying it wasn’t the vaccination. We wondered if he was trying to protect himself from being sued.
 
About the time I started my new job, my next door neighbor, Dot Schultz, invited me to join a bunco group. Twelve girls got together once a month to play this simple game. There were four players at each table throwing three dice and scoring points. I don’t remember all the rules, but I do remember it was a fast paced game and that everyone changed tables and partners often. It was a time to laugh and have a good time without a lot of competition since it was all about chance. We had refreshments and prizes and took turns as to who would host the next gathering.
 
In October, one of the girls in our bunco club had a Halloween party at their farm and husbands were invited. You agreed to go with me although the only guy you knew in the group was Dot’s husband, George, and you didn’t know him that well. There was food and party games. The hostess had hired a black lady she knew who told fortunes with playing cards. She wore a turban and sat behind a curtain with creepy green lights. We entered one at a time and gave her a dollar to tell our fortune. Most of the guys decided to skip the fortune telling since many of them considered it garbage. The girls didn’t take it seriously either, but found it fun to compare what she told us. Since our hostess planned that as a main attraction, all the girls went along with it. My mother would have been horrified to see me going to a fortune teller, but since it was more like a party game, I took my turn.  
 
At first, she told me a lot of generic stuff that could have applied to anyone. My ears perked up when she turned over a card and rolled her eyes. She looked at me intently and said, “Honey, you got sompin’ going on in yo stomach.”
 
 
I wasn’t showing, and I wasn’t about to tell her I was pregnant. She saw my alarmed look and turned over another card. Her next words calmed me down. “Dis card here say, you got nothing to worry `bout. Every thang in there, gonna come out just fine.”
 
If she was to be believed, that was a relief. Everything needed to come out after nine months. When she turned over the next card, she pursed her lips and started shaking her head.
 
“Uhm…You got two men in yo’ life what's in love wit you. You needs to be careful. One of deese men, be an ole man.”
 
That one didn’t make much sense. “Are you talking about my daddy?,” I asked.
 
She rolled her big dark eyes again, and said, “I don’t thank so, but I speck yo daddy love you too.” Well that was eerie. I was glad it was just a game and quickly forgot about it.
 
Until my stomach started growing, I kept my pregnancy a secret at work. When I told Lee, he was understanding, and said I could work until nearly time for the baby to come. Afterward when the doctor said it was okay, he wanted me to come back to work.
 
 In early December, he told me I was wanted at the front office. When I went into the building, I was greeted by shouts of “Surprise!”. Word had gotten around and the girls in the front office were giving me a baby shower even though I didn’t really know any of them.  
 
You and I had gotten the baby things out of storage and made our empty room into a nursery again. The baby was due early in February. It seemed I was spending a lot of my life being pregnant because just last February was when Susan was born. I was scheduled to a maternity leave in January to await the birth of another baby.
 
In November, I went to the polls for my first time, and you and I voted for Nixon over Kennedy. Because there had never been a Catholic elected president before, a lot of people were afraid Rome might influence the way Kennedy would govern our Nation. Up until that point, Mississippi and most of the South voted Democrat. Kennedy outspoken about civil rights and suddenly white southerners saw their way of life about to change, so the Republican party became the party of choice. At any rate, Kennedy was elected and my candidate didn’t win. I was proud of myself anyway for voting. I was twenty-three and this was the first time I’d had a chance to vote for a president.

Just before Christmas, everyone at work seemed in a festive mood. “Lee brought a bottle of vodka to work along with a sprig of mistletoe which he hung in the room where we had coffee. He invited an engineer named Hooper over for drinks. Hooper was a young guy who blushed easily. Lee got a kick out of making him blush. On this day, I was having coffee and Lee and Cooper were having drinks. Lee pointed to the mistletoe, which happened to be hanging over my chair, and said “Well, you know what that means. It’s time for a Christmas kiss.” I thought he meant to kiss me on the cheek to embarrass Hooper, but instead he walked over and planted one full on my lips and not just any kiss. This was a French Kiss. I was too shocked to react. Not only was Hooper blushing, but I turned a deep crimson as well.
 
“I wasn’t expecting that kind of kiss," I said trying to keep things light and not make a big deal over it.
 
Everything changed after that. When we got back from celebrating the Holidays, Lee told he me he’d gotten drunk and told his wife he was in love with me. He said he left town and drove all the way to Texas to talk to his brother about it.
 
I couldn’t believe this was happening. I am married and having a baby and how could anyone even find me attractive. I knew immediately that I wouldn’t be returning to this job after I took my maternal leave of absence.
 
 “You can’t be serious. I haven’t done anything except be your friend,” I said.
 
“Yeah, I know. I didn’t have any business saying that. It was the liquor talking. I’ve got to try to make things up to my wife. We need to have you and your husband over to the house, so she can meet you and know nothing’s going on.”
 
"No, we can’t do that,” I said. “She’ll hate me. I don’t think my husband would go.” 
 
“You have to go,” he told me. “If you don’t she is really going to think something is going on.” 
 
In the end, we did go. I didn’t dare tell you much about what was going on. I was afraid you'd think I’d done something to lead him on. You’d always told me that men and women couldn’t be just friends. You said men didn’t think like women. They didn’t know how to be friends. I hadn’t believed that. How could I work with someone and not be their friend? Now I was starting to wonder if you were right.
 
The meeting at their home was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever experienced. Mrs. Peterson never smiled. I tried to make conversation, but she barely talked. She sat at the table and picked at her food without really eating anything. It was more than obvious we weren’t welcome there. Lee tried to keep a cordial conversation going with you. Both of us were relieved to get out of there. I took my leave of absence the following week. That was when the phone calls started.

 

Author Notes It is 1960 in Jackson, Mississippi. I continue remembering my married years and as I if speaking to my late husband.


Chapter 24
And Baby Makes Three

By BethShelby


After I ended my job at Knox glass and came home to await the arrival of my baby, the phone calls from Lee started coming every day.  He seemed to be drinking all the time now.  I hadn’t known he was an alcoholic, because I’d never seen him drink at work.  I begged  him not to call me, and I always ended hanging up on him but that didn’t seem to discourage him.
 
The phone calls came, not only during the day, but also at night when you were home.  I started taking the receiver off the hook just enough to break the connection but so that it still looked as though it was in place.  I was a bundle of nerves.  What had I done to cause this?  I was so afraid you might assume it was all my fault.  
 
One day, he called slurring his words so badly I could barely understand him.  He said he thought he was dying.  He had told me before he had a heart problem. He said he had taken a lot of pain pills while he was drinking, and he thought his heart was about to stop.
 
I knew his doctor’s clinic was just down the street from his house, so I looked up the number and called. I told the doctor that Lee was in trouble and asked if he could send someone down to check on him. The doctor kept asking who was calling, but I wouldn’t tell him.

“I'm just a friend and my name is not important.”, I said as I hung up and then removed  the receiver from the cradle. I had done all I dared to do.  I couldn’t bear the thought that Lee might die if I did nothing. The next time he called, he said an ambulance had arrived and taken him to the emergency room.
 
Many times when I would answer the phone during the day, no one would say anything.  One day his wife called.  I begged her to please stop her husband from calling me. I told her I wasn’t interested in her husband. That I had only thought of him as a mentor and a friend. I told her I loved my husband and I wanted to be left alone.
 
I don’t know if I convinced her at all. The phone calls didn't stop. The last few weeks of my pregnancy was a nightmare. I was afraid that while I was in the hospital, Lee might get you on the phone and try to convince you there was something going on between us.  I kept asking myself what I could have done differently that would have prevented this from happening.
 
Two weeks past my delivery date, I finally went into labor.  Again we went to the hospital in the middle of the night.  It was another long labor. This time I wasn’t given anything to help with the pain until I was taken into the delivery room.

On the 27th of February, a baby girl we named Carol was born at 12:48 on a Monday afternoon.  She weighted an even nine pounds. The doctor said I should be careful handling her because her collarbone was broken during the delivery. This was upsetting news, but we would have never known if he hadn’t told us.  She seemed fine. We were so thrilled to have a healthy baby. I stopped worrying about the phone calls. They did taper off after the baby was born.  Mom came up and helped for a week. My mom and dad were once again proud grandparents.
 
I tried breast feeding again because I’d heard it was best for the baby and helped with bonding.  When I took Carol for her first month check up she had gained two inches in length but only seven ounces. She looked fine because she’d been so fat at birth, but we decided my milk wasn’t rich enough and I started her on formula. This seemed to be a better solution. You could hold her while she ate sometimes so she could bond with you as well.  We were both so afraid something might go wrong, we hovered over her like she might evaporate.  If she slept longer than normal, we freaked out and shook her awake.
 
I told the doctor to forget about starting the DPT vaccinations until she was at least a year old. He agreed and said he didn’t blame me.  Yet, he wouldn’t admit the shot caused Susan’s death.  It was years later before we learned of the other deaths of babies during that time frame. In two of the cases, I knew the parents well.
 
In early May, you had vacation time coming. Mom kept the baby while we took a short vacation. This time we went up through Tennessee and into the Smoky Mountains. For me, this was the most amazing trip because I’d never been to the mountains before. We both decided we preferred the mountains to the beach.  My first view of those misty peaks brought me to tears. The pictures I’d seen did them no justice. We drove into Gatlinburg expecting to see a dinky little one horse town.  Instead we saw a beautiful new looking tourist town. It was like driving into Wonderland. It was the early sixties and they must have just started developing it.  It was nothing like it is today.  In Cherokee, North Carolina we bought some adorable white leather beaded moccasins for the baby. There were a lot of Cherokee Indians around in full headdress, hoping we would tip them for letting us take their picture. Cherokee is part of a big Indian reservation. They have casinos there now. We throughly enjoyed our trip, but we couldn’t wait to get back to our baby. Mom said she only cried once while we were gone.
 
None of the pictures we’d taken of Susan came out. I only got a couple of blurry images. I was determined to have good pictures of this baby. I found an ad for a older camera that had been used by a professional photographer. I got it for eight dollars and it took wonderfully sharp pictures. Carol became my little model. She couldn’t do much about it when she was still so young, but later as she got older, she would express her displeasure quite verbally if she didn't want her picture taken. She developed a opinionated personality at a very early in life.
 
When she was about six months old, I felt I needed to be working to help with expenses.  I interviewed with a television station that was hoping to hire someone for their art department. The problem was they weren’t quite ready to put someone in that position yet. They needed someone on the switchboard in the evening to work from six to eleven. I agreed to work the switchboard until the art department job became available. I could be with our baby until you got home and then you could be with her until I got off work at eleven p.m..
 
Eleven was the time TV stations called it quits until the next day. It is hard to believe there was a time when the TV programming stopped for the day. The station played the Star Spangled Banner and then there was nothing but test patterns on the set until the next morning around six when the National Anthem was played again.
 
There weren’t a lot of calls in the evening and the work was easy. The switchboard was another job that has now gone the way of the dinosaurs. No one now plugs tubes into little holes to connect calls as we once did.  Some of the calls were funny, but irritating.  People would call to complain that the show playing on TV wasn’t the one advertised in the newspaper.  Sometimes they would chew me out because something on TV offended them. Often they would demand to speak to one of the TV personalities that happened to be on the air.  I got to meet the evening news and weather personalities.  I also met Ross Barnett, who was the governor of Mississippi. Sometimes he had a live segment on the late news. He was always friendly and would stop to chat.
   
One TV personally had a popular talk show.  He stopped by often to make conversation, when I wasn’t extremely busy. One day, he called me at home and said he wanted to come by my house to see me. I thought “Oh no, not again. I’ve just gotten rid of one guy who tried to ruin my life, and now another one wants to hit on me.  What am I doing to deserve this.”  I told him that he must have gotten the wrong impression of me, because I wasn’t someone looking to have an affair. He became angry and acted highly insulted. I later learned he thought any women would be thrilled to have his attention.  After that, when he passed my my station he'd look in another direction.

The station manager, who originally told me about the upcoming art job, was giving me art work to do at home. I made a sign for the station to put on TV if there was a problem with the picture. It was a cartoon figure of a mouse shrugging his shoulders. The caption read, “It’s not you.  It’s not me.  It must be them.”  I also did some storyboards for up-coming shows.

After a time, it seemed the job in the art department wasn’t going to happen. You were getting tired of not having me home in the evening and wanted me to find something else to do. There was a job advertised for a layout artist for one of the two local newspapers. I interviewed and was told they would like to hire me.  
 
I told the Station manager, you didn’t want me working nights any more and I was going to take a job with the newspaper. He said I would be making a big mistake because the newspaper was about to go out of business. He assured me that if I would stay, he would put me to work right away in the art department. I called the newspaper and told them I wouldn’t be taking that job after all. 
 
The station manager took me shopping and bought all the equipment I’d need for working in the art department and that afternoon he brought me in and introduced me to the lady I would be working with.

The work situation wasn’t what I’d expected. The lady was keeping her baby with severe birth defects in a playpen in the department. The baby was about two but it could only lie on it’s back and make weird gurgling noises. The mother was more of a problem for me than the baby. She never shut up for a second. By five O’clock, I thought I was going crazy. I called the station manager and told him, I didn’t want the job after all because I couldn’t think straight under those circumstances.  I probably should have given it a few days but, I panicked and wanted out.
 
I called the paper and asked if that job was still open and was told that it was. They still wanted to hire me. The man who hired me said I was given the wrong information about the paper going bankrupt. He said they had been in business for seven years and they were doing just fine.
 
I interviewed several ladies that wanted to keep babies while their mothers worked. I found the perfect grandmother type who seemed to love Carol from the moment she met her.  You and I could drop her there as we went to work and pick her up when we got off work.
 
The future months had more changes in store for us. At least on this day, we felt this situation would be something we could handle.
 

 

Author Notes This is done as a dialogue with me remembering my years with my late husband. I am speaking directly to him.


Chapter 25
Parenthood and the Working World

By BethShelby

The year was 1961, and Kennedy was just starting his first year of presidency. He was promoting the space race and vowing to see the US put a man on the moon in the near future. Trouble was brewing in the Orient. We were on the cusp of a new war. The US had just sent 3,500 troops to Vietnam. We were starting to hear about Martin Luther King and his speeches advocating racial equality. You always watched the news with interest, but I was more concerned with things that related to us personally. The news was depressing and made me a little nervous.

Now that I was working downtown, we could ride together and drop Carol by Mrs. Burnside’s house. She would take care of her until we got off work. Carol seemed happy with the arrangement. She went to her new babysitter arms as readily as she would to a family member. It seemed to be working out for everyone. When we picked her up after work, she was always clean and happy.

We’d gotten past those first months when we were so afraid something might happen to her. By three months she’d gained four pounds and 5 1/4 inches. She was laughing aloud and babbling sounds and she could repeat bye-bye. She was fascinated with her toes, and her little hands were always busy. By five months she was able to pull herself to a sitting position and was crawling. As much as we enjoyed the time we had with her, we felt comfortable leaving her with someone who seemed to really care about her.

My new job involved finding art in clip-art books and arranging the elements as creatively as possible in the size ad the customer requested. Some copy-writing was involved. If the customer wanted a personalized ad, more specialized artwork was required. After I'd been there a while, I would be doing more fashion drawings. Working for a newspapers always involved deadlines, and everyone worked under pressure. We couldn’t keep the presses waiting.

Most of the women who worked there were young and nice looking. The owner of the paper was a man in his seventies, who felt free to walk up to any girl working there and give her a pinch on her butt or wherever he pleased. Most of the girls shrugged it off, but I gave him wide berth. I’d had enough men problems.

During the first six months, everything seemed to be going smoothly with my job. I liked what I was doing, and my supervisor appeared to be pleased with my work. Then one day, we got word to stop whatever we were doing and come to a meeting in the main area. The plant manager shocked all of us by saying the final edition of the paper was being printed. Everyone would be given two weeks severance, and as of that moment, we should collect our things and go home. The paper, which had tried valiantly to compete with a much older and established daily, would cease to exist. The manager at the television station had warned me. Once again I was unemployed.

The timing was good though. You had some vacation time coming, and you’d decided you wanted to go to Florida and go deep sea fishing. Your company had taken some guys down earlier, and they’d come back talking about how much fun they had. You’d chosen not to go on that trip, but now you wanted to go and take me. We told Mrs. Burnside what had happened. I told her I would take a few days vacation and try to find another job when I got back in town. She was disappointed because she was crazy about Carol, but she understood. Mother enjoyed keeping Carol, so we asked her to keep our little girl while we went fishing.
 
The fishing trip took us to Clearwater, Florida. We would be going out into the gulf. There were charter boats and Coast Guard vessels doing gulf fishing tours daily. The Coast Guard vessels held more people, and they were a lot cheaper. We were waiting on the dock before the sun came up. Fishing had never been your favorite sport, but this was different from standing on a creek bank. It was fun. I was like a kid, thrilled with idea of riding a boat out to sea.

It didn’t take the captain long to find where the fish were biting. A couple of the crew cut up octopus for bait and baited our hooks. We could hardly get the line into the water before we had a fish. Mostly we caught groupers. By the time we got back to shore that afternoon, we both had long strings of fish. We hadn’t given any thought as to what we would do with anything we caught. What we did was take pictures of each of us holding up our fish. Then we sold them to someone in the group who had thought ahead and had an ice chest ready.

One day of fishing was enough to satisfy us. The next day we visited Silver Springs and went out in a glass bottom boat. By that time, we were anxious to get back to our baby. Our vacations tended to be short, but left us with pleasant memories.

The next job I found when I got back home was a temporary seasonal job that involved pasting up telephone books and making up ads for the yellow pages. This job lasted for a few months. I was just finishing the last of the work, when Carol started running a fever and became very irritable. I took her to the doctor, and he diagnosed her with red measles. This was about a year before the measles vaccine became available. You and I had both had measles as children. It was something every child got at some point, and we didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

However, I was six when I had measles and Carol was less than a year old. Almost every inch of her was covered with the itchy red bumps, and she was a miserable little patient. In the years since, measles came to be thought of as a thing of the past, until last year when they made a comeback. Now doctors have harsh words for parents who fail to get their children vaccinated against this childhood disease. Carol was so uncomfortable. She’d pull up to a standing position and beg to be held and walked.

After we got past the measles, I stayed home for a while. Nan had finished high school, and your mom wanted her to come to Jackson to look for work. She needed to earn money for college. I’d finally gotten my driver’s license, so I could take her around. She had several interviews but no luck finding anything. After a month, she went back home and took a job at a blanket factory.

I still hadn’t found another job, when Carol caught an intestinal virus and couldn’t keep anything down. By afternoon, she seemed to be getting weaker by the minute. I called the doctor several times during the day, but he didn’t think I needed to bring her in. He suggested tea enemas, and other things but nothing was working. When you got home, we decided to take her to the emergency room. 

We’d barely gotten out of the driveway, when her eyes rolled back, and she bent backwards and went limp. We were horrified, and you broke speed limits on our way to the hospital. When we got there, the emergency personnel grabbed her and put her on a gurney and got an IV started. It wasn’t long until her eyes fluttered open and her color improved. She had gotten so dehydrated that we could have lost her. It was too close for comfort.

At eight and a half months, she took her first step, and by nine months there was no stopping her. She was developing a sizable vocabulary, and we thought we had a little genius on our hands. I printed up a bunch of flash cards with words identifying objects in the room. I would hand her a card and tell her to put on the object where it belonged. If I'd kept that up, she would have been reading by three.

Carol had a personality all her own. She let us know right away when something wasn’t right. She was not a morning person. Upon awakening, she was aways in a bad mood. After an hour or so, her grumpy attitude would wear off, and she seemed eager to please. Most of the time, she was very obedient and acted more mature than normal for someone so young. 

We hadn’t talked about having other children. I was an only child, and I felt deprived by not having siblings. I didn’t want that for Carol, but I figured we could wait a couple of years. I wasn’t ready to be pregnant again. We were using birth control, but it apparently it wasn’t foolproof because when Carol was thirteen months old, I got pregnant again.

You suggested I should just stay home and take care of Carol. Since women were paid so much less than men, you didn’t think my salary was making that much of a difference by the time we paid for child care.

You signed up to take some evening college classes on the GI bill and the goverment paid you to do that. I hated that you had to carry all the financial burdens alone, but you didn’t seem to mind.

I realized that if I had gone into teaching or another field, I might have brought in more money, but art was the route I’d chosen. It was a little late to rethink it now. I decided staying home wasn't such a bad option. I could paint and sew and have fun playing with my little girl. I was still young. A career could come later.
 

 

Author Notes Jackon Mississippi in 1961. I continued remembering my married years while addressing my deceased husband.


Chapter 26
Stay At Home Mom

By BethShelby

After I got my driver’s license, you found an older Vauxhall so we’d both have something to drive. A Vauxhall, in spite of the odd name, is a British car. You drove it to work since it had a stick shift and let me have the Chevy Caprice. Now that I was home during the day, I enjoyed taking Carol places and introducing her to the world. She loved the zoo and since it was free, we went there often. I also took her to the grocery store and let her ride in the basket while I shopped.
 
Your sister, Maxine, was pregnant for the second time. She was due in late April, but she went into early labor at six and half months. She had no idea she was pregnant with twins, but to her surprise she delivered identical twin boys. They were so premature, only one of them survived. At the time, she and Wayne were living in Yazoo City, Mississippi. You took off work, and we drove over for the baby’s funeral. Maxine was still in the hospital and couldn't attend. The living baby had to stay in the hospital for another month before she could bring him home.
 
My last living grandparent, my mother’s mother, who had lived with us when I was growing up was now eighty-five. I think she realized her time was running out, because she decided to come and spend a week with us. There had been times, I resented her lectures on how to become a proper young lady. She had always felt free to give unasked for advice. Now that I was older, I enjoyed having her with me. I was glad she got to spend a little time with her great-grandchild.
 
Shortly after Grandma went back home, she learned she had an abdominal cancer. After spending a few weeks in the hospital in a lot of pain, she passed away. We went back home for the funeral. I realized how much a part of my life she had been and how deeply she would be missed. She had loved sewing and had made most of my school clothes. She saw to it that I got the set of encyclopedias I wanted, taking the money from her meager monthly welfare checks to pay for the set.
 
Since I was staying home, I started sewing as well. I had avoided Home Economics in high school, but now I found I actually liked sewing as a form of creativity. I also decided that I liked planting and growing flowers which was one of my mother's favorite activities. Maybe at twenty-three, I was starting to grow up in spite of everything.
 
A lot of kids in the neighborhood started coming over to play with Carol. At first, I welcomed them, but after a while, I understood why most of the mothers didn’t invite them inside. When the weather was nice, I encouraged everyone to play outside. Carol loved picking dandelions she found growing wild and bringing them to me.
 
Carol was advanced for her age. She walked at 9 months and had a pretty good vocabulary by a year. I showed her pictures in books and taught her the names of animals and other things. You built a sandbox for her and filled it. She would spend hours filling buckets of sand and then dumping it out to start over. It wasn’t long before we realized that all the cats in the neighborhood were enjoying the sandbox as well.
 
When you were home, you were always busy. You had so much more energy than I did. You worked in the yard and in your workshop. You planted a garden and started growing vegetables. You were talented with your hands. You even made furniture for us, like a coffee table, end tables, magazine racks, and even a stereo cabinet. When you were finished with a job, you would stand looking at it with pride and rub your hands until it seemed the skin would come off. You would screw your face into to the strangest expressions and keep rubbing your hands until I stopped you. Another thing you seemed to enjoy was cooking out. You bought a barbecue grill and we ate outside regularly on warm weekends.
 
We both had a lot of hobbies, but they weren’t things we enjoyed doing together. I guess we were both loners at heart. We supported each other's hobbies, but other than hiking together in the woods, we mostly did our own thing. I did enjoy the music you listened to, but I had a more eclectic taste and sometimes I was in the mood for livelier music. You like slower more soulful songs. You had a great voice and loved to sing. If you’d been more outgoing, I think you could have had a career in music. People told you that your voice reminded them of Elvis.
 
On weekends we often went to Lakewood cemetery to visit Susan’s grave. We were still sad, but having Carol made things easier. Lakewood is a beautiful cemetery where all the markers are bronze plaques. The cemetery lawns are neatly mowed and trees and flowers and lakes make it look like a park. There are always duck and geese on the lakes and streams.
 
Carol was an adorable toddler. She had a lot of the two-piece sets with ruffled panties. She walked with a bit of a swayback that left her butt with the ruffled panties sticking out. We joked that she looked like a little duck. She was crazy about you. When she woke every morning the first thing she wanted to do was to sit in her daddy’s lap. You were often holding a cup of coffee, and you were so careful to set it aside quickly. Once she surprised you, and the coffee sloshed on her. She wasn’t really injured, but you were still beating yourself up over it long after the tears had dried.  
 
Now that we no longer had a payment on the land and house in Mississippi where your parents lived, you decided we should buy property. Your theory was the only way to get ahead was to invest in land.
 
“You know you can’t go wrong buying land,” you told me. “There will always be a demand for land. Every year there are more people, but the supply of land is limited”.
 
You started reading the ads looking for acreage for sale. On weekends, we drove out to look at anything you might have found. I didn’t know where the money would come from, but I was willing to go look. I trusted your judgement. Some of the places we looked at were overpriced or that were too far in the backwoods for either of us. You didn’t want to farm, but you did think raising beef cattle was a good idea. One place we tromped over was so remote we saw footprints in the mud that could have well been Bigfoot. They look like a barefoot human but twice as large.
 
My pregnancy progressed without complications. You hoped we might have a boy this time. I told Carol she was going to have a little sister or brother. I’m sure she didn’t completely grasp the concept.
 
I’d ask “Do you want a brother or sister?”
 
She responded with “butter n’ sisser!”. Maybe she was just parroting what I said or maybe she was putting in an order for both. Could it be she knew something I didn’t?
 
Some words were hard for her to say. Hair was “haise” and chair was “chaise”. Spaghetti was “gettyo” and elephants were “dummy uts” The last was probably because of the story of Dumbo the elephant.
 
A lot of things happened in the year of 1962. The US had gotten serious about the space race, and Alan Shepard was our first man to walk in space. The National Guard had been called out to make sure that James Meredith would be the first black man in Mississippi to integrate Old Miss University. Marilyn Monroe sang her famous sexy rendition of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" to President Kennedy. Not long after, she was found dead of an overdose of drugs. It was later when we learned he was a frequent visitor to her apartment.
 
 Our world was becoming a less safe place in which to live. The US failed in an attempt to put down Fidel Castro’s revolution by sending in exiled Cubans. The infamous “Bay of Pigs” was the result. Most of the men were killed or captured. Then the Soviets and the Cubans began building nuclear launch sites in Cuba, which was too close for comfort to the US mainland. Our government and many individuals began building fall-out shelters and having drills in school in case of nuclear attacks from Russia. You and I were concerned, but we were more involved with our on daily problems.
 
By November, I’d reached my eighth month of pregnancy, I was getting quite large, although I was trying not to gain a lot of weight. When I went in for my checkup, my regular doctor was on vacation and the examining doctor checked me carefully and said “You might be carrying twins. Next week when you come for your appointment, we need to x-ray you.”
 
In 1962, there were no ultrasounds like today. X-rays are never used on pregnant women now, but back then they didn’t think it would be harmful if you were far enough along in your pregnancy. I didn’t believe this doctor was right since my regular doctor had always talked about a single baby. 
 
The next week, my regular doctor was back. He didn’t believe it either, but he was willing to go ahead with the x-ray. Sure enough, the result showed two babies. I was so blown away by the news, that I shouldn’t have been driving. I drove right through red lights and stop signs without even noticing them. I couldn’t wait to get home and call you.

The last month, I did notice that one side of my stomach seemed to be possessed by a bronco, and the other side barely moved if at all. I became concerned there might be a problem with one of the babies. The due date was December 26. I couldn't bear the thought of being in the hospital on Christmas.
 
That last month, in spite of my huge size, I got more active than I’d been before. I thought if exercise would speed things up, I was going to give it my best shot. The babies were full term. I didn’t believe being one week early would cause our babies any problems. It had to be getting awfully crowded where they were and besides whichever one was doing all that kicking, must be making it painful for the other one. 
 
 

 

Author Notes The story is told as though I talking to my deceased husband and reminding him of our life together.


Chapter 27
A Growing Family

By BethShelby

On my last trip to my OBGYN, the doctor told me that he thought I was getting close to being ready to have my babies. Like me, I think he didn’t relish the idea of being in the delivery room on Christmas. He told me to come in the following Monday which was December 17th and he would see if we could get things going.

That Sunday, I spent a good portion of the day jogging in circles around my living room, hoping to make sure things would be good to go on Monday. When I went in the next day, the exam showed I was close enough, and I was told to go to the hospital and check in. Ironically, I was in the prep room with a lady who believed she was having one baby. She told me she didn’t envy me having two. Little did she know, because she delivered twins before I did.

They gave me a drug to help speed things up. It did bring on the contractions, but once again, my labor was long. You never left my side until they took me to the delivery room and sent you the waiting room to sit it out. I’m pretty sure you preferred it that way. The doctor had my pediatrician there in case there was a problem with the babies.

He had nothing to be concerned about, because my healthy babies weighted 6 lbs., 9 oz. and 6 lbs., 12 oz.. The doctor was excited and wanted to show you right away. He put both babies in a tub even before they were cleaned up and brought them into the waiting room to show you. You knew before I did that we had both a boy and a girl. The boy was six minutes older.

The nurse brought me the babies one at a time. I checked inside their diaper to see which baby she had given me. Both had thick three inch strands of dark hair like the two babies I’d had before. It didn’t take me long to learn that the one whose hair stuck straight up was the boy.

We hadn’t picked names for a boy and a girl so it took a while to decide. My first baby that died was Susan Renee, the second was Carol Kay. Since the second names of those two had rhymed without us planning it that way, we decided to stick with the second name rhyming. You were determined not to name them the same as any of your cousins or anyone else you knew.

You didn’t have cousins named Donald or Christi so those are the names we finally agreed on. We added the Ray and Faye as second names, knowing they would never use those names. Later however, your mom decided she didn’t like the name “Donald” and always insisted on calling our little boy “Ray”. 

They let us take them home the third day after their birth. Since two babies demanded care at night, and I could only deal with one at a time, I enlisted your help. For the next couple of months, both of us walked around like zombies from lack of sleep. To make matters worse, Christi tended to be constipated, while Don had loose bowels. Christi needed a lot of physical contact, and she wasn’t happy in her bassinet. She usually ended up in our bed cuddled next to me. I hardly slept, because I was afraid I would roll over on her and crush or smother her. Don needed room to kick and wiggle, and he didn’t seem to understand the cuddling concept. As a result, he spent more time in his bassinet.

I was determined not to let Carol feel neglected even though the new babies demanded a lot of attention. She didn’t appear to be jealous. I think she believed they were her babies, too and was willing to make them a part of her play time. I tried to give her more attention than ever. She seemed pleased to be able to help me fetch diapers. I dubbed her Mama’s little helper. 

The problem was she was still a baby herself and wasn’t yet potty trained. I was using cloth diapers. I had three 12-count package containers of diapers, and it seemed I was changing them constantly.

It was the middle of winter, and although I had a washing machine, I had no dryer. I couldn’t leave the babies long enough to hang dozens of diapers outside even on days when they wouldn’t have frozen on the line. In the middle of our little hallway, we had a floor furnace. We got a wire drying rack and placed it over the metal grate to dry clothes. The metal would get too hot to touch. We had to keep that area closed off to make sure Carol didn’t get burned on the rack or trip on the floor grate, ending up with a grid shaped burn mark.

We came home from the hospital five days before Christmas. We had one of those aluminum foil-like Christmas trees that were popular in the early sixties. We put the babies under the Christmas tree and took their picture. It was like “Look what Santa Claus brought". You had made a wooden doll bed for Carol in your workshop and painted it. I’d made covers and a mattress for it. I got a cute little doll for her that she could feed with a bottle and the doll would wet her pants. Carol could play at doing the same thing I was doing with the real babies.

Since I was fresh out of the hospital, we didn't go to our parents for Christmas as we had always done before. It was the first Christmas we had ever spent in our own home. Granted, the meal you helped me prepare didn’t match either of our mom’s Christmas feasts. Nevertheless, it was a very happy Christmas Day.

We had separate cribs for the babies. One of them we’d bought before Susan was born, and the other was a loan from Rhomas and Shirley who still only had the one son. We put both cribs in our bedroom about eight inches apart. We’d bought a second-hand twin stroller to use when they were old enough, but the seats were side by side which wasn’t practical, because this made it so wide it was hard to get in and out of doors or to get it into the car. The ones you see now are built with one seat behind the other and are much easier to manage.

I didn't try breast feeding because my milk hadn't been rich enough for even one baby  Now when one of our babies got hungry at night, it was necessary to go to the kitchen and get the bottles out of the fridge and heat them to the proper temperature. The twins never wanted to be fed at the same time. Still, we’d try to make only one trip, and we would warm both bottles. That meant waking a sleeping baby to try and get the feeding over with before the milk got cold. It also involved both of us. Since you had to work the next day, I was usually the one to make the kitchen run. The whole process was ineffective because a sleepy baby isn’t interested in drinking, and sleepy parents aren't up to holding a bottle very long. 

It was an occasion to celebrate when they finally started sleeping most of the night. It didn’t come quickly enough. Before that day arrived, both of us were faking being unable to wake up when that wailing happened in the wee hours. Finally, one of us could stand it no longer and would rise to the occasion. It was a test of endurance.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 28
Adjusting to Twins

By BethShelby

In 1963, doctors started babies on solid food much earlier than they do now. The twins were only a few weeks old when we started them on oat flakes and baby apple sauce. The fruit flavors were the only things that didn’t taste gross. Both babies liked it, so the easiest thing to do was try to get them both eating at one time. While one was trying to swallow or spit, I could stick the same spoon full of food into the other one’s mouth. Of course, it was necessary to take time to wipe the excess food off of their faces along with dipping the spoon for the next bite. The process was faster this way, but maybe less sanitary, especially when one baby insisted on spitting everything back at you. As new foods were gradually introduced, the babies seemed to develop their own individual preference. Christi’s favorite was green beans while Don mostly just liked the fruit flavors and a dessert flavor called apple pie. Some of the foods had to be tossed, because neither baby would eat them. After tasting them, I can’t say I could fault them for that. 

Don was far more active than Christi. This left me in no doubt as to which baby had given me so much grief while I was still carrying them. He was forever getting tangled in the covers and moving around so much that he soon developed the strength to roll over and scoot around in his bed. Christi was a dream to hold, because she’d barely moved at all. Holding Don was like participating in a miniature wrestling match. We got kicked, scratched, and slobbered on, not to mention what happened to our hair if those busy fingers got anywhere near it.  

We purchased a photography plan which involved the photographer coming to our house to take pictures of the children every few months. He had taken Carol on her first birthday, and we had him over on her second birthday. He took cute pictures of her with her cake, and pictures of the twins as well. I hadn’t planned ahead for a party; but, since the neighborhood children were always coming over I decided to throw an impromptu party. I already had a cake, so I made some sandwiches and punch and invited them all over to celebrate her birthday. We had bought presents for her, so the children all came without gifts. The Schultz children came from next door and there were four more kids from up the street. The children enjoyed the food, but Carol was too excited to eat anything. After she opened her presents, I sent the children outside to play. The twins weren’t involved in this party because they were still too young.

Carol was potty trained soon after she turned two, so that was a big relief. She was in training pants and seldom had an accident. Carol had been nothing like Don. She wasn’t a bad child, but she was a bit stubborn. When something displeased her, she became immovable. When I told her to eat her vegetables, she would only eat if it was something she liked. When I tried to force the issue by telling her she couldn’t leave the table until she tried it, I believe she would have stayed seated until she starved with big tears rolling down her cheeks. I only tried that once. She won that battle.

Both of the twins wanted something in their mouth at all times. Pacifiers were a necessity. Sometimes I would lay the babies side by side in their playpen. For some reason, Don always seemed to find Christi’s pacifier more desirable than his own. He’d simply pop it out of her mouth and into his.

One thing I’m about to tell, tweeters of today would say is TMI or “too much information.”  If it grosses you out just get over it. It’s the kind of thing mothers have to deal with. As I said before, Christi tended to be constipated. She had little marble-like BMs that tended to roll out of her diapers. I walked in to find the playpen decorated with streaks of brown from one end to the other. It was also all over my son’s hands, clothes, and even his face as he happily smeared his art like a pint-sized Picasso. I should have recognized his latent talent even then. 

Don was able to roll over, sit up, and pull himself to a standing position much quicker than we’d anticipated. He was strong enough to reach through the bars of his crib and grasp the bars of Christi's crib. Since the cribs had rollers, it wasn’t long before he could manage to make the cribs slide together. His next trick was to start climbing. Each day as they grew stronger, they became a little harder to control. All too soon, he was going over the top of his crib and into the one with Christi. I would hear her cries of distress; and, going to her rescue, I would find my son pulling her hair or poking his fingers up her nose.

There was a lot of turmoil in the world in the year following the birth of the twins. In the South, civil rights issues were heating up. We started hearing a lot on the news about Martin Luther King. In June of that year, Jackson residents were shocked when a local head of the NAACP, Medger Evers, was shot and killed in his front yard. His assailant was arrested and tried, but he was found not guilty by an all white jury. He had bragged to friends about being the one who killed Evers, and most people were convinced of his guilt. In more recent years, he was retried and found guilty; and he spent the remainder of his life in prison. Times have changed since the sixties.

In June, George Wallace, the governor of our sister state of Alabama, was forced to allow the integration of the University of Alabama.

The big news of the year, which left everyone in shock, came in November. President John F. Kennedy was in a parade on the streets of Dallas, Texas, when he was assassinated as he rode in a convertible beside his wife, Jackie. Later that day, we watched on TV as Lyndon Johnson, the vice president, took the presidential oath of office.

Few of those of us who lived during that time will ever forget where we were or what we were doing when the news broke that our president was dead. You were at work at your drafting job in the Standard Oil Building in Jackson. I was making a blue blouse, watching the twins in their playpen, and observing Carol as she fed her doll a bottle.

That weekend we watched live on TV as the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was led from his jail cell to be transferred. We were shocked to see a man emerge from the onlookers, rush toward Oswald with a gun, and pull the trigger. Oswald slumped forward and died. Jack Ruby, a local bar owner, was arrested. To this day, conspiracy theories still circulate about the many unexplained occurrences of those days.

The following week we watched the three day funeral activities that took place in Washington, including a horse drawn caisson flanked by servicemen moving slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue to the capital rotunda where Kennedy’s body would lie at state. One of the images that impressed the viewers was of Kennedy’s two-year-old son saluting his father’s casket.

December saw our twins turn a year old. Don was walking, running, and getting into everything. Christi was only trying to pull up and stand.  Both were talking well enough to make themselves understood.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;
The picture is damaged but I don't have the original


Chapter 29
Growing Pains

By BethShelby

The fifties, which we had recently left behind, had been times when communism was the thing that threatened America. Although the Korean War had come to an inconclusive end, America remained in a cold war with Russia. The director of the FBI, J.Edgar Hoover, had made it his mission to root out any hint of communism.  We'd survived the Cuban Missile Crisis, and more recently, the death of President Kennedy.  
 
The sixties brought about a different kind of discontent. Communism, although still a threat, had taken a back burner to the racial tension that was especially prevalent in the South.
 
In Mississippi. where there was always an excess of rational prejudice, things were heating to the boiling point. It was a time when black people weren’t allowed to eat in white restaurants or hotels. Black and white children went to separate schools. In doctors offices, the waiting rooms were separate. In places where there were restrooms or drinking fountains, they were labeled as to who could use them.
 
Now, the black people were being encouraged by Martin Luther King, the NAACP, and voter right activist groups to stand up for their rights. They were tired of being considered second class citizens and were beginning to protest. Many Mississippi white citizens, who feared change, felt their way of life was being threatened. Under the cover of night, the KKK was reemerging.
 
Although we recognized the unfairness of the way things were, you and I remained detached. Our ancestors had been in this state for many generations. We had been exposed, all of our lives, to traditional opinions and prejudices. Neither of us made an effort to go against the grain. In that sense, I guess we were guilty of being on the wrong side by accepting the inequality. We treated everyone with respect, but like most citizens, we were too concerned with our own personal problems to look for civil causes to fight for.
 
In the early sixties, the US was in a recession. Rumors were circulating that your company would soon be laying off a lot of employees. You hadn’t worked there nearly as long as some of the others, and you still had personality issues with the department supervisor. We were concerned that we might be without an income soon.

When something was bothering you, it was your nature to clam up, but I could tell you were worried about your job. I was concerned as well, because now we had a growing family to support. One of the first employees to go was your best friend in the company, Jerry.  Jerry was an excellent draftsman, but he didn’t work fast enough to please the supervisor.  
 
The twins were growing and getting into more things every day. It was warm enough for the children to be outside. They had tried my patience to the point I needed a break. I put the twins in a shallow blow-up  pool and positioned it just outside the kitchen window, so I could watch what was going on from inside while I did the dishes. Carol was busy coloring at the kitchen table.
 
Don and Christi seemed to be enjoying splashing in the water. Don kept getting out and back in again. Then I noticed him putting something into his mouth. He handed Christi something which she promptly put into her mouth. I hurried outside to see what they’d found to munch on. To my horror, both twins were holding toadstools which appeared to be partially eaten.
 
I grabbed them up, one in each arm, and brought them inside, both howling protests at having their fun interrupted. I begin frantically trying to figure out what I should do. In the yellow-pages, I found a number for poison control. I was told to get Syrup of Ipecac and force some of it down to make them throw up.
 
This meant a trip to the nearest drug store. I couldn’t leave three children while I went on this errand. I had to enlist the help of my neighbor to watch them. I had no way of knowing if this fungi was poisonous, or how long I had before something horrible might happen. When I completed my mission, my poor babies thought their mom was trying to kill them, as I struggled to get this foul potion into their systems. In the end, they did throw up and the crisis ended. So ended another day in my hectic life.
 
Their next adventure, designed to drive their mom over the edge, wasn’t as scary, but it did generate feelings that no mother should have for her offspring. I can’t remember how they got so far with this project without me being aware of it until it was too late. It involved Don’s climbing skills and Christi’s willingness to be an accomplice.

Don got his hands on a one pound bag of flour. He gave Christi a bottle of Karo syrup, which had somehow lost it’s lid. They were too young to be playing at cooking, so there is no explanation for why they selected these items. They brought their new play things into my living room and proceeded to empty them onto my couch. Both of them were covered from head to toe with flour and syrup. Tears of frustration rolled down my face as I yanked them up and headed for the bathroom.  I put both babies into the
 tub and proceeded to scrub them, none too gently. My upholstered sofa was a lost cause. 
 
Carol managed to stay completely innocent. She was always coloring, playing with her doll, or staring at the TV set. Most of the time, she was a little angel until something displeased her. She always woke up in a bad mood. If you dared to say “Good Morning, Carol” she would erupt in tears and say, “I din’t want you to say ‘gudt’ mor’in’ to me.”
 
Remember the time we took her to the park where there were kiddie rides? She wanted to ride in the little cars until just before the ride began to move. We saw that look that meant trouble. It was too late to get her off. The cars had started to move. Her lips poked out, and she glared at us as she went around. Then, she drooped over side-ways like she had passed out.
 
Some of the parents, waiting around the ride, started pointing and saying, “Look, something’s wrong with that child.” You and I realized she was pulling one of her recognizable protests, so we didn’t try to stop the ride. At the end, she got off in a snit, but no worse for having ridden. She pouted all the way home.
 
You were away at night school, when the twins caused the next crisis. This involved a piece of furniture you had designed and built in your workshop. It was a combination bookcase, aquarium stand, and planter. It was tall but not much deeper than the base of the twenty gallon aquarium, which sat on the top, filled with water, gravel, and many colored tropical fish. We were using it as a divider between our living and dining spaces.
 
Carol and I were in the room with the twins, but we were watching TV, when we heard a horrific crash, followed by wails of pain from my babies. Both twins had used the bookcase portion of the divider as a ladder, and their combined weight had been enough to topple the whole thing on top of them. They were penned beneath scores of books, broken glass, gravel from the tank, and fish jumping all over them.
 
I don’t know how I managed to extract them from this mess without someone being severely cut from the glass. I don’t remember even trying to rescue the fish. I had enough to deal with, because they both screamed for what seemed like hours. Even after Don had settled down and fallen asleep, Christi’s body was still jerking, even as she slept.  Neither of them were seriously injured, but we knew this piece of furniture was not something we could have in our house.
 
You had located some property in the country, you wanted to check out. It turned out to be nearly an hour from Jackson, out in the country. It was 143 acres in a rural community of Rankin County. You were excited about it. It had once had a house, and an old chimney was still standing. There was an archaic one room log house in the nearby field. The property was for sale by the owner.
 
The owners were two elderly brothers, who were willing to finance it over five years at a low interest rate. You thought we should buy it. I didn’t argue, but I was concerned about where the money would come from if you lost your job. I hoped you had a plan in mind that didn’t involve relocating your little family to the sticks.
 
A few weeks later, your company laid off a number of the geologists and upper level executives. Rumors grew that there were more cutbacks on the way, and the drafting department would be next. I got the newspaper out and started scanning the employment section. Surely if I found something for myself, we could hire a baby sitter. I needed a break from being a full time mom, and you needed help supporting this family.
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 30
Back In the Job Market

By BethShelby

You hated the idea of me going back to work. You felt you needed to be the one to support the family. At the same time, you realized we needed some backup in case you were laid off. Rumors of further layoffs were still circulating. I told you I loved our children dearly, but I could use a break. The terrible twos were getting to me. I believed I could be a better mother spending quality time with them in the evenings, rather than being constantly exhausted and frustrated by too much together time. In the end, we decided it wouldn’t hurt to see what was out there.
 
As I scanned the paper for jobs, there was nothing available in my field. I did find an ad that preferred someone with a college degree, but didn’t mention previous experience as a requirement. A large printing company was looking for a proofreader. When I called about the job, I was told the applicants would be tested.
 
I went to the dictionary to see if I could get an idea of what proofreading involved. Then I remembered the back of the dictionary had a section on proofreading marks. There was a large number of symbols and words like “stet” and “dele”. I memorized them and made an appointment for an interview. I’d read tons of books all my life and the occasional errors which slipped past editors stood out. I could catch other people's errors, but not my own. When I reread something I had written, my brain saw what I meant to say rather than the typos I had made.
 
When I went in for the interview, I was taken into a small office and handed a couple of yards of newsprint about a foot wide covered with copy. The copy I was given was filled with mistakes. I had no trouble marking them up with my newly learned set of proofreading marks. At the time, I believed the many errors were put there deliberately to test the proofreader applicant's ability to catch them. I later learned this was freshly set type meant to be used in a manuscript. It was no wonder they needed a proofreader. After I handed back the corrected proof, I was called in and hired on the spot. I was told I was far better than anyone else they had interviewed.
 
The Personnel manager took me around and introduced me to the head of the typesetting department and showed me the machines used to set the type. I won’t pretend I ever understood the mysteries of the typesetting machines. They looked like something more suited for the nineteenth century. There were two types of printing, offset and lino-type, in use by this company. Hot lead was used for setting type. Some of the larger letters were already molded and filed in a cabinet. These large letters were set by hand. I’m pretty sure none of these methods are still used today, but this was 1963. The machines they were using appeared to have been in use for many years.
 
They were anxious for me to start right away. I asked for a day or two so I could make arrangements for childcare. Mrs. Burnside, the lady who had kept Carol as a baby, was willing to take all three temporarily, but she didn’t feel she could handle the twins full time at her age.

When I started the job the following week, I learned that one of the women in the front office had a maid she was letting go, because her children were older and no longer needed child care. She recommended her highly. So I got in touch with her, and she agreed to come to work for me.

 
The starting wage for the proofreading job was low, with a promise of a raise after a three week trial period. I was shocked to know that maids of that day were willing to work eight or nine hours a day for eighteen dollars a week. This maid had her own transportation. She did well with the children and even had a meal ready for us when we got home. Unfortunately, she only worked for us a couple of months, before she told us she’d found another job nearer her home. She knew another maid looking for a job, so we agreed to try her. This is when Mamie came into our lives.
 
After reading the recent book, “The Help”, in which maids during the same time period in Jackson, Mississippi were making one dollar per hour, I wonder if that might have been inaccurate. If they were making that much, they must have been working for very rich families.  With a college degree, my starting salary wasn't much more than that.
 
The transition went well. Mamie was quiet and hard working. She didn’t cook our meals, but she was willing to do laundry, iron, and keep the house clean. Of course, her main task was to feed and care for the children. She had a male friend who dropped her off and picked her up every day. She was in her twenties and although she had no children of her own yet, she’d taken care of her younger siblings. She'd also cared for children before as a maid. There were no complaints from Carol who was four, so it seemed things were off to a good start. The twins weren’t talking well enough to express an opinion, but they seemed willing to go along.
 
My babies had decided they hated diapers, but they weren’t yet potty trained. These were the days before Velcro, so the cloth diapers were penned on with large diaper pins with ducks or bunny rabbits on the heads. The only way I’d been able to keep them diapered was to pull the plastic-lined panties over the diapers. When the weather was hot, this was uncomfortable. With nothing, other than pins, holding the diaper on, the twins worked at pushing off the diaper until one of the pins would come open. Then they would step out of them, risking getting scratched or stuck. Mamie worked hard to get them potty trained. Half the time, they were walking around with bare bottoms.
 
When I was home, in the late afternoons, Christi was ready to cuddle. Don gave me sloppy kisses and pulled the heads off any flower he could find growing to give me as a present. Carol knew by this time, I preferred my flowers with a bit of stem. She brought me pictures she had drawn and colored. I thanked them all profusely for their gifts of love.
 
Four of five guys from the drafting department did lose their jobs, but so far you were still there. It  appeared that maybe they had laid off all they planned to in the drafting department. We relaxed to some extent. It looked as though you’d dodged that bullet. Without the stress of worrying about unemployment, you seemed to be enjoying more time with our children. Don followed you around like a puppy.
 
The first day I worked, they put me in a small room with a desk and some shelves. I learned that it had been the work room of the company artist. She had left with the onset of an illness and had decided not to return, since she was approaching retirement age. With no on site-artist, the company was sending their artwork to an agency.
 
The proofs for reading came in at various times throughout the day, and part of the time, I would catch up and be without anything to do. As soon as the plant manager discovered I had a degree in art, he suggested to the company CEO that I could save the company money by doing both art work and proofreading. They decided to give it a try. Soon I was designing logos and letterheads and doing paste-up as well as the work I was originally hired to do.
 
It didn’t take me long to learn the plant manager, Robert, was too free with his hands when he got near me. I was determined not to let another man cause me to have to leave a job. I liked what I was doing, and I wanted to stay. Robert’s wife worked in the front office in sales, and she didn’t seem concerned with his activities. I decided some people are just touchers and that I’d have to learn to deal with it. Becky, his wife, was nice looking, and didn’t appear to be threatened by her husband's fondness for touching other women.
 
There were some other things I learned about this job as time went on. While the plant was large, and there were still a lot of employees, many people had recently left to take other jobs. In fact, the entire department of camera and stripping had emptied out. There was only one full time employee in that department, and he’d only been there for about a month. Other than the presses, this was one of the most essential departments in a printing company.
 
I also found out that Robert had only recently joined the company. He had run a small printing company out of his home. When he joined this company, he brought everyone from his own company with him. This included two of his brothers, his wife, and Dave, an older Cajun man from South Louisiana. Dave was the lone employee now in the camera/stripping department. No one told me anything, but I sensed an undercurrent of secrecy that wasn't to be mentioned around new employees.
 
One day, Robert came into my office and told me to drop whatever I was doing because there was a big rush job to print and Dave needed help. He told me he needed me to work in the stripping department. I didn’t know anything about stripping but he said, “Don’t worry, I’ll teach you.” so I acquired yet another job.
 
The stripping job involved working with large negatives of type and pictures that had to be taped into proper position onto yellow masking sheets. He started me out with an easy job. When the negatives were laid on a light table they were covered with tiny pinpoints of light that was caused by dust particles. All of these spots had to be covered so they wouldn’t show on the final print. He gave me a small watercolor brush and some brown liquid and told me to paint all the spots out and be careful to avoid the type. This was something I had no problem doing, but the job was time consuming. My other two jobs still had to be done as well. It was a matter of who needed what done first.
 
From that day on, the proofs and art jobs were brought to the stripping department and I was told how much time I would have to get them done. It wouldn’t be long before I would be expected to do many more tasks. Fortunately, I was fascinated with the printing process and was eager to learn all I could.
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 31
Learning More New Skills

By BethShelby

We had bought a new bedroom suite and returned the borrowed crib. Now, I had a room that Carol and Christi could share. Our house had only two bedrooms, but the paneled den had a large closet and could be used as a bedroom. The den looked more masculine, so I put the remaining crib in there for Don. He wasn’t happy about it. He had bonded with Carol and wanted to be with her. He couldn’t say “Carol” so he called her “Coow”. 
 
Christi had claimed the role of the baby of the family. She would have preferred to sleep with us, but we needed more privacy now that they were getting a little older. Don wasn’t fun to hold because he couldn’t be still long enough, so he missed his chance to ever be the baby. All the children seemed to be doing fine with Mamie caring for them. She was quiet and didn’t complain. I had a hard time getting to know her, but as long as the kids seemed okay with both of us working, I didn’t push.
 
My next door neighbor, did complain about Mamie though. She told me that Mamie’s husband was coming by at lunchtime and taking Mamie and the children to the nearby 7-Eleven quick-stop. She didn’t think it was appropriate for my children to be seen with a black couple. I didn’t have a problem with that, but I didn’t like the idea that they were away from home without me knowing it. I did tell Mamie she should have told me she was taking the children away from home. She apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again.
 
Although the work at my new job seemed easy enough, every day something new was added to the things I was originally hired to do. Robert started teaching me to place the negatives on the masking paper for the small offset presses. He started me out with just one negative per job, which were often for one color business cards or letterheads. This had to be measured carefully to make sure the negative was correctly positioned. The process was called stripping. Some jobs that came through the shop were repeats. For those, I had to search the filing cabinet to find the already prepared negatives needed to print the job.
 
When the stripping was completed the job was taken to a flip top table and positioned on a thin sheet of aluminum called a plate. A suction was turned on which flattened the work against the glass. The table was then tilted facing a very bright arc light that burned the print from the negative into the metal. This was called plate making, and I was taught how to do that. Jobs that were to be printed in full color involved four plates. one for each color. The printing inks for full color were  magenta, cyan, yellow and black.
 
When it came to the graphic arts camera and the darkroom work, I knew something about that from the earlier job I had when I worked for the glass company. Robert was delighted when he found out I knew something about doing camera work already. Only men had worked in this department before, but there was no reason it couldn’t be done just as easily by a woman. The problem was Robert insisted on being in the darkroom with me which made me nervous. He stood way too close, occasionally touching his shoulder against mine. Robert was just a few years older than me and considered himself a ladies’ man. I couldn’t let him ruin this for me. The dark room was constructed with a series of turns so that anyone could walk in without knocking and it wouldn't expose the film. He was bad about walking in on me when I had both hands in the chemicals and couldn't defend myself against his advances.
 
Not long after I started working in this department, one of the company owners came around, and I was introduced to him. He was an elderly man, but he immediately put his arm around me and reached down and stroked my bottom. I was shocked and reacted quickly by jerking back and saying, “Please don’t do that!” He became indignant and acted as if I had cursed him. “What’s wrong with you?” he asked. “I’m a old man. I can’t do anything to you.” I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me. Was this the price women were required to pay in order to bring home a paycheck?
 
With so many new things being added, I had no time for breaks. You and I were riding together to save gas. I was exhausted by the time I got home in the evening. You were still doing night school, so three nights a week you had to go to class. I was almost too tired to give the children their baths and tuck them in. Often, when you came in from school, you found all of us asleep in front of the TV.
 
On weekends, the plant supervisor felt he had the right to call employees in if they were needed. I refused to answer the phone at times when I knew there was a possibility I might be called in. I was spending enough time away from you and our children. If we'd not planned on going to visit our parents, we would often take the children to the park or the zoo. Sometimes we would ride out into the country and walk over the acreage we'd bought. The longer trips were boring for the childen, and many times, they would all be asleep within the first fifteen minutes. If they didn't sleep, Don would pick at his sisters until he had irritated them to the point they were fighting or crying. I got an idea from The Sound of Music movie that maybe there would be less fighting if I could get everyone singing.  It actually worked. The twins were young, but they joined in the best they could, and all of them ended up with good voices. I have you to thank for that.  Singing could have been your career field. No one ever claimed I had musical talent.
 
I gathered that people at work seemed uneasy about their jobs. One day Robert went around and told certain people there would be a meeting after work and asked them to stay. I was not one of the people invited to the meeting, so I went home as usual.
 
That night I had a very realistic dream. It seemed I was watching a lot of the people I’d gotten to know around the shop. They were seated in a group and many of them were crying especially, Donna the receptionist. Since it was such a vivid and troubling dream, I couldn’t resist mentioning it to Donna the next day. Donna had been with the company for years and was more than a receptionist. She hadn’t gone out of her way to be friendly to me. She seemed to resent the fact that I’d been moved to another department. When I told her what I’d dreamed, she acted as though I was making it up, and I’d been told something I shouldn’t know. Her sarcastic response was, “You may be crying too, pretty soon, Missy.”
 
Shortly after this, Robert called another meeting. This time, it was for the employees that weren’t at the first meeting. I wasn’t asked to attend this one either. The next morning the plant seemed empty. All of the people who were at the second meeting were gone.
 
I tried to find out what was going on. My little Cajun work mate, Dave, didn’t act as if he knew anything either, but at least, he was still there. I asked Robert what his plans were for me, and he told me, “When it’s time for you to know something, then I’ll tell you.” I felt very insecure about my job situation. Did this mean I might be unemployed again soon? Time would tell.
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 32
Another Change In the Wind

By BethShelby

Things couldn’t stay a secret forever. I soon learned the large printing company where I was employed was being dissolved after many years of being in business. A new company would be formed and Robert, the plant manager, would be the new owner. He had owned a print shop in his home before becoming plant manager here. The new company would be much smaller, so therefore he could keep only a few of the original employees. My fate was still unsettled, but for now, I still had a job. 
 
Robert’s experience in printing was self-taught and had involved only smaller presses. He didn’t understand the need for the vinyl masking sheets or the thick clear plastic that the larger negatives were attached to. The orange paper sheets were much less expensive, and he thought they should work just as well. Dave had never worked for a larger company either, so he agreed with Robert. Since I’d never been involved in printing before, I assumed everyone knew more than I did, so I went along. This was a problem that would drive us all nuts, because with the changes in temperature and humidity, the paper sheets expanded and contracted. While they worked for single color printing, they weren’t stable enough for the perfect alignment required for the four color process work. 
 
As time went on, I learned to do the more complicated stripping on the large light tables. I was still doing the proofreading and the art work. Often, I had to work directly with the customer when they needed a logo or a brochure designed. I loved the work, but an eight-hour day was not always enough time to get everything done. You and I had to take separate cars, because many times I had to work late. 
 
The girls' hair needed help. You had already taken Don several times for haircuts. Carol and Christi both inherited my fine and extremely straight hair. Mamie tried working with it, and often I came home to find both girls wearing tiny pigtails all over their heads. This was more of an ethnic style, and I decided it was time to take them to the beauty shop. I looked through the style books and decided on a Buster Brown cut for Christi and a pixie for Carol. Christi had no problem with her new look. Carol, on the other hand, was horrified and decided she was ruined for life. She had learned how to lock her room door, and as soon as we got home, she went straight to her room and said she would never come out again. She might have made good on that vow, but hunger has a way helping you see things differently. Carol had strong opinions and a very determined nature.
   
You had bought some cattle, which you were keeping in your parents’ pastures. Now that you had 143 acres of your own, you wanted them closer by. On weekends, you repaired and added fences and rented a truck to hall them to our farm, The next thing was to buy a registered bull. The big Hereford bull’s name was long on his registration papers, but we shortened it to Sam. Along with Sam, you acquired several more heifers. Now you were spending nearly every weekend on our farm property. The acreage contained land that had been used for growing cotton. You leased those acres to a neighbor so he could grow a crop. He agreed to watch your cattle when you weren’t around to make sure they didn’t break out of the fences.
 
I can’t help but smile when I think of the time Don was looking at our bull and he kept pointing and asking "what's that thing hanging down under his stomach.” You kept trying to distract him, but he wouldn’t let it go. Finally you lost your patience and informed him in rather loud slang terms what portion of the anatomy of the bull he was so curious about. 
 
One day after we got in from work, Mamie said to me “Ms. Shelby, I need to talk to you. I can’t work for you people no more.”
 
“Why” I asked, “What happened? Is something wrong?”  
  
“Yes Maam, Your son called me something what's not my name.”
 
“He did what? What did he call you? I’ll make him apologize.”
 
“I can’t say what he called me. It was something what's not my name.”
 
By that time, I assumed he must have used the “N” word, but that was something he’d never heard from us. One of the little boy’s next door had a dirty mouth, so that might have been where he picked it up. No amount of persuasion would change Mamie’s mind. We had no choice but to look for other child care options. When I questioned my son, he claimed to have no memory of saying anything to her. I think he inherited your reluctance to talk about unpleasant subjects.  
 
Carol was able to fill in some details. She said Mamie marched him to the linen closet and pulled out a sheet. She said, “You thank you're white. You ain’t white. This sheet is white.” So maybe he called her something that wasn’t her “color.”  Either way, she refused to stay.
  
I started looking for child care centers near where I worked. We did find a place that kept a lot of children. The lady who owned the place seemed very nice. She said she taught Kindergarten classes for the older children. Carol was four, but she seemed advanced, so the lady told me she could put Carol in the Kindergarten class. All of the children would spend some play time outside in the fenced backyard. They would have snacks in the morning and afternoon and a nutritious lunch. There would be a nap time. She said there were plenty of helpers to watch the children at all times. It seemed the best solution.  The facility was in an older house that had been converted into a nursery. It was something we could afford, so we signed them up.  They seemed to enjoy being there and went eagerly each day  
 
The year was 1965. You and I had been married nine years. Your sister Nan had graduated from college with a degree in music and was teaching. She was now married and living in Gulf Port, Mississippi. My friend Joy, had also moved on. She had taught school for a year in Pensacola, Florida. She had met someone from in the Air Force and they were married. Like us, they had also lost their first child. He died from crib death at eight months. They now had other children and were living in Florida. Lyndon Johnson was the president of the country. The US was sending troops to Vietnam. The Sound of Music was still playing in the theaters, and Dr. Zhivago was premiering. 
 
For the moment, you and I felt  we were doing the right thing for our children, but things are never as simple as they seem at first.
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;



Chapter 33
Kiddy Woes and Money Matters

By BethShelby

Things went well at the nursery for a while. Carol was going to class with the pre-schoolers. She came home singing songs she learned there. Don and Christi played with the younger children. The kids enjoyed snacks in the morning and afternoon. They didn’t like the nap times, but afterwards, they were allowed to play outside in a fenced in area. The lot was sandy at the back, but it wasn’t white sand. There was a lot of black dust mixed with it, so sometimes, the children came home with dirty clothes, smudges on their faces and hands, and occasional sand in their hair.

One day, Don ran a fever, and someone from the nursery called me at work and asked me to come pick him up. He tended to have earaches, and I thought he might need an antibiotic, so I called the pediatrician. He told me to bring him in. I picked him up from the nursery and took him straight to the doctor. I didn’t get my usual doctor, and the one I got was the grumpy one at the clinic.

He took one look at Don, and then looked at me accusingly. “This child could use a bath,” he said harshly. I was embarrassed and tried to explain that I brought him directly from the nursery. I got the feeling he felt I wasn’t a good mother for having them in place where they could get that dirty.

Another time, the nursery worker called to tell me that Don had swallowed a pin. I was determined not to get the same doctor again, so I looked up another Children’s Clinic. When I spoke to this doctor, he had a strong Spanish accent. He had trouble understanding what I was saying. He decided I was trying to tell him my son had swallowed an ink pen. When he finally understood, he told me to feed him bread and check his stool to make sure the pin came through. This was the disgusting job I had for the next week and a half before the offending object passed. Sometimes motherhood wasn’t fun.

One day, we were almost at the nursery when Christi informed me that she didn’t have any panties on. She happened to be wearing a very short dress. Luckily Carol was wearing long pants that day. Carol had to give up her panties, and we had to do a quick change in the car. I began to wonder if maybe I was a total failure as a mother.

When your company was laying off so many employees, you had managed to keep your job, but a lot of your friends didn’t fare so well. You missed Jerry especially. Although the drafting department was much smaller, the work load remained the same. Your boss was clamping down harder on those of you who were left. Both you and I were under a lot of stress. I was having to work a lot of overtime, which put more of the care of the children on your shoulders.

I had taken over paying the bills, so you gave me access to the bank account and checkbook. The problem was you often failed to keep out enough cash for things you might need. Sometimes you wrote a check for more cash and failed to mention it to me. Then we would get an overdraft notice, and our account would be charged even more. I decided the way around that was to keep more in the account than actually showed in the checkbook. When you realized you couldn’t tell exactly how much was in our account, you decided you would take over paying the bills. Our solution was not something that most marriage counselors or economists would have agreed with. It was to maintain separate bank accounts.

Now that I was working, I opened a bank account in my own name. I agreed to buy all the groceries and clothes for the family and any gifts, or small items for the house. You would pay taxes, house payments, utility bills.and car expenses. Any big item would be split evenly. We would each keep our own books. This solution worked for us, and we decided to make that a permanent arrangement.

Tithing was another point we didn’t totally agree on. You were convinced that ten percent of your take home pay had to be given directly to the church. I was willing to give ten percent of my check, but I wasn’t convinced the church always handled the money in the best manner. If I felt impressed to use it for another just cause, I felt I should have that option. I also thought the scripture said ten percent of your increase. When most of the money was owed to others, we weren’t showing much of an increase once that owed money was gone.

You said it is impossible to out-give God. The more you give, the more God will cause you to prosper. You said the tithing principal works even if you don’t believe in God at all. I said you pay your tithe, and I’ll pay mine. You were probably right, because you gave twice as much as required, and we were blessed as a result.

At the end of May, there was a little graduation ceremony for the kindergarten children. Carol wasn’t as old as most of the other children, but she got to wear a little cap and gown. All the children had their pictures taken. The classes would start back up in the fall.

An incident happened at the nursery that I will never be able to explain. Carol had a Cinderella watch that she got for her birthday. On Sunday, we all went down to our place in the country so you could check on your cattle. There was a lake nearby with a swimming area, and the children and I went swimming. Carol took off her watch and laid it on a towel on the sand.

When we got ready to leave, the towel was there but the watch was gone. We looked in the sand and asked at the concession stand, but no luck. We were teaching the children to pray, so we all had said a prayer before we started looking, asking that God would help us find the watch. After we searched a while, it was late and we had to leave. Carol said,”Don’t worry about it. We prayed, so I’ll get it back.”

The next day, she told her Kindergarten teacher and everyone there she lost her watch, but that she would be getting it back. The kids went out to play in the yard and a little girl from the neighborhood was standing by the fence wearing a Cinderella watch.

Carol said, “You’re wearing my watch.”

The child said “Uh-uh, It can’t be your watch. I found this watch at a lake way out in the country, yesterday.”

The teacher, who knew her story, got involved. To make a long-story short, when we picked the children up, Carol was wearing her watch, and she was not at all surprised she had it back. I couldn’t believe it, but the tiny scratch on the crystal proved to me it was really hers.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 34
Childcare Problems Yet Again

By BethShelby

You made the right move when you decided we should buy the farm property. We were able to sell timber and lease out the cotton land, and an oil company gave us a seven year lease for an option to drill. When we sold the property where your folks were living, we retained half the mineral rights, and another oil company leased that land as well. We’d only paid $90 per acre for the land. The owners financed it at a 2% interest, so we were able to pay off our mortgage on that property quickly. You were raising cattle and growing more trees on the land. From time to time we would have other income from these sources. I had to admit that investing in land was a wise decision.
 
Your brother, Rhomas, was working as a project engineer building bridges and other large projects. He and Shirley had two boys now, and they had built a new house ten miles from Jackson in Brandon, Mississippi. We visited them fairly often. You got interested in the new highway which was being built through Brandon. It would be Interstate 20 and go from coast to coast. There was a large lot of three acres for sale on the highway, and you thought we should consider buying it and building on it. Since the highway would run through Newton and also nearer the land we owned in the country, living in Brandon would make our commutes faster. Also with three children and only two bedrooms, we needed a bigger house. Don was still sleeping in a crib instead of a bed. We would have to pay off the lot before we could afford to build, but it was something to work toward. We were able to get the land for a reasonable price, and you began working on house plans. When you had a project to put your energy into, you seemed more content and not as concerned about your boss and problems you still had.
 
Other things were happening in our neighborhood as well. An elementary school was being built on the farm land at the back of our lot. We were pleased about this because when our children started school, they would be within walking distance.
 
I continued to work at the printing company, and Carol graduated a second time from the kindergarten. We’d had a pretty good run with this childcare facility, but that was about to change. Christi got sick one day and was running a fever. We took her to the doctor, who gave her an antibiotic and sent her home. Her problem wasn’t improving. I had to take off from work and stay home with her. The medicine the doctor prescribed for her didn’t seem to be working.
 
After a week, I got a call from the nursery and was told Christi had gotten sick the same day as another child. Both girls were put in a room together on separate beds. The daycare manager had just learned the other child was diagnosed with hepatitis. Immediately I called the doctor, and he had me bring Christi back in. Sure enough after checking her out again, he confirmed that she too had that illness. The rest of our family had to go in and get a vaccination to prevent us from catching it. Christi had to be hospitalized. I had no choice but to take more time off from work. The county Health Department took over. They gave all the children at the nursery shots and closed the place down.
 
I remember the lump of fear in my throat as I led my little three-year-old Christi into the big hospital. I had the nursing staff bring a cot and I moved into the room with her. I had to enlist my mother’s help to come up and take care of Carol and Don. In spite of the bad diagnosis, Christi seemed to be feeling better. Her face was slightly flushed and her skin had a yellowish tint, but she was delighted to have me all to herself. In the children’s wing, there was a big play room. I let her pick out some toys and books, not thinking about the fact that she could be contagious. Later, I was informed that Christi was quarantined, and we were banned from going into the play room.
 
The doctors came regularly, and she had to get shots several times a day, but Christi just smiled and let them stick her without uttering a peep. Again, my stomach rebelled from eating, and I lost ten pounds the week I spent with her. At the end of the week, the doctor seem to think she was well and could go home. Mother took all the children to her house for the week, and I went back to work.
 
Christi was sick again a week later. This time she had huge swollen lymph nodes under her arms, and she was running a fever again. Mom came back for another week, while Christi was admitted to the hospital once again. This time. she felt worse than before and wasn’t the good little patient she had been the first week. This time the doctor suspected she might have Cat Scratch Fever since Mother had cats, but the tests didn’t confirm that. We never found out what caused the swollen lymph nodes, but they went down, and we went home at the end of the week.
 
Now we had to find another child care. A Baptist church had opened a new one not far from where we lived. It was clean and the lady who ran it had a degree in child care and early education. She was young and enthusiastic. It seemed the ideal spot for our children. Christi and Carol were happy with the new arrangement, but for some reason, Don was not thrilled.
 
One problem was that the teacher aspired to turn all of her young charges into performers. She had a stage set up, and everyday she got the children to come up and sing or dance or whatever they were capable of doing. All of my children had good voices, and the girls went along with singing. Don didn’t like being on display. As the days passed, he became more and more reluctant to go. It got so bad he would wake up in tears every morning.
 
Then one day, one of the nursery workers stopped me and asked me to send an extra set of underwear and pants for Don. It didn’t make sense. Don had been toilet trained for a long time. He didn’t have any problems with that at home. The lady told me he was wetting his pants every day and they had to find something to put on him while they dried his clothes.
 
Gradually, we got the story by questioning Carol. Don was afraid of one of the ladies. She would single him out and take him to the restroom. Then she would demand that he go before he could join the other children at play. He became so nervous under pressure, he was unable to urinate. When she would finally release him, he would relax and wet his pants. I realized even though this program was working for Carol and Christi, I couldn’t allow my son to become traumatized in this way. Once again, I would need to find another nursery or else search for another maid. 


 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 35
Life in the Sixties

By BethShelby

Our new maid was named Mary. I really liked Mary because she was outgoing and willing to allow me to treat her as a friend rather than an employee. She was a student at the local black college and was very intelligent. She enjoyed talking about deep subjects like her world view, social attitudes, and her aims and ambitions. Unfortunately, she didn’t have transportation, so this meant we had to go into the quarters to pick her up and take her back home. Since racial tensions were a tinderbox, this section of town wasn’t a safe place to be, especially after dark. I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for her to live there. There was a time when shots rang out and a bullet ricocheted off the side of our car.

Don’s problems seemed to be solved now that he wasn’t attending the nursery where he’d gotten so traumatized. He was no longer sleeping in the baby bed. I made up a bed for him every night on the den couch. We told him he was a big boy now, and no longer needed the crib. We all got a good chuckle when we were at my parent’s home one weekend. My Uncle Harry was there, and he was busy talking and ignoring my son. Don walked up to him and grabbed his pant leg and shook it. He said, “Har, Har, Look at me Har. I’m all growed up.”

You had made some new friends at work, and you had a new hunting buddy named Jim. He liked to go dove hunting, and you often went with him when you had nothing else planned. His wife, Lynn, and I became friends, and we got together pretty often. Sometimes we’d barbecue, and you’d cook the chicken or steak, and I’d add beans, baked potato and salad. Lynn would bring dessert. Most of the friends we had were through your work.

You also got interested in deer hunting and joined a hunting club in Newton, of which two of my uncles were members. The first time you went hunting you managed to shoot a fairly young buck. Most hunters probably wouldn’t have considered that much of a prize, but you were so proud of yourself. As a boy you’d only hunted small game. You looked up a taxidermist and had his head and neck mounted. On the last time you went deer hunting, a year or so later, you got a larger buck with a bigger rack, and you had to have that one mounted as well. You went bow hunting a few times, but after you shot one, but was unable to trail him, you lost your taste for hunting. I was relieved. I would never discourage something you enjoyed, but I hated to see these beautiful creatures killed for no good reason. We kept the meat, but neither of us really liked it.

Carol was popular among the kids who lived around us. She and Phillip, the little boy who lived across the street from us were good friends. She informed us that the neighbor kids had a backyard wedding, and that she and Phillip were the bride and groom. Disney on Ice was at the City Auditorium so we decided to take the kids. I invited Phillip to go along. He showed up in a suit and tie. I had to take a picture of the two of them because they looked so cute together. The ice skating was colorful and very entertaining. We all enjoyed it.

One day, Carol got a sore throat and a fever. She had a red rash all over her body. I got out my trusty, Dr. Spock Child Care book and diagnosed her with scarlet fever. It was late evening, and I called the pediatrician at his home. Since he lived a couple of streets over from us, he came immediately. It was the last time I ever remember having a doctor make a house call. Since this disease is very contagious, we all had to get gamma globulin injections. None of us got sick, and the medicine he gave her cleared it up quickly.

The 60’s were years of turmoil among the races. The KKK was making a comeback and burning black churches and terrorizing those who were trying to make sure all races could vote. There were speeches and marches and sit-ins. In the next county over from where I grew up, three civil rights workers from up North disappeared. Their bodies were eventually discovered buried in a Dam. The more recent movie, “Mississippi Burning” tells the story of that sad episode in my state’s history.

The sixties had seen John F. Kennedy, our president, killed in November of ‘63 while in a parade in Dallas. That was the year Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a dream” speech. In Jackson where we lived, Medgar Evers, an outspoken civil rights activist, was gunned down on his porch. That murder also became a movie. The murderer had been acquitted by the all white jury. Many years later, he was retried. This time, he ended his life in prison.

This decade saw the war in Vietnam heating up. It was an unpopular war. Men were burning their draft cards and moving to Canada. My boss, Robert's son, Robbie Jr., who had worked at the printing company where I worked, was drafted. He would end up dying in Nam. Women were burning their bras and claiming their equality with men.

Music was changing. Elvis was still popular, but after his stint in the service, he was making a lot of movies. Our county was being invaded by many popular rock bands from Britain. The Beatles was only one of the groups. As for us, we still  preferred pop music, but we also liked country and Southern gospel. One of our customers at the printing company was a music promoter. He often gave me free tickets to the musical productions at the City Auditorium. The Oak Ridge Boys were still singing gospel at this time. The Statler Brothers was another group we liked.

At work, Dave, the little Cajun cameraman-stripper, and I continued to work together. We got along well. He was married to a lady who was younger than him, and I assumed they were happy. We chatted as we worked. Dave was a smoker, so I was absorbing a lot of second hand smoke. He never made any moves toward me or acted interested in any way other than as a coworker. He did mention once, his wife said he'd called out my name in his sleep, but I figured he was dreaming he was at work.

One day as everyone was coming back from lunch, Dave complained of severe chest pains. He said he needed to go see his doctor, but he was afraid to drive. I went out and checked with the pressmen to see if anyone would drive him. They all turned me down, and said they were too busy. The bosses hadn’t gotten back from lunch, and I was getting worried about him, so I said “Come on I’ll take you.”

All the way there, I could tell he was in severe pain. He was pale and sweating profusely. The doctor saw him as soon as we got there. The receptionist let me know they would be transferring him to the hospital. When I got back to my department, I was scolded for leaving when we had a lot of work. That night, I called the hospital to see how Dave was doing, and his wife chewed me out and accused me of trying to take her husband away from her. He had suffered a severe heart attack and would have died without attention. I had expected she would be grateful I’d saved his life. I’ve heard “no good deed goes unpunished,and that seemed to be the case.

Dave survived, but he was unable to work again. The next person Robert hired to take his place was gay. That was a relief. At least I wouldn’t have to worry about angry women coming after me. The problem was he didn’t know how to do the job, and I was expected to train him. Robert made no excuse or secret of the fact that he would be making a higher salary than me. When I protested that it was unfair, I was told that I had a husband to support me, and that was just the way it was. Women should not expect to be paid the same salary as men. He reminded me that women, who have children, are less dependable because if the child is sick, it is the mother who must take off work.

The year was 1967. Carol turned six in February. She would start to school in September. The twins were four. I had been with the company for nearly four years. That was a record for me. I had gotten regular raises, but they were all very small and didn’t much more than keep up with the cost of living. Your salary was enough that we were comfortable, but your boss was still so much of a problem for you that I was never sure you wouldn’t tell me one day that you’d had all you could take and turned in your notice.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 36
Up in the Air

By BethShelby

Since there are those who haven’t read any of this book before, who might read a chapter from time to time, I feel that I need to explain that this isn’t written like a novel. You will find it to be a series of different incidents or memories from a particular time period. You may find the flow of the material may change every paragraph or so. Sometimes I use dialogue to move the story along, but not that often because the whole memoir is being written as though it is spoken aloud to my husband who is deceased.

New readers seem to feel that I’m moving around too much, and that the story should be one theme throughout. I have written stories about some of these things in more depth, but for this particular book, it is not my purpose to go deeply into any one thing.

-----------
Mary was a good worker who got along well with our children, but she wasn’t dependable. I understood that being in college you can’t always anticipate what may come up to demand a change of plans. The problem was I needed a day's notice if there was some reason she would not be able to come to work. Many times she called in the morning to say she wouldn’t be able to work that day.  I had to have an alternate plan. In the local paper ad section, I found a stay-at-home mom near me who wanted to keep a few other children. She had two young boys of her own. On mornings when Mary couldn’t work, we began taking our children there. This meant the children had to be dressed and ready to go early, in order for us to get to work on time.
 
On a different topic, I missed having a piano in our home. I had taken lessons on and off for years in school, but I'd never gotten really good.  I don’t think my body is coordinated in such a way that my right hand can do one thing while the left is doing something else. I told you I wanted the children to learn to play piano. Since you liked to sing, you thought it wasn’t a bad idea. You went with me to the music store to look. Pianos were expensive. I decided to rent an accordion for a month to see how I’d like that. I did like the music, but it wasn’t as much fun to play as I had thought it would be. When the month was up, we returned it and bought a piano. I enjoyed playing it for a while, but I was a bit rusty. Our children weren’t interested in taking lessons until they were older, but the piano did look good in our living room. I was in the process of upholstering the couch which the twins had poured syrup and flour on. With the piano and the finished couch, we finally had enough furniture to fill our house.
 
What had once been farmland behind our house was now developed, and the new elementary school was finished. Carol would be in first grade in September, and this was the school she would attend. The idea of having a child start school was exciting. I started early, buying cute little dresses and school supplies. Girls back then always wore dresses to school. Now, unless a school has a dress code or requires uniforms, it is okay for girls to wear pants or even shorts.
 
You had started getting home an hour or so later than usual. I assumed you were having to work overtime and thought nothing of it. You were not the sort of person who would ever cause me to worry about you cheating. Many weeks would pass before I found out what you were up to. One day you said you had something to tell me, but you didn’t want me to get upset. Oh no, what am I in for now that might upset me, I thought.
 
“You know how I’ve always had this thing about airplanes, and I’m always wanting to go out to the airport and watch the planes take off and land?” you asked.
 
“Yeah, what about it?”
 
“I decided I wanted to learn to fly. That's where I’ve been when I don’t come home right away.”
 
“Are you serious? Why didn’t you tell me? How much is that costing?” I was dumbfounded and full of questions.
 
“Well, it’s not cheap. But it’s something I've always wanted to do. I’ve been taking lessons and learning to fly a Piper Cherokee. Today, I’m going to fly solo. I want you and the kids to come and watch me,” you informed me proudly.
 
“You’re going up in a plane by yourself? I don’t want to watch you get killed. What if you crash?” I was half-way angry at you for not telling me and for spending money we needed for other things. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but admire the fact that you were learning a new skill that you’d always wanted to have.
 
“I’ll be fine. I’ve been landing the plane with the instructor. I know what I’m doing. He wouldn’t let me do it if I wasn’t ready. Come on. Get the kids ready and let's go” you told me.
 
I did as you asked, but I was so nervous, I was shaking watching you take off in the plane all by yourself. The kids were excited. You circled a few times and then came in for a landing. The landing was perfect. The plane touched down smoothly and taxied to a stop. When you got out you were grinning ear to ear. I was just thrilled to have you back on the ground in one piece. Your instructor took you into a room and cut a circular hunk out of your shirt. He hung it on the wall with your name beneath it. It was the custom to do that when someone soloed for the first time.
 
I was upset all over again. “If you knew they were going to do that, why did you have to wear your best shirt? I loved that shirt. It made you look better than any shirt you have. Why did you wear that one?"
 
“Oh Beth, It’s just a shirt. Get over it. You should be proud of me, and instead, all you can talk about is my shirt.”
 
“So now, you’re going to be doing this all the time?” I asked.
 
“No, I won’t be going up that often. I have books I have to study before I can get my pilot license. I’ll just go when I can get enough money together to afford it.”
 
After that you were forever taking us with you to airshows and to the municipal airport just to watch the big planes come in. I'd had no idea you were so fascinated with planes before. You should have gone into the Air Force instead of the Army.
 
By the time September rolled around, Mary had decided she couldn’t work any more. I let the mom who had been taking the kids when she didn’t come, take care of Don and Christi every weekday.  Mary hadn't been gone long when I got a call from someone saying Mary had given my name as a reference for a job as a maid. I had to tell the lady, if she needed someone to be there every day, Mary might not be right for the job, but otherwise she was a good worker.  I doubt if she got the job. 
 
I enrolled Carol in first grade and made arrangements for a neighbor who lived on the other side of the Schultz family to watch Carol before and after school. Carol was eager to learn and enjoyed being in first grade. School hadn’t been in session long when the parents were invited to come in and meet the teachers. Carol’s teacher was a lovely person, and she assured us that Carol was doing well and was a pleasure to have as a student. The teachers had displayed the students' work around the room. We were impressed with Carol's art work.
 
You didn't care to go, but I went alone to a few of the PTA meetings.  I don’t remember telling anyone I was an artist, but it seems we had to fill out something about our interests. I must have put down art because soon they put me to work helping them decorate.  I was warned far in advance that they had a special project in mind for Christmas. They wanted me to paint an outdoor decoration on two sheets of  4' X 8' ft, plywood panels. This would be volunteer work, as if I had time to volunteer for anything. I agreed against my better judgement.
 
At my printing company job, the owner of one of the businesses for whom I'd designed a Christmas card, also wanted me to do some freelance work duplicating the Christmas Card onto a 4' X 8' panel of plywood for their yard. I realized Christmas was going to be hectic this year. I would need to start working on these projects before Thanksgiving.
 
You found a used truck you wanted. You said you needed it to haul your cattle to the market when you had steers to sell. This truck came with a cattle enclosure, but it also came with a metal camper shell with louvered windows, which you said we could use for trips.  You promised when we both had some vacation time coming, we would put the shell on and take a trip out west for a week. This was enough of an incentive to make me agree that we should buy it.


 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 37
Holidays and Another Year

By BethShelby

Since there are those who haven’t read any of this book before, who might read a chapter from time to time, I feel that I need to explain that this isn’t written like a novel. You will find it to be a series of different incidents or memories from a particular time period. You may find the flow of the material may change every paragraph or so. Sometimes I use dialogue to move the story along, but not that often because the whole memoir is being written as though it is spoken aloud to my husband who is deceased.

New readers seem to feel that I’m moving around too much, and that the story should be one theme throughout. I have written stories about some of these things in more depth, but for this particular book, it is not my purpose to go deeply into any one thing.

------------
As was our custom, we visited our parents for most holidays. Your mother had us over for a big meal on Thanksgiving Day. She wanted all of her children there for these occasions, so there was always a large group around the table. This year, all of your siblings and their families were there except for Nan, Richard, and Richard's father, who they lived with them in Gulfport. They planned to wait and come for Christmas.
 
We had Friday off as well. We went back to my house and spent some time hiking in the woods on Friday. Dad owned the land which he'd inheired when Grandpa died. He went with us, and we chopped down a cedar tree for Mom to decorate. On Sunday, Mom had her Thanksgiving meal. We left around three in the afternoon, going back to Jackson. I was anxious to finish painting the two large plywood panels for Carol's school. The school wanted to have them up the first week in December. I had yet to start the one for the construction company that matched the Christmas card which I'd designed earlier. By spending every spare moment into the wee hours of  the next few mornings, I was able to get everything finished on time. The house reeked of fresh paint fumes long after I’d packed away the paint.
 
Since there was so much to be done before the year ended, I decided we should order as much as possible from a catalog. We all picked things we wanted. and got the order off several weeks before Christmas.

Shopping intimidated you. I’m sure part of your reluctance to shop was due to what happened a couple of years earlier when you waited until the last minute to shop for my Christmas gift. When you finally went out on Christmas Eve, you were only gone a little while, and you came back with a pair of gray suede house-shoes in a paper bag. Because I had agonized over my gift for you, my disappointment was evident. Later, I was ashamed of my reaction. I wore those shoes for years, and they were the best house-shoes I ever had. Nevertheless, that was the last time you shopped willingly.
 
The gifts the children would get on Christmas morning were hidden until we could load them into the car trunk to take to Mom’s house. We always spent Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad's house and opened family presents on that night. Some of the children’s presents required assembly, so we were up most of the night getting those things together. The next morning was for the children. After a late breakfast, we would go to your parents where your family was gathered for the main dinner.
 
Nan's husband, Richard, was someone that many in your family found to be a problem. You and I got along fine with him, but with Wayne, Maxine’s husband, it was a different story. He and Richard had clashed from the day they met. Richard was completely without tact and something of a know-it-all.
 
Joe, Helen’s husband, never honored the family with his presence on Christmas. I’m not sure what his problem was. He brought Helen and Jimmy and dropped them off, since Helen didn’t drive. Then he would do his own thing. He had bought a vintage airplane and he'd rebuilt it. Sometimes on Christmas Day, Joe would fly over and buzz the house where we were enjoying our meal.

On this particular Christmas, we were late getting off to go to your folk's house for the meal. Maxine, Wayne, and their two sons and Nan, Richard, and his father, Mr. Glaczier, were all there for lunch. To make matters worse, both Wayne and Richard were severely diabetic. Neither were in good condition when their blood sugar levels dropped, and they needed food. The meal may have been late that day, because they were waiting to see if we were coming. At any rate, they decided to go ahead and start dinner without us. Since there was such a large group, the food had to be served buffet style. Wayne got in line first to fix the boy's plates. Richard said something negative about his pushing ahead of everyone, and Wayne growled an insult in return, and a shoving match started. Wayne's glasses got broken, and Richard threw a plate against the wall.
 
When we arrived, it was over, but everyone was in shock. Richard and Wayne had both gotten in their cars and left. No one had eaten a bite. Your sister, Helen was about to have a stroke, and your dad was having an emphysema attack. The children were all crying.  Mr. Glaczier sat in stunned silence, embarrassed over his son's display. Chuck, Maxine and Wayne's youngest son, had nightmares when he got back home and had to have counseling afterward. We were glad we had missed it. It was the last time Richard and Wayne were ever in a room together. 
 
After a troubling end to 1967, the new year started off on a better note for us. For the nation, it was a year of social change. Some historians argue, the nation reinvented itself and became a more-tolerant, less-constrained place, more willing to let people express their individuality and challenge authority. It was a year for hippies and flower children, but for our family, we were more interested in keeping our jobs and raising our children than we were in what might be happening in California and rest of the world.
 
Carol's seat-mate in school was a boy who was a thalidomide child. He was born with no arms, but according to Carol, it didn't bother him at all.  He was the class clown and was very poplar with his classmates. This wasn't the case for one of the girls in her class. There is always someone who gets picked on, and it is hard to make sure your child isn't one of the bullies.

Carol turned seven in February, and I gave her a birthday party and invited the all of the first grade girls in her class. She gave me problems over this girl, whom she didn't want to invite because her classmates claimed she had "cooties". I made sure the child received an invitation in spite of the objections, but she chose not to come. The girls who did attend taught me some things. I learned from this experience, to never again, give fifteen six-year-olds bottles of bubble goo at a inside party. I also learned blindfolding kids and giving them a stick to hit a pinata isn't such a smart idea either.
 
When Easter came, along with candy eggs, each of our three got a pastel colored baby chick. Surprisingly, they survived to grow up and learn to crow. They were all roosters. When they became yard chickens, their life spans shortened considerably. We had a German Shepard named Grendal, that seemed okay with his new yard-mates as long as we were around, but, one by one, the chickens disappeared.  We were at a loss to know what happened, until we saw a couple of fresh mounds of earth. Our canine companion was a murderer who buried the evidence. I think the neighbors were relieved that cock-a-doodle-dos were silenced.
 
In May, we both had some vacation time coming, and you decided it was time to try out your truck on the open road using our camper shell. It wasn’t quite time for school to be out for the summer, so we had to take Carol out for a week. The teacher wasn’t happy, but Carol was fine with the idea. We decided to travel out West as far as Colorado. You surprised me by suggesting we invite my mother to go along. You said, “She never gets to go anywhere, and I think she’d enjoy the trip. She can ride in the back with the children, and you can sit up in the cab with me.”
 
That sounded like a good idea at the time. I didn’t want to spend all my time in the back with the kids. We asked Mom, and she was thrilled with the idea. She suggested we put a double mattress in the back so everyone could lie down. Since we couldn’t really afford an expensive trip, we’d decided to make this a camping trip. We had tents and other camping equipment.
 
With all that and the ton of food Mom brought, plus our suitcases, our truck was packed to the max. With everything carefully placed, there was just enough room for Mom and three kids in the back. You placed your pistol in the glove compartment just in case we might need it for something. The plan was to be gone only a week. We left late Saturday evening with the intention of taking turns driving all night. Mom and the kids would sleep that first night in the back as we traveled.
 
Of course, things seldom go smoothly for us. We’d made it as far as Monroe, Louisiana when we had a flat tire. There were no cell phones, which meant we had to get to a place where a phone would be within walking distance. In the process of driving with a flat tire, we further damaged the wheel. It was Sunday and no one was working, so in the end, we had to get a motel room and spend the rest of the day and night there. It was Monday morning before we were on our way once more.
 
With the wheel repaired and a new tire, we started again. The children were tired of traveling already. The neat bed Mother had made in the back of the pickup looked like it had gone through a hurricane. I'm sure we must have looked like the Clampetts from the Beverly Hillbillies or maybe the Joad family from Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.
 
You were ready for breakfast and coffee, so we stopped at a restaurant. The children weren’t hungry, because they had been into all the snack food Mother had packed. We seldom ate out when we were home, so my children weren't used to restaurants. It’s a wonder we didn’t get thrown out. We couldn’t enjoy breakfast for trying to control them. I was embarrassed because, Don, especially, was on a sugar high and hard to subdue.
 
You paid for all of our breakfast orders, but Mom wanted to pay her own way. In order to feel she was contributing, she stopped by an Ice cream counter and bought ice cream cones for everyone. This was a mistake, because we’d just eaten breakfast, and no one wanted ice cream. Poor Mom! She got back into the truck trying to figure our what to do with six ice cream cones that she couldn’t give away.
 
We took the children up front with us, so she could try to straighten the covers in the back. I promised her I’d take the children in the back with me at the next stop, so she could sit up front for a while. This trip was just beginning and already we were wondering if we had lost our minds for thinking this was a good idea. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 38
Going West

By BethShelby

We were beginning to have serious misgivings as to the wisdom of taking a week-long trip with so many of us in a pickup truck. All of our children were still so young. The twins were five and were easily bored and needed constant stimulation. Even on short trips their patience level was practically non-existent. To coop them up in a small space like the packed bed of a pickup with no air-conditioning and expect them to enjoy hours of traveling across the most boring scenery in the US was unreasonable, to say the least.

When we left the restaurant where we had breakfast, we took the children in the front with us to give Mother an opportunity to try to tidy up the bed area in the back and figure out what to do with the six ice cream cones that no one wanted. She realized now how bad her timing was in buying ice cream right after breakfast, but Mother was not one to waste food. She ended up dumping the ice cream from the cones into a thermos of lemonade. I think this concoction was actually a hit later in the day.

We were now traveling through the Texas panhandle. No offense to Texans, who considered their domain to be the biggest and best of all the states until Alaska demoted them in 1959, but I wasn’t impressed with this desert-like country. We weren’t traveling on an interstate, and we drove for miles and miles without seeing anything of interest. This part of Texas was flat and dusty. It was windy and tiny dust devils were spinning like miniature tonadoes in every direction. Once in a while we spotted a Jack-rabbit or roadrunner, and there were plenty of dead armadillos. Although there wasn’t much traffic, road kill dotted the highway. There was an occasional ranch where longhorn cattle were roaming around.

After we stopped for lunch at a little greasy spoon, the kids and I took our turn in the back and let Mom sit up front to rest her back. I played games with the kids for a while and read to them hoping they would take a nap, but no such luck. Towns were few and far between. We’d hoped to find a nice state park where we could camp for the night. If we stopped early enough the kids could get out and get some exercise.

After a couple of hours, I took my turn driving and you went to the back with the kids. You’d hoped to stretch out on the mattress for a nap, but the children saw to it that didn’t happen. Later in the evening, it became apparent we weren’t going to find a place for another meal, and we started looking for a place to pull over and have a late picnic. We finally got through Texas and into New Mexico. Unfortunately, the northeast corner of that state was as desolate as Texas.

Finally we saw a roadside park with a few picnic tables, and several cars had pulled over. This was as good as it was going to get. We stopped and everyone got out and stretched. Mom and I pulled a plastic tablecloth across one of the tables and began putting out our food.

After we ate, you and I got out the road maps and pored over them trying to decide what to do for the night. We realized there were no state parks for camping nor towns large enough to have motel accommodation for miles. This was not the kind of place to pitch tents, but it seemed our only choice would be to stay here through the night and sleep inside the truck. We decided that you and I and the children would sleep in the back, and Mom could stretch out across the front seat of the cab with her sleeping bag.

The sun was setting, and most of the cars were starting to pack up and drive away, when a beat-up old clunker pulled in and parked near one of the far tables. Three seedy-looking men got out and began a raunchy conversation. They were loud and obviously drunk. They kept looking in our direction. Eventually, much to our relief, they pulled away. Their muffler was busted and sounded as though it was dragging. As we began to prepare for the night, the last two cars in the roadside park pulled away, and we were left alone. 
 
You decided we should lock the truck for the night. The only way to lock the camper part was from the outside. You got your pistol from the glove compartment. It was concealed in a paper bag so the children wouldn't see it.  You had Mother lock us in, and then lock herself into the cab. We all stretched out as best we could on the mattress hoping to somehow get a little rest. The children eventually settled down and fell asleep, but you and I couldn’t seem to find a comfortable position. It was crowded and stuffy in spite of a little ventilation from some of the louvered side windows. We could see Mother in the front seat, but there was no way to get her attention. The camper shell had a thick pane of glass and the truck had a thick pane, but there was about four inches of air between the two panes. We’d not been locked in long, when we realized that this wasn’t a good idea. If any one of us needed a bathroom break in the night, it wouldn’t be possible to get out. 

As the evening wore on, you kept turning the flashlight on to check your watch. It was shaping up to be a long night. We felt imprisoned. It was a little after two a.m. when we heard the unmistakable sound of the vehicle with the dragging muffler drive back into the roadside park. Why on earth were they returning? Were they planning to rob us? What would we do if they approached us? You turned on the flashlight and tried to shine it through Mom’s window.  We began pounding on the glass to get her attention. She didn’t seem aware that we were trying to alert her, but we could tell she was awake and as alarmed as we were.

What happened next shocked us. You had left the truck key with mom, but she didn’t know how to drive our truck, which had a standard transmission with a stick shift. Still she had the key in the ignition and was trying her best. The motor would grind, jump forward and then die. Again and again, she kept doing this. I could only imagine what the rough characters, who we could see moving around in the moonlight, must think was happening. Whatever they thought or had been planning, we would never find out. They hurriedly got back into their car and took off at a far greater rate of speed than when they had entered the area. We didn’t even try to sleep the rest of the night. At the first light, Mom came back and unlocked the camper, and informed us that she had saved our lives.

”You know those men were up to no good. We'd all be dead if it wasn't for me. I saved our lives last night,” she told us.

We didn’t argue. You took the key and got in the driver's seat. Mom and I stayed up front with you and we left the children, who had slept through the whole thing, still sleeping. We got back on the highway and drove away. About thirty miles further, we saw signs for an extinct volcano crater. We drove up to the rim where we found more picnic tables. The sun was coming up, and the scenery was beautiful. We stopped the car and woke the children for breakfast.

We couldn’t prove a connection, but a week later when we got back home and read our newspaper, we learned that some escaped convicts had gone on a killing spree across the West and left a family murdered and robbed at a roadside park.

From that point on, our vacation improved. That morning, we spent several hours walking around the rim of the volcano crater and getting some much needed exercise. We went on to Colorado Springs and toured the Air Force academy and chapel. We also visited the Garden of God with its amazing rock formations.

We went to the top of Pike’s Peak where the snow was still deep. It was the first day the road to the top was opened.  That was a little scary, because the change in the atmospheric pressure got to Mom, and she thought she was having a heart attack.  Thankfully, she improved as we came down the mountain.

To make the trip worthwhile for the kids, we spent a day in a SantaLand amusement park. This was a highlight for them, and they all had to have souvenirs from there.  Mother's favorite place to buy souvenirs was a pottery barn.

After that night at the roadside park, we gave up on the camping idea. For the remainder of the trip, we stayed in nice motels and had our meals in family restaurants.

On the return trip, we skipped Texas. We came home through Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. In Kansas, we visited Dodge City, with its turn of the century saloon and museum. We walked the street which was the set of Gunsmoke the TV series and watched a wild west shoot out with actors. We took pictures and read the funny epitaphs on the graves at the Boot Hill cemetery.

We went through Oklahoma City and Little Rock. I was a little disappointed that we didn't go through the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas, but you said we'd save those mountains for another trip. They couldn't compare with the Rockies. Time was running out, and we'd need to rest up before going back to work.

By the time we returned to Jackson, we were exhausted and decided one week had been enough. It was a week none of us would soon forget. 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;
Pays 10 points and 90 member cents.


Chapter 39
School Days and Work Relations

By BethShelby

In the fall of 1968, all of our children were in school. Carol was in second grade, and the twins were in first. The twins started school at age five, and since there was no preschool, they weren't as prepared as Carol had been when she started. If their birthdays had been in January instead of December, they would have had to wait another year. One of our neighbor ladies looked after our children before and after school. 
 
Christi was cute and tiny, and the older children liked playing with her. She was a quiet child who could spend hours playing with Barbie dolls. She was a mommy’s girl and had seized on the roll of being the baby in the family in spite of being the same age as her brother. She was able to learn fast and hold facts. She liked school and enjoyed the attention she got from other children.
 
Don didn’t seem to mind that Christi had the role of the baby. He was always busy doing something and was curious and creative, but he had a very short attention span and had trouble concentrating. If he’d gone to school a few years later, he would have likely been on Ritalin, because I’m sure he would have been classed as hyperactive. Carol was smart and placed with the top achievers in her grade. When I looked at their school work, Carol's and Christi's papers were always neatly folded, but Don’s work was squished into a ball and stuffed into his pocket.
 
The neighbor children walked to school in the mornings and afternoon. They couldn’t go straight from the back of our lot, because the area was now fenced so they had to walk around by the street. Some of the older neighborhood boys liked to pick on the little ones. One of the favorite insults they yelled at first graders like Don was “Retard!” Don had no idea what that meant, so it didn't bother him.
 
After a couple of months in school, there was an award ceremony for the children. I didn’t know about it, so I didn’t attend. After school, Don borrowed the neighbor’s phone and called me at work. He was excited to tell me about his day.
 
“Mom, guess what? I got called up on the stage today, and they gave me an award. It’s on paper.”
 
Puzzled I asked, “Really? What kind of award?"

“I don’t know. You can read it when you get home. It’s something about me being retarded.”
 
”What? It better not say that. You’re not retarded. Are you sure that’s what it says?”
 
“Well I can’t read it, but they said something like that when I was up there.”
 
I had trouble finishing my day. When I got home I wanted to see his award certificate right away. What I read was,  `Congratulations, Donald Shelby had not been absent or tardy this year.'  Retard and tardy. Okay that explains it. Now I don’t have to go have a talk with the principal.
 
Not long after that our son informed us that he had a girl friend.
 
“Really?” I said. “Tell me about this girl.  What is she like?”
 
“Her name’s Angela, and she’s really pretty, except her roots show a little.”
 
“Her roots?” Are you telling me a six year old has dyed hair?”
 
“On no. Not her hair. I’m talking about those tiny little blue roots in her neck.”
 
We got a good chuckle out of that. Apparently this girl had fair skin on her neck revealing a few tiny blue veins.
 
Another incident that made my life as a parent more complicated was the day Christi handed me a printout from the teacher.  The message was, `Don’t forget, tomorrow is our school play. Make sure your children wear their costumes to school, and they have their lines committed to memory. Parents should be seated in the auditorium by 1:15 p.m.'
 
“School Play? What school play? This is the first I’ve heard about a school play,” I said.
 
“Oh, I thought you knew." Christi informed me. “Don and I are Jack and Jill.”
 
“You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m just finding this out, and you are supposed to have costumes by tomorrow?”
 
I picked up the phone and called their teacher. She assured me that she had sent out notices over three weeks ago. “Just make sure they know the poem, and have them dressed like children of the turn of the century. They’ll need to bring a bucket. You know Jack and Jill were carrying a pail of water when they fell down the hill.”
  
This meant I had to go shopping and find something I could turn into costumes. Christi had a cute little blue dress. I used a lacy kitchen curtain to construct an apron to go over it. I bought Don a pair of blue short pants that matched the dress and a blue girls shirt with large sailor collar and then I found a big yellow sand bucket. They actually looked like storybook characters. I took off work to attend the play, much to my boss’s displeasure. After all that stress, I found my kids were among the few whose parents had actually bothered to put a costume together.
------------

At work, our company was getting a lot of magazines, fliers and brochures which required more and more four-color-process work and precision registration. Because Robert had chosen to discard the use of the more stable masking material for our negatives, no matter how carefully we matched the negatives for each color on the light table, the paper masking sheet would stretch or shrink causing the dots not to register properly. As a result the printed photographs would come out blurred. It was driving the pressmen nuts having to have more and more of the aluminum plates remade. The blame always fell back on the stripping department, even though that wasn’t where the problem lay.
 
Another stripper in our department had quit, and Robert hired a woman to work in the department with me. Mavis and I got along great in the beginning. I trained her to do the work, and unlike the men I had trained, I was making more money than she was. This time, like when I worked with the gay guy, I didn’t have to worry about dealing with an angry wife.  However, I had forgotten just how petty women can be. I could tell she was miffed when the salesmen and customers were always sent to me when anything of importance was discussed.
 
One day Robert came in and told me the company had decided to send me to a printing school in Nashville for two weeks. They would put me up in a nice hotel and pay all my expenses. He hoped I would learn the skills needed to keep us from having so many registration problems with our color jobs. When I learned the classes were only four hours a day with no homework, I was delighted. Nashville sounded like a dream vacation to me. Right away my co-worker, Mavis, became offended and refused to talk to me. She was apparently jealous that she wasn’t the one being sent away to school. I dealt with it the best I could, but no matter what I did, she remained distant and abrupt.
 
When I told you about the trip, you were concerned about me traveling alone and suggested that I take my mother with me. I thought about it and asked my boss if he minded as long as I took care of the additional expense. Once again, Mother was thrilled with the idea of going anywhere. This would be an easier trip for her than the one to Colorado.
 
Since the children were in school, you would have the responsibility of being home when they were and caring for all their needs. You and I had seldom been apart, and you dreaded me leaving. I would take the Chevrolet and drive the four hours to Nashville. Mother and I would leave on Sunday. 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 40
Nashville

By BethShelby

Mother and I left on Sunday heading for the Hotel and Printing Institute in Nashville where the company was sending me for two weeks. You and the children had bid me a dreaded good-bye, but you were relieved Mother would be traveling with me. With the one exception when I’d stayed in the college dorm for two weeks, this was the first time you and I would be separated in our twelve years of marriage.
 
When we got to Nashville and found our hotel we were very pleased with the accommodations. It was an older but very elegant hotel near Vanderbilt University and a few blocks from the Parthenon on a lovely tree lined street. Mom had brought plenty of reading material and knitting to keep herself busy while I was taking the printing courses.
 
I had a map of Nashville and was able to locate the Printing Institute. I had to be in class at 8:30 on Monday, and I arrived not having any idea of what to expect. I was shocked to see only a couple of cars there. A few more cars arrived, and it was soon evident that the others, like me, didn’t know what to expect either. Eventually we found a main door and went inside. A middle aged man greeted us and said that he was our instructor. He took us into a conference room and seated us around a big table.
 
There were only six students. The instructor told us the classes are kept small so there can be plenty of individual instruction. I was the only female there. The men's ages ranged from twenty to fifty-five. The teacher gave us a notebook and a pen and had us introduce ourselves and tell something about the company where we worked. There was only one other student from the South. Two were from Michiganone was from Ohio and one was from New York. The other Southerner was the youngest of the group, and he was from Georgia.
 
Eventually, the teacher took us into the main area and assigned us each a light table and T-Square, triangles, Exact-o knives, magnifying glasses, rulers and other tools we would be working with. He showed us the drawers where our masking sheets and metal plates were located and familiarized us with the graphic-arts camera and the plate burners. He said we would work for four hours a day. The first week we would be there eight a.m. to twelve noon, and the second week we were to come in at two p.m. and work until six p.m.
 
I was happy that this schedule would leave us plenty of free time to explore the Nashville area. None of the others were booked at my hotelAfter about two hours, the teacher dismissed us and told us to be back at eight on Tuesday morning ready to work. When I returned to the hotel, I found Mom in the lobby reading. I picked up some tourist brochures and told her we were free to go and see what this city had to offer. I was on an expense account for food, and as long as I kept up with my expenses, I would be reimbursed.
 
That afternoon, we drove around the city to get a feel for the layout, and then, we drove down our street a couple of blocks and explored the Parthenon. Nashville is nicknamed The Athens of the South. In 1897 for the bicentennial event, the Parthenon was constructed as a centerpiece for the celebration. It is an exact replica of the original in Greece. It’s located in the lovely landscaped Centennial Park. We walked through to see art work from local artists and the art of school children which were on display. Much work has been done on it since we were there. Now, it is an art museum displaying some large sculptures and wonderful art displays from all over the world.
 
I called you that first night and every night thereafter. It was apparent that I was missed, and you hoped the time would pass quickly. You were coping, but you hated me being away. I missed you and the children, but I was probably having more fun than you were.
 
The classes were intense, but I was learning a lot. I understood now why it was so hard for us to get the color registration right. We needed a pen register system, and we needed to be using the vinyl masking sheets and heavy clear plastic stabilizer sheets. I also realized this was not going to be something Robert wanted to hear. He would be sure to balk at the additional expenses that would be incurred in buying these materials. He needed to realize that if we got it right the first time, it would save time and money remaking the aluminum plates. It was good to know the fact that we weren’t getting perfect color registration was not my fault.
 
One other thing which I learned that I was sure Robert wouldn’t like was that I was being grossly underpaid for the work that I was doing. I understood the wages in the South are lower than in Eastern states, but surely not four times lower.
 
The guys in the class all treated me with respect and as an equal. There was no touching or sexually suggestive language that I had become accustomed to hearing from my co-workers and often clients and salesmen. I started to wonder if what I’d experienced in the past was a Southern problem.
 
With so much free time and no work to do outside of class, Mother and I got a chance to do a lot of exploring. We had never been to Nashville before, and it seemed to have a lot to offer. There were formal gardens, arboretums , historic cemeteries and a planetarium. The latter was especially interesting because neither of us had been in one before.
 
Nashville was known as the country music capital, so of course, we had to go down on Music Row and take in some of the recording studios and see where Elvis got his start. On Saturday night we went to the famous Ryman Auditorium which was the original home of The Grand Ole Opry.
 
One afternoon, we visited The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson. Inside the mansion, the rooms were set up and decorated as they were during the time of Jackson. The kitchen was separate from the house, as many kitchens were in plantation homes built in those days. It was to keep the house from being overheated during Summer months and also because it was less likely that fire might get out and destroy the home. The grounds were covered with massive old oaks which were likely around at the time Jackson lived there.
 
We also drove on some of the parkways into the hill country and visited a few outlying towns and a school where a friend of Mother's worked. Mom and I got along better than we had in years. We were both having too much fun to argue.
 
We timed it right the day we decided to visit the State Capital. We went into the legislative chamber, and it happened to be a day in which the famous singer at the time,Tennessee Ernie Ford, was making a guest appearance. After he performed, a guard told us that if we wanted to get a picture of him as he was leaving, we should go to a certain exit. I had my camera ready to snap a picture as he got into a car with his aides. He happened to see us, and he said, "No, wait. Let me come up there.” He was unbelievably gracious. He put his arm around me and had one of his aides take a picture of us.
 
Every day, we found something interesting to do. I know Mother enjoyed this trip better than the one in which she spent time in the back of the pickup truck on our misadventure to Colorado.
 
On the second week at the school, since we were having evening classes rather than morning, it was nearly dark when we finished each day. On the next to the last night, we got a shock when a brick came hurling through a window of the old building, and broken glass scattered over the floor. This is when I realized we weren’t in a prime location, and there was some problems with local hoodlums. Our instructor decided the final class would dismiss earlier in the evening. We were given our diplomas the next day, as well as some of the furnished tools and text printouts. We were allowed to take home the color proofs of the work we’d done while there.
 
Mother and I left Nashville going back to Jackson the following morning. I had gifts for you and all of the children. I had spent quite a bit of money getting each of the children something I thought they would enjoy.
 
It was gratifying to know that I had been so missed, because I got a very loving welcome from everyone. You seemed especially happy to have me back home. I was shocked to find that you had missed me so much, you’d actually written me a love poem. This was a first, because it wasn’t your nature to be so sentimental. It was something I would treasure forever.
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 41
Live-Style Changes In the Making

By BethShelby

When I returned to work the Monday after my trip to Nashville, I found the stripping department to be behind with work. It seemed very little had been accomplished with me away. Now, there was so much demand on my time that I didn’t get a chance to go over what I really needed to tell Robert. He came in briefly and asked if I had learned much. I told him that I had, and we needed to talk. I wanted to explain that there was no way we could ever get perfect registration on color process work while we were using the cheap paper masking sheets.

Robert wasn’t interested in hearing that he would have to purchase a better grade of material. He expected me to make things better just by having gone to school for two weeks. I found it very discouraging that he wasn’t interested in my advice about going to a better system. I’d bought some metal stabilizing pins with my own money, and I’d started using them. They made the registration a little better, but didn’t completely clear up the problem with the shrinking and expanding of the paper due to temperature changes.

The girl I’d been working with in the stripping department, who had resented my being sent to Nashville, had quit while I was away. Now, there was a new guy, who was a part-time musician, working in the department. He needed me to train him as well. James was younger than me and eager to learn, so we got along well. He just wanted to have the radio on while we worked. I didn’t particularly care for the additional noise, but I let it go.
--------------

At home, you had been working on house plans while I was in Nashville and was anxious to get some bids to see if we could start building on the lot we had bought in Brandon near the new highway. Your favorite plan was a split level, and I liked it, except that I would have preferred a larger kitchen. Since the lot was lower on one side, a split level plan would work. There were three bedrooms and a bath upstairs, the living/dining combination and the kitchen and entrance foyer would be the main level. The lower level would be a large den, bedroom, bath, and laundry room. A small hallway would open into the garage. You had picked three builders who would be submitting bids on the job. Now, we were waiting for the bids to come in.
-----------------------

For several months, things had not been going well at the Baptist church we had attended for the last eight years. As often happens, some people become dissatisfied with the minister and start rumors, and soon the congregation is divided, with some wanting to split off and start a new church. The atmosphere had become so toxic that we had decided it was time to look for another place to worship.

During the two weeks I was away, You had found a religion program on the radio that you liked. The preacher was an off-shoot from the church Mother belonged to. He had a different interpretation of some of the scripture than our Baptist church. You wanted me to listen with you, and I did. In some ways. it was more like some of the doctrine I’d grown up with.

At first, I was interested because some of what the preacher was saying seemed closer to what I read in the Bible. After listening for a while, I noticed the minister was getting away from the Bible and going out too far on limb with what he indicated was his own personal revelation. As we continued to listen, we both got the feeling he was on an ego trip, and he was likely getting rich on the money he was soliciting from his listeners.

Around this time, one of mother’s cousins called and invited us to her church for a series of evangelistic meetings. We decided to go see what it was like. The members of this church were very warm and welcoming. The meetings were impressive and challenged some of your long held beliefs, but were more in line with mine. I especially liked the fact that they were very concerned about Biblical health principles and lifestyles. The pastor and the visiting evangelist made several trips to our home and answered questions we had. After praying about it, we were impressed to change churches. We believed God has his people in many different denominations, and that salvation depends more on your personal relationship than on doctrine. Nevertheless, this church seemed to be one which would meet our needs.
--------------
After a couple of weeks, the bids came in on the house, and after the first two, we realized how far we were from being able to afford to build anything. We’d paid $12,500 for the house we were in. With the new lot paid for, two of the builders were asking $55,000 and $42,000. When the third bid came in at $30,000, we were surprised it was so much less. This builder was new on the scene, but the price was more in line with what we'd hoped for. We were taking a chance, but it sounded like something we might be able to swing.

In order the get a down payment together, we borrowed everything we could from our life insurance policies. We hired the third contractor with the understanding that his quote was locked in, and we could not go any higher. He agreed to start work right away. We were able to get the down payment together and qualify for a GI loan.

As soon as the loan was approved, our builder started work. After a few weeks, the work had progressed to the point that our builder had us choose carpet, tile, light fixtures and appliances within a certain price range that met with his bid specification. We were spending practically every afternoon going to see the progress made during the day. It was August of 1969 and the house was scheduled to be completed and ready to move into by October. Our builder did good work, but he had apparently bid the job too low, and he was trying to cut corners on some of the material called for in the specs. When you called him on it, he complained that he was losing money on the job, but he did comply with what we needed.

One evening, we went over when the crew had just left. They had laid a different asphalt tile than the pattern I had picked. Since the tile cement wasn’t dry, I pulled it all up, thinking that it would be easier to remove now than after it set. This really upset our builder, and you weren’t too happy with me either. They probably thought they could talk me into keeping what they had accidentally laid, but I knew what I liked and felt it had to be changed.
--------------

Since we no longer had a maid, we couldn’t ask our neighbors to keep the children now that they were out of school. We found a Catholic day care that welcomed all denominations. This one seemed to have a good activity program for children. Our kids loved it and quickly made new friends. We had trouble getting used to our children coming home and telling us what Father Leonard and Sister Mary Francis had done that day. Mississippi was not a place where there were a lot of Catholics, and calling a priest, Father, seemed very strange to us.
--------------------------

Since we would be leaving Jackson soon, the school behind our house would no longer work for us. The church we’d joined had a small Christian school, and the members were encouraging us to enroll all of our children there. The school went through eighth grade and only had two classrooms. The two teachers were teaching four grades each. Carol went there for second grade, because the teacher had begged us to let her attend. Her daughter was the only other second grader.  One of our neighbors had transported Carol every day. 

Since the first year worked out well with Carol, we would be sending our twins there the second year. All three of our children would be in the same room. The twins already knew most of the students from church, so they liked the idea of going to a smaller school.

The fall of 1969, would bring about a lot of changes for all of us. We hoped the decisions we were making would be in the best interest for all of our family.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 42
Moving Woes

By BethShelby

Since there are those who haven’t read any of this book before, who might read a chapter from time to time, I feel that I need to explain that this isn’t written like a novel. You will find it to be a series of different incidents or memories from a particular time period. You may find the flow of the material may change every paragraph or so. Sometimes I use dialogue to move the story along, but not that often because the whole memoir is being written as though it is spoken aloud to my husband who is deceased.

When school started, all three children began classes in the small church school. Since the school had fewer students than in the big public school, the kids got to know everyone, and they were able to make lasting friendships. The older students in each class helped the younger ones. The small classes grouped together in one room was turning out to be an effective learning system after all. Many earlier schools were taught in this manner. My parents went to small schools where several grades were taught in one room.
---------- 
Knowing that we would be moving in October, we decided we needed to try to sell our house. No doubt, most people would have contacted a real estate agent. Our first inclination was to advertise it for sale by owner and see if we could sell it that way. We thought we would have more control over who bought it, and if we sold it, there would be no commission to pay an agent.
 
Because racial tension was so high in Mississippi, if a house in a white neighborhood sold to a black family, the value of every home dropped immediately. In less than a year, the white families would sell to black families and the area would become a black neighborhood. You and I knew the discrimination was wrong, but on the other hand, you didn’t want our neighbors to have their property values drop because of us. As a result when a voice on the phone inquired about the house, and it was clearly of another race, you made an excuse not to show the house. It was embarrassing to me, and I refused to answer the phone.
 
We showed the house a few times, but then your sister, Maxine, called and asked if we would be willing to rent it to some friends she knew who were looking for a rental in Jackson. We decided we could rent for a while and sell later. These people were moving from another town and were willing to rent without first looking at it. They insisted they had to be moved in by the second week in October. Our builder had assured us, we could move into our new house by October first, so we thought there should be no problem.
 
It is amazing how much you can accumulate in ten years. We started trying to pack, but it seemed we had little time to spare. I was working a lot of overtime. We were making frequent trips to Brandon to check on our new house and deal with problems our builder kept coming up with. You were also going to the farm to check on your cows. Often the children had activities, that involved us. As a result, we weren’t making much progress with the packing.
 
One day, the people who wanted to rent our house called and to say they were moving earlier than they had planned, and they needed to move into our house the last week in September. You called our builder and asked if it was possible for us to move in early. He said the house wouldn’t be finished. He was waiting on material in order to finish our stairs, and he wouldn’t have it until later in the month. He was willing to complete the work after we moved in, if we could deal with no railing on the stairs. We should have said no, but you wanted to make sure our renters didn’t back out.
 
Needing to save money on the move, we rented a large moving van and started loading our furniture into it. For the next three days, we did our best to finish packing, but as we moved the furniture, we realized how much more needed to be done to have our house ready for the new occupants. The last day, we worked throughout the night, trying to clean up and leave the house in a presentable condition for the family moving in. We were exhausted when we finally realized we couldn't do any more.

We were adjusting to being in our new house and trying to deal carefully with stairs which lacked railings, when we got a call from the renters asking for their deposit back. They had decided our house wasn’t suitable for them after all. You vowed you would never again let anyone push you into moving anywhere. We turned the house over to a rental agency and decided to let them deal with it.
--------------
The weekend after we moved, you felt you had to go see about your cattle, and you left the children and me in Brandon. One of the tires was flat on the truck, so you took the car and left me without transportation. I was busy trying to get my kitchen organized and hanging curtains. You’d not been gone long when Don came running down the upstairs hallway totally forgetting there was no railing on the stairs. He plunged off the edge of the landing and ended up  crashing head-first onto the uncarpeted floor of the foyer. I was horrified. I was also amazed he was still conscious. A huge lump was quickly rising on his head. I had no way of getting in touch with anyone as the phones weren’t yet connected. All I could do was place an ice-pack on the knot, and pray that my son would survive without brain damage.
 
Don told me,” Mom, guess what! When your head gets hit, you really do see stars.
-------------
The following week, I was contacted by a new printing company that was forming in Jackson. Out of curiosity, I went in for an interview. They were anxious to hire me, and they offered me nearly twice as much salary as I was making. You encouraged me to take it. You’d never been happy with me working at my present job. You knew something of the problems I’d had with people I’d worked with there, and although you'd only met him once, you didn't care for Robert at all.
 
Since Robert hadn’t been willing to listen to my suggestions or to offer me a substantial raise, I agreed that I should take the job. I’d worked five years for this company, which was a record for me. Still, I was nervous about leaving since the company had paid for my recent trip to Nashville.
 
I talked to Robert and told him I was seriously considering the offer I'd had from the new company. He was extremely upset, but said the company couldn’t match what they were offering. In the end, I gave a two week notice. Robert told me his backers, who’d financed the company, wanted to sue me for the money they had spent on me. Robert claimed he talked them out of it. He was probably afraid I might tell them he’d never stopped trying to hit on me.
 
I worked out my two weeks and left with no regrets. With a new town, a new house, new job and a new church, things were definitely changing.
 
 
 
 
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents;


Chapter 43
Adjusting to the Changes

By BethShelby

Since there are those who haven’t read any of this book before, who might read a chapter from time to time, I feel that I need to explain that this isn’t written like a novel. You will find it to be a series of different incidents or memories from a particular time period. You may find the flow of the material may change every paragraph or so. Sometimes I use dialogue to move the story along, but not that often because the whole memoir is being written as though it is spoken aloud to my husband who is deceased.
Since the new company was just getting off the ground, there were no complicated printing jobs. There were six small presses and no Linotype machine for type setting. I would not be doing the kind of stripping I’d been trained to do in Nashville until the company built up its reputation to attract customers needing more expensive jobs. For now, I would be doing simple art work, operating the graphic arts camera, and stripping up negatives for the small presses.

There were two ladies near my age who would be working with me, but not doing the same work as me. Loraine was the typist. She had an advanced typewriter capable of producing type fonts suitable for printing copy. Divorced twice, Loraine, a tall auburn-haired lady, was a character. She was a flirt and used men who were willing to do her bidding. Her hobby was car racing, and she competed in a race for women drivers known as Powder Puff Derby

Maggie, the other lady, was married and had a four-year-old daughter. She was hired mostly to assist me with filing, ordering the supplies, and burning and developing the small aluminum plates the pressmen needed. Maggie was a tiny lady, who was overly dramatic and fun to be around. I got along fine with both women. Maggie was a club lady and active in the Business and Professional Women Organization. She wanted to get me involved, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.

Wolfgang, the owner of the company, was a man from Germany. I guessed him to be around forty. Stan, the plant supervisor and the man who hired me, appeared to be in his fifties. I was relieved that the work seemed simple compared with my former job. With all the other changes going on in my life, something less challenging was a welcome reprieve.

*****************
We were beginning to settle into our new home. Don had a room of his own, but the girls would continue to share a room. The new highway which ran by our property was finished. Since we were on a large tree-studded lot, the noise from the highway didn’t bother us.

You built a five-foot chain-link fenced dog pen for our German shepherd, Grendel. We bought another male shepherd named Adolph as a companion. We thought we might allow them to breed and try selling registered shepherd puppies.

You found a spot that was perfect for a garden and started breaking up the soil. When you weren’t busy around the house, you would go to our cattle and tree farm and check on that. Another of your projects was to buy twenty young pecan trees and put them out on the farm. That was time consuming work which kept you away from home more than I liked.

Brandon was an interesting little Southern town, only ten miles from Jackson. It had a town square with a courthouse and a 37 ft statue of a Confederate Soldier in the middle of the square. The town is the home of the 1959 Miss America, Mary Ann Mobley, who later starred in some films. When we lived there most of the businesses were scattered around the square.  Other than groceries, we continued to do most of our shopping in Jackson.

Your brother and his family still lived in Brandon, but we didn’t know anyone else. The Baptist minister came by and introduced himself . He seemed very nice and invited us to join his church. We explained we would probably continue going to the church we’d joined in Jackson since our children were doing great in the church-school there, and were involved in an organization similar to scouts, called Pathfinders.

Our new house wasn't far from the main section of the little town, but our location had a country atmosphere. Houses were scattered and on acreage. Across the street from us was an open field and dirt road leading back to a small pond. The land was not fenced, so we decided to walk over and explore. We met the landowner who welcomed us to the area and told us to feel free to fish in his pond. The children had never been fishing, so you fixed them up some lines, and we went over. It didn’t take long for Don and Christi to get their lines tangled and tire of fishing, but Carol found an old box and pulled it near the pond and dipped her line in the water. The box collapsed sending her tumbling into the muddy water. This ended our little fishing excursion for the day.

The move had been stressful for all of us. Since we had to drive the extra distance into the city to work and to take the children to school, we decided to ride together rather then take separate vehicles. You had recently sold our Chevrolet and bought a two-year-old Ford from someone you worked with. We also still had your truck, but we usually took the Ford sedan.

First we would drop the children off at school, and then I’d drop you at work and park the car at my work. If we timed it right, everyone got where they were supposed to be on time. I was punching a time-clock at my new job and Stan, the supervisor, had a problem with anyone who punched in late. In didn't matter that I was willing to stay later and get in my eight hours, I could tell that he couldn't handle people not being there on the dot of eight.

I am a person who has serious issues with being late for anything. You were a careful person, who spent a lot more time than I on your personal appearance, and you were more likely to get hung up on something causing you to run late. I was always ready and in the car with the kids, waiting for you to join us. Sometimes, you would realize you were going to be running late, and you would tell me to go on ahead and you’d take your truck.

This had happened several times in the last couple of weeks, but on this particular morning, we were planning to ride together. The children and I had been sitting in the car for at least fifteen minutes waiting on you, and I was getting more irritated by the moment. I honked the car horn several times. We were already so late that I hoped you would drop me off first, so I wouldn’t be scolded again for punching in late. Eventually, you stuck your head out the door, and told me to go on, and you’d take your truck.

Something snapped in my brain. We had a long tree-lined curved drive, and it was necessary to back up a long way, before you could turn and go forward. In a fit of frustration and anger, I floor-boarded the accelerator with the car in reverse. I crashed the car into a young pine tree and knocked it down, crumpling the trunk in all the way to the back seat. Our three children and their books and lunchboxes went flying in every direction. No one was hurt, but I had totaled our car. We both had to call our work saying something had come up and we would be late.

As as rule, I’m a very laid-back, easy-going person. I seldom lose my temper. I don’t know why I snapped that time, but I calmed down quickly. You yelled at me but not for long. I think you realized you were the cause of my temper tantrum. We could laugh about it later, but at that moment, we didn’t need the aggravation of having to deal with our insurance company, and having to look for another car.

After that incident, my children weren’t anxious to get into the car with me driving. It didn’t help that a few weeks later, I had a tire blow-out on the highway while driving again with the children. There was a noise which sounded like an explosion. The car spun in a complete circle and crossed over into the on-coming traffic lane. Thankfully, no cars were approaching at that moment, and I did manage to gain control and pull off to the side. The interstate was something we’d not had to deal with at our old house. Some of the changes in our lives were welcome. Others would take some time for us to adjust to them. 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 44
The Winter of `69

By BethShelby

The weather had turned very cold for early November in the South. We were using our fireplace for the first time. It was starting to get dark outside when we heard a knock on our front door. We were surprised since we’d not heard anyone drive up. I went to the door and opened to find a young teenage girl standing there. She asked if I could give her a drink of water.
 
“Of course,” I said. “Come on in out of the cold. Go sit by the fire and warm up while I get you a glass of water.”
 
She didn’t hesitate about quickly accepting my invitation. The children were all gathered around the fire, and they stared at the newcomer, full of curiosity. As she drank the water, I asked how she happened to be out on a night like this. She told me she came from up North, and she had been hitch-hiking. She said a trucker had dropped her off by the bridge on the highway. She had a very slow Southern way of talking, so I wondered if what she was telling me was true.
 
The news had just gone off on the local TV station. Sports had come on. It isn’t something we are usually that interested in watching, but this girl's eyes were glued to the set. She told us she loved sports, so I hesitated about changing the channel. You motioned for me to meet you in the kitchen, so we left the room to talk about the situation. I couldn’t imagine allowing her to go back out into the cold night, but something seemed off. I was reluctant to invite her to spend the night.
 
We discussed it and decided we needed some advice on what to do. I didn’t really want to call the police station. “Maybe we could call that nice minister who came right after we moved in. He might be able to tell us what we should do,” I suggested.
 
“It’s worth a try.” You go upstairs and call, and I’ll stay down here and watch what’s going on. Something seems strange about her. She doesn’t act right.”
 
I went upstairs and found the card the pastor had left with his name and phone number and dialed it. He picked up right away, and I explained what was going on.
 
“You called the right person,” he said. “I know exactly who she is. Sarah’s a member of my church. Her parents are right here with me. Everyone’s been looking for her all afternoon. Just go back, and don’t say a word to her. We’ll be over at your house in a few minutes.” After he hung up. I went back down and motioned for you to come to the kitchen again, where I explained what was happening.
 
Soon the doorbell rang, and our house was filled with people. The pastor introduced her parents as our neighbors. He went into our den and called Sarah. She came out crying. In moments, her mother was hugging her and crying, as well.
 
The whole incident we were witnessing seemed very confusing. I only got bits and pieces of what was going on between Sarah and her parents. I started to comment on what she had told us, but the pastor signaled to me not to say anything. They soon left, and the minister stayed behind to talk. It turned out Sarah lived just over the bridge from us, and she had run away from home. She was a diabetic, and her parents were freaking out, not only because she was gone, but also because she needed to be on medication. This was the end of an odd evening for everyone.
 
A couple of weeks later, you got a call at work. You called me and asked if I could take off from my work and go home. Sarah had left home again. and all the neighbors were searching for her. They had decided she must be back at our house again. They wanted to get into our house and look. It seems our house was surrounded by people trying doors and looking into the windows. They were convinced she was there, because someone had seen an upstairs curtain move. Since the house was locked, they needed someone to come and let them in. I went home and opened the door, but the search revealed nothing other than our cat who loved to sit in sunny windows. This time Sarah had managed to get a lot further.
 
We never learned what was so troubling about her home life to make Sarah run away, but we did find out this time, she had hitched a ride and made it as far as Ohio. Sarah became sick without her medicine after four days, and someone called her parents for her. Once again, they got her back home without anything terrible happening. Still, the story has a sad ending without us ever knowing the details. A couple of years later. we heard from someone who knew the family that she had died while in a diabetic coma.
**********
In December, all of the kids were involved in a Christmas program. The teacher had been working for weeks to have the children ready to perform. Carol was part of a singing group. Christi was an angel and Don was a shepherd. He also had a solo part and was scheduled to sing “Away in a Manger.” He knew the song perfectly at home, but knowing how he hated spotlight attention, I was concerned. It was no surprise when after the first verse, he forgot the words and just kept repeating the same lines over and over until the music stopped. His voice was beautiful, but the words just weren’t there.
 
On December 17, the twins turned seven. We had a small party at home with just family. I made a cake, and we had ice cream and gifts. I regretted that their birthday was so close to the holidays that it wasn’t convenient to have a big celebration.
 
For our first Christmas in our new house, we discarded our artificial tree and cut down a real tree from our country place. We had brought back mistletoe and holly berries from there as well. We even placed a big wreath on the outside of our chimney facing the blacktop road. We had a small celebration before we left town. The kids got to open one present each. Afterward, we headed out to spend Christmas with our parents as usual.
 
********
Your dad wasn’t doing so well. His emphysema seemed to be getting worse. At seventy, he was no longer working. He had been working with your brother-in-law, Joe, at his church pew building business. However, Joe had laid off most of his employees because business was slow, and the debt he’d made with the bank was overdue. It looked as though he might lose the business. Joe was a good carpenter, and when the pew business slowed down, he and some of the younger crew had built a couple of houses in Newton. He had just completed one for a prominent local doctor who was retiring. Actually, it was the doctor who had delivered me.
 
My dad, at sixty-two wasn’t working either. The owner of the Jitney Jungle grocery store had decided to retire and sell his business. Dad thought about buying it, but decided against it at his age. The new owner planned to have his own sons take Dad’s place. Mom wasn’t thrilled to have Dad home all the time. She was looking for ways to get out of the house. She’d tried selling Avon and doing TV surveys. Now, she had started sitting for invalids and people who were convalescing. This was her calling because she was the care-giver type.
 
Your sister, Helen, was upset because Joe didn’t have any further work, and she approached you to see if they could borrow some money from us. You were wondering if maybe we could let Joe do some work at our place in the country. You said maybe we could just let him build the frame work for a house that we could finish later. It would help with his financial problem, and it would be better then loaning them money that they might never be able to pay back. You said you could only give him work as long as we could afford to pay cash without having to borrow money ourselves. You said that prehaps my dad could do some work as well. I was leery of building anything so far out in the county, because it wasn’t a place I wanted to live. You said we wouldn’t be living there, but it would be nice to have somewhere to stay when we were there. You suggested that we could use it for a weekend get-away.
 
I was very concerned about you starting another project, but I didn’t want to lend the money outright either. You hated to say no when your family needed anything. We were already chipping in a little every month to help your parents financially. We would have to tighten our budget, and see if we could find enough cash to start another house. You said you would talk to Joe about it soon to see if he would even be interested. I sort of hoped he wouldn't be.
 

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 45
Life in Our New Home

By BethShelby

As 1969 passed from history and 1970 came into being, we were beginning to adjust to the changes that had taken place in our life. The past year had been an interesting period in history. We had witnessed Neal Armstrong take man’s first step on the moon. Richard Nixon had been elected our president with Spiro Agnew as his running mate. He had vowed to dismantle the welfare state that had existed under Lyndon Johnson. We had witnessed counter-culture clashes, riots, and anti-war protests. The stock-market average stood at 800. The average salary in the US was under $9,000 per year. We had high hopes for this being a better year all around.

We had an extremely cold winter in January with snow and huge icicles hanging off of our house. School was closed, and so was our work for a couple of days. In Jackson, other than a few flakes, a big snow was rare. The kids were excited. They put together makeshift sleds out of whatever they could find and had so much fun sliding down the dip from the front of our house to the driveway. Carol decided she wanted to knock some of the three foot long icicles from the roof of our house. She found a long slender piece of wood with a nail sticking in the end and aimed it for an icicle. She missed and came down instead on the top of Don’s head as he stood below the icicle. Our poor son got hit on his head so many times, it is amazing he survived his childhood. This time, he could blame someone else rather then himself for the accident.

During his childhood, Don was plagued with a nervous stomach. If he was distressed in any way, he would get an almost unbearable pain in the center of his stomach. One particular night, his cries of pain were especially alarming. On this occasion, I'm not sure if it was nerves or the fact that he always ate too fast. It could have been a combination of things, but we became concerned enough that we decided he needed to go to the emergency room. I stayed with the girls while you drove him into Jackson to the hospital. The doctor checked him out and couldn’t find a problem. He said he would give him something to ease the pain. I wish I knew what drug he was given, because for the next four hours after he got home, we were up trying to get him to settle down. He acted as though he was possessed. He was bouncing off the walls. No more pain but it was hours before he wore himself down to the point that anyone could sleep.

Carol turned nine in February. We let her invite a couple of kids from the church school over for a sleepover. The two girls that came were another pair of twins. They were actually closer to Christi and Don’s age, but they all got along well together. I think Christi was a little jealous, because they seemed to enjoy playing more active games with Carol and Don than playing Barbie dolls with her.

I let the kids have the run of the lower part of the house. When I went down to see what they were up to, I found they had used a whole skein of knitting thread for some game they were playing. There was so much thread crisscrossing from one piece of furniture to the next that it was impossible to walk through the room. One of the kids was hiding inside my clothes dryer. I should have known better. Kids need supervision at all times, especially when you get some fresh minds around to dream up ways to drive the adults crazy.
-------------------  
We got a unexpectied call from your sister Maxine saying that your Dad was in the Baptist hospital in Jackson suffering with a heart problem. It was surprising that he had been brought to Jackson since there were closer hospitals at Meridian, Newton and Bay Springs. We went to see him that night. He seemed in good spirits, but he was hooked up to all sorts of monitors. The doctors suspected that he had suffered a mild heart attack. Your family came out to the house and had a meal with us. After a couple of days, your dad was sent back home on medication.
-----------------
At my work, Loraine came up with an outing that involved both Maggie and me. She said she knew about a black lady that was supposed to be a really good fortune teller. She wanted to go, but she wanted us to go with her. I felt uneasy about going, because I was always taught to believe the Bible said we shouldn't get information in this way. Even if it turned out to be true, the source might not be something one needed to deal with.

Maggie said, “Oh, come on. It'll be fun. We don’t have to take it seriously.” I’d done it once before at a Halloween party, and some of it was eerily accurate. I thought about it and decided to go. I didn't want to be a prig, and I seldom went on outings with girlfriends.  

We went on a Sunday afternoon to a run-down old house in a seedy part of Jackson. Loraine brought a purse she thought she might swap for the reading, but the lady wanted cash. She only charged three dollars each for a reading. She took us one at a time, and later we compared notes.

When it was my turn, she shuffled an ordinary pack of playing cards and had me cut the deck. She laid some cards out on the table and told me there would be some changes coming soon. She also said, “You is married to a good man. You is lucky. He loves you, and he ain’t never gonna leave you. I sees five chilren’ in yo' life. How many you got now?

I wanted to say ’You're the fortune-teller. You tell me', but instead I said ”three.” I didn’t mention the first one who died. I’m not planning on having more children. I’m afraid you’re wrong there, lady.

“Well dey gonna be five in all.” She laid more cards on the table. “Dey’s an old man what’s family in yo' life. He be sick. He ain’t gon'na make it.” Hmm..that could be Evan’s dad. He’s been sick, but we're hoping he’ll be all right.

"Dey’s a black-headed woman what comes to yo' house sometime. She thank mo' highly of yo' husband than she do of you.” Well Shirley is the only black-headed woman that’s ever been to our house. She did date Evan before he dated me. But she married his brother. Surely she doesn’t still care about my husband. Surely I'm not believing any of this garbage. 

She laid out more cards. “You gonna be movin’ away from dis' state pretty soon. Dat’s all de cards say today.” Uh-uhh... Don’t think so. We just got moved into our new house. I can't see us moving any time soon.  

When we got back in the car, we compared notes, and she had told all three of us that we had changes coming in our lives. She had also told all of us that in the next couple of years, we would be moving out of the state. Since we were all born in Mississippi and had never thought of moving, we had a good laugh about that. She told Loraine she had a lot of men in her life, but not to marry any of them, because it would end in divorce. We couldn't help but admit she was probably accurate there. The three marriages Loraine had already had all ended in divorce.

She told Maggie she would have another baby and that her husband wouldn't  be with her very much longer. Maggie asked why, and she told her he might have to die. None of us thought our fortunes were that accurate, but mine had been the best of the three. She did say I had a good man, and I couldn't argue with that. 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 46
Things Which Don't End Well

By BethShelby

The first day of May, you were out near the back of our lot working on your garden, when I got a phone call from Maxine telling me that your dad had died. They had taken him to Bay Springs hospital after he seemed to be having another heart attack. I told the kids to go get their daddy, and tell him his sister needed to talk to him. They had heard enough to know that their grandfather had died, so they ran toward you shouting “Pap-paw's dead.”

This was no way for you to learn your dad had passed away. The color had drained from your face, and you were in a bad state by the time you made it back to the house. I was so sorry you had to learn of his death like this. If he had lived two more weeks, he would have had his seventy-first birthday.

I couldn't help but remember what the fortune teller had said about the old man in my family not surviving. I hoped it had been a coincidence that she’d been right about that.

We left Brandon and went to your parents' house as soon as we could get a few things together. I was very fond of your dad. He always seemed to like me. All of your siblings were soon there. Your mom was very upset. A few days after the funeral, she went home with Maxine and Wayne and stayed a couple of weeks. She’d never learned to drive, so we knew she wouldn’t be staying alone in the house. After spending time with Maxine, we brought her to Brandon and she stayed with us for a while. All of you got together and found a little house in Newton that she could afford to rent and got her moved in. The house they had lived in was sold, and the money was put in the bank to provide for her living expenses.
******
After the funeral, you got a chance to talk to Joe about starting a house for us on our acreage in the country. He said he would appreciate the work. The two of you agreed on a price for his time. You told him you would pay for the materials he needed as long as he furnished you with copies of the receipts on the purchases. You had revised the house plans we’d used for our new house, and changed them to a single level house, but you didn’t cut down on the size. You moved the fireplace from the living room to the den and made a few other small changes. I didn’t understand why we needed such a large house in the country, but I didn’t argue with you about it. It seemed important for you to be able to do this.

Joe didn’t waste time. It wasn’t long before he had the slab poured, and he was starting up with the walls. He did hire my dad to work with him. I know my mother was relieved to have him out of the house, and I think Dad was happy to have something to do that brought in a small income.

This work continued throughout the summer months, but not without its problems. Joe purchased some expensive tools on our expense account. He needed them for the job, but he kept them for himself after the job was finished. You were unhappy because he was just giving you a figure of what he’d spent without sending you the receipts as he’d agreed to do. When you talked to him about it, he and Helen both became defensive. After we reached a point where we didn’t plan to get any more work done, we knew there were hard feelings and we felt awkward being around them. A number of months went by without contact.
 
Somehow, my Dad found out how much Joe had been paid, and he got upset as well. Of course Joe was the experienced builder, and he was entitled to more money. As a rule, it isn’t smart to do business with family. Someone always feels they have gotten a raw deal.

By the end of the summer, we had spent all of the money we could afford to on the house. It was just a shell at this point. We had the septic tank in and water, but so far the house wasn’t wired for electricity. There was a power pole installed that provided the electricity for the tools used in building, but we still would need to hire an electrician to complete the work. This didn’t stop us from taking a lantern and sleeping bags and camping out from time to time. I’m sure our country neighbors must have been curious as to why work had stopped.
 
We didn’t know how long it would be before we could again move forward on our building project.  I didn't see any reason for being in a hurry since we weren’t planning to live there. However, you did find an electrician and paid to have it wired that fall. We had the expense of two other houses. Our house in Jackson was still in the hands of a real estate agency. I decided I knew what it meant to be property rich and income poor, because we were paying taxes and insurance on all three properties.

**********
At my new job, the work was so much easier than anything I’d done in the past and the money was better. That didn’t mean everything was running smoothly. Stan the plant manager was running a small printing company out of his home as a side business. Maggie, my assistant, and I had witnessed him taking company supplies out of the shop for his own use. He had been giving Maggie a hard time, and she wanted to report him to the owner. I’d gotten along fine with Stan, and I didn’t want to get involved, because I didn't consider it any of our business. Maggie got me involved anyway, by letting the owner know that the two of us had seen some things she felt he needed to know about. He scheduled a meeting and asked that we both come to his office.

Before the meeting, I was so nervous, I couldn’t think straight. Loraine, the typist, told me to calm down before I had a stroke. She said she had something that would help, and she gave me a Xanax tablet. I don’t like taking medicine, and I was unsure if I wanted to swallow it. I put it in my mouth before I started toward the water cooler, and suddenly I realized my mouth was growing numb and my tongue was starting to swell. I got the rest of the pill down, but now I wondered if I would even be able to talk. To make matters worse, Stan had been called to the meeting as well, to face his accusers. I let Maggie do most of the talking, but I’m sure the fact that Stan was there intimidated her as well. The boss excused us after Maggie had her say, and we went back to work. Stan remained behind, I never learned what happened after we left, but I do know he was still at work the next day.  He didn't have anything to say to the two of us.

**********
At home, things did not go well with our dog breeding project. Grendel got pregnant and gave birth to eight healthy looking puppies. Sadly, we knew nothing about raising dogs. Our dogs had not been checked by a vet to see if they were healthy, and they hadn’t been vaccinated.
Everything seemed fine for a while. As the puppies got older, we sold one of them and gave one to my mom and dad. One little female suddenly started walking strangely. We thought one of the kids might have hurt it accidentally. The girls denied it, but Don said he wasn’t sure. He might have run over one of the puppies with his bike. We had a vet check the puppy’s leg, he said she had hip dysplasia, which is not uncommon with German Shepherds.  

When the other pups started suddenly getting sick, we checked with the vet again. By that time it was too late to save the puppies. Our dogs had hookworms. We decided raising puppies had been a mistake, and we didn’t need to let Grendel get pregnant again.  

***********
There was another project that didn’t end so well either. I decided I wanted a rock garden leading from our front walk to the garage. I went to the library and checked out about eight large coffee-table type books for rock gardens. I spent hours digging out a flat area where I wanted to place some garden furniture.

You weren’t enthused over my project, but I told you about a place where someone assured me I could get all the large rocks I needed for free. After pleading with you for a while, you finally took the truck to get the rocks. Unfortunately, I’d gotten bad information. When you started loading the rocks from what appeared to be unused land, the property owner saw you and cursed you out for trying to steal his rocks. You were humiliated and told me you wanted nothing to do with my rock garden.

When it was time to return the library books, something distracted me, and I laid the books on top of the car. Then I forgot about them and drove away. When I got to the library and didn’t have them, I remembered where I put them and hoped to find them in our yard. I was not so lucky. When I got home you told me you saw a car stopped in the street, and a man was picking something up, which turned out to be my books. They never made it back to the library, and I ended up paying for some very expensive lost books.

In the end, you did help me fill in the ground which I had dug out where my rock garden was supposed to go. Some things are just not meant to be.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 47
Here We Go Again

By BethShelby

I had worked at my new job for about eight months. Everything seemed to be going along well. The work was easy, and I was making more than I had ever made before without having to work overtime. It was Friday afternoon. I had just returned from the grocery store. When I got home, I put the groceries away and went upstairs. I felt unusually tired, so I went into our bedroom and fell across the bed. I thought I would rest a few minutes before trying to decide what to make for the evening meal.

I closed my eyes for just a second, and suddenly, it seemed I was standing by an assembly-line with a group of people packing some heavy equipment into boxes. A young man wearing a suit walked in and says, "I need everyone's attention." He seemed upset and proceeded to chew everyone out. "If you people want to keep your jobs, you are going to have to speed up production. You're falling behind, and there have been too many errors lately. Some of the boxes are incorrectly packed.” 

My eyes flew open and I sat up. You were in the room with me changing out of your dress clothes into something more comfortable.


“I just had the weirdest thing happen,” I told you. “I wasn’t even asleep. I closed my eyes for just a second, and this little dude--who I’ve never seen before--was chewing me out. It was like I was on an assemble line. What on earth was that all about? I would never work at a job like that. Am I losing my mind? It was so real. I thought I was actually there. However, it only lasted a few seconds.”

You gave me a strange look and shrugged your shoulders. “Are you sure you didn’t fall asleep?”

“No, I was still wide awake. I can’t go to sleep that fast. We were just talking a minute ago, and I told you how tired I was.”

I decided it had to be one of those unexplained things that just happen sometimes. There is never a satisfactory explanation, so it's best to just let it go. I succeeded in putting it out of my mind for the weekend.
**********

On Monday, when I went in to work, there were some men I’d never seen before going around to all the office furniture and putting stickers with numbers on everything.

“What the heck is going on?” I asked Stan.

“It’s not good,” he said. “This company’s not going to make it. We’ll be closing in a couple of weeks. They’re going to be auctioning off all the equipment. I’m sorry you’re finding out this way. We’re going to have a meeting later this morning.”

Just as I thought things were starting to go smoothly, and now I would be unemployed again. I hadn’t even been with this company long enough to get a week's vacation. I worked out the two weeks and said goodbye to my friends. The fortune teller had struck again. My two girlfriends and I were all about to have some changes in our lives. Loraine had found a job in Memphis and would be leaving the state.  Maggie's husband was a salesman, and she thought they would be moving nearer his home office.
***********

You had some vacation time coming, and it seemed like a good time for us to do something as a family.  I didn’t have a job, and the kids had another couple of weeks before school started. We had recently received a brochure in the mail offering a free three nights, four days family vacation to Hot Spring, AR. We’d never been there, and they would even pay for our gasoline to drive there. We’d have to look at some property, but we figured we could handle that. We sure didn’t need any more property, but the brochure said there was no obligation to buy. I called the number and made reservations.

Hot Springs was much prettier than I had expected. We both love the mountains, but after having seen the Smoky Mountains and the Rockies, I didn’t expect much from the smaller Ozarks. However. the countryside around Hot Springs had a different kind of beauty. It was a vibrant green and there were lakes and mountain streams everywhere. The motel we were assigned was new and had a large pool outside which delighted our kids. You weren't interested in swimming, but I was, so I went with them while you watched television in our room.

The second day, we had to go look at the property, and it was very impressive presentation. They showed us maps and brochures of what the area would look like when it was developed. They were selling large lots in what looked like the making of a beautiful upscale community. There was lakefront property which was more expensive, but we looked at some excellent building sites on a mountainside covered with large trees. The roads were just starting to be built, and many were still unpaved. Our salesman was extremely persuasive and used very high pressure tactics, so much so, that we came away with a contract in spite of our intention to resist.

When we got back to the motel, we had second thoughts and agonized over allowing ourselves to be talked into something we didn’t need. When we read the fine print, we learned we had three days to change our minds before the contract would be legally binding. Thankfully, we were able to get out of it and were allowed to go on and enjoy the rest of the vacation.

We had free tickets for riding the ducks, which were amphibious boats that ran on land as well as cruised the lakes. We all  enjoyed the boat ride. We also visited a park and promenade overlooking the city. We spent a lot of time riding up in the mountains enjoying the little streams and waterfalls that followed the road up the side of the mountain. I was impressed with all the huge rock formations.

The city had several auction houses, so we went in and watched them auction off paintings and antiques. Before we left we bought a concrete bird bath with a statue of some leaping dolphins in the middle. It would have been perfect in the center of the rock garden I'd wanted to build. All of the children got souvenirs. Carol became interested in some of the small colored rocks, and we bought her a little rock tumbler and some stones that she could take home to polish in the tumbler. All in all, it was an enjoyable vacation.
***********

When we got back home, I perused the want ads, but didn’t see anything in my field, so on Monday I went to a couple of temp agencies and signed up for work. The first job assignment I went on was to a large auto parts mail order place. I thought I would be doing office work, but instead I was assigned to work on an assembly line packing auto parts. My vision, or whatever it was I had in my bedroom a short time ago, hadn’t crossed my mind, but it all came flooding back when the young man in the business suit approached our line and began yelling about production being down.
.
It was the same man I had seen so clearly, and his words were the same. I know this has to be hard to believe, and I’m not sure I would believe it if it hadn’t happened to me. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before nor has it happened since. I wondered if I was supposed to learn something from this experience. The only thing I came up with was that maybe I have too much pride, and I thought I was too good to do blue-collar work. I have to admit, it was a humbling thought.
**********

I went on several more temp assignments, but not too long after that, I got a call from the graphic arts place I had worked when I first got out of college. Mr. Hayes was the man who hired me, but only kept me a short time, because his artist and receptionist wanted her job back. He told me he’d heard I was out of work, and he was in need of someone to operate his graphic arts camera. I resented the fact that he'd let me go without giving me a chance before, and I didn’t really want to work for him again. But the job paid better than the temporary jobs, so I took it hoping something better would come along soon. I knew I could do the camera work with no problem, and this time he seemed very satisfied with my work. Neither of us mentioned that it wasn't the first time I had worked there.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 48
Home Life and Yet Another Job

By BethShelby

During the summer months, I bought all kinds of activity books for the children so they could stay up to date with their learning skills. I took them to the library often, and had them choose books they were interested in reading. I rewarded them with prizes, if they read the books or completed a certain amount of pages in the activity books.  Because Don and Christi had late December birthdays allowing  them to start school younger than most of their classmates, they needed the extra summer work to hopefully boost their learning skills. The church school wouldn’t have allowed them to start school at five.

When school started again, Carol was in fourth grade and the twins were in third. They had the same teacher again since the first four grades were in one room. The teacher was very motivated and full of creative ideas. She used contests and games where the kids could develop their natural talents. Christi and Carol both had good singing voices, and they sang together at times in class talent shows. Since the school was small, the children brought their lunches, but once a week they were provided a hot meal by the parents. The mothers took turns preparing enough food for all of the children. Luckily for me, there were enough mothers who didn’t work, so that I only had to do it a couple of times.

The Church had family socials once a month where the adults and children would gather in the church recreation room for a meal and games. We would all bring salads, sandwiches, and deserts and enjoy getting better acquainted with the church family.  On one occasion, the children put on a program for the group. Christi sang solo. Her song was “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.” Unlike Don she didn’t forget the words, but she closed her eyes tightly throughout the whole song. I guess that was her way of avoiding being intimidated by the audience--just pretending they don’t exist.

You and I tried to help the kids with their homework. Christi and Carol didn’t seem to need much help. Christi was an excellent speller and was quick at memorizing. Math came easy for Carol. If they were assigned books to read, sometimes I would read them aloud to the children. All of them seem to be good with any type of art project they were given. Don needed more help with the subjects because he was so hyper. He had a very short attention span and had trouble concentrating. When given spelling words or math problems, he acted as though we were playing a guessing game.  He would call out random letters or numbers without trying to think. His hands were always busy taking something apart or throwing a ball in the air and catching it.

I did discover the one thing that Don excelled at doing and that was building models. I started buying model kits for his age group, but he was soon able to build much more more complicated ones. You would think he would have treasured his creations. Instead as soon as an airplane or car was finished, he was ready to pretend it was in a horrible crash, and he would destroy it.

I was concerned about some of the violent things he did to his toys. For instance, I would find his GI Joe or his Western figures hanging by their necks or with darts stuck in them and oozing ketchup blood. When he was younger, I had to put a stop to his torturing insects and worms, but now it was army men and human figures that he was mutilating. I hoped it was only a stage and not something that would require counseling. I was thankful that in time he did outgrow the tendency toward violent behavior.
********

I worked about four months at the Graphic Arts firm doing camera work, and I enjoyed the work, but I missed working for a printing company. Then another printing plant offered a job for a company artist. I went for an interview and was hired. My boss wasn't happy to see me leave, but I didn't feel bad about leaving, since he'd let me go years before without a notice, when his artist wanted her job back. At least, I did give him the courtesy of a two week notice.  
 
At this printing company, the office manager was Doris Burns, a lady I’d worked with years before, when I got my first job as a proofreader, leading to my interest in the printing field. The company was jointly owned by Brad, a member of the state House of Representatives, who was the sales manager and Henry, the plant manager. Both men had interviewed me and offered me the job. When I told them my salary requirements, they said they would agree to the amount I wanted, but there was a problem. The checks went through Doris, the office manager, and her salary wasn’t as much as I was asking. They were afraid she would be upset. They said they would pay me two separate amounts. One I would get along with everyone else, and an additional amount would be mailed through their CPA. The second amount would be set up after thirty days. I agreed that this would work for me.

When I worked with Doris before, I felt she resented me, but this time, I got to know her better, and we became close friends. Henry, the plant manager and part owner, was a heavy drinker and was also a gambler. He always had a few bottles stashed away in various places around the office. I soon learned, that although he was married, he and Judy, the lady in the camera and stripping department, had an extra-marital affair going. I’m not so sure it was serious with Henry, but Judy made no secret of the fact that she was deeply in love with him. Her husband traveled and was seldom home.

After a month with the company, when I didn’t automatically get the extra check I was promised, I mentioned it to Brad, the office manager. He told me to talk to Henry, and he would take care of it. When I told Henry I needed to talk to him, he said we couldn’t talk at work and suggested we meet for lunch.

The lunch meeting was strange. He agreed to talk to the accountant and get the extra check set up, but then he began talking about himself. He told me that he didn’t want to live any more. He shocked me by saying that he was thinking about killing himself. I didn’t quite know how to take this. I was even more shocked when I realized, he was expecting me to go to a motel with him after the meeting. I was quick to tell him that wasn’t happening.  I realized that I’d made a mistake going to lunch with him. However, I did start receiving the additional check by mail.

One of the art projects I was assigned to work on involved illustrating a book that was a memory book of art and photographs for a lady who was a professor at a black college. Henry had a safe in the art department, and he locked her hundreds of photographs away for safe keeping. He told me to go to her hotel with her and work with her on what she wanted as illustrations for the book.

Although the teacher was an Afro-American, she had extremely light skin and didn’t wear her hair in an ethnic style. In spite of the law banning it, segregation was still very much alive in Mississippi. I was surprised to find her staying in one of Jackson’s better hotels. She was very dignified and spoke perfect and proper English, so I wasn’t sure the manager at the hotel was aware she was black.

I was especially surprised when she took me to lunch at the hotel restaurant. Even though the civil rights act of 1964 had been passed allowing blacks to eat wherever they chose, it was rare to see blacks and whites eating together.  Many places in Mississippi had devised ways of getting around this. They opened private club restaurants where blacks were excluded.  Many restaurants had two sets of menus printed where the prices were much steeper for those they hoped would choose not to eat there. I had been shocked when printing companies where I worked printed such menus.
******

One morning a few weeks later, Henry didn't come in to work. Brad, the office manager, wasn’t able to reach him by phone, and he sent someone to his house to check. It was then we learned that Henry had committed suicide by shooting himself. Judy was devastated. A couple of days later, we closed the plant and all attended the funeral. Doris, Judy and I sat together and afterward, Doris and I went to Judy’s apartment to try to console her. We learned that Henry had gotten deeply in debt by gambling, and apparently, he was about to lose everything. 

For weeks, everyone in the plant tried to open Henry's safe where the pictures were stored for the project I was working on. We had the combination, but only Henry had ever been able to open it. Doris and I had both tried dozens of times, but to no avail. One morning, Doris came in and told me that she’d had a very vivid dream. She said she had walked from the back of the plant into the art department and I had opened the safe. When Doris went back to get coffee, I decided to try one more time. For no logical reason, the safe door swung open just as Doris walked back through. It wasn’t the first time Doris and I had some kind of psychic connection with dreams. It had happened years before when I first met her, and that time I’d been the one who had the prophetic dream.
 
 
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 49
Uncertain Future

By BethShelby

Throughout the fifteen years we had been married, you had worked at only two jobs. Since 1957, you'd worked at your present job as a draftsman for an oil company. Although you liked the work and got along well with your co-workers, you had never become comfortable with your immediate supervisor. He was a thorn in your side from day one. If you’d not had a family to support, I believe you would have left long ago.
 
On the other hand, I’d almost lost count of all the times I’d changed jobs. Some of the time, I'd been able to stay home with the children, and you had been the sole wage earner. Many things had happened with my jobs, but in spite of the rumors and layoffs in your company, you remained the one that held our family together.
 
Now you were telling me that rumors were circulating that your company planned to close the Jackson office and move a few of the draftsmen to the New Orleans office. At first, these were only vague rumors, but as time went on, it became a certainty. It was also a fact that only a small part of the drafting crew would be going. You were sure you would not be one of the ones who would be transferred. A few people in your department had already been asked to go, but you had not.
 
We had put down roots in this area. We owned three properties, and both of our families lived in Mississippi. In spite of not knowing what would be next for you, you seemed relieved that you weren't being considered for the transfer. At last, you wouldn't be going to work each day dreading your tenuous relationship with your supervisor.
 
There were a number of others with the company who had not been asked if they were willing to transfer. Mac, who was one of our closer friends, had been with the company over twenty years and was planning to retire in three years. His wife, Mary, was freaking out and calling me every day wondering how they would manage if they weren't asked to go.
 
Knowing that my jobs had not been dependable in the past, I was worried. Good paying drafting jobs didn’t become available that often. I was afraid you would want to sell our new house and move our family to the country, hoping we could make a living with our cattle and timber. It had supplemented our income, but anything involving farming depended on many things we couldn’t control. Besides the children and I liked living where stores and restaurants were convenient.
 
As the weeks went by, one or two of the people who had been tapped for the transfer decided against it. At that point, the supervisor asked if you would be interested in transferring. You didn't give him an immediate answer, but told him you would discuss it with your wife. You obviously didn’t want to go, but I thought it was the thing we should do. It would be an adventure to live in another state. I had been disappointed years before, when you were actually hired in New Orleans, but allowed to take an opening that was available in Jackson.
 
You had a decision to make which involved all of us, so you agreed to pray about it. One day when you were down in the country walking over our property, you said you were troubled and wondering what you needed to do. Suddenly, you heard an audible voice speak, and say the words “Look at your paycheck.” Startled, you looked around thinking someone was talking, but no one was there. You decided it must be a supernatural answer to your prayer. You realized the farm would not bring in enough money to support five people. Even if I continued to work, our standard of living would be reduced dramatically.The money you were making would keep us going until I could find a job in New Orleans.
 
When you got home, you said, “Let’s take the kids to your parents for the weekend, and you and I will go to New Orleans and see what is available to rent. We’re not buying a house down there, because as soon as I can figure out something else, we're coming back home.”
 
The year was 1972. We had only lived in our new home a little over two years. My job was going well at the moment, but with my track record, I couldn't be certain things would continue smoothly. If we stayed in Jackson, I doubted we could afford to keep the kids in a private school. You told me once, when I’d expressed doubt about whether or not we should be buying more land, that I had no sense of adventure. I'm sure your sense of adventure was different from mine, but I was ready to prove you wrong. I grinned and said, “Let’s do it.”
 
When we got to New Orleans, the city had bulldozers and cranes in a section of the city that was being demolished to make room for the Superdome.
 
”Wow!” I said. “We’ll get to watch the Superdome being built.”
 
“No we won’t,” you told me. “They are still demolishing houses. We’ll be long gone before they finish that project.”  
 
How little you knew. We’re lucky we don’t know what the future holds in store.
 
             

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 50
Leaving the State

By BethShelby

When we went to New Orleans for the weekend to see where we might want to live, the first thing we did was buy a newspaper and a map of the city. It didn’t take us long to realize that we didn’t want to live in the downtown area. It was where you would be working, but the apartments in that area didn't seem safe for children.

We found it hard to find our way around because of the many canals running through the area. We would be on the street that should take us where we wanted to go, only to be stopped by coming up to a canal. We saw a policeman and asked him how to find a certain apartment where the rent sounded reasonable. He told us if we wanted to stay alive, we didn’t need to be renting in that area. We soon realized that we couldn’t expect the prices in the big city to be anything like what we were accustomed to.

By the time we left the city, we had decided we liked the Metairie area best from what we had seen. It would be a month or so before the move would take place, and you were still hoping for a reprieve, so we wouldn’t have to go at all. When you had checked out the building where you would be working, you learned parking around there would be expensive. You decided if we moved that you would park your truck in a free spot about half way to downtown and take a city bus the rest of the way.

The church we would attend and the school the children would attend would both require a lot of driving since neither were in Metairie. It looked as though the school would already be in session before we would be able to move. Your company, Chevron, paid for our trip down, and they would also pick up the moving expenses. They would move us twice if we wanted to try an apartment first and later buy a house.  

Back home in Brandon, we continued to live much as we had before. However, since it seemed there would be a probable move in our future, we began looking for homes for our animals. None of the apartments we'd checked out allowed big dogs. Luckily, we were able to find people who were delighted to have them and seemed as though they would be responsible pet owners. We hated giving them up, but it was a sacrifice we had to make.

For several months, the girls and I had been taking piano lessons from a lady who owned a music store on Capitol Street in Jackson. I’d had lessons growing up, but I was rusty and had decided to brush up. Her husband sold me a small guitar for Don and taught our son how to play the instrument.

Mrs. Cagel loved doing recitals and pageants. She called me and said there would be a big Fourth of July celebration on the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a large man-made lake in the Jackson area. She wanted all the girls who were her students to be in a beauty pageant which was part of the activities. “It’s no big deal” she assured me. “It is just for fun. Put them in bathing suits and let them be on stage with the other girls. They’ll enjoy it. The governor will be there and there’ll be refreshments, political speeches, entertainment, and lots of music. After sundown, there will be a big fireworks show over the lake.”

I had no desire to display my girls in a swim-suit competition. They had old bathing-suits which they had practically worn threadbare on our two trips to Hot Springs and to a lake out in the country where we often took them swimming. Carol wasn’t at all sure this was a good idea. Christi seemed okay with it. You’d already planned to spend your holiday at our country place, and the children insisted they didn’t want to go there. In the end, I talked Carol into going along with the music teacher's plan, because I thought the children and I would enjoy the fireworks show later.

When the girls paraded out on the stage, which was set up in a wooded picnic area, I realized the music teacher had not prepared me. Some of the moms took this pageant thing quite seriously. The girls were six to ten. Many of them had been to hair dressers and were wearing tons of  makeup. Their swim costumes looked expensive, and some of them wore sashes proclaiming names of their sponsors. Most of the girls had been trained in walking and modeling. My kids were as cute as any of them, but certainly not prepared for modeling. Luckily, it didn’t last long. I was afraid they’d be embarrassed for their lack of preparation. If they were, they didn’t say much about it. Each of the girls got a silver charm for participating.

I met one of the other mothers, and she and her children hung out with us for the rest of the day. The children and I had never been to a real fireworks show before, and that night, as we sat on the rocks and looked out over the lake, we were mesmerized by the lights of the fireworks reflected in the water. It was a magical evening, and a lovely way to say goodbye to a city which had been my home for all thirteen years of my married life. My children had been born here.

When we got home, you told us you’d spent the day marking off a landing strip on our land. You said if we moved, you’d like to get your own plane so we could get back and forth quickly on weekends. You’d continued your flying lessons and had rented planes by the hour often, but I didn’t realize you wanted to buy one. You still hadn’t logged in enough hours to get your license, but said you were planning to continue flying when we moved.

The children had mixed feelings about the prospect of moving. They hated to leave their friends behind, but New Orleans sounded like an interesting adventure.

Someone made an offer on our house where we’d lived in Jackson. It wasn’t as much as we’d hoped. We had repainted the outside, had the floors sanded and refinished and put on a new roof, but we took the offer anyway. We knew when we moved, it would be better not to have so much real estate to be concerned about. We weren't planning to sell our Brandon house or the farm, because you were hoping we could return before long.

After the suicide and funeral of our plant manager at work, everything had settled down and was going well on my job. I hated to say good-bye to yet another job, but this time I was leaving on my own terms. One has to follow the main bread-winner. Doris and I promised to write each other faithfully. 

Before we moved, we made another trip to New Orleans and rented an apartment not far from Lakeside Mall and near Lake Ponchatrain in Metairie. I had packed a few pieces of china and crystal that I didn't want broken, but the movers insisted on unwrapping it and doing it over.  This move wasn’t bad because the movers came in with packing crates and took care of everything.

They made arrangements to be at the apartment when we arrived so we could show them where to put all the furniture. The apartment was a three-bedroom, two-bath with a very small kitchen and dining room. We took most of our furniture, but we left the refrigerator and a few items we didn’t have a place for at our place in the country.

And so began a new way of life in a big city.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 51
The Beginning of a New Adventure

By BethShelby

The apartment we rented in Metairie, Louisiana was in a large complex. It was a second floor apartment with an outside entrance which meant climbing a narrow staircase. I’m sure the movers weren’t so pleased when they realized they had to take a piano up those stairs. We should have stored it, because I don’t remember anyone ever playing it while we were there. Since the neighbors were so close, we didn’t want to make too much noise, although the apartment below us did play loud music at times and have parties that went on late into the night.

The children were thrilled that the complex had a pool. You never went in it, but the kids and I did. It wasn't long before they met other children that lived in some of the other apartments. I could swim, but not that well, and certainly not well enough to stay afloat with someone on my back. I remember a little boy named Tommy who decided to climb on my back in the water. I actually thought he was going to make me drown. He was playing, but I’d fought my way back to the surface for the third time, when Christi noticed the distressed expression on my face as I came up sputtering and coughing. She yelled “Get off her. You’re killing my mama.” Thankfully he did.

You went to work the Monday after we moved in, and I went to the school to see about getting the children set up for classes. The kids went with me. It was early September, and classes had been in session about a week. When we arrived the principal, who was also a teacher, was talking to a Spanish lady in the foyer. We stood and waited for the conversation to finish. The lady was angry, or at least excited and extremely animated. She spoke loudly with a strong accent that made her hard to understand. She was trying to defend her son who had gotten into some kind of trouble. I felt something tugging on my skirt as I stood waiting, and I looked down into the tragic face of my son. Tears were streaming down his face, and it was apparent that he was frightened out of his wits.

At least half of the children in the school were Spanish or of some other nationality. The grades in this school were combined as the Jackson school had been, but only two grades were together. This time Carol, who would be in fifth, would be with the fifth and sixth graders and Don and Christi who were in fourth grade would be with the third and fourth graders. I made arrangements for them to start the following Monday.

Since the kids didn’t have to be in school this first week, I went out and bought a book about the city, and we went exploring. The very first thing I learned was that the city was divided into various districts. There was the Garden district which was filled with beautiful antebellum homes and gardens. St. Charles Avenue leads through this area, and further down on Magazine Street is the Audubon Zoo and park. At that time, admission to the zoo was free, and I knew we would be spending a lot of time there.

The French Quarter was one place I was anxious to visit, but I didn’t know how safe it was, and I wanted to wait for you before we did that part of town. I wanted to explore the stores on Canal Street and ride the street cars. There was so much to see and do that I didn’t quite know where to start. That first day, we’d dropped you off at work and agreed to pick you up in the afternoon when you got off work. We did quite a bit of driving over the area and checking out interesting things.

We still had over an hour before we had to pick you up, so I decided it would be fun to go to the top of a tall building and look out over the city from above. In 1972, The World Trade Center was one of the taller buildings, at thirty-three stories. There was an elevator to the top where you could walk out and look over the city and the Mississippi River. We found a parking place by a meter and went in the front entrance. The guard at the front desk asked if he could help me, and I told him the children and I would like to go up to the top and look out. He told me he was sorry, but there was no one up there, and that the building had closed for the day. Seeing my disappointment, he reconsidered. “I guess it wouldn't hurt to let you all go up there,” he said. “Just take the elevator all the way to the top, and you can get out and walk around and look at the city. It’s a great view.”

We took the elevator to the top and emerged into a large open area. There was a wall to prevent a person from falling over the side, but it was low enough for all of us to see over. We could walk far enough around to see most of downtown and the Mississippi River. We enjoyed looking around for while. I noticed a door to the side of the elevator. I wondered if there was a telephone inside where I might be able to call you and let you know where we were, in case we were a few minutes late picking you up. I opened a very thick door and walked in, but once inside I realized there was nothing there except a stairwell that led all thirty-three floors down. I turned to go out, only to find the door through which I had entered was locked to the outside.

I started yelling for the children to come open the door, but the thickness of the door prevented any sound from escaping from my side. I knew the children couldn’t hear my voice. I was wearing high-heeled shoes, so I pulled one off and used the heel to bang on the door, but still no one could hear me. Panic was setting in. I could imagine my accident-prone son climbing up on the wall and falling thirty-three stories to his death.

I hadn’t told the children that I was looking for a phone, and doubted if they knew the door was there. What would they do when they saw I was missing?  I was crying and praying and imagining all sorts of horrible scenarios. Then suddenly the door opened and Carol says, “Oh, thank goodness, there you are. I thought you’d left us.” I was so relieved. I gathered my kids together and we took the elevator down. I don’t think I ever went into that building again. We barely made it in time to pick you up.

I can usually be depended on to do something to get myself in trouble. I guess all is well that ends well. I’d had enough adventure for one day. It wouldn’t be the last time I found a reason to panic in this city.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 52
A Bit of Local Culture

By BethShelby

While you spent your first week getting oriented to the new drafting department, the kids and I spent our first week settling in to our new apartment. They got acquainted with several other children who lived in the apartment complex, but I didn't meet any adults.  I assume they worked or stayed to themselves. We located convenient grocery and drug stores and checked out the two large malls which were near us. We also discovered some nearby restaurants that looked interesting.

The kids were delighted to find that there was a snowball stand nearby. One of the first ice shaving machines was invented in New Orleans around 1930, and snowballs became a tradition of the area. Snowball stands were everywhere. There were more flavors than you could count and dozens of ways to mix flavors or add calories by topping them off with cream concoctions.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but the part of Metairie where we had located was in the process of becoming known as Fat City. It was dubbed that by a club owner who adopted the name from a snowball stand with that name. This part of the city was becoming the cool place to go if you lived in the New Orleans area.

Louisiana is divided into parishes instead of counties. The most predominant churches in Orleans parish are Catholic. New Orleans is a melting pot of many different cultures and nationalities. It was first settled by the French, and many of the customs and architectural styles still reflect the French influence.

One of the most interesting places to visit is the French Quarter, otherwise known as the Vieux Carre. The original city developed around this area. For a while, New Orleans was under Spanish control, but then during the French Revolution, it came back under the French rule, until the United States bought it as a part of the Louisiana Purchase.

In the nineteenth century, New Orleans was the largest port city in the South and was located on the Mississippi River. The city is surrounded by water with Lake Pontchartrain on the North and the Missisissippi River winding around the Southern side. There are canals crisscrossing the city everywhere. Much of the city is below sea level, and pumping stations are there to drain the excess water when there is a big rain.

Metairie is in Jefferson Parish, and New Orleans proper is in Orleans Parish where you worked. The protestant church we planned to attend was also in Orleans Parrish on St. Charles Avenue, in what was known as the Garden District. That weekend, we attended church, and we were warmly welcomed and encouraged to stay for the noon meal prepared as potluck for visitors.

It happened to be the new pastor’s first day to be there as well. He had a daughter who was Carol’s age and would be in her class at school. We learned the sister church also had a new pastor that day. He, too, had a daughter Carol’s age who would be in school with her on Monday.

The reason the other church had a new pastor was a tragic story. A couple of weeks before, the pastor had been conducting a baptism in the baptismal pool at the front of the sanctuary. Soaking wet, he reached for the microphone in order to say a few words. He was instantly electrocuted. What a horrible thing for a congregation to witness.

On Monday morning, I drove the children to school and met one of the other mothers, who happened to live in an apartment on our same street. She and her husband were looking for someone in order to carpool, and we were able to work out a schedule so one of us could bring the children in the morning and the other pick them up in the afternoon. Like us, they were new to the city, and they had a son in Carol’s class.

When I picked the children up that afternoon, I was relieved to find that the day had gone well for all of them. In spite of Don’s earlier anxiety over starting school in a strange place, he seemed to have adjusted and was getting to know some boys his age. Christi had already made a friend that lived only a street away in another apartment complex.

Since things were falling into place with the children and your job, I got a newspaper and scanned the ads for possible work for me. There was a weekly newspaper that was looking for someone who could do camera work and negative stripping, so I went for an interview and was hired.

The job was located on Airline Highway, which was between where we lived and the children’s school. The hours worked out so that the children wouldn't be alone in the apartments for long before one of us would be home. At nearly eleven, Carol was pretty responsible, and she knew if they were alone a little while, they were to stay inside with the doors locked.

At my new job, I learned I would be working with an older man, who would be doing most of the camera work. Vicente was a Cuban refugee. He had been a ship captain, and the Castro regime had forced him and his family to flee Cuba with only the clothes they were wearing and little else. He was of German decent, but he’d been born in Cuba, so his native language was Spanish. He was a very kind and highly intelligent man, and we established a good working relationship early on.

Several of the other men who worked in the stripping department were also Spanish. A couple of them were from Guatemala, and another was from Ecuador. I began to realize New Orleans was like no place I’d ever been before. It was a bit of a cultural shock. I almost felt as if we'd moved to another country.

The printing plant was open twenty-four hours a day during the week. The presses were much larger than any I had worked with before. There were three shifts, and I was on the main day shift. In addition to a weekly parish newspaper, there were several Spanish newspapers and also weekly ads for many of the stores in Jefferson, Orleans and other surrounding parishes which were printed at this plant. The company had a well-staffed art department. The man who headed up that department was French, and he was married to a Chinese lady.

Some of the people we had met at church were from the Irish Channel section of the city, and they spoke with a whole different dialect and used expressions that were new to me. Most of them talked fast and loud and rather harshly. What I called closets, they called lockers. They washed their hands in `zinks'. They put gaz-a- line in their cars. The pronunciation of vegetables was veg-e-tables. They went to the grocery store, not to buy groceries, but to “make groceries.” Instead of asking their children if they needed to go potty, they asked “Do you need to go make?”  If they were calling their child it was not "come here" but rather "come by me."

New Orleans is known for its food and gourmet cooking, but that is a subject for another day. There were two vegetables people introduced us to which we'd never eaten before, and they became favorites for us after we got used to them. Both of them grew on vines on fences. One was the mirliton, a member of the gourd family. They  looked something like a green squash. The other they called Chinese okra but it is actually lupus that can be dried and used as a course sponge. If picked green, sliced, fried and seasoned with cajun spices, it is quite tasty.

New Orleans is in the heart of South, but the people didn’t speak the slow soft Southern drawl which we were used to. Some say it sounds more like the brogue of Brooklyn. Just across the lake was the city of  Slidell, which was more like the South we were used to. Most of the transfers from your Jackson office decided to settle there. I guess they weren’t up for the cultural adventure.

Another group we became acquainted with were the Cajuns or Creoles who were the Arcadian French speaking people who had been forced out of the Nova Scotia region of Canada by the British around 1755. They migrated to South Louisiana and lived in the swamps and bayous below New Orleans, but some had eventually made it back up to New Orleans. They had adopted their own semi-English dialect and many of them brought some interesting customs and a mixture of Catholic and Voodoo religion.

We realized that living here was going to be an adventure we hadn’t expected. I was open to learning all I could about the various people who called this place home. Our children adjusted easily and took it all in stride. You were more inclined to work towards getting back to your roots, where you found life more comfortable.
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 53
Possum Tales

By BethShelby

The kids hadn’t been in school many days when they came home excited to tell me that Lyndon, the boy who they rode home with in the afternoon, had gone to his grandparent's farm in the country over the weekend, and he'd found some baby opossums, abandoned when the mother was hit by a car and killed.

“Mom, you should see them. They’re adorable. They curl their little tails around his finger, and he holds them up, and they just hang there. His parents won’t let him keep them. He’s going to have to get rid of them. Could we have them? Please?” Carol begged.

I’m like a kid when it comes to baby animals. I wanted to see the baby possums too. I knew it wasn’t a smart idea. We didn’t have a pet deposit, and I wasn’t even sure if we could get one. Then I thought, they would be so tiny. How would anyone know we had them? The apartment manager had never been around. I hesitated. “I doubt if we could keep them here. I’m not sure your daddy would let us. Maybe we can keep them a day or two, until Lyndon can find someone to take them. We’ll ask your dad when he gets home.”

“Are you nuts?” you asked me. “We can’t keep possums in this place. We’re in the city. Possums can’t live in apartments.”

“Well, I told the kids maybe we could keep them until Lyndon can find someone else who could take them. Kids need pets. They learn about animals that way. They had to give up their dogs, you know.”

“You do what you want to, but I’m not having anything to do with them,” you said, stalking off toward the bedroom to take off your tie.

The following morning, I gave Carol a large woven wood purse with a latch at the top. It had enough small openings that I figured the babies could breathe without escaping. “You can bring them home today, but tell Lyndon he’s going to have to find someone else to take them.”

That afternoon when I got home, all three of my kids had a little possum hanging by its tail on their finger. I picked up the fourth one, and it opened it’s pointed mouth, showing two rows of tiny sharp-looking  teeth, and hissed at me. “Ooh…I don’t think he likes me. Those teeth look dangerous. I’m not sure this is a good idea.”

“He won’t hurt you. They’re just babies," Don assured me.  

“Well they can’t live in that purse all the time. We need to fix up a place where they can have water and something to eat. What do they eat?”

“Lyndon said he tried some cereal and they ate a little with milk, but he said just try some stuff and maybe they’ll start eating.”

We decided that since the middle half-bath was a small room, it might be a good place for them. As long as we kept the door closed, they wouldn’t be able to get out. We put some water and food in there to see how they would do. Before the day was over, someone had left the door open long enough for one to escape. After searching the apartment for nearly an hour, we gave up.

Two days later we heard a strange noise coming from behind the refrigerator. We moved it back enough to find and rescue the tiny creature. Someone left the commode top up in the bathroom, and I found one floating in the water. To my surprise, he was still alive and seemed no worse for the swim. They were constantly escaping. Before long we'd moved every piece of furniture in the apartment more than once.

****
By the weekend, we’d been in the apartment two weeks, and you were ready to go back to Mississippi. We went to my parents first, and the baby possums came with us in the wooden purse. My dad wasn’t pleased. Those were not creatures he wanted any part of. Naturally, a couple of them escaped in his house while we were there. We found one of them, but the other was never seen again. I couldn’t prove it, but I suspected my dad had something to do with its disappearance.

When we left my home, we went to visit your mom at her apartment in Newton. She was still grieving the loss of your dad, but she seemed happy to see us. When we left her place, we went to our place in the country and spent Saturday night. 

Even though the house was still just a shell with unsealed rooms, we did have some beds there now. Mom had given us the twin beds and mattress sets which were the ones I'd grown up with. Your mom had loaned us a double bed, which she had no room for when she moved to Newton. We also had a folding cot, so we had enough to make this a good place to camp.

We had a hotplate for making coffee and doing light cooking, so we didn't go hungry while there. We spent Sunday morning walking over our hundred and forty-three acres, much of which was woodland. You had a neighbor looking after our cattle. and he had a couple of his horses on the land.

For a while, we went back to Mississippi every other weekend. It was less than a three hour drive on the highway. On the weekends, when we stayed at home in Metairie, we would attend church.

The church usually had a game night over at the school on Saturday night. People would bring board games and the kids and other young people would sometimes play volleyball or basketball in the gym. There was always popcorn and other refreshments available. I enjoyed the games. It was a good way to get acquainted with people. You weren’t into games, and sometimes the kids and I went alone. You seemed happy to stay home and watch TV or listen to music.
 
Often during the week, you and I would get out of the apartment and walk around exploring the neighborhood. There were mostly apartments around us, but we weren’t far from the West Esplanade canal and Lake Pontchartrain. In a construction site near us, Carol found a red leather wrist band, and it became a part of her daily attire.

****
We hadn't been living in the apartment long when your mother decided she wanted to come spend a week with us. When your mom traveled, she always brought every garment she owned. She couldn’t have worn them all if she lived with us for a year.

At the time, one of the little possums had been missing for nearly a week. We put your mom on Don’s single bed, and I made him a bed on the couch. In the middle of the night we heard the most piercing series of yelps and screams. Your mom ran out of her room into the hallway in her nightgown. with her head tied up in curlers. She was shaking all over and sputtering something about a wild animal in her bed. Of course, what we discovered was the missing baby possum. He was ready for some food and water.

I’m sure your mom wasn’t at all pleased, that I was choking back the tears, while trying to control my laughter. It was not at all appropriate behavior for a daughter-in-law, but she couldn’t have known how funny she looked and sounded. It is a wonder she ever came to visit us again.
.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 54
First Year and First Mardi Gras

By BethShelby

Our life in the apartment in Metairie lasted about ten months, during which a hodgepodge of incidents stand out in my memory, many of which are not memorable enough to merit over a paragraph, so please bear with me if this portion seems disconnected.

Strange items began appearing in our apartments regularly such as posters and other things I’d never seen before. When I questioned the children, I learned that the kids in the complex, including mine, made a regular habit of dumpster diving. Their favorite time was when someone was moving out of an apartment and was trying to rid themselves of unnecessary baggage. One kid almost got himself loaded off to the dump when the garbage truck appeared unexpectedly.
***
Once someone left three new rock albums on my car.  They were still in unopened cellophane and probably expensive, but not my taste in music. They were Led Zeppelin, Cream, and Black Sabbath. I didn’t want them, but we couldn’t find the owner. Carol eventually gave them to her rock fan cousin.  
***
Christi had made a friend at school that lived in a nearby apartment. She came over a few times, and after she left, I began to notice a few little things missing. One thing was a magnifying tool, called a linen tester, that Christi admitted they had been playing with. It was something I’d bought in Jackson and used on my job at work. There were also some odds and ends from my jewelry box missing. The child’s mother was a teacher, and I dreaded having to let her know her child was stealing. I had Christi ask the girl if she had taken the things, but she denied it. Apparently her mother noticed the items and made the child return them. After that, she wasn’t allowed over for visits again.
***
One night, a man who lived in a nearby apartment came over and asked you if you drove into New Orleans every day. You told him you drove part of the way and rode the bus the rest of the way. He said his car had broken down and asked if he could ride with you the next day. You agreed, and he continued riding with you everyday. It appeared that he didn’t intend to get his car fixed. It wasn’t sitting well with you. He’d never offered to help you with gas, and you finally told him this was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, and you would like him to find another way to work. You felt he was taking advantage of you.
***
Three trips to the emergency room stand out. The first involved Christi. The kids in the apartment complex couldn’t seem to stay away from the construction site one lot over. They had been chased away several times. One day, Christi came home wearing a half inch piece of metal pipe on her finger that she insisted made a good ring. Unfortunately, it went on easily enough, but neither soapy water, butter, nor anything else we could find, would remove it. It had to be cut off in the emergency room, and Christi was sure they were going to cut off her finger as well.  She earned another trip when she got her little finger caught when the car door was slammed.  This time, I was the one who was afraid that she'd lose a finger, but it was only slightly bruised. 

Another trip came about when Don decided to explore a box in which you kept your fishing lures. I have no idea how that hook got so deeply embedded in his leg, before he realized every twist he made trying to release it, caused it to become more deeply entrenched. I couldn't imagine him trying to get it out himself, because it really looked painful. His fear of hospitals had to do with an aversion to needles.  He dreaded the tetanus shot more than the hook in his leg.
***
Privacy in the apartment was a problem, and it played havoc with our love life. The locks didn’t work well, and it was impossible to make the children go to sleep on command. One night in the middle of an intimate encounter, the top popped off the laundry basket at the foot of my bed and Christi shouted “Surprise!” She was right. It was a surprise; most likely for her as well. However at eight-years-old, I doubt if she suspected her mom and dad might be involved in anything out of the ordinary. She was pretty naive. When she managed to find, and open a pack of condoms, she told me she had found the perfect material for making a raincoat for her Barbie.
***
In February, New Orleans celebrated Mardi Gras. Parades had been going on for several weeks, but we were waiting for Mardi Gras day, which is always celebrated on the Tuesday before Lent. I was looking forward to that since I heard so much about it. Our church on St. Charles Ave. was right beside the parade route. We were told they would open their basement and provide some refreshment for anyone who wanted to have a place to see the parade or take a break with access to restrooms. We decided to go, having no idea what to expect. As we drove toward the area, we were amazed to see all the cars and excitement going on. All the businesses were closed, and the city was in full carnival mode. We drove around, and quickly learned, parking was going to be almost impossible.

We ended up getting back on the interstate wondering what we should do. By the St Charles St. exit, several cars were pulled off on the side of the exit ramp. It's illegal to park on an interstate exit ramp, but the cars were parked there. “Apparently the rules don’t apply on this one day of the year. Everyone is parking here, and there is one space left. Let’s get it before someone else does,” I suggested. “Well there is nowhere else to park. I guess we have no choice.” you said. The whole family piled out and went to see what Mardi Gras was all about.

The walk over to the church only took a few minutes, in spite of the crowds milling around. The parade route was already about four or five people deep, although the  parade wasn’t due to start for another hour. We found a spot across from the church. People were pushing carts up and down the street, selling drinks and cotton candy. Some people wore purple eye-masks and everyone was in a festive mood. There was the smell of beer and caramel in the air. Everyone was carrying bags to gather loot which they would accumulate as the floats passed.  Purple, gold and green streamers were everywhere.

Eventually the parade started with marching bands playing parade music, and Shriners and clowns driving in little cars. When floats started passing, the people on the floats were in elaborate costumes and the floats were grandly decorated each with a theme. I learned later that the day after Mardi Gras work begins on decorating for the following year.  People started screaming, “Throw me something, Mister.” and showers of doubloons and beads and all sorts of other trinkets started raining down on us.

We had our hands full trying to keep the kids from getting lost in the crowd. I was as excited as the children. More than one parade passed. The parades are put on by clubs called krewes and most of them have names of Greek or Roman gods like Atlas, Zeus or Poseidon. This went on most of the day. We accumulated bags of trinkets. I was picking up everything that hit the ground. At one point, a big angry-looking dude dropped the comb from his Afro, and I grabbed it, thinking it was a trinket from the float. I thought he was going to conk me over the head when he snatched it from me and hissed “That’s mine.” 

We were all worn out when the parades ended, and we started back to the car.  There were no cars on the interstate ramp. They had all been towed away. We were sick. We had to find a pay phone and call a taxi, which took forever. When we got home, we got our truck and some money to pay the fine, and went back to the yard where towed cars are kept. The lot stayed open late, no doubt making a killing off all the towed cars.

The way our evening ended left you with a negative feeling about the celebration of Fat Tuesday, another name for Mardi Gras. You are a person who hates crowds to begin with, and I had a feeling it would be hard to get you to participate again. A whole year would pass before we had to decide about that.
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 55
Reasons For Concern

By BethShelby

A big disappointment for you occurred when you decided it was time to get back into flying. You went to the airport to rent a plane, but you found the planes for rent at this airport weren’t the same type you were used to flying. You did rent one of another type which was available, but I think something must have happened that frightened you. Maybe it was the fact that the controls or the handling of the plane was different, or maybe it was as you said, the airport traffic was just too heavy in New Orleans. At any rate, you only went up once.  I know you still hoped to fly, but you decided to postpone that dream until you returned to Mississippi.

****

At the end of February, Carol celebrated her eleventh birthday in the apartments. Dad, Mom and my Aunt Chris and her adopted son, Keith, who was a little older than Carol, came up for the day. They brought presents for Carol, and she opened them and presents we had gotten for her after our little party. One item I’d bought for her birthday was her first training bra. When she opened it in front of Keith, she turned crimson from embarrassment. My kids were sensitive that way. The idea of growing up didn’t seem to appeal to any of them. 

Dad drove back to Mississippi with Aunt Chris and Keith, but Mom had brought her luggage and planned to stay for a week. We had an odd telephone system in the apartments. You could dial your own number and hang up, and the phone would ring. The kids decided to play a prank on Mother. They dialed and hung up. When the phone rang, one of the girls told Mother the phone was for her. When she picked it up, Christi got on the other line and somehow managed to disguise her voice enough to convince Mom she was calling from the FBI. She told her that there was a warrant out for her arrest. She actually had Mom believing her. Mom was seriously upset. I can remember pulling silly pranks like that when I was young, so I guess they might have gotten that trait from me.  

My mom had other things on her mind, which I wasn't aware of when she told me she was coming for a visit. I learned from her that Dad had been making her life miserable. I think he was frustrated because he’d worked all his life, and after the owner retired and sold the store where he’d worked, the new owner wanted to use one of his own family to do the job Dad had been doing. Now Dad was sixty-three and without a job for the first time in his life. He didn’t know what to do with himself, and had been taking his anger out on Mom. 

She’d left him once years before, but had gone back when he begged and agreed to change his ways. He was still working then, and things had worked well for a while. I hadn’t realized when Mom wanted to come for a visit that she wasn’t planning to go back home. I got very upset when she told me. “Mom, you’re using us. You can’t do that to Dad. You know how pathetic he was when you left before. You need to talk to him, and try to work it out.”

“You know I can’t talk to your Dad. He just gets mad and curses at me. I’ve had all I can take. It’s time I did something for me. I’ve already talked to my friend, Sarah and she has room for me to stay with her till I can get a job.”

“Well you’re not leaving from here. Dad expects us to bring you home this weekend. You’re not leaving us to deal with him. He’s liable to shoot himself. He won’t know how to live without you.”

There were some tears and I felt sorry for her, but she finally agreed to go back. Maybe I was wrong, but I wasn't sure my Dad could handle being left alone. If he’d been mentally abusing me, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to stay around either. Still, I felt her leaving from our apartment would put us in the middle of their troubles. Mom was very upset to have her plans changed, but she did allow us to take her home at the end of the week. 

*** 

You did something regarding your job, which could have ended with us returning to Mississippi. You wrote a letter to the department head over your supervisor, and aired your grievances against him, which you'd been nursing for years.  You told him the reasons you found the relationship you'd had with your supervisor to be something you couldn't continue to tolerate. You asked if it would be possible to transfer to another drafting department. Otherwise you could no longer work there.

You showed me the letter before you sent it. I was extremely anxious about what the repercussions might be. I wondered if you were doing this just because you wanted to go back to Mississippi, but I didn't try to talk you out of sending it. I decided it wasn't fair for you to have to dread going to work every day, and I'd have to live with whatever happened. 

When your supervisor learned you'd asked for a transfer from his department, he was furious because you'd gone over his head. Nevertheless, the transfer was granted, and you found working conditions in the other department to be much more relaxed. I was very relieved, because I wasn't ready to leave the area.  

*** 

Something had happened at the apartment that made us uneasy about continuing to live there. We had to chain the children's bikes beneath our apartment, and a couple had been stolen. We found those abandoned in a vacant lot, by whoever had taken them, but at Christmas, one of Christi's main gifts had been a brand new banana-seat bike. It was stolen by someone only a week after she got it, and we'd never found it.

If we planned to move again, we would have to do it during the first year, in order for Chevron to move us again at no cost. I thought it was time we started thinking about buying a house. Things seemed to be going better for you, since you had transferred to another department, so you agreed to start looking.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.
I've been out of town two weeks. I'll try to catch up with reading my fan's posts soon. Thanks for continuing to read my story.


Chapter 56
Life is Full of Changes

By BethShelby

On weekends, we began looking at open houses. We contacted an agent, and he made appointments that took us to houses all over Jefferson Parish, but nothing really appealed to us. Most of the lots were small, and the houses were close together and priced above our budget. We'd both been raised on acreage, and that is what we preferred. We realized we'd need to revise our preferences while we lived in this part of the world.

One day, I found a new listing in the paper for a house for sale by owner, and I called about it. A lady with a foreign accent informed me that she had a buyer come by and look that morning, and he had immediately signed a contract to buy it.

She said I could come by and look anyway, in case the contract fell through. The price was very reasonable, and I felt compelled to go look. The house was owned by a Norwegian couple. The man was a sea captain and was away most of the time, but his wife had power of attorney to sell. I fell in love with the house.  It was in a great location, just a block from the lake. I liked the white stone-cut brick exterior. The lots on both sides were empty.  I just felt that this was the house we were supposed to buy. It was disappointing to know that it had been scooped up by someone as soon as the listing hit the paper. Mrs. Larson took my number and said if anything should change, she would give me a call.  After that, I had no desire to look further.
 
"Come with me and look at the house that I want us to buy," I begged you.
 
"But you said the lady told you it was already sold.  What is the point of me looking?" you asked.
 
"I can't help but feel this is our house. It won't hurt you to look.  Come see if you like it."  So we drove over and you liked it, but you only saw it from the outside. You were convinced it was foolish to pin my hopes on a house that was already sold.
 
Three weeks later, Mrs. Larson called to say that the contract had fallen through. The buyer couldn't qualify to buy the house. This time you went with me to look inside. It was a three bedroom, two bath home with a living room and a kitchen dining area.  It was only a couple of years old. The lot was narrow, but the backyard was fairly large and full of trees. The front was landscaped with flowering bushes. There were a lot of pines that she had planted, because pine trees made her think of her home in Norway.  It only had a single carport, but since the lot beside it was empty, and the owner wasn't planning to sell, there would be a spot to park your truck.  You hated having houses so close as they were in most neighborhoods, so you agreed this would work for us. The price was only $30,000, which would fit well into our budget. We signed a contract immediately.
 
We continued going back to Mississippi once or twice a month. Since no one was living in our Brandon home, the insurance company decided to cancel our policy. This seemed to be a sign that it was time to let it go, so we turned it over to an agent, who sold it quickly. Selling that place where you'd worked so hard to make our forever home, was like letting go of a dream for you.  We'd lived there less than two years. We made a small profit on the place which allowed us to put more down on the house we were buying.  When we closed on the new house, we'd been living in the area about nine months. Chevron sent the movers to our apartment to pack everything and move us to our new location.
 
Our new house was about a mile away from where the apartment was. It was in an area where new houses were going up. Mrs. Larson was anxious to move back to Norway, and she had a dog which she couldn't take with her.  So in addition to the house, we got a little mixed terrier, named Blackie. The problem was the dog didn't eat dog food. His diet consisted mostly of rice. Rice was not on the menu at our house, so Blackie began taking most of his meals down the street with a neighbor, who served him rice regularly. He had a sharp little bark which he used frequently. He had another habit that was especially annoying to anyone riding down our street on a bike. He would chase them down the street barking and nipping at the ankles of the rider.
 
Don, once again, had his own room and Carol and Christi shared a room. We bought bunk beds for the girls. You and I explored our new location and discovered that we could walk a block down to where a pumping station was located beside a canal, and there was a path that led back to a paved walking and bike trail that went for miles along Lake Pontchartrain. It was lined with trees on one side and large rocks on the lake side. Since everything in Jefferson Parrish and most of Louisiana is flat, it was easy to walk or ride bikes without getting overly heated or tired. Trips to the lake soon became a daily excursion.  Even the kids liked these hikes.

****
Since working at the newspaper, I'd been made head of the department during my shift. At one point, I had problems with a mean tempered Spanish guy, who resented being told what to do by a female.  We had some strong words, and he stomped out, threatening to get even with me.

Another day, the shift had ended and everyone had gone home in my department, I assumed the pressmen were still working, and I had some work I needed to finish. When I got ready to leave, I realized I was the only person left in a large, old, and very eerie building, and it was starting to get dark outside. To my dismay, I was locked in. I found a number and got in touch with the plant manager, but he was far enough away that it was going to be an hour before he could get someone to come and let me out. I called you and told you my plight. You and the kids came over and sat in the car, until I could be released by one of the senior pressmen, who had a key. That part of Airline Highway wasn't the safest spot in the city.

Vicente, the Cuban refugee I mentioned earlier, was the only highlight of my work at this printing plant. He was a pleasure to work with. He had great relationships with his family and an interesting history to talk about. At one point he brought me a large, skillfully-crafted model of a boat which he had made and said he'd like me to give it to my son. In turn, I gave him an oil painting I had done of a seascape. To me, this was proof that men and women could work together as friends without anyone getting wrong ideas. There were morally decent men in the work force, unlike some of the guys I had worked with in past jobs.

Work had slowed down, and the plant manager decided to go to two shifts. He said he would need me to head up the night shift. I wasn't about to work nights.  We didn't need the money that bad, so once again, I went looking for work. This time I found an ad for one of the better printing companies. They were looking for someone to strip negatives and make printing plates.  This company was set up to do the kind of work I'd been trained for in Nashville. They were using the better masking paper and vinyl sheets that makes color-process work stable. The company was located near where we lived, so this seemed an ideal place to work.

With a new house and a new job, other changes were in the making. It was September and another school year was starting. The people I'd carpooled with during the Spring semester had moved away, and I'd found another couple to carpool with. They had two boys, a little younger than my children.

In October, I missed a period and began to count the days, before I could go to a doctor to find out if another child might be on the way. In 1972, it wasn't possible to run to the drugstore for a pregnancy test.  An early test meant killing a female rabbit to examine its ovary. I figured I could wait one more month and spare the rabbit. This would definitely not be a planned pregnancy. You thought three children was the perfect number and another child might mean your plans for an early retirement were slipping away. On the other hand, now that my other children were older, I missed having a little one to hold, and my biological clock was still ticking at age thirty-four.  We would know soon enough.


 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.

Picture of sunset on trail along Lake Ponchatrain


Chapter 57
Medical, and Other Concerns

By BethShelby

When I missed my second period, I went looking for a gynecologist and made an appointment. It didn’t take long for him to confirm my suspicions. You didn’t have a lot to say about it, but I think you saw your trip back to the farm take giant leap backwards. We decided to keep the news under wraps until it became obvious. The psychic had struck again. This would be our fifth child if we counted Susan, who had died at two months.  
 
The only person I told about my pregnancy was my friend Doris, from my last job in Jackson. She is the one person, with whom I seemed to have some kind of psychic connection. We had both had strange dreams about each other that had come true. Since we’d moved to the New Orleans area, I continued to correspond with her by letter. Within days, I got a letter from her saying she’d had another dream about me, and she thought I probably had some news I might like to share with her. I wrote her and confirmed that once again her dreams were accurate.
---------
You doubled down on our trips back to Mississippi, so you could spend as much time as possible doing work to our unfinished house in the country. You’d built some furniture and a workshop at the back of our lot in Jackson, but all of your carpentry skills were self-taught. You’d never hung drywall, but you were determined to do it. 

As usual, you did everything the hard way. People who had been trained on the job in the building trade, would likely have laughed at your methods. Being a careful person and skilled in using rulers and t-squares, your way of accomplishing things worked, but were very time consuming. Instead of scoring with a sharp knife, which you later learned would have been a better way, you drew it off with a pencil and used a hand saw for cutting. You had Don, at nine, trying his best to be of help. 
-----------
At church, the new pastor had decided New Orleans needed a new church. The property in the Garden District downtown was prime real-estate, but the church was old and outdated. Pastor Griffin had some building experience, and he talked the board into relocating the church to Metairie.  It came as a pleasant surprise to us that the property he found for sale was just slightly over a block from our new house. One of the members, who was an architect, drew up the plans, and work started immediately. Now instead of miles of driving in heavy traffic, our church would be in walking distance.
 
This pastor was someone who knew how to get things done quickly by using the talents of the members. In the Jackson church, you’d served as a deacon, and I taught in the primary division. Now we were, not only contributing extra money for building expenses, but the pastor had me doing art work and you contributing manual labor.
 
Not long after we were there, I was elected to a leadership role in the church activities before the preaching service began each week, and you were elected as a church elder. For me, it meant that I had to plan thirty minute programs involving making an inspirational talk and finding members willing to do vocal arrangements and offer prayer. I’d taken speech courses in college, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t subject to stomach butterflies while speaking publicly in front of a large audience.

My talks were well received, but no matter how much I thought about what I would say during the week, nothing ever came together for me, until the wee hours of the morning on the day I would give the talk. I would set my clock for four am and do a lot of anxious praying. Somehow, at that point, my mind would clear, and I’d know what I needed to say. I wonder if preachers ever go through that kind of anguish preparation for their sermons.
------
You and I both avoided going to doctors unless faced with an emergency. During a routine physical with your job, the doctor decided you needed to be on blood pressure medicine. You and I both had what is referred to as “white coat syndrome”, because when faced with a doctor or someone wearing a stethoscope, our blood pressure sky-rocketed. I think you might have avoided a lot of problems if you’d never been put on the medicine, because the medication caused side effects which you’d never experienced before.
 
In my case, I suffered from a heart rhythm problem. I’d had it since shortly after the twins were born. The first time it happened, I had just turned a cartwheel in my parents yard, when my heart went from its normal 70 beat per minute to around 160. Some people can’t feel the change in rhythm, but I feel it immediately, and in the beginning, I was convinced I was dying. 
 
If I rested, the beat would usually return to normal in 30 minutes or less. It occured if I stooped or reached up suddenly. Sometimes it happened if something made me anxious. I would become very short of breath and have to lie down. Eating excessive sweets also seem to trigger my heart palpitations.
 
When it went into the rapid beat several times within a month, I did go to a cardiologist, and after doing a few tests, he said my heart didn’t seem damaged. Since it wasn’t happening while I was there, he really couldn’t diagnose the problem. I had met a few other people who claimed to have the same symptoms, so I decided it was something I’d have to learn to deal with. I finally discovered a way to massage or press the artery on the left side of my throat which would usually cause the beat to normalize.
 
In time I would learn more, but since the doctor hadn’t helped, I tried avoiding things that caused problems, and I was uneasy that it might happen when I was speaking, or worse yet, while I was giving birth. As things were, it continued to cause me considerable stress each time it happened. I think you were as concerned about me as I was myself.
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 58
Growing Waist & Flaring Tempers

By BethShelby

It wasn’t long before our adopted dog, Blackie, caused enough problems that you decided it was time for him to have a new home. One day, a man and his young daughter were riding bikes down our street, and Blackie chased after them, attacking their heels as they rode. The man got off his bike shouting angrily at you.
 
“If you don’t do something about the dog, I’m calling the pound. He tried to bite my daughter, and if he had, I’d sue you for everything you have.”
 
You tried to explain that we’d just moved in, and that the lady who lived here before left her dog behind.  That didn't seem to matter to the irate man. He wanted someone to take responsibility.  
 
I hated to see Blackie go. He was a cute little guy. He looked like he was smiling when he opened his mouth and wagged his tail, but that incident earned him a home in the country. The next time we went to Mississippi, Blackie went with us, and you gave him to the man, who was keeping an eye on the cattle, which we still owned. There were no more bicycles for him to chase.  I’m sure he had to learn some new skills, since he had never seen a cow before.
*******

On one of our trips to Mississippi, we were driving on a state highway, which has county roads coming into it, with only stop signs to limit access.  A man, in an old pickup, didn't bother to stop at the sign and plowed into the side of our car, which spun out of control in a complete circle before coming to a stop.  Cars still weren't equipped with seat belts in the early seventies. It was a miracle that none of us appeared to be hurt, but I've never seen you quite so angry.

The man stopped long enough for you to give him a severe tongue-lashing.  You told him that your wife was pregnant, and his action might cause me to lose the baby. You also told him that he could have killed us all. We called the cops and got his name, but found out that he was not carrying insurance.  When our insurance tried to sue him for damages to the side of our car, he declared 
bankruptcy. We didn't sign off with our company for the rest of my pregnancy, just to make sure the baby would be okay.
********

We were still in the process of getting to know the city, and sometimes when we didn’t leave town on the weekends, we did some exploring. The French Quarter was an interesting place to walk. The houses were very old and many dated back before the Civil War. Most were enclosed behind high wrought iron fences or stone walls with broken glass embedded in a layer of concrete near the top, to discourage anyone who might try to climb over. There were all sorts of unique shops selling souvenirs, clothing, paintings, antiques, and the ever popular voodoo objects. French Restaurants and Coffee shops were everywhere.

Jackson Square was an interesting tourist attraction in the heart of the quarters. In 1803, it was the site of the Louisiana Purchase, which made Louisiana a part of US territory. In the middle of the square was a larger than life statue of General Andrew Jackson riding a horse with its front legs in the air. On one side of the square is the beautiful St. Louis Cathedral, which was usually open for visitors. The cathedral is flanked by the Cabildo, built in 1795. It once served as the Spanish City Hall. One the other side is the Presbytere, once home to Capuchin monks. Both buildings are now Louisiana State museums.
 
On another side of the square are the upper and lower Pontalba apartments built in 1849 by the Baroness Pontalba. They are the oldest apartments in the United States.  The side of the square opposite the cathedral faces the Mississippi River and River Walk.
 
Around the middle of the square, artists set up their paintings, hoping to sell them to tourists. Most of the time, the artists are in the process of painting. Many of them paint or draw portraits or caricatures, while customers sit in provided chairs, posing for them.
 
One grouchy-looking artist, sporting a white goatee and wearing a black beret, was painting landscapes with a palate knife, which makes the picture look three-dimensional with globs of oil paint raised an inch or so on the canvas. Don was fascinated by this and decided to see how the paint would feel if he touched it. Unfortunately, the picture wasn’t dry. Angrily the artist scolded Don by yelling, “Don’t Touch!” Red-faced with fear and embarrassment, my son slunk away with an index finger covered in bright yellow paint.  He wiped the paint on the side of his pants, before I had a chance to stop him.
 
Sidewalk performers work on many of the streets doing whatever their talent happens to be. Christi and I paused to watch a skinny black limbo-dancer distorting his body, in order to bend backwards and dance under a pole suspended a few feet from the ground. I was shocked, when after emerging successfully without touching the pole, he whirled and grabbed Christi’s hand and swung her around, incorporating her into his dance. I might have freaked out if Christi had protested, but she laughed and seemed willing to go along with being a part of his act.
******

At a little past five months, when the waist of my dresses began to tighten, I admitted to my department head that I was pregnant. He informed me that the company policy didn't allow pregnant woman to work much past the seventh month. Since it would be necessary to have someone fill my position, I could only return when another position opened up. He assumed that I would be staying home with my newborn for a while. I liked this job and had a good relationship with the five guys in the department, but I had grown used to changing jobs. If I couldn’t go back there, I would be fine with moving on to whatever was next. 
 
I remember the day I decided it was time to tell the children they had a sibling on the way.  I was parked in a parking lot at one of the larger malls.
 
“Kids, before we go in, there is something we need to talk about. I hope it will be good news for you. In a few months, you are going to be getting a new brother or sister. What do you think about that?”

They all stared at me in shocked silence, and no one said anything. I guessed the news was a lot for them to process. Don eventually found his voice.


 “Well, it better be a boy then, because we’ve already got too many girls in our house.”

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents


Chapter 59
Baby Number Five

By BethShelby

The year was 1973.  The Roe vs. Wade abortion decision came down in January.  Nixon was in his second term as president, but the Watergate Hearings, which led to his resignation started in May of that year.

I ended up working through my eighth month of pregnancy at the printing company, because they needed me longer. I think they were starting to be afraid I’d go into labor at work. The guys got together and bought me a changing table and a baby bathtub as a gift. One of my co-workers told me that if I needed child-care when I went back to work, his mother loved children and was hoping to find a baby to keep while the mother worked. I took her phone number.
-----
Since I’d never been home for any length of time before, I began to meet some of my neighbors. The lot on the right side of us had sold, and a new house had been built there. The new neighbors had two children, a girl about three and a son who was still a baby. Three houses down were the Durios. He was a lawyer and Lisa, his wife, was also pregnant. Next door to them were the Juneaus. Pat was a fireman and his wife, Diane, didn’t work. They had a teenage son.

Roslyn Marchand, the lady from across the street came over to visit, when she saw I was pregnant. She was also pregnant, and coincidentally she and I were due to deliver the same week. She already had a two-year-old daughter. The only contact we’d had with the family before was when her husband had yelled at Don because he was playing outside with a BB gun he’d gotten for Christmas. Mr. Marchand was convinced that Don would either hit someone or shoot his windows out.
******
When our pastor learned I was home, he immediately figured I could contribute my time to a project he had going. He needed a driver to help take a group of church kids on a trip to the beach on the Mississippi Gulf coast. I didn’t want to do it, because I was spotting some blood, and I was worried the baby might come early. He wasn’t concerned with that.

“You’ll be fine,” he told me. “It’s just a short drive, and you won’t even have to spend the night in a tent. I’m taking our family's camping trailer, and my wife and I are sleeping in it. There is an extra bed and you can stay with us. We really need you to take about five of the kids, because there aren't enough cars to get all the kids down there.” I thought he was asking too much of me, but in the end, I agreed to go, because our own three children were part of the group that would be going.

There were five or six vehicles making the trip and the pastor wanted all of us to leave together in a convoy. It took a while to get everyone together, as some of the drivers had worked that day. We left about eight o’clock in the evening and it was around ten-thirty that night when we arrived at the campsite to find the gate locked and no one around to let us in. The pastor started making phone calls, while we all waited in our cars with some restless kids, unwilling to sit still.  

It was at least an hour before someone could be contacted to bring a key to the gate and let us in. There was still a good way to drive before we reached our rented campsites. It was well after midnight, when all the tents were pitched, and the children finally settled down. My back was killing me, and I’ve never been so relieved to be able to rest, even though my bed was narrow and hard.

When we got up the following morning, it became apparent that someone had disturbed a skunk and the whole place reeked. We, the adults, had to unload the cooking utensils and go about preparing breakfast. It was around ten before the kids were allowed to visit the beachfront. Children seem capable of adjusting to most any circumstance, but It was up to the adults to get two more meals together, and try to keep up with everyone.

The pastor called roll almost every hour. Several times, he seemed on the verge of losing his cool and taking it out on his poor wife, who in addition to catering to his demands, was taking care of their eight-month-old daughter, who wore corrective braces on her legs. I was very relieved to have that first day behind us. Thankfully, I didn’t know what lay ahead.

A severe thunderstorm came through during the night. Most of the tents blew over, and all the sleeping bags got soaking wet. The kids had to be put back into the cars and other vehicles to try to dry them off. They decided that I shouldn’t be involved since it wasn’t long until my baby was due, so they borrowed my car keys and told me to stay where I was and rest. No one got any real sleep, including me, because I felt guilty for not being outside helping the others with our mini-disaster.

The following morning the sun came out, and we strung lines and tried our best to get as many of the towels and other gear as dry as possible. Around three that afternoon, we left to go home. I was so relieved to be back with you and in my own bed that night.  
******
My baby was due June 2nd., but the date came and went. My neighbor, Roslyn, across the street had her baby a week early, but my labor didn’t start until around two in the morning on June 7th. I waited until morning to call the doctor. When I told him the pains were five minutes apart, he told me to get to the hospital, and he canceled his trip to a family reunion, which he had planned for the day. Since this was my fourth pregnancy and fifth child, he expected a quick delivery. He need not have worried. My baby would take its time, like all the rest of them had.

You called your work and told them you wouldn’t be in that day because your wife was having a baby. They were all shocked, because this was not news you had shared. You were a very private person, and I think being a dad again at forty-four was embarrassing for you. I was thirty-five, and I was a tad concerned myself.  I just wanted to know it would be healthy since I was a bit older than when the other children were born.

However, your mom was in her late forties when Nan was born, and she was fine. As a teenager, you had found that embarassing as well.

My daughter, Connie Lynnae, was born around five in the afternoon. I had a cold as a result of my recent camping trip, and the doctor couldn’t give me anything for pain. He decided to do an epidural. This was the first time I witnessed one of my babies being born. I heard the doctor say, “Look at the size of this monster.” When I confronted him later, he denied that he'd said it. She weighed 10 pounds and her face was so fat she looked like a little sumo wrestler.

You called the kids to tell them they had a sister. Don told you to ask the doctor to go back and look again, and make sure that he hadn’t left a boy in there.

The hospital let you bring them over that evening to see the new baby. Carol seemed excited. Christi was quiet. She was the one I was worried about. She wasn't thrilled to be losing her place as the baby of the family. The kids came in to see me for a minute, and Don asked me if the doctor was sure there wasn’t another one. It wasn’t the outcome he’d hoped for, but I’m not sure I could have handled another Don.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 60
The New Family Addition

By BethShelby

After you and the kids went home leaving me at the hospital, a couple of aides came and checked on me. Because I’d had an epidural, there was still very little feeling in my body from the waist down. I was unaware that I was wet, but one of the aides informed me that I was.

“You gonna have to stand up, so we can get in there and change yo’ bed. You got yo’ pad wet and everything,” she said accusingly.

Still tired and groggy from hours of labor, I somehow managed to get my feet off the bed and attempted to do as she asked. My legs didn’t hold me, and I hit the floor. This caused a commotion and a summons for help.

“How come you didn’t tell us, you couldn’t stand up?” the aide asked. “We didn’t know you had no epidural.”

They acted as if the whole thing was my fault. An incident report had to be filled out by one of the nursing staff, who had rushed in to get me up and back into bed. I wasn’t hurt, but I felt like crying. It seemed to me there was a lack of communication going on. Surely this wasn’t the way new mothers should be handled.

You were able to take me and our baby home after spending one night in the hospital. I didn’t feel as well as I had after the birth of my other children. I was irritable and had a low-grade case of postpartum depression. My mom took a bus to Metairie and stayed to help out for a week. When she saw Connie and held her, she started laughing at her fat funny face. She said, "This baby doesn’t look like anyone I’ve ever seen."  I took exception and accused her of making fun of our baby. I was more offended than i would have been, had I not been suffering hormonal depression. 

The doctor had given me something to dry up my milk without bothering to ask if I wanted to breastfeed. We had no choice but to give her formula. She seemed to instinctively know what breasts were made for, because whenever I held her against me, she acted as if she was trying to nurse. She didn’t care much for the bottle, and refused to drink over two ounces at a time. This meant she was hungry again after two hours. I was getting very little sleep. Knowing you needed to get up early for work, I plugged up an electric bottle warmer next to our bed and tried not to bother you. Still, since her crib was beside our bed, I know you heard her every time she cried to be fed.

After Mom went back home, it was a couple of weeks before Connie started looking less like a sumo wrestler, and became a beautiful, healthy looking baby. I tried to give Christi the extra attention she craved, but it was apparent that she resented the time I spent with the new baby. Disposable diapers were available, but I still had cloth diapers left from my other babies so I continued to use them. This meant I was still using the plastic-headed diaper pins. It would be years before Christi confessed that she sometimes deliberately stuck Connie with the pin while pretending to change her diaper.

Carol was very helpful and seemed to enjoy holding the baby and giving her the bottle. Don regarded her as a new toy.

One day, I’d gone into another room, leaving the baby strapped into the infant carrier. Don managed to tie a rope to one end and put the carrier on the floor. I rushed back in when I heard her loud cry. He had been slinging the carrier in a circle, and somehow the baby had slipped from the carrier and onto the floor. Her chin was bleeding and Don was sheepishly trying to slip away. I know he felt bad, because he had actually injured her. Nevertheless, he got scolded and warned that babies were not meant to be treated like toys. He was ten and should have known better.

Carol was twelve and wanted to babysit, so we could go out for the evening. She seemed so responsible and helpful, we figured she could handle the job. We went to a restaurant for dinner and then to a movie. It was nearly eleven when we got back home. We peered through the glass in the back door and saw Carol sitting on a rocker in our den area. Connie was on her lap, but our baby’s head had slipped through her knees and was hanging down between her legs. Carol was fast asleep. We began beating on the door trying to awaken her, but she was sleeping so soundly that she didn’t budge. The twins were already in bed asleep.

It was a scary situation, because we couldn’t tell if Connie was just sleeping or if something else was wrong with her neck hanging at a crazy angle.  Also, there was the possibility that Carol might wake up suddenly, and drop her on her head. When it became apparent that we weren’t going to be able to rouse her to let us in the locked door, we’d realized we’d have to find another way in.

All of the windows were locked except two very high ones in the living room. We had no choice but to go in that way. You had to hoist me up, so I could crawl through the window and unlock the door for you. When we rescued our baby from her upside down position, she was still sleeping peacefully and seemed fine. We shook Carol awake, and she was embarrassed because she had fallen asleep on the job.
*****

Somehow Jordan Printing Company, a Mom and Pop printing operation, heard about me and learned that I’d be looking for work since the other printing company had filled my position right after I left. Bobby Jordon’s wife, Klevey, called me and asked if I could come and work for them as a paste-up artist and do negative stripping work. They needed someone right away.

Connie was just a little over a month old, and I’d not planned to go back to work so soon. I was feeling better and they needed someone right away. I got in touch with my co-worker from where I’d worked before to see if his mother still wanted to keep a baby in her home. She did, so I took Connie over and let her get acquainted with Miss Dolly, as she wanted to be called. She fell in love with my baby. It was soon apparent that this would be the perfect solution.

I took the job because the atmosphere was very relaxed. There was a receptionist, a bookkeeper, and one regular pressman. Bobby and Klevey ran presses and took care of the customers. They practically lived at the place. They were there from seven in the morning until the wee hours at night. There was always a loaf of bread and an open jar of peanut butter on table in the break room. They ate while they worked, and both of them were very laid-back and fun to be around.
*******

At Chevron, you had been offered a supervisor position. You weren’t sure you wanted it, but it meant quite a bit more money. Now, you had about eight guys working under you. You had the same job that the man who had given you so many problems had. He was still a supervisor of another division but you were on equal status with him. I knew you’d do a good job because you had gone through leadership training in the Army. You were a Sergeant with a group of men under you in Korea. All the men liked and respected you. I felt you deserved a supervisor role. I was very proud of your promotion.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.
Pays 10 points and 84 member cents (and maybe more).


Chapter 61
Life With a Family of Six

By BethShelby

For the first time since you and I were married, you were unable to have a garden. Growing up in the country and loving the taste of fresh vegetables, it was hard for you to give up the idea. All of the lots in the city were small, and in our case the Norwegian lady, who owned the house first, had planted so many trees, it was too shady for a garden. What wasn’t shaded by the trees would have been shaded by the wood fence.

We did have one spot that was exposed to the sun. It was on the outside of the wooden fence, and it faced the vacant lot. We had been given sprouts of a mirliton vine and also of the Chinese okra or luffa. Both were vines that grew well on fences. These vines soon covered the fence all the way to the back of our lot. The greenery on the fence was pretty with large leaves and gaudy yellow flowers. The vegetables were quick to mature, so you were still able to harvest some of our food. You were also a pretty good cook, so you helped with the meals on nights when these vegetable were on the menu. You seemed to enjoy peeling, slicing and frying them. With the right seasoning, they were very tasty.
*****

Our church organist, taught music lessons. She was a feisty little German woman, who easily intimidated people, but I signed the girls up to take piano lessons anyway. They had taken lessons in Jackson and I didn’t want them to forget what they had learned. I was hoping they would become interested and good at playing piano, because you enjoyed singing, and I wasn’t very adept in that skill.

A teacher at the school was teaching Don guitar. Since all the children had excellent singing voices, I might have been better off to find someone to train their voices. Neither of the girls enjoyed practicing piano. The teacher made Christi so nervous that she developed a habit of clearing her throat often and acquired a hacking little cough that irritated the teacher. In later years, Carol would lose interest in piano and Christi would learn to play by ear well enough to entertain herself. 
****

The work I was doing at Jordon Printing was easy, and the people were a joy to work with. There was one customer that kept us busy and that was Al Copeland, who was part owner with his brother of Tasty Doughnuts and was in the process of starting his Popeyes Fried Chicken Chain. Al had a mansion on the street behind where we lived. His was lakefront lot several blocks farther down. Later, he would start a number of other enterprises and would have needed more complicated printing, but at this time, he didn’t have a problem doing business with a small company like Jordon.

One of the other clients for whom we did printing was more peculiar. I did meet quite a few of their group members. This was a cult that had a chapter in the area. The Children of God cult was started by David Berg. The members who came into the shop were mostly women. At the time, the women were encouraged to bring in new members by flirting with the men and enticing them with sex. They all lived together in a commune and practiced group sex. They used no birth control, so there were many children in the group who had no idea who might be their father. One of the girls managed to entice a pressman who worked in our shop to visit for the  weekend. He never gave us the details of the visit, but at least he didn’t join the group. The brochures we printed for them gave me the creeps. I would have turned them down, but to Bobby and Klevey, it was income which was needed to keep us in business.
****

Not long after school started back for the fall semester, Carol began running a fever and was nauseated. She complained of stomach cramps, and we took her to a doctor. She was twelve and a half and had started having periods. The doctor thought it was a hormone problem having to do with ovulation. He gave her something to help with the problem, but several days went by with it only getting more severe.

We had to take her to the emergency room and this time the diagnosis was appendicitis. She needed surgery immediately. They operated just in time, because her appendix had already ruptured. She had to spend a couple of days in the hospital.

It also appeared that Carol was going to need braces. A dentist in Jackson had removed a couple of her teeth hoping the others would come in straight, but it looked as though that wasn’t happening.

Another thing going on with Carol, which bothered you as she neared her teen years, was that it was becoming apparent she had inherited your nose. I had no problem with your nose, but you'd always hated your prominent bridge. 

The kids at school sometime called Carol "Nose’, but since they liked her and weren’t being mean, she didn’t seem bothered by the nickname. You, on the other hand, didn’t want your daughter to have what you considered a less than perfect nose. You suggested plastic surgery. She seemed okay with the idea, so we took her for a consultation with an ear, nose and throat doctor who did rhinoplasty. The doctor said we should give it one more year. He said he liked to wait until kid’s faces were fully mature, so at least that was on hold for now.
****

Connie was growing fast and was a joy to be around.  It was apparent that Miss Dolly adored her. I was the one who dropped her off each morning and picked her up in the afternoon.  As soon as she started having solid food, she stopped demanding the bottle every few hours, and we got more rest. Bath-time was her favorite time of day, and I enjoyed watching her kick and coo in the water. The older children gave her plenty of attention, which took a lot of the burden of caring for a little one off of me. I decided that having the last child ten years behind the rest wasn't a bad idea.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 62
Family Dynamics

By BethShelby

We felt good about having Miss Dolly to care for Connie while we worked. She was an excellent person for the job. She loved Connie like she was her grandchild, and Connie took to her immediately. It was mid-July and our other three had over a month before school started. Carol was mature enough at twelve to keep an eye on the twins without having to hire a sitter for them. However, we did take them to Mississippi and let them spend two weeks with Mom and Dad.

My poor Dad never learned how to be around little boys. Mom always told me that if I’d been a boy instead of a girl, Dad would have had a nervous breakdown. Even with me, he couldn’t handle noise. I wasn’t allowed to practice piano while he was around. He adored his granddaughters, but Don made him crazy. The feeling was mutual. Dad put Don’s nerves on edge, as well. Like me, my dad was an only child himself, and he had his quirks. Don, being the hyper child he was, couldn't do anything to please him. He told Don if he didn’t stop teasing his sisters, he was going to hang him up by his toenails, so Don tried to stay out of his way. He could always count on my mom to be on his side.
******

Keeping our children in a private church school and taking care of the needs of a growing family was taking a bite out of our income. I had given away all of my children’s outgrown clothes, because I hadn’t planned on having more babies, but I was lucky as far as Connie was concerned, because a friend at church was raising her granddaughter who was about a year older than Connie. She bought adorable and expensive clothes for the child, and she insisted on passing them down to me, so we had a well dressed baby. My mom enjoyed sewing and spending money on the children's clothes as well. She even made dresses for me. It was a blessing to have an extended family to help out.

When we were home on weekends and attended church, we seldom saw Connie until time to go home. During the service, Carol and Christi took her into the Mother’s room. All of their friends, loved playing with the baby as well, and she got more than her share of attention. I spent less time with her than I had with my other babies, since the older children seemed to enjoy taking  care of her.

In Christi’s case, her feelings for Connie were ambivalent. She enjoyed playing with her, but she felt the new baby was there to take her place. From the beginning, Christi, in spite of being a twin, had assumed the role of the baby in the birth order.


You had your own ritual when it came to dealing with the children. If you lost your temper, as you did occasionally, you seemed to feel a deep sense of guilt. You always apologized to them for  scolding them when you were angry. You would explain to them why what they had done had upset you. I seldom lost my temper, but that didn't stop me from yelling when they were misbehaving. I think as a result, they tuned me out, and were more concerned about behaving around you. 

As far as the two of us were concerned, I’d never allowed you to go to sleep angry. If something was bothering you, I wouldn’t shut up, until it was out in the open. It hadn’t been easy when we were newly-weds. You’d grown up in a household where you had held your feelings in. At one point in your life, your Mom and Dad had gone an entire year without speaking to each other.


You were always a music lover, and at this time, your taste seemed to run toward classic country. You liked Jim Reeves, Glen Campbell, Marty Robbins and John Denver. Carol, who had a personality more like yours than the rest of us, was into country music too. You found a radio station you liked and kept it tuned to that station. Sometimes when you weren't listening at night, we'd come in and find Carol asleep on your side of our bed with the radio playing country music. 

Over the years, Carol went through phases. This was the beginning of what we called her 'John Denver phase’. It was reflected in the clothes she wore, her music, her love of mountains, and any large bird, that she insisted on believing might be an eagle. Usually they were only hawks or buzzards, but she would get excited when one flew overhead.


Don was going though some mental torture which he wasn't telling anyone about.  It would be a long time before we learned what had him so upset.  From the time he'd started at Jefferson Heights, certain kids liked to pick fights. Don was particularly bothered by one boy in his class who always picked on him. Carol realized that he was having a problem, but neither she nor Don mentioned what was happening.

That summer while everyone was out of school, we learned that one of the boys in Don and Christi's class had been diagnosed with colon cancer. It was a terrible thing to happen to a young child.  We felt deeply sorry about what his parents were going through. What we didn’t know was that this was the boy who had been picking on Don. What we wouldn’t learn until much later was that Don had often prayed that this kid would die. Of course, he never expected that to happen. Later that year, when it did actually happen, Don became convinced that he was responsible for the boy’s death. He was suffering unforgivable remorse, but was ashamed to tell us that he’d prayed such a horrible prayer. 
*****

In September, the new semester started in the children’s school. Carol was in seventh grade. She seemed happy and well adjusted. She had a lot of friends and seemed to be well liked. Don and Christi were in sixth grade.  Being a small school, all of the children knew each other and for the most part they all got along well.

Tether ball was a favorite game at recess. One day while playing, Don fell at a strange angle. He didn’t get a chance to get up because the teacher who happened to be watching, yelled for him not to move. She was convinced that he’d broken his leg. Someone from the school called and asked me to meet them at the emergency room.

Don was lifted into a van while they attempted to keep his leg in the same position. At the hospital, his leg was X-rayed, but the doctor found no problem. It wasn’t even sprained. Don was double-jointed, a condition which he probably inherited from me. When I was younger, my limbs were comfortable in positions that seemed abnormal to other people. I asked him why he didn’t tell them he wasn’t hurt. He said, “They never asked me. They just told me not to move.” At least, some of the time, he made an effort to be an obedient child. 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 63
Seventies Trends and Challenges

By BethShelby

Our Pastor wanted to do something to get the younger people more involved in activities that would help keep them from leaving the church as they grew older. The church and school decided to organize a Pathfinder Club like many of the other churches in our denomination had.  

Pathfinders is a lot like Scouts, but with both girls and boys in the same club. Someone volunteered to lead it, and before long I found myself involved as well. They met one night a week, and because I had to bring the kids back to the school for the meeting, it only made sense that I stay rather than make two trips. The school was several miles away. The kids wore uniforms and earned badges by learning skills in various things. At first, I was teaching crafts and sewing, but later they made me a deputy director. It meant more responsibility and more camp-outs in my future. It also meant I needed a uniform as well.

On the first camping trip, we took the Pathfinders to a park just across the lake from New Orleans. It was my first time to actually sleep in a tent. Sleeping is the wrong word to use, because I really didn’t sleep. I think young bones must adjust better to sleeping on the ground with the creepy-crawlies. It isn't so easy for those of us who have grown used to our creature comforts. I decided there had to be a better way to camp, like at Day’s Inn or Howard Johnson’s, maybe.

You wanted no part of it, because you’d had enough camping in tents during the two years you spent in the army. Your year in Korea had involved, not only tents, but foxholes and mortar blasts as well. As a member of the Combat Engineers, it had been your job to find and dismantle mine fields. I can’t say that I blame you for saying “No thanks.”
*****
Styles took a drastic turn in the seventies. These were the days of double knits and leisure suits. Men often wore loud shirts and some had large prints of things like flowers or animals. I talked you into getting a hunter-green leisure suit and a couple of purple shirts, as well as some brightly patterned ties. Since I picked most of your clothes, you reluctantly agreed to wear them, but I think you were nervous about the choice of colors. Being the modest person you were, you weren’t anxious to stand out in a crowd. You relaxed a little when you realized that it was what other men were wearing as well.

Men were wearing their hair longer and growing sideburns. You had decided, several years before, that you disliked going to a barbershop, and heaven forbid, that you go into a beauty salon to have it cut. At first, you’d ask me to trim it a little between cuts, but by now, you hadn’t had it professionally done in years. Every week or so you’d ask me for a trim. I kept telling you that I had no idea how to cut hair, but apparently that didn’t matter, because you refused to go back to a barber shop. I told you that the reason I was stuck with the job was because the barber wouldn’t allow you in his shop in your underwear.

I was cutting Don’s hair too. He didn’t want to go to the barbershop because they always cut off more than he liked. I did the best I could, but the family accused me of putting a bowl over his head for a pattern. Carol started calling him Dutch boy because of his hair cut. That may have been his nickname at school as well. 

Occasionally, I went to a salon and had my hair permed, but only about twice a year when it grew too long to manage. Church clothes for women were often floor length dresses. A few ladies wore pants, but people didn't dress quite as casually in our church as in some of the other churches. I liked the long dresses and made several for myself and the girls. I wore pants to work and no longer wore high heels as I had throughout the sixties. 

Holly Hobby clothes were in for little girls, and I made a couple of outfits for Connie out of soft cottons. My mom was into sewing with double knits, so she made several dresses for the girls and Connie from that kind of material. I guess it was itchy on tender young skin, because Connie didn’t like it. At one point, I was holding her in church, and she decided she’d had enough. She started trying to tear her dress off in the middle of the service.
******
It was 1974 and Carol was thirteen and starting to get some baby sitting jobs. She had become friends with Julie, a girl she had met in the neighborhood. Sometimes, Julie committed to a sitter job and backed out at the last minute. She started throwing these jobs Carol’s way. At first, we were reluctant to let her go places where we didn’t know the family. It was hard for us to accept the fact that we had a teenager, and we needed to let her try her wings a bit without being so controlling.

You and I had a problem with Julie. She was always ringing our bell and wanting Carol to come out. We didn’t trust her, and it didn’t help that she'd confessed to Carol that she had once tied a rope around her neck and jumped from a second story window planning to kill herself. Maybe she didn’t realize that the rope needed to be attached to something on the other end.

Carol was susceptible to the influence of others, and it sometimes led to trouble. One girl in her school persuaded her to jump out the classroom window during recess and leave school to go to a nearby quick-stop for snacks. Once, when spending the night with another school friend, the two girls slipped away for a midnight bike ride.

Another time, you and I ended up paying the plumbing cost of having a bathroom sink put back on the wall after Carol broke it off by sitting on it. She was not a disobedient child, but following some of her bolder friends often got her into trouble. We were beginning to realize that raising teenagers would bring on a new set of problems for us to deal with.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 64
Needs of a Growing Family

By BethShelby

The year was 1974. Carol was 13 and in seventh grade. The twins were eleven and in grade six, Connie was starting to walk and talk. Miss Dolly was still keeping her while I worked. Dolly was always asking Connie how much she loved her. She loved in when Connie stretched out her arms and said, “de’ whol wurld.” I was a little jealous.  Often, Dolly bought her little toys and other things which she could take home.

This was the year Richard Nixon had been forced to resign as president, and Gerald Ford had taken over. The Vietnam war had come to a crossroads, and the last of the US troops had left Nam in March of 1973. Since the war was still not officially over, the returning soldiers didn’t find themselves welcomed as conquering heroes like those of past wars. Many suffered from post traumatic stress and were having trouble finding work. Suicide was not unusual.

After Ford became president, he offered amnesty to soldiers who had deserted and to those who had burned their draft cards and moved to Canada. Inflation was out of control and was heading toward 12%. In spite of that, gas was just 42 cents a gallon. The average household income was just over $11,000.00 a year.

Some of the influence of the hippie years was still reflected in the TV shows. We had finally broken down and bought our first color set. At times, you didn’t approve of what you saw us watching. There were times when your temper flared, and you acted as though you were about to kick in the TV set, only to turn it off amid cries of protest. I told you there was often more violence in our den than on the set.

Carol had a lava lamp in her room and also incense sticks which she liked to burn. You didn't like the odor of incense and questioned what kind of strange rituals she was performing.  She liked to wear bell bottom pants, which was a popular style. Making candles and tie-dying t-shirts became a favorite craft activity, which involved my supervision. The kids had bags of beads they had collected at Mardi Gras parades, and now they strung them over their doors. They even hung beads on the doors of our still unfinished country house back in Mississippi. The world we'd always known was changing, and you didn't want any part of it.

The eight-tracks of the 60's were no longer popular. The preferred way of listening to music was the cassette tape. Pocket calculators were also popular. You found they came in handy when balancing checkbooks and were more accurate. So cassette players and calculators were popular gifts for Christmas or birthdays.

After Connie began sleeping through most of the night, we moved her crib into the room with Carol and Christi. The crib didn’t work for her very long, because she acted as though she was afraid of sleeping in it. When she had enough words in her vocabulary to communicate, she let us know that when she was in the crib she had dreams of being in a rowboat with skeletons. The older kids had probably frightened her with Halloween decorations. Still it seemed to be a recurring dream, so we put the crib away and started letting her sleep on the bunk bed with the girls.

Don was continuing to treat Connie as a play thing. Things went on when we were away, that you and I only learned of much later. Don would hang Connie on the door knob by the elastic in the waist of her pants, or he would lay a lasso on the floor so that when she stepped into it without looking, he could pull it tight and entrap her. He never intentionally hurt her, and she seemed fond of her big brother, so I guess she thought it was a game and didn’t mind being his toy.
******
Eventually, we decided Carol needed a room of her own. You drew up plans that enclosed our carport and made it  into the new den and dining area. By separating the former kitchen, dining area we were able to create a new bedroom which could be entered from the den portion of the new room. We also had a fireplace built on the front end of the den. This meant we no longer had a carport, but we felt it was more important that Carol have her own room. It was only large enough to accommodate a single bed, a nightstand, a large desk, and a chair. We hung an animal print wallpaper, which Carol picked. The outside wall of the room faced the kitchen, so we also allowed Carol to help pick the paper that area as well.

Since Carol was now a teenager, we thought it would be good for her to have more privacy. The problem was she started spending most of her time in her room and less time with the rest of the family. She didn’t neglect Connie though. She treated Connie as if, she was her baby to raise.

Carol continued to get outside sitter jobs, and she was mostly sitting for one family. The lady who called her had a boyfriend named Smitty, who would pick Carol up and bring her back home. We were concerned about this arrangement at first, but after she’d gone there several times with no problems, we relaxed. 


Then one night when she was preparing to go to sit for the family, someone called to tell they wouldn’t need her that night, after all. When the reason for the cancellation came to light, it gave us all chills. That night, when the family’s doorbell rang, Smitty had gone to the door and partially opened it, to find the ex-husband outside with a gun. He had shot through the door killing Smitty. New Orleans was sometime called ”Sin City” We were beginning to see the reason why.  
*****

On one of our trips back to Mississippi, we were driving there in your truck. By this time, it had quite a few miles on it, but it hadn’t given us any trouble so far. This time it died in some little town about half way to our destination. A kind stranger stopped and gave us a ride to a service station. We had to rent a car to get back to Metairie. You learned about a guy who worked on cars at his home, so you had the truck towed there, and he promised to let you know when he’d fixed it. When he finally got back to us, he said it needed a new motor. You decided it wasn’t worth it and had it towed to our farm in Mississippi. Its rusting frame is likely still there in the edge of the field where we left it.

We needed another vehicle, so you found a large van in the ad section of the paper and bought it from an individual. It was an interesting vehicle, because someone had decided to customize it by building up an area in the back large enough for a double mattress. It had only two seats. Both the driver and passenger seats were nice tan leather. The rest of the van was covered floor, walls and ceiling with green shag carpet. Since it was such a large van there was plenty of room to walk around or even stretch out in the back on the raised area. The kids and I loved it. It was easy enough for you and me to switch drivers without even stopping.
             
We’d owned it several months, when one morning you got up to go to work, and it wouldn’t start. We had parked it on the vacant lot next to our living room window. You saw disturbed grass with grease on it and looked beneath to find that auto thieves had come by in the night while we were sleeping and had removed essential parts from the underside of our van. We contacted the police, but the thieves weren’t found. The paper reported a gang of auto thieves were operating in the area. I don’t remember if our insurance helped us pay to have the parts replaced, but I do remember that from then on we slept with the porch light shining on our van. Living in the big city had its drawbacks.  

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 65
Niagara Falls

By BethShelby

With the exception of the `56 Buick, which you bought just before we got married, all the vehicles we’d owned had been pre-owned. We were told that once a car was driven from the lot, it automatically lost a large percentage of its value. After our paying off that Buick, we decided financing a vehicle was not a smart move, so whatever we'd owned since was paid for with cash. 

I didn’t realize you were looking at cars, until one day you came home and told me that you had found a brand new car at a dealership which we could afford. The new models were out, and this was the last ‘74 Dodge Charger on the lot. You thought it looked sporty, and you wanted to buy it. It had a standard transmission, but since I ‘d learned to drive with a standard, I didn’t think I’d have a problem.

The sales pitch you used to convince me was that with a new car, you’d feel okay about going on a week long vacation trip. You suggested Niagara Falls. This came as a shock to me because, you had never really been fond of going anywhere, except back to Mississippi and your cows and acreage. The fact that we now had four children who were usually restless after the first 20 miles made this seem all the more astonishing. It proved how badly you wanted that car.

When I asked why you were willing to take this trip, given the fact that every other overnight trip we’d ever taken stressed you out so badly that you were physically ill the next day.  You said your stress was probably due to the lack of planning. You suggested that if we had it all planned ahead of time instead of "spur of the moment", things would go smoother.

Your willingness to take a trip cinched it for me, and we soon had that new car parked on our lot. We both had vacation time coming up, so you told me to go ahead and plan the trip. By nature, I’m not a planner, but if that was what it was going to take, I was willing to give it my best shot. I accumulated brochures and road maps and started calling ahead for reservations. We had only a week set aside for the trip. I needed something interesting we could do everyday to keep the kids happy and driving time to a minimum. I decided we should drive to my parent’s home in Mississippi on Friday. That would cut several hours off the driving time when we started the trip.

We took our time the first day, switching drivers every couple of hours and making plenty of stops to keep the kids happy. I’d seen to it that we had games that could be played in a car and puzzle books to ensure that the kids not get too bored. We stopped early at a nice motel with a swimming pool. The kids and I enjoyed that while you stayed in the room and watched TV.

I’d always heard the Blue Ridge Parkway was beautiful, so without knowing anything about it, I scheduled that for our first main day of travel. By Sunday morning, we were near the beginning of the Parkway. It would be the first point of interest on our trip. Since we would be on winding mountain roads, you told me you would do all the driving. I was to keep the kids in check. They were already bored with their books and games and starting to tire from being cooped up in a car.

Since we both loved mountains, the view from the Blue Ridge Parkway was breathtaking, and certainly worth seeing. Still after hours of being on twisting roads with few restroom stops and no place to purchase snacks, everyone was getting testy. You wanted coffee and the kids just wanted out. On the parkway we weren't able to travel nearly as fast as I had anticipated. Slowing us down even more was the fact that we’d pulled into almost every overlook to see the view and take a photograph or two. Eventually, we found a tiny mountain town just large enough to get a light lunch, but it was miles back to the interstate, so we had to get back on the parkway.

By mid-afternoon, you’d been driving far too many hours, and you’d developed a sick headache. I was becoming frustrated, because we were still miles from the spot I picked for our next motel stop. The older kids were picking fights in the backseat, and Connie was whining from sheer exhaustion. You had lost all desire to be hospitable and were looking for someone to blame for your discomfort. I was the one who’d planned this segment of the trip, so it was I you lashed out at.

"You’re trying to kill me,” you said as you pulled the car to a stop. “You take the wheel, and get us out of here.  I’m dying. I need coffee, food and a place to lay my head. I’m through with vacations. We need to turn around and go back home.”

I think your words even shocked the children into submission. I didn’t argue. I took over the wheel and you slumped over in your seat and never said another word. At the next exit we came to, we got off of the parkway and pulled up to the first motel I saw. It was four o’clock in the afternoon, so there were still plenty of vacancies. I got us a room, and you groaned and fell across the bed. We knew to not linger until you'd recovered. You had passed the point of wanting anything, except rest.

I asked if I could get you something, and you said “No, just leave me alone.” The kids and I went next door to Denny’s and got something to eat. By the time we got back, you’d recovered enough to make yourself some coffee with the complimentary packets left for motel guests. The kids and I put on our bathing suits and went to the pool. You eventually went out and got something to eat, but the frosty feeling lingering in our room had nothing to do with the air conditioning.  

By the next morning, you had partially recovered, and we continued our trip. Since we weren’t as far along as I’d planned, I canceled the rest of our reservations and vowed to give up making plans. Plan A hadn’t worked, and I’d not made a plan B. It was just as well, because when we got to Niagara Falls, New York, we blew a tire which further delayed us. We spent that night on the American side of the falls.

Niagara Falls was impressive on the American side, but far more impressive on the Canadian side. The following morning, we crossed into Canada and went up in a tall observation tower. We decided to take a tour beneath the falls. This meant we all had to put on black rubber rain coats with hoods. Connie threw a fit about that. She hated wearing the required water gear. She cried over the way we looked wearing black coats and hoods. Not only that, she hated the roar of the falls. I guess all that noise was scary for a two-year-old.

Aside from the beauty of the falls, the neatest thing we saw on the trip was the formal flower garden in Niagara Falls, Canada. After we left there, we drove through the Canadian farm country until we came back into the states through Detroit. I had some things planned for there but since we'd gotten off schedule, you vetoed the idea of spending time in Detroit.

We drove through the Amish country of Pennsylvania and browsed in some of the shops. We all found that to be interesting. We’d never been around Amish people before, and we were shocked to realize how large and prosperous their farms appeared to be, all without the use of automobiles or electricity. I had expected them to be poor and unable to afford the luxuries of life. I was wrong. Their religious convictions made them feel it was God's will that they keep themselves plain.

I was mispronouncing the word saying 'Amish' with a long `a’. Every time I said it, Carol corrected me saying it with the short ‘a’ sound. When she said the word, I invariably thought she had seen someone walking, who had the traditional costume of a long dress and bonnet, or a man with suspenders and a beard. Our conversation went something like this.  Me: “A-mish” Carol: ‘AM-ISH!” Me: Where? I would have my trusty camera ready to snap a picture. We did it so often, it became a joke.

After we left Pennsylvania, somewhere along the way, we found a wave pool, and that was fun for everyone but you, because you didn’t like wearing a bathing suit and wouldn't get into the water.

We stopped by Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and hiked on some of the trails around the cave. We toured an old homestead, but we didn’t get to go through the cave because of our time schedule.  It was just as well because I realized that Connie would freak out about having to go into a dark place. She seemed to have a lot of phobias.

The highlight of each day for the children was that each place we stayed had an outdoor swimming pool. We were all exhausted by the time the trip ended, and we were happy to be back home again.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been if we'd tried to travel for more than one week with our four children along.  It would be a while before we recovered enough to try that again.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 66
As Our World Turned

By BethShelby


Things with my job at Jordan printing had gone well, but as time went on, I learned more about the couple who owned the business. Klevey and Bobby had not been married that long. Bobby had been married before and had two estranged adult daughters by his first wife. Apparently, they hadn’t spoken to him in years. This was Klevey’s first marriage, and she wanted a child very badly.

She was in her late forties and had been told it would be impossible for her to have children. She had a friend at an adoption agency, who encouraged her to try that route. She and Bobby sent in an application, and one day, she was told that a two month old boy was available for adoption. Within a month, Klevey had moved a playpen into the art department so that I could keep an eye on him as I worked. She was too busy with her own printing duties to do more than run in and change a diaper, or prop up a bottle for him to drink.

As soon as they had adopted the boy, they became concerned about continuing to live in Louisiana, because of a Napoleonic law which made it mandatory for any existing children to be included in their father’s estate if he should die. Bobby had a heart condition, and he and Klevey wanted to exclude his older children from his will. They began making preparations for relocating their business to Memphis. It wasn’t a big shock for me. I’d gotten used to being shuffled from one job to another, so I wasn’t that concerned. There were enough printing companies in New Orleans that I figured I would find something quickly.
*****

Things seemed to be going smoothly with your job, and you seemed capable of handling the supervisor position. Still, we had a house in the country, which was almost finished inside, but without someone around to make sure things stayed secure. Several times, we’d gone back to find someone had been inside. They had managed to pry open a window and steal some things. We had lost two electric heaters and some boots and rain-gear you had left there. All that weighed heavily on you. You were concerned that, if the house should burn, our insurance might not cover it, since it was unoccupied.
*****

By the time Don was eleven, he had built and crashed so many model cars and airplanes that he was ready for a bigger challenge. He’d already been helping you with the working on the interior of our house in Mississippi. Now he was going through Popular Mechanics and other magazines looking for his own building project. He found directions for building a rowboat from a single sheet of plywood. He started begging us to buy the plywood so he could get started. You told him the project would be his alone and not to count on any help. He agreed and we bought the material, not expecting a lot.

To our surprise, he followed the instructions, and in no time, he managed to make a boat that would hold at least two people. When he finished it, he couldn’t wait to go back to the country to try it out in our cow pond. He painted it two shades of blue. It was almost too pretty to put into the dirty water. We all had a ride in it, including Connie. The only problem was he could have used some help when it came to sealing it. It leaked badly. By the time we’d all had a turn, we were dipping out so much water we were lucky to make it to shore in spite of the pond being small.
******

Christi had made friends with a little girl in the neighborhood and every day when they weren’t in school, they were usually together. On one particular day, Christi had asked permission to go to the child’s house to play. Carol and Don had gone off somewhere with you. Connie was coloring at her little plastic desk. I was using my time to vacuum the new gold shag carpet which we'd had installed.

In the middle of vacuuming, I got a strange feeling something wasn’t right. I switched off the vacuum for a second and checked on Connie. She was fine. So I went back to work, but again I got that uneasy feeling. I switched off the vacuum and walked outside. My car was parked in its usual spot.  Everything seemed normal, and I started to go back inside.  Then I heard a slight knocking sound, and a muffled voice calling from somewhere nearby. As I walked near the rear of my car, I saw my key was in the lock. I opened it to find a tearful Christi locked inside. She was hot and sweaty and very upset. She had been calling for a while, but no one could hear her. The girls had been playing hide-and-seek. Apparently, after looking for a while without finding her, the other girl had given up and gone home. I can’t imagine what possessed Christi to get in the trunk and pull the lid down. It made me realize how quickly a tragedy might have occurred.
*****

Halloween was a big deal in our area. Most of the houses in our neighborhood went overboard in decorating. In the past years, our older children had always gone trick-or-treating, returning home with enough candy to last for weeks, and whatever was left would melt together in a sticky lump. Last year there had been reports of razor blades placed in candy.  Also there were rumors that Wiccan and other pagan groups considered October 31 as a high night in their calendar and used it for rituals and untold spells of evil doings. Some of the members of our church decided it wasn't a proper holiday for Christians, and that the church should come up with an alternate activity to keep our kids out of trouble. Some members voted to make Halloween into a fall party night.  Everyone could dress as Bible characters and there would be prizes, food and games.


Since they wouldn’t be trick-or-treating this year, Don and Christi begged me to let them go to a haunted house which a local school was sponsoring each night of the week leading up to Halloween. I agreed to take them, but planned to wait for them in the parking lot. Connie begged to ride along. She was between two and three at the time.  I told her she could go, but she'd have to wait with me in the car.

I parked the car, and Don and Christi went inside. Connie remained in the back seat peering out the window. Suddenly she let out a chilling scream, loud enough to be heard from a block away. I jerked around in time to see a person dressed as King Kong, fleeing away from our car like he was being chased by Zombies. I think Connie probably scared him as badly as he scared her when he peeped into our car's back window. He had been assigned the job of moving around the parking lot as part of the haunted house experience. Connie was totally traumatized and was still crying, even after the twins were back and we were safely home.

The night of the party, Dana, the preacher’s daughter, came home from school with Carol. The girls dressed in loose fitting garments which they put together by belting down some of my colored sheets. They covered their heads with towels and tied scarves about them. It was their idea of what women of the Bible might have looked like. Don made up a costume to look like a street beggar. He had smudges of black chalk all over his face and he hobbled around with a walking stick.  He won first prize for the best costume.  It wasn't the first time he won the prize for best costume.  He enjoyed winning and always wanted to be the best.
*******

On one of our trips back to Mississippi, we visited your brother, Rhomas, and his family in the new house they had built in Brandon. Rhomas was working as a project engineer for the local utility company, and Shirley was giving home decor parties. Their cat had kittens, and they were looking for homes for them. Christi begged us to take one of them, and she managed to win you over in spite of your objections. She named the part Siamese, Skipper. The cat made a lively addition to our family.  She kept trying to climb our Christmas tree that year.  She turned it over many times and we had to keep replacing broken ornaments.  

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 67
1975 in Retrospect

By BethShelby

In 1975, Gerald Ford was the president and Nelson Rockefeller was vice-president. It was the year disco was the musical choice of the in-crowd. Mood rings, pet rocks and Rubik's cubes were in vogue. 

Citizen Band radios or CB’s were popular, and we had one in our car. The kids and I all decided on names or handles for ourselves. You weren’t interested in talking to strangers on the road. I had thought it might be fun, but when it came to actually putting my voice out there, I discovered I wasn't keen on talking either. I had much rather monitor the channels and listen to others talk. It was good for learning if there were traffic hazards or speed traps ahead.
 
To our surprise, Christi, who had given herself the handle, Crispy Critter, was the most vocal one of us. She learned a bit of the lingo and didn’t seem to mind communicating with truckers or whoever she could find who would talk. She’d ask “What’s your twenty?” and they’d tell her the highway mile marker they’d just passed. She’d ask if they’d seen any bears (highway patrolmen) and say “Roger that, Good Buddy.” It was an amusement for a while when traveling to Mississippi on weekends, but like every fad, the novelty eventually wore off.
*****
 
Often when I went shopping at one of the department stores, Connie would beg to go. Early on, she developed her own taste in clothes. If she liked what she was wearing, things went smoothly. If she hated it, it was a battle to get her to wear it. This was something I’d not encountered early on with the other children. Carol and Christi had worn the clothes I bought for them without complaining too much. Now that they were getting toward teenage years, their taste was becoming more apparent. Christi liked cute girlie looking outfits. Carol disliked dresses. She preferred  jeans and tie dyed t-shirts or denim jackets. Don liked almost anything new, and if he was with me when I bought it, he insisted on putting it on immediately and wearing it out of the store.
 
If I had all the girls with me, I would depend on the older ones to watch Connie while I shopped. Connie was bad about getting under the racks of dresses, so that she was hidden from view. One day, I couldn’t find her, and the girls had lost sight of her as well. I panicked, thinking someone might have taken her. We searched frantically for a while, until we heard on the store speaker that there was a little lost girl by the escalator. At that point, I decided it was important that she know her full name and phone number. Every day as I drove her to Dolly’s, I worked on teaching her to repeat her name and phone number. It was a time I'd been using to teach her colors and the names of things we encountered on the way.
 
It was a good thing she learned her phone number, because in the future, it came in handy when something happened for which I was totally at fault. I can’t remember exactly how old she was, but she was old enough that the memory is still with her.  Yet I'm sure she wasn't much older than three. That day, only Connie had gone shopping with me. I have no idea what could have caused me to completely forget that she was with me. When I left the shopping center, I didn’t even look for her. I drove home without thinking. The rest of the family was there, and I assumed that she was there as well.

What a shock, when the phone rang and the store security guard came on the line to tell me that they had a little girl who said this was her phone number. You were as mortified as I was, that I could have done such a thing. So many stories like this have tragic endings. We both said a prayer of thanksgiving that she had remained safe. I never left a store again without making sure I wasn't leaving anyone behind.
*****

Out on the lakefront of Lake Pontchartrain, there were walking trails and places to sit on the wide steps leading down to the lake. Sometimes we enjoyed going out there to watch the sail boats, yachts, and occasionally water skiers on the lake. A little farther down, was an amusement park called Pontchartrain Beach. Years before when you and I were newlyweds, we came to New Orleans when you were looking for a job, and we visited the park with your sister, Maxine. The park was built in 1928, the year you were born. Now it was a great place to take our children. Even Connie was getting old enough to enjoy it. We might have visited more often, if we had known then that in a few years, the park would be dismantled to make room for condos.
***** 

In September of ‘75, Carol was in eighth grade and the twins were in seventh at Jefferson Heights Jr. Academy, the school they were attending. The same teacher taught both grades. The principal that year was Tom Hansen. Tom’s family had originally emigrated from Sweden. He and his wife came to our area from Michigan, where he had pastored a church. His wife, Paula, was from Mississippi. When she and I talked about our common state background, we were shocked to learn that we were second cousins although we had never met. This made me realize that our world isn’t such a big place after all. Tom and Paula had three school-age boys and the youngest became Christi’s first crush. I guess you could say they were kissing cousins.  At least, I heard that happened once.
*****
 
I was still involved in the local Pathfinder club. In November, other Pathfinder groups from the Southwest, planned a camporee in Athens, Texas. Our club voted to attend. As the deputy director who had a large van that would hold a number of kids, I was expected to go and drive. Since Connie was too young, we left her with you to take care of over the long weekend. The drive was long and tiresome, but our group finally arrived. The weather was nice, and the kids got out and pitched their tents, before joining the other groups for games and competitions.
 
I didn’t bring a tent, because I had no intention of sleeping on the ground. It was inconvenient enough to have to go out into the night to the outdoor toilets. I parked my sleeping bag on the built-up section in the rear of the van, hoping to be able to sleep throughout the night uninterrupted. That night a cold front came through. The sleeping bag was not even close to warm enough. Throughout the night, kids kept banging on the door and begging to sleep inside to survive the frigid temperature. By morning, there was no room to move around in the van. Kids were sleeping everywhere. I had no idea Texas could get so cold. I vowed that the next time anyone mentioned a winter camping trip to me, I would have other plans.
***** 

You and I were serving on both the school board and the church board that year. It was the first time either of us had served, and we were shocked to realize that even Christians can become very verbal and outraged over minor issues. Some people felt theirs was the wise voice of reason, and they should have the final say. Others seemed to enjoy arguing just for the sake of expressing opposing opinions. One issue that was raised on the school board involved whether or not one of the teachers should be dismissed. 

The case against him was that he seemed overly friendly with the students, and that he sometimes patted them on their back or put an arm over their shoulder. A lot of students didn't like him for giving a lot of homework or punishing them. They used the fact that he dared to touch them to get the parents on their side. Some of the mothers were up in arms. Nothing he had done was sexual in nature, and he was not there to defend himself. We felt it was wrong to terminate him on unfounded charges from a job he needed badly.
 
You were particularly turned off by the attitude of a female teacher who had never liked the man, and who acted as though our opinions didn’t matter since we were new on the board. You and I discussed whether or not we wanted our children going to this school the following year. 

Having three children attend this private school was very expensive. In addition to tuition, we had to buy textbooks and uniforms. The school went through tenth grade, but the students were encouraged to attend a boarding academy for their high school years. This meant a lot of the eighth graders would be leaving next year. We weren’t ready for any of our children to go away to school. We felt the home environment was best until they reached college age. It was a decision we would need to make before another school year began.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 68
Job Solution and Country Days

By BethShelby

Just before the Jordan Printing Company officially relocated to Memphis, I had a call from one of the pressmen from the printing company where I’d worked before Connie was born. He was going out on his own and opening a new company, and he asked if I would come and work for him.

The timing was ideal since my company was moving to Memphis. Even better was the fact that his company would be just four blocks from where we lived. Klevey and Bob were happy that I wouldn’t be without work, and that I would be able to change jobs without a loss of salary. The Williams Printing Company would be mainly family members except for me. To began with there would be only five of us, but Charles already had quite a few customers lined up. There would be plenty of work to keep us busy.

*****

The thing you found more fulfilling than your job at Chevron was spending time at our farm in Mississippi. You were especially pleased when you felt that we were enjoying being there as well. You and I would walk over the 143 acres of woods and pastureland, and occasionally the children would walk with us. Once I asked you what was one of your favorite memories, and you reminded me of the time when you and I walked to the back of our place and I found trillium plants blooming. I’d never seen that kind of flower before, and I got excited and insisted on digging some up to bring back to plant in our yard.

I think you were hoping that we would all live there one day. It wasn’t something the children and I wanted. It was too far into the country. Most of the people around us lived in small houses or double wide trailers on small tracts of land. Most worked in one of the small towns nearby, or those on bigger acreage grew cotton for a living. The place had an old-fashion country store and a few churches. Traveling into Jackson took nearly an hour on blacktop roads, but because you loved being there so much, I went out of my way to make the house look as nice as possible without spending much money.

We had paid off the mortgage on the land, and the money we’d spent on the house we paid for as the work was completed, so there was no debt other than taxes, insurance and utilities. With the help of Don, you had gotten the inside walls and ceilings up. You hired some guys to come over and tape the sheetrock, finish it out, and paint it. We had furnished the place with furniture that we no longer used. I had gone to flea markets and garage sales and bought curtains and light fixtures. When we had holiday or vacation days, it was a nice spot to spend time, even though the children weren’t always happy about it. 

In the winter, we always had a warm fire going in the den. We'd pop popcorn and make hot chocolate. I kept packaged and canned food there and we brought fresh produce from home. We had an old refrigerator and a new stovetop and oven. Once we were there when it snowed, and the children made a snowman in the front yard. I always took pictures of these special times.

For several years now our family had gone there each Christmas before going to visit our parents. We made an annual trek into the woods and dug up a young cedar tree and brought it back to the house to decorate. We would make our own decorations and trim the tree. We'd have a small celebration with each child having a gift they could open. For you, this was a memory, which would always be one of your favorites. I’m not sure the children felt as strongly about it as you did, but they went along because it was important to you. After we had our Christmas ritual, we always took down the tree and planted it in the yard. We soon had large cedars scattered over a big front yard.

Don had been pleading with us to buy him a motorcycle for his twelfth birthday. We both felt he was too young but we did start looking for a smaller dirt bike for sale. We found a Kawasaki combination motorcycle and dirt bike for sale and decided to get it with the understanding that it would be left for him to ride in the country only. You had to be fourteen to even get a permit to ride in the city. Once he had the bike, he was happy enough to spend time in the country. We all learned to ride it except Connie who was too young. The girls and I took it very slow.

Naturally, going slow wasn’t something that appealed to Don, and he was soon gunning it and trying to jump ditches with it. He fell off a few times and bruised himself. During Christmas holidays, we let Don stay behind in Newton to spend a week with Mother and Dad. She called me after a couple of days and told me she had to take Don to the doctor because he was hurting all over, and his neck was stiff. The doctor checked him out and thought he might have encephalitis.

Mom was extremely worried about him and wanted to know if she should put him on a plane and fly him home. He hadn’t bothered to tell the doctor or her that his muscle and neck was sore from riding the dirt bike. We told her not to worry, but to send him home on the bus as we’d planned. Don was fine. He just needed some time to heal. I was shocked that a doctor would suggest something so scary without further tests.

******

Just after the School session ended for the summer, The Pathfinders had another camping trip. This time we went to a park across the lake, and we only spent one night. I took Connie with me, and my friend, Betty, brought her granddaughter she was raising along. Michele was a little older and larger than Connie. She was an unpredictable child and tended to have a jealous streak involving any other child Betty paid attention to.

Christi and some of her friends were supposed to be watching Connie. They brought her back to me, red faced and sobbing. She had hand prints and scratch marks on her neck where Michele had attempted to choke her. Michele followed behind them saying, “She was upset. I was trying to comfort her." I realized for the rest of the trip, I would have to keep a sharp eye out for Michele.


Another thing that happened on that trip that caught me by surprise was that the club director awarded Christi the first annual Pathfinder of the Year award. He said all of the group had voted on it. I had been left out of the voting because she was my daughter. I was proud she had an engraved plaque to hang on her wall, but I was unsure what she had done to deserve the honor. 
*****


During the summer, we decided to send the kids to public school during the fall semester. If it didn’t go well we could always put them back in Church school. All three of them seemed worried about going to a bigger school where they didn’t know anyone. Changes always made them nervous, but life is all about change, and it is something we can’t always control. Sometimes change can be a good thing.

For Carol, who would be going into high school the change would be greater, because the high schools in Metairie weren’t co-ed. She would be going to an all girl school. This would be the first time since first grade that Don and Christi would not be in the same school with her. For one more year, the two of them would attend a middle school and be in the same class.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 69
Rocky Mountain High

By BethShelby

During her second half of her eighth grade year, Carol had the rhinoplasty surgery to give her a straighter nose. She did it during the break at school. so she could be home while she was breathing through her mouth and allowing her nose to heal. When she went back to class, most of the bruising was gone. but some of the swelling was still there. No one mentioned the fact that the shape of her nose had changed, but instead of the nickname “Nose” for a while, she had a new name. They called her “Puffy Face.” It didn’t appear to bother her at all. 

However, now both Don and Christi wanted to have the surgery as well. Don had inherited the prominent bridge, so you told him that if he wasn’t happy with his nose to wait until he was a little older, and we would let him have the surgery as well. Christi’s nose was much smaller and nothing to be concerned about, but it was apparent that she was becoming self-conscious about her own nose. You couldn’t handle having passed on a trait that made your children feel uncomfortable with their appearance. We knew that, at some point, she would probably insist on having her nose done as well.

School was out in May and the eighth grade graduation program was the highlight of the year. Carol wore a red cap and gown. Christi sang a solo from the ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and my three children said farewell to the academy they had attended for the last five years.
******  

My first months of working at my latest job were enjoyable. I decided I liked the idea of changing jobs often. This way there were always new things to learn and new people to get to know. I didn’t have the problem of getting burned out with the same routine day after day. I admired you for sticking with the same company for years, but I decided it wasn’t for me.

The old adage of ‘a rolling stone gathers no moss’ fit me more than it did you. I realized I would never be promoted to a better position in any company by moving around so much, but it wasn’t a priority for me. 
I considered myself fortunate to have you as the main wage earner. This way I had the opportunity to focus on family and my other interests. I liked knowing any job would likely be a temporary juncture in my life. I wasn’t worried because I’d never had trouble finding a job.

I was thankful that as long as I had you, I didn’t need to consider any job as a permanent necessity. You had always given me the option of staying home if that was my choice. I liked working and liked to believe my salary made things easier for all of us by contributing to the family support and also allowed both of us to have money to do with as we chose.
******


When I took the job with William’s Printing Company, I’d taken it with the understanding that you had vacation time coming, and that I would be able to take off a week without pay in order to take another family vacation.

In spite of vows you’d made concerning no more family vacations when we’d gone to Niagara Falls the year before, in the summer of 1976, we were about to embark on another vacation trip. Again we drove to my parents' home in Mississippi. This time we’d decided that rather than stay at motels, we would make it a camping vacation and wouldn’t spend a lot of money on anything other than gas. The kids had gotten used to camping out in Pathfinders. You decided you wanted to take the van, and you and I could sleep in that. No matter where we went, we should be able to find parks designed for camping. We packed some food and planned to stop at grocery stores along the way to add as needed.

Last year when we made plans, it hadn’t worked out so well. This time, we decided not to be locked into specific plans and see how that would work. We talked about where we might want to go. There were three places mentioned. The beach was favored by the twins. You didn’t seem to have a preference. Carol, who was still in the middle of her John Denver phase, wanted to go West toward Colorado, and I thought maybe the Southwest would be a good choice, since we'd never seen the Grand Canyon. 

You drove as far as Meridian, Mississippi and stopped the car. “We need to know where we are heading,” you said. “From here we can go in any direction, but we have to decide.”

You pulled out four matches and broke one. You held them in a way we couldn’t tell which one was the shortest. “Here’s the deal,” you said. “Whoever gets the shortest one gets to choose. Carol, Christi, Don and I each drew a match. Connie was still too young for a choice. Carol got the broken match. “We’re going to Colorado," she told us. There was a collective sigh from the twins. But you turned West. Those bathing suits we’d packed weren’t going to be used.
  
The twins began to chant a sing-song refrain they made up, which we had to listen to for many miles, “We don’t care what that woman says….We want hotels, motels, res-tu-rants…..” To this day they all remember that silly chant.

In spite of a long ride ahead, we had plenty of room in the van for everyone to move around, play games and get exercise. I looked at the road maps and laid out a route toward Colorado. We swapped driving positions often and made rest stops as they were needed. Later that day we decided to find a camping site at a State park in Missouri. It was a nice site near a lake. You helped the kids pitch our tent which the four of them would share. We spread our meal on the picnic table after we used the bathhouse. The area was lighted enough to feel safe at night, but not too bright to keep us from sleeping. You and I were comfortable in the back of the van. Since we were near Six Flags Over Mid America, the kids were excited when we agreed to go there the following day.

We spent several hours at Six Flags and all of the children enjoyed the rides. We spent another night at an excellent park a bit farther along our way, before arriving at our main destination. You and I were both blown away with the beauty of the countryside as we drove into Estes Park, Colorado. However, it didn’t take us long to realize that the clothes we had packed would never work in the Rockies in May. We went shopping and everyone got new long sleeve sweatshirts.

That night, we camped at a park high in the mountains. The next morning when we awakened, the sunrise view was amazing. You put Connie on your shoulders and we all took a hike over the mountain ridges. It was a magical experience. It is a happy memory I’ll never forget. Later that day, we drove up even higher and there was soft, partially-melted snow everywhere. The children all enjoyed playing in the snow and all the while not being the least bit cold.

The rest of the trip was pleasant. We found nice parks every night where we could camp in safety. There were swings and other playground equipment for the children and interesting places to hike and convenient bathhouses. It turned out to be one of best vacation trips we’d ever taken.
******


The next weekend was Connie’s third birthday and we were able to spend it at our place in the country.  One of Connie’s favorite presents was a plastic swimming pool which we filled with water, and all the children enjoyed playing in it. 

The older children had the rest of the summer to worry about the fact that in a couple of months they would be starting a new phase in their lives as they attended a public school, where everyone would be a stranger.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 70
Sitter Changes and Public School

By BethShelby

In the summer of 1976, Miss Dolly, who had kept Connie almost since her birth, was having a surgery and would be unable to keep her for a few months. Lately Dolly had also been keeping another child. Joe was a little boy about Connie’s age.  Connie thought of him as her first little boyfriend. His mother called and told me about another lady she knew of who could keep our children while Dolly was recovering. This lady was known to the children as Miss Melanie.

Melanie had several young children she was  already keeping, but she was willing to take Connie and Joe. Connie didn’t seem to mind the change and Melanie liked Connie right away. She had all the children trained to take a nap every day. Joe seemed willing to go along with the plan, but with Connie, it wouldn’t happen. She simply refused to take a nap. She told me that she thought she was Miss Melanie’s favorite, because she got to hang out with her while the other kids had to take a nap.

Melanie and her husband were typical of the people who lived in the area. They loved their seafood.  Melanie related a story to us that she found amusing concerning Connie. Her husband had brought in a large bucket of Crayfish. Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters. Being from Mississippi we knew what they were, but we didn’t even realize that civilized people ate such things. Since moving to Louisiana, we were finding that Louisiana people eat a lot of things we had always shied away from.

Apparently Connie had looked into the bucket to see what was there and Melanie told her it was crayfish. They were all still alive and crawling all over each other in the sand and water inside the bucket. Melanie dumped one of them out on the sidewalk so Connie could get a better look. The creature started scrambling toward Connie with its claw extended. She freaked out and screamed, “I don’t like that fish! Get that fish away from me!” I could see Connie doing that. Actually, I might have had the same reaction, but I wouldn’t have called it a fish.
*******

Your family was dealing with a crisis around this time. Joe, your sister Helen’s husband, who had framed in our house in the country, had been diagnosed with cancer. Joe was a skilled carpenter, but he had had some bad breaks and had borrowed too much money to start his church pew factory. Unable to pay the debt, he defaulted and lost the business. He had later suffered a heart attack. Now the final blow was that he had lung cancer which had spread throughout his body, and he had been informed it was terminal. The only son, Jimmy had grown up, finished college, married and was living in Gulfport, Mississippi. Helen had never learned to drive but would soon be left to fend for herself.

We went to visit them often when we were in Newton. For a while after he had worked on our house, there had been some bad feelings when you’d asked for a paperwork on the expenses Joe had incurred. Now, all of that wasn’t mentioned. Joe was a broken man, knowing that his time was short. He was fond of Connie and liked to hold her when we came over.  At one point before he became so sick, he had helped Don and me put together a kit for a metal detector which Don had wanted.  Since he could no longer work, he had taught himself to play the keyboard and spent much of his time doing that.
*******
 

In September the kids all started in their new schools. Since they were public schools, the buses came around and picked them up. Grace King, the all-girl high school which Carol attended, had too many students and so part of the students went to classes early and came home shortly after noon and the other students attended classes later and got out around six in the evening. Carol was assigned morning classes.

Carol had known everyone in the schools she had attended before. Although her grades had not been bad, she and some of her friends played around and had not taken school that seriously. Now that she would be attending a large high school,  where she didn’t know anyone and everything would be different, she realized she was going to have to get serious about studying.

On the first day, she was assigned a homeroom and given a list of classes that were available for her to choose from. She brought the list home, and I tried to help her select from the list the classes that would meet the core needs and prepare her for college, but also classes which I thought she might enjoy. In her homeroom she bonded with another girl who had a similar last name and was assigned a seat near hers. She and Diedra would remain friends throughout high school, and although they would attend different classes, they always got together on their lunch breaks.

The transition was easier for the twins. They quickly got acquainted with other children and were soon used to the new routine. Some of the school work was repetitive, while other things were new. Don, who still had a hyper streak, would have more trouble concentrating and adjusting to work that he’d not been exposed to before, but Christi caught on faster. They were in the same class, so they had each other to depend on.

In English classes, the reading material was a lot different than what any of them were used to. The church school had not encouraged them to read a lot of the novels which they were expected to read in public school. Some of them I’d read before having attended public school, but there were many new ones on the required reading list. I'd heard of them, but hadn’t had the chance to read them. Since I love books and my children weren’t that fond of reading, I read a lot of the books aloud to them.

In public school, they all had opportunities to take art classes. I was happy about that because they all had some talent in that area and enjoyed art. They had been exposed to music more in the church school, but they could still pursue that through church and private lessons.
********

 
As fall wore on, we were in the midst of a presidential election. Gerald Ford was running for another term, and he was running against a Democrat, Jimmy Carter. Ford had finished out the term when Nixon was forced to resign, and some people didn’t consider him a legitimately elected president. Ford's wife, Betty, was an alcoholic and was forced by intervention to confront her problem. She also had to deal with breast cancer.

Carter was from Georgia and had started out as a peanut farmer, so a lot of people didn’t find him an appealing choice either, in spite of the fact that he had served as Governor of Georgia. In November, Jimmy Carter won the election. Walter Mondale was his vice president. Their term would start in January of 1977.

We wondered what changes another year might bring in our lives. There had been quite a few during the twenty years since we became husband and wife. We had coped with many ups and downs over the years, but neither of us regretted the hand we had been dealt.  We were still in love and felt that we had been truly blessed with a wonderful family.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 71
Fall and Winter of 1976

By BethShelby

As the school days went by, Carol became more of a recluse. She stayed in her room for hours and studied. She sometimes mentioned Diedra, the one friend she had made at school, but neither of us ever met her. The girls didn’t meet outside of class as far as I know.

She did have a special friend from Church, however. 
Carmen was a Latino girl who had moved into the area recently, and Carol did visit Carmen sometimes on weekends. Carmen lived with her sister and brother-in-law, who was an airline pilot. I don’t remember Carmen having a Spanish accent, but I’m sure she must have, because she wasn’t born in this country. She told Carol that she learned to speak English from watching Sesame Street.

Carmen knew someone who had a dog with puppies. The mother of the puppies was a medium-size poodle. She hadn't been bred to a registered dog, and the puppies were a mixed breed. Carmen took one of the puppies, and Carol began to plead with us to let her have one of the other puppies. You were against it, since our yard wasn’t fenced, and we couldn’t let a dog run free. Since we were both away from home so much of the time, we couldn't be responsible for a dog.

Finally we told Carol that if she took the puppy, she would be solely responsible
. She would have to keep the puppy in her room, and give it food, water, paper train it, and also walk it outside. She agreed to all of this, and soon brought home a cute puppy with curly black hair.  She named him Bimbo after a popular song at that time.

This first experience in becoming a dog owner became a part of Carol’s life, that to this day, she cringes when she remembers Bimbo. As time passed, he would become a terrible burden to a girl, who really wanted to be a good dog owner, but didn’t know how. For the time being, he was a cute puppy, and we hoped this would turn out to be a good experience for her.  Of course when puppies teethe, they chew on anything available, which happened to be the legs of her furniture.
*******

On Halloween night in the fall of 1976, a tragedy occurred for Miss Melanie, who kept Connie each day.  She had a teenage son, who was a senior in high school. That night, he was involved in an auto accident that took his life. For a couple of weeks, Joe’s mother and I were looking for other solutions to find childcare for our children. We did find a nursery that was able to take them temporarily, while Melanie got her life back into some return to normality.

Since Joe and Connie were able to attend together, it worked out well enough, and Melanie was back keeping them again before the year was out. Connie told me that while the other children slept, Melanie would hold her and show her pictures of the son she lost and would cry. I know how heartbroken she must have been. I guess having the children in her home again helped Melanie regain some stability.
******

Christmas came with us going to Mississippi for the holidays as usual. Your mother always insisted on having all of her children there for lunch on Christmas day. Now that she was renting a small house in Newton, the place was often crowded. Since the family was large, we had started drawing names for swapping gifts, but each family gave gifts to the children as well as to your mom.

Your younger sister Nan's son was named Kelly. He was a year older than Connie. This year Nan and Kelly came without her husband, Richard. Ever since the Christmas when Richard and Wayne got into a fight, they didn’t dare ruin Christmas again by being together. Helen came late, since she’d spent the morning in the hospital with Joe, who was hospitalized because of cancer.

Rhomas and Shirley and their two boys were also late this year. There seemed to be some sort of tension between your brother and his wife that made us wonder if things might not be going well for them. As usual, everyone went home with a pair of multicolored crocheted house-shoes, your mom's usual gift to all of us. She must have spent months making all those shoes.


Back home in Metairie, many of our neighbors brought in the new year by dragging their Christmas trees to the Lake Pontchartrain levee behind our house and setting them ablaze. It was a New Year tradition in the New Orleans area. We had an artificial tree, so we left our tree up well into the New Year.
*******


In January of 1977, we begin hearing about personal computers becoming available. It hadn’t been long since the size had come down to the point of making that a possibility. Commodore was one of the first to introduce home computers. They were expensive and mostly used for word processing and playing games. The World Wide Web was still somewhere in the distant future. It never occurred to me that it was something I might be interested in having. I had just bought myself a used electric IBM typewriter, and to me, that was the ultimate means of writing.

The miniseries,'Roots' was airing on TV. Other popular shows were Love Boat, Chips, Fantasy Island and The Incredible Hulk. Star Wars was coming out in theaters.
*******

I was having to work a lot of overtime on my job, so I started assigning the older children jobs to do at home to help out. This was about the only way to get Carol out of her room. I bought ingredients for easy to prepare meals, so that they could start supper on days when I would get home late. There was a good bit of arguing about whose turn it was to start supper. I'm sure without someone to supervise, they did more goofing off than working or studying before we got home.

On days when I had to work late, you had to go and pick up Connie from Melanie's. By that time, you were tired and ready to sit down and watch TV.  By the time I got home, I would be almost too tired to eat. I felt I was letting everyone down.
*******
  

New Orleans was seldom cold for long. But we did have a few cold spells that stood out. It snowed at least once, and while it was just a heavy dusting, it was a big treat for the area kids who had never seen snow before. It was the first snow for Connie, but she was still too young to remember it.

The worst cold we had to deal with was during a weekend in January when we had been in Mississippi. Since the temperature seldom got very low, houses weren't always built to deal with extremes. While we were away on this weekend, the mercury dropped abnormally low. The next day, things went back to the more seasonable range. We came back home to find the poorly insulated pipes in the wall of our bedroom had broken, and we had five inch deep water on the carpet in our bedroom.


You and I had to get the water cut off and move furniture around so that we could pull up the carpet and drag it outside. That was a bad ending to our weekend, and it didn’t end there. We had to find a plumber who could tear out part of the brick outside wall and repair the leak. Eventually the carpet dried out enough that you and I brought it back inside and tried to reposition it. Surprisingly, we were able to get it back in place without noticeable buckling.

(For those of you reading this, who have come to expect at least one disaster for each chapter, this is an extra one for you.)
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 72
Carnival Season In New Orleans

By BethShelby

The Mardi Gras Season in New Orleans always kicks off on the 12th night following Christmas, which is on January 6. There are many clubs or "krewes" that participated in the celebration with fancy balls and parades. The krewes are often named after Greek gods and goddesses like Bacchus and Isis. The krewes select a king or queen which reigns over their celebration and rides on a float in the parade. They sometime chose celebrities as the king or queen.

The Rex parade is downtown on Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras. The King selected by the Rex parade is the main king or the King of Carnival. The parades start two weeks before and leading up to the big day which is on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Lent begins on Wednesday and Good Friday and Easter follow.

Each krewe mints new doubloons with a different design each year in red, gold, and green. Doubloon collecting is like coin collecting. Collectors try to get them in all colors from all of the krewes. Kids trade them at school and adults also collect them. Some rare dates sell for quite a lot in coin shops. Don was excited about starting a collection. We bought him a binder with plastic holders for the doubloons.

After the first parade or so which you saw after we first moved to the area, you decided that you had seen enough and were ready to stay home. The children and I liked the excitement and pageantry. I enjoyed looking at the costumes and elaborate floats, and they liked collecting bags of doubloons and beads and other trinkets. Carol, the more serious of our children, wasn’t quite as interested as the twins were and would sometimes choose to stay home with you.

Once I took the twins and Connie downtown without you. Don really wanted to go to this parade, thinking he would get a lot of new doubloons. The crowds were four and five deep, and I was determined not to let go of Connie for a second. That meant, I had to trust Don and Christi to stay near us.

A float passed flinging so many doubloons and beads  that the crowd went crazy, and the people were chasing behind the float trying to get as much as possible. The twins either chased the float, or were pushed along by the crowd. I couldn’t find them anywhere. It took me at least twenty minutes of looking everywhere, before I finally found Christi, but Don wasn’t with her. I demanded that she not leave my side. When the parade ended, I was in tears. But after the crowd thinned, Don showed up. He’d remembered where I’d parked, and had gone there when he couldn’t find us. It was the last time I went to a downtown parade without you.

The previous season, your sister Maxine, and Wayne had visited us and gone to one of the Saturday parades in the French Quarters. This is an area to be avoided if safety is a concern. Someone snatched Wayne’s wallet, and he gave chase. Wayne was overweight and had nearly given himself a heart-attack, but he’d been successful in getting his wallet back. You and I stayed away from that part of the city when the parades were going.

This year, in 1977, Henry Winkler, the Fonz, of Happy Days had been selected as the reigning monarch of the Bacchus parade. The parade was in downtown New Orleans at night and the kids persuaded you to take us. Probably, the only reason you agreed is because you wanted to keep us safe. It was crowded, and we had to get there early. We were nearly midnight getting back home. I think this was the last time you attended a Mardi Gras parade downtown.

Metairie had it’s own parades now and it was much safer. Barbara Eden of I Dream of Jeanie was one of the celebrities who was on one of the Metairie floats.

New Orleans had other celebrations as well. Since the main religious group in New Orleans is Catholic a lot of the celebrations had to do with that faith. St Joseph's Day and St Patrick's Day were celebrated in March. St. Patrick was the patron Saint of Ireland and the parade day was on March 17th. One of the things unique about this one was that you might come home with food thrown from floats. The people on the St. Patrick's Day floats, along with throwing beads and doubloons to the crowds, also threw ingredients for Irish stew. They threw cabbages, onions, potatoes and carrots. This parade wanders loosely though neighborhoods, stopping at pubs along the way, where bartenders serve them green beer.

There were also marchers in these parades, carrying sticks covered in white carnations or roses. The flowers would be awarded to ladies along the route in exchange for a kiss. By the time most of the participants got to the end of the parade route, they were often pretty inebriated, having indulged in so much beer. While I couldn't approve of the lifestyle, these celebrations did add local color and gave us something to do which seemed interesting for a while.

This parade route was in a safe neighborhood and residents brought out folding chairs, or sat in the grass of their lawns to watch. Since we were living in the area, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to learn a bit about the local culture, so I took the children to several of these parades. I think you may have gone to one with us.

The Feast of Saint Joseph followed closely after St Patrick's Day, and their parade was always on Saturday, so we never attended that one. St Joseph was the patron saint of Sicily and the celebration was in honor of those of Italian heritage. The Altars of their churches were laden with carefully prepared food and flowers which I think were donated to charities after the ceremonies were over.
******

Carol had her sixteenth birthday in February. I had scheduled an appointment to get her hair styled that day. She was against the idea, but I pushed it, and she went. She barely allowed me to make one picture before going and washing her hair and putting it back straight the way she liked it. She was stubborn when it came to trying to change anything about her appearance. She was only comfortable with the way she saw herself, and woe unto anyone who wanted to change anything about her.
*******

As soon as school was dismissed for the summer vacation, Christi joined a girls softball team that played at Johnny Bright playground near us in Metairie. A new Karate studio had opened and all three kids got one month of free lessons. After the first month, we paid for Don to continue to take lessons.  
*******
The week after we celebrated Connie’s fourth birthday, Joe Wilson, your sister Helen’s husband, died. We took off work and went to Newton for his funeral. He was the first of our family in-laws to die. Helen would be at the mercy of neighbors to help her when she needed to get groceries or go to church, since she didn’t drive. She didn’t live far from your Mom, but she didn’t drive either.

1977 wasn’t a good year for your family.  In the near future, another event would occur to shake the Shelby family.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 73
Shelby Family Updates

By BethShelby

In August, we took the kids on a three-day trip to Panama Beach Florida. The twins were especially interested in going to the beach and Connie was old enough to enjoy it as well. We all got sunburned, but no one quite as badly as I was. We came back through Newton and visited our families.

From your mother, we were shocked to learn that your brother, Rhomas, and Shirley were in the process of getting a divorce. Rhomus had suspected Shirley was having an affair, so he hired a detective. When his suspicions were confirmed, he didn’t feel he would ever trust her again. Harold, the oldest son, would soon be eighteen, but Mike was only fourteen. The boys would continue to live with their mother.

Shirley moved out of their new house, and they put it on the market. Once they both hired lawyers, it became an ugly divorce. The family had some dreadful things to say about Shirley. It would be years before you and I  would ever see her again. Rhomas was having heart problems, and the stress he was under made things worse. The engineering project, which he’d headed up in Brandon, had ended, and he decided to lay off work for a while before looking for another project. 

After they divided the property, Rhomus bought a house and moved to Newton. This was a good thing for your mother and Helen, since he could take them to church and drive them shopping when they needed to go. Since both your family and mine were now in Newton, it made it a bit easier for us when we visited there as well.
*******

Your sister, Maxine, and Wayne were living in Jackson with their two boys. Wayne managed a Goodyear tire store. Your younger sister, Nan, and Richard and their son, Kelly, lived in Gulfport, MS. Richard worked for the local paper and wrote a weekly fishing column, and Nan taught music lessons and was the music director for her church. Both of them were active in Little Theater. Richard was so interested in hurricanes that he became a spokesman for the Gulf Coast hurricane center. Whenever there was a hurricane in the gulf, he was always on television.

Two gulf hurricanes threatened our area in 1977. You had a greater fear of hurricanes and tornados than I did.  I found that strange, because my mother and I were taken up in a tornado when I was a child, and our family lost everything. I always wanted to stay home and ride out the storm, but you insisted that we pack up and leave the area.

However, we did ride down to Grand Isle in south Louisiana to see what a storm looked like in the gulf waters. The storm was still a long way out to sea, but the wind and waves were putting on a great show of strength. Out on the beach, the blowing sand stung our skin and got in our eyes. We were only there a few minutes before the Coast Guard closed the beach.  The whole area was ordered to evacuate immediately. You wasted no time getting us back over the bridge and on our way back home.

Both Hurricanes, Babe and  Anita, threatened New Orleans during this hurricane season. We left the area each time, but one of our exits turned out to be the wrong move. We packed into the van and headed up into Mississippi to wait out the storm, miles from New Orleans. I can’t remember the name of the little town where we parked our van to wait. At the last minute, the storm changed directions and headed our way. We ended up riding it out in the van, which seemed close to overturning at any moment. It was scary for all of us. Metairie and New Orleans got only rain and light winds with no damage.
********

When school started for the fall semester of 1977, Don and Christi were separated. Christi went to Grace King where Carol was beginning her Sophomore year, and Christi was a Freshmen. Don went to East Jefferson, an all boys high school. The seniors at Grace King initiate the Freshmen by making them their slaves for the day. Christi was so embarrassed because she had to get on the school bus wearing a bathrobe, with her hair up in curlers. The initiation hadn't bothered Carol the previous year, but Christi was a child who was super sensitive about her looks. She was very pretty, but she was only able to see her flaws. She became the member of the family who constantly made us late for church and everything else. She couldn’t leave the house without going back to look in mirror many times, making sure there was nothing amiss.

She also had a problem in school of falling asleep in History class. The teacher called me often, concerning her habit of falling asleep. She thought maybe she had a physical problem. Christi told me that it was because the class was right after lunch, and her teacher was boring. She said the teacher embarrassed her one day by raising her voice and calling out, “If Christi Shelby would wake up, we might be able to continue this class.”

Christi tried out for color guard and was selected as one of the members. This meant she had to have a uniform. She would be marching in the Mardi Gras parades and for other after school activities. The outfit consisted of a short, flared, green skirt, a long sleeve white satin blouse, a green sash, a hat and white majorette boots. The color guard always marched with each member carrying a school flag.
*********

Connie had gone back to Dolly’s for a while, but things weren’t going so well there. Dolly had taken in a lady boarder. One day, the lady took me aside to tell me something was badly wrong with Dolly. Dolly was accusing her of stealing and not paying her rent. She didn’t know what to do, because she had done nothing wrong. One day, Dolly’s son came in where I was working to get some printing done. He confided to me that his mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. He told me that I probably shouldn’t take Connie there. I asked Connie what was going on, and she told me that Miss Dolly gave her food to eat that was frozen. I felt terrible for Dolly, but I knew I could no longer risk Connie going there.
*********

The winter of 1977 and 1978 saw some unusually low temperatures. We were thankful that South Louisiana was a place that never stayed cold for long, but the winter wind did cut back on our frequent bike rides and walks along the Lake Pontchartrain levee. In January, there was a blizzard in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley area that caused 51 deaths. In early February, there was another blizzard in the Northeast that hit New England and New York and killed over 100 people.

In other news, during those first two months, there were some horrible crime stories of serial killers. Richard Chase, known as the Vampire of Sacramento, was arrested. He was a cannibal who killed and drank the blood of his victims. The Hillside strangler was active in the Los Angles area and had just claimed his tenth victim. In Florida. Ted Bundy, who raped and killed young women across the United States was finally arrested. He confessed to 30 victims, but it was likely there were many more.

I realize that is not a pleasant way to end a chapter. We could only trust that the rest of the year would bring more good news than bad. At least, our branch of the Shelby family was still doing well. We had our problems, but compared with much of the world, they were minor.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 74
All About Family

By BethShelby

Carol celebrated her seventeenth birthday in February of 1978. The twins had their fifteenth birthday two months earlier, in December. We celebrated most birthdays as family only parties these days. The children liked Mexican food, and there was a favorite local restaurant which they often chose for their special occasions. I always made sure they had cake and ice cream at home. Christi's and Don's brithday was so close to Christmas that their cake was usually trimmed in red and green.

Carol was taking bookkeeping in school and we decided to turn our checkbook over to her and let her learn by keeping up with the bills for us. When the mail arrived, we would give it to her and ask her to make sure the bills were paid several days before the due date. She was doing a good job, and I was very proud of her. Somehow a bill was misplaced, and when it didn’t get paid, our electricity was cut off. Carol felt it was her fault, and she didn’t want to do the bills any more.

You decided you would take over the books, instead of me. Since you sometimes wrote checks and forgot to tell me, I had devised a way of keeping more in the account than showed. That way I could make sure we didn’t bounce checks. You didn’t like not knowing exactly how much was there. I kept a separate account of money I earned, so I was happy to let you deal with the main household account. I would buy the groceries, family clothes, and presents with my money.

It was my job to do the income tax. You had never done it, and you thought I knew what I was doing. I hated doing it and would put it off as long as possible. Every year, there were changes in the law, and I’d need to read through the whole book again. I was used to working under pressure, but waiting until the last minute made you nervous, so you would bug me until I did it. You printed beautifully, so you always recopied my work before you mailed it. There were many times when you sped to the post office just before mid-night on April 15th. We had nothing to worry about, because we always had money coming back. They couldn’t put a penalty on money they owed us, but the law said file by April 15th so you insisted on having it there by then.

Don was making passing grades in school, but he had such terrible handwriting and spelling skills, it amazed me that he did as well as he did. He apparently had the ability to compose a good story. His English teacher had the students write stories as daily assignments. Don always wrote personal stories that had an amusing twist. Some were embarrassing for the family, but they delighted his teacher. She told him he could be a writer if he would just learn to spell and type. I tried to get him to take typing, but he couldn’t seem to get his fingers to cooperate. They worked just fine on guitar strings but not a typewriter.

Christi and Don both had excellent singing voices, and they were often called on to sing duets in church. They were asked to sing at weddings, as well. Carol had a good singing voice also, but she didn’t like to sing in public unless it was with a group.

Carol had a special gift for doing pencil portraits. She also did other art work in colored pencils and in oil. In art class, she did a picture of sheep on a hillside. That one hangs in my bedroom. She also did a large portrait in oil of a Greek Orthodox priest sitting and reading from a large Bible. There was a window above him overlooking a hillside.

The Shah of Iran had been recently overthrown and was in exile. He looked much like the man in the painting, so everyone thought she had painted his portrait. In reality, she got the idea from a National Geographic magazine. She gave it to my mom for Christmas that year. Carol didn’t seem to treasure her work and always gave it to anyone who wanted it.

Christi and Don were also talented in art, and in time Connie would be. as well. Their styles differed. Christi liked crafts and decorating. Don was more of a perfectionist, which is much like you. Your precise way of working was right for doing the drafting work. 

As for me, I liked to do a painting in one session. I worked in water color and oil, but I was very messy. It wasn’t unusual for me to get oil paint all over myself. When you critiqued my work, especially when I was painting animals, your suggestions for improvement kept me redoing details until you approved. I liked painting landscapes and seascapes and things that didn’t involve a lot of detail. I only painted occasionally after college. The commercial art I did at work was quite different from the fine art courses I took in college. Most of that involved arranging ads and drawings were usually pen and ink. If color was involved it was done with overlays.

When the school year ended in May of that year, I encouraged Carol to find a summer job. She was reluctant to go on interviews, and I'm sure she thought I was nagging her. I guess I was to an extent, but Carol would stay in her room and become a hermit if I didn't push her a bit. She did reluctantly go looking for something. She worked with a temporary agency as a file clerk, and then she got a permanent job working at a doughnut shop. The experience was good for her, and she was well liked by her co-workers. For the first time in her life, she was earning her own money, and the tips weren’t that bad either. The down side was that she brought a bag of day-old doughnuts home each night, which put too much sugar into our diets and interfered with our waistlines. For some reason, we never insisted she not do it.

Some incidences did occur there which were sad. One of the regular customers, who Carol knew well, died of a heart attack. Then two of her co-workers died tragically
. They were both cutters, who actually made the doughnuts. The first one who died was married but cheating on his wife. He was on the highway with his girlfriend, when they came upon an auto accident. He got out of his car to investigate and was hit by another car and killed.

The other death was more tramatic for her. He was a young guy, not much older than she was. He was a special friend. She admitted that she had a crush on him in spite of the fact he was hooked on drugs. He lived in a house-trailer, and one night, it caught fire, and he was unable to get out. Everyone believed that he was likely smoking pot and too high to escape. She seemed very sad for a long while after that.

You were going through a rough spot in your life, where you were concerned about what to do with our country place. You were hoping to be able to retire early and return to a less hectic lifestyle, where you could raise cattle and sell timber and not have to worry about dealing with the public.

When you tried to talk to me about it, I found I had a blind spot when it came to the farm. It was a great place to get away for a few days, but the children and I didn’t want to live there. I couldn’t give you the answers you wanted. When the subject came up, we were at an impasse.

When you didn’t get answers from me, you would take Carol to the levee and try to talk to her about it. I could feel you withdrawing from me. Because you weren’t happy, I had my moments of shedding a few tears as well. You and I both knew, that with four children to try to get through college, and three of them in the near future, our expenses would be great. It wasn’t something we could swing without your salary. This was one dilemma that would plague us for t
he next few years.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 75
First Bird to Leave the Nest

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes. this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

After school ended in May of 1978, Don wanted to have the cosmetic surgery on his nose that Carol had had earlier, so we let him get it. On the day of the surgery, he became nervous when we took him in to have his blood-work done. He had never had blood drawn before, and he stared at the tube as it filled with red liquid. We had to take him up several floors for the surgery. He made it into the elevator before his knees buckled under him and he hit the floor. He was fine, but as his mother, I couldn’t keep my stomach from churning, until he was safely returned to us. He looked like the victim of a bar fight, but was bandaged and ready to go home. It took a few days for the swelling and bruising to subside, but he was very happy with his new nose. I had to admit, it did make him quite handsome. 

In June, Connie celebrated her fifth birthday. Now that she was five, she would be going to preschool in the fall. Connie had made friends with the two little girls who lived across the street. One of them, Roxanne, had been born the same week as Connie. Her sister’s name was Rhonda. Often, the two of them came over to play.  A boy named Jonathan and his older sister, Judy, lived next door. Jonathan was close to Connie's age. Sometimes, he played with Connie. I remember one day he kept bugging you while you were trying to paint the trim on the house. You threatened to dump paint on him, if he didn't stop bothering you.

Don had a brass sword with a Spanish emblem hanging in his room.  He had persuaded me to buy it when we were at a garage sale. One day, Connie decided to get the sword, which was nearly as big as she was, so she could show it to Jonathan. She didn’t ask permission from anyone, but when you saw her running across our yard and dragging the sword behind her, you freaked out. Connie was fortunate that she didn't cut herself. After that, we kept the sword sheathed and hanging higher.

The fall semester would be Carol's final year in high school. She would finish in December of that year, since she would have taken the required classes, but the graduation ceremony would be in the Spring of 1979. We had a decision to make about Don. Some of his friends from church would be attending Ozark Academy in North Arkansas, which was the approved school for the Louisiana/Arkansas conference of our church. His friends, their parents, and our pastor were all encouraging us to send the twins to that school. Christi was satisfied to continue at Grace King, and we were convinced that she was not ready to leave home. We weren’t sure that Don was ready either, but he pleaded with us to let him go. His best friend would be going.

The students were encouraged to work on campus, which would help toward their room and board. If Don attended he would be assigned a job on the maintenance crew. The main drawback was that the school was over 500 miles from New Orleans. One reason they wanted him to go was to spread cost of transportation by having another student on the bus, which transported students to and from on breaks, We finally agreed to let him see if he could handle being that far from home.

We needed to be there to register him as a student and get him settled in the dormitory. In August, we took the van to drop Don off at school. He would be the first to leave home, and we wouldn’t see him again until the first break in October. Since the drive was so long, we planned on making it our vacation trip for the summer. Once again,we planned it as a camping trip, since the last one had worked out well.

We drove to Hot Springs and spent our first night at a KOA campground. We had been to Hot Springs several times, and we enjoyed seeing the town again and driving up the mountain above the city. We visited and explored the Pea Ridge Military park near Garfield, Arkansas. There was a Civil War homestead to explore. We also went through a cave, which upset Connie, since she couldn’t handle dark places. That night we stayed at a KOA park near Eureka Springs. We visited a place where there was a giant statue known as Christ of the Ozarks. This is a place where a well known passion play is presented. Unfortunately, our schedule didn’t allow us to include that. 

On our final night before dropping Don off at school, we found a Jellystone Campground near Branson, Mo. This was a favorite for all the kids, especially Connie. They had a lot activities for the family. Connie got to ride around with Yogi Bear in a little red car. That night there was a hayride which we all went on. There was also an outdoor movie, and later fireworks. The town of Branson was just starting to become the  place to vacation, for those who enjoy country music. Now many people choose Branson as their vacation destination. There are many country shows to see that weren't there in the 70's.

It was finally time to drop Don off for his school year. The campus seemed like it would be a pleasant and safe place for our son’s first experience away from the family. We went in to help Don register and advise on which classes he should take to prepare him for college. We helped him get situated and met his roommate, Lowell,  a part-Indian boy form Enid, Oklahoma. He was very polite and seemed to be a nice kid. We said our goodbyes and left, dreading the the long drive ahead of us.

Back home in Metairie, our next task was to get our last child ready for her adventure into the world of education. I bought her some cute school clothes and all the materials required for a preschooler. and  I went with her on her first day and met one of the moms, who had a little girl Connie’s age. Jennifer was the child’s name and she and Connie would become friends. They were neighbors from four houses down.

Since preschoolers only went to school until noon, I needed someone to keep Connie in the afternoon, until the girls got home. Jennifer's mom, Lisa, told me that her next door neighbor, who also had a young daughter, would love to keep another child. She introduced me to Dianne, who was a very sweet lady. Diane agreed to keep Connie, and Lisa agreed to make sure our daughters got safely on and off the bus each day. 

We called Don, and he seemed happy with his new surroundings. He liked his roommate and also the man who would be supervising his campus job. Don would be helping him do some construction work. There were several girls interested in him. One girl, named Loraine, was mentioned several times. We were dismayed to learn he had changed the classes I had marked for him to take. He had dropped history and typing was taking auto mechanics and some other course, which he didn’t need. He said that he and some of the guys planned to go caving and mountain climbing. We were starting to have second thoughts about whether or not we’d made a wise decision.

In October, we were counting on his first trip home and anxious to meet the bus after the 10-hour journey back to Metairie. Then we got a frantic phone call. He had missed the bus. He was supposed to be there at six a.m., and he was late. They left without him. We were as upset as Don, but had no idea what could be done.

The school called us soon afterward, offering an apology. They said the bus driver was at fault, because he had strict instructions to call the roll and not leave until he was sure he had all the students returning to Metairie. The school decided to fly him home at their expense. We met the plane at the airport. Our son arrived home five hours before the other students made it back.
 
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 76
More of Life in the Seventies

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes. this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

In November of 1978, there was a news story that had everyone glued to their TV. A murder-suicide occurred in Guyana. Jim Jones, an ordained minister and doomsday cult leader, had taken several hundred followers from San Francisco to Guyana and built Peoples Temple, as an agricultural community, which was called Jonestown. The members were taught to believe the day might come when they would have to die for their faith. They practiced a ritual in which everyone drank Kool-Aid, knowing one day they might be required to drink it when it contained poison. 

On November 18, a U.S. congressman and others, who had heard rumors of abuse, flew there on a fact-finding trip. When they confronted Jones, some of his group opened fire, and the congressman and five others were killed on the runway. Jones returned to the group and gave orders that the Kool Aid be poisoned and served to the people. A few members realized what was happening and managed to escape. 909 people died from the poison, and Jim Jones shot himself to death. 

For those who might be too young to remember, this is what it means if someone tells you that, "you drank the Kool-Aid." In other words, you've believed something to be true that was false and will do you harm.

Another story that made the news that year happened earlier in England. The first test-tube baby was born. In vitro fertilization was something that opened a way for people, who had been unable to have a child by natural means, to be able to conceive. It was like a miracle for many childless couples, but it was a controversial procedure for those who believed that man should not 'mess with' nature.
*****

In our own family there were more pressing things for us personally. One thing concerned the dog Carol had persuaded us to allow her to have. She had taken care of the food and water, but the dog was never taken out and walked. Carol was an unhappy pet owner, and she tried to ignore poor Bimbo, as he chewed away in frustration on the legs of her furniture. The dog had grown from a curry-haired pup to a scraggly dog with hair so sparse that it resembled the hair of a pig.

“Carol, we have to get rid of that dog,” you told her. “He doesn’t look healthy. He’s likely to give you some kind of disease.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know what to do with him. I shouldn’t have gotten him. Do what you need to do.”

Thankfully, you knew someone, who lived near our place in the country, who never said “no” to taking in a dog, no matter how ugly. So Bimbo got a new home. I have a feeling that being in the open air and having the opportunity to run free, was a blessing for him as well as us. Sadly, none of us had paid enough attention to the poor dog, so I doubt if he grieved having to leave our home. For a long time, Carol didn’t want to be around any pets with a lot of hair. One day in the future, she would become a very responsible pet owner, but at this time in her life, it wasn’t her thing.
******

Christmas that year was special because we had our son back home. This time he managed to make it home without missing the bus. He had a lot to talk about. One thing was the girl named Lenora, who was his first girlfriend. He had gone rock climbing and he’d learned how to rappel. He’d also been caving several times and he loved both sports. His supervisor had praised his ability to do construction, but lately the project was on hold because there was a lot of snow. Now he was having to shovel snow, which was hard labor.

Christi was thrilled to have her twin back. It was tradition for them to have a picture made with both of them holding their birthday cake on the seventeenth of December. Before we left to go visit our parents, as we always did for the holidays, a group of boys from our church came by, singing Christmas carols. There were four young guys and Christi had a crush on two of them. She was really starting to be interested in boys. She had me take a picture of her with them. Less than a week after New Year, Don left us again. He went on the bus with the other students, taking with him a lot of new school clothes which he had gotten for Christmas.
*****


Connie seemed to like her school, and she had become very fond of my neighbor, Diane, who kept her after school until we came home from work. Diane’s daughter, Lesley was a year younger than Connie but she and Connie became best friends. I was a little hurt when I found out that Connie liked people to believe that Diane was her mother. Diane was quite a bit younger than me, but at forty, I didn’t think I looked old enough "to be put out to pasture.' You, on the other hand, would be fifty in another year. She didn't seem to mind calling you Dad.

When Connie’s birthday came around in June, I made out invitations for her to hand out at preschool. Since I didn’t know the other kids' mothers, I couldn’t invite them personally. I’m not sure Connie passed them out. We did invite the kids around us, but the party was on Sunday afternoon and everyone had other outings planned. I had the den decorated and cake, punch and party favors and games arranged. Still I had no idea how many would come.

Diane showed up and brought Lesley, but time passed and no one else came. I was embarrassed that only one child was there and I was afraid that Connie would be hurt. Diane made an excuse to leave, telling me she would be back soon.  In a little while, she returned with a half a dozen kids I’d never seen before. She had gone to her neighbors' and brought those kids. Later some of the other kids who lived around came also. They had returned from whatever they had been doing, so we had a good group after all. Connie was a bit of a brat, though, because she made a scene when she didn’t win the “Pin the Tail on the Donkey" prize. 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.



Chapter 77
A Shrinking Household

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Early in 1979, Carol’s fascination with John Denver and Country music evaporated, and she entered a new stage in her life. She had always been interested in religion and God. She had been baptized at an early age, but lately she had become almost obsessive in her beliefs. She decided the music which we listened to was something contrary to a Christian life.
 
I came home from work one day to find her and Connie sitting in the middle of the floor with a stack of my records, which they were in the process of destroying. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the black shards of some of my favorite albums broken into tiny jagged pieces. I’m ashamed to say that I let my frustration get the best of me. I lost my temper and informed her, in harsh tones, that the records she was breaking weren’t hers to break. A new one, which I had recently bought of the Singing Nun, who was popular at the time, was among those lost. I was able to salvage a few records which she hadn’t gotten to yet. She seemed surprised at my reaction. She got up with tears in her eyes and went to her room.

Carol had continued to work at the doughnut shop after she finished school, until it was time to go through the graduation ceremony with the rest of her class. In late May, Mom and Dad came down for the ceremony and they brought your mom along with them. Carol’s high school class was so large that the graduation was held in the city auditorium. The ceremony was long and boring, and everyone was relieved when it finally ended. 
  
Don was back home from Ozark, and although his grades were passing, they were disappointing. It was apparent that he was going to miss his little girlfriend. They had parted thinking they would rekindle their relationship after the summer break. He and his roommate, Lowell, had become close friends and they would  miss each other as well.  You and I decided that we would not be sending him so far away from home again. The parents of his friend, David, felt the same way that we did about the school being too far away. They assured us that David wouldn’t be going back to Ozark either.

Now that school was out for the summer, Don didn't know what to do with himself. He and Christi applied for work at some restaurants, and he managed to get a job as a busboy at a popular local restaurant. Christi was hired there as a waitress, but she was apprantly too slow at catching on, because she only worked there a couple of weeks before they let her go. She tried another waitress job with the same result. Apparently it wasn't her calling.
 
Don had a new hobby.  Macrame was popular, and he became very good at making hanging baskets and other projects.  He kept buying books with new designs and using a lot of colored cord and hemp twine. Soon Mother and I had more macrame baskets and wall hangings than we knew what to do with. 
 
In June, Connie's sixth birthday was celebrated with just family. I didn't want to go through the embarrassment of having no one show up, like her last birthday.

Her friend Lesley was taking dance lessons and Connie mentioned that maybe she would like to take dancing. There were beginner gymnastic classes starting at the Johnny Bright playground, and we suggested  that  she might like to do that instead. After watching the summer Olympics, Don and Christi were getting interested in gymnastics, and Connie wanted to do everything they did, so we signed her up for those classes.
 
Carol and her friend, Carmen, from church, decided they wanted to go to a Bible based college in Keene, Texas near Fort Worth. Carmen hadn’t quite finished high school. She had fallen behind because she'd had to learn English after she moved to Metairie from El Salvador. She was old enough to take a GED, so she did and was able to get the high school equivalency diploma. Now, they could both enroll as freshmen and be roommates. Carol and Carmen spent hours shopping for clothes and deciding how they wanted to decorate their dorm room. They bought matching spreads and bedding for the twin beds which would be in their room. 

I talked to Carol about what she might be interested in doing after she got out of college, but she had no idea. Since she was skilled in math, I suggested that field might be something she was suited for. I thought she might consider engineering, or some other job where math skills would be an asset. She said she would take mostly basic courses the first year, but she might try an advanced math class to see if she'd like it.
    
In late August, we drove Carol to Keene because we wanted to see the campus of the college she would attend. All the children came with us. Carol's roommate came separately with her sister and brother-in-law. 
The campus was lovely and her room was spacious.

I was shocked that the Texas weather was so hot in August. The temperature was  a 104
° F, but it wasn't as humid there as it was back in New Orleans. It didn't feel uncomfortable, until we had lugged suitcases and other boxes up the stairs to her freshman dorm room.  We said our goodbyes, and after spending one night in a motel, we drove back to Metaire to deal with getting the other two ready to go away as well.
 
A recruiter for a Christian academy in Mississippi had been by and talked to us, and to David's parents, about sending our children there for their senior year. The man saw some of Don's macrame and was impressed. He told Don that for his school job, he would be paid for making macrame hangings to decorate the admistration building and the dorm lobbies. Christi's job would be to work in a campus based factory which made easels for floral wreaths. 

We decided to let the twins go there, because the school was only about an hour's drive from Metairie
It was in a town which we had to go through on our trips back to visit our parents and check on our country place, so we would be able to see them often.

We drove them to school and met their roommates. Christi would be rooming with a freshman. The girl went by the name of Sunshine, and she lived up to her name. She appeared to be very upbeat and excited about being there.
 
Now, our house seemed very empty. Connie was the only child we had left. She began first grade at Alice Birney Elementary school, the same school where she had attented kindergarden. Diane, my neighbor, who had kept Connie after school last year would be keeping her for me again.

Connie was like an only child now, with her siblings all away at school. It was hard to keep her at home, because she wanted to spend all her time playing with Diane’s daughter, Lesley, and her other neighborhood playmates. She missed her siblings and wasn't used to being with only adults.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 78
Long Distance Parenting

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Our house seemed strangely empty when three of our children were away at school. We missed them terribly, and I know Connie felt the loss as well. She especially missed Carol, who had always welcomed her into her room and read stories to her.

I felt the need to talk to them often. I called Carol every week, and she gave upbeat reports about  everything. She always seemed glad to hear from us, but knowing her the way I did, I knew she wouldn’t want to have us worry about her, since we were so far away. She was the only one of our children who wouldn’t tell us if anything was wrong. So in spite of assurances to the contrary, I was never quite convinced that I was getting the whole story.

The twins would quickly tell us if anything was bothering them. Usually, it was a need for more money for one thing or another, like a new suit or long dress for campus banquets. Both of the twins had signed up for gymnastics. After a few weeks there would be tryouts, and they were hoping they would make the team. The twins had also been accepted as members of the school chorus. Both of those activities would involve trips away from school, where they would be required to pay their own way.

Christi had changed roommates. She was now rooming with a senior student, named Michele. Her original roommate, who went by the nickname "Sunshine," was too bubbly and needed to be rooming with someone in her own freshman class. Christi had already been scolded by the supervisor of her on-campus job for being late for work. 

Another problem was that Christi wasn't happy with her nose. She was the only one of the three older kids who hadn’t gotten cosmetic surgery on her nose, and now she was wearing a clothespin on it at night, hoping she could make it turn up.  I have no idea how a clothespin was supposed to help. That sounded painful, but someone had suggested that she try it.  I thought her nose was perfectly fine, but you told her to wait until the Christmas break, and she could have the surgery if she wanted it that much.

A couple of weeks after we left the twins at school, there was a mother/daughter banquet, and I had to make a trip to attend that. The school staff suggested matching dresses because pictures would be made. I settled for matching colors and bought a suit that matched the colors of one of Christi’s long dresses.

Don already had a girlfriend, whose name was Ce-Ce. He liked his roommate, Milton, who was a preacher’s kid. The two of them had decided they didn’t like the twin beds in their room, and had managed to get permission to build bunk beds for their room. Don didn’t like the dean. The man was keeping an eye on him and Ce-Ce, and had scolded him, because he felt that Don was being too friendly with her. Holding hands and kissing were frowned on. He told them that touching wasn’t appropriate on a Christian campus.

In late September, we got a call from the boys' dean. He said Don had suffered an injury and was being taken to a hospital in Hattiesburg. He told us it looked like Don might have broken his hand, and we needed to come and get him. We didn’t waste any time getting on the road. When we arrived at the hospital, Don was sitting on a bed in the emergency room with a large cast that covered his hand and his arm up to his elbow. The dean seemed apologetic, but he didn’t give us any details, other than to say we should take him home and bring him back the following Monday for classes.

On the way home, Don told us the story. There was a student banquet planned for Saturday night. Don and Ce-Ce had a date, but Ce-Ce wasn’t feeling good and was in her dorm room. Don wanted to see her but the girls’ dorm was off limits for boys, except during certain hours and only then, in the lobby. Don had asked another girl to get Ce-Ce to come to the side door so he could see her.

The dean was watching and he told Don that he and Ce-Ce were dis-socialized, which meant they were not to see each other for six weeks. Don was so angry that he went straight to his dorm room which had a metal door. He drew back his fist and hit the door with all his strength. I’m sure the dorm door was a surrogate for the dean. He broke three fingers and several bones in his hand.


We were pretty upset with him, but it did seem the punishment for seeing a sick friend was a little harsh. It wasn’t a cheap lesson. He had the pain and broken hand, but we were the ones who had to pay the hospital and make two trips to the school. I have no idea how Don was able to continue his gymnastic training, but he did, and when tryouts came around he and Christi were both on the team. This meant they had to have the proper teamwear for the sport plus traveling money for the trips the team made to other schools to put on shows and go to competitions.

Don was supposed to wear the cast for six weeks. Instead of going back to the doctor to have it removed after two and a half weeks, he went to the campus metal shop and cut it off himself. The twins were still just sixteen. We wondered if we would survive until they grew up.
********

We were trying to spend more time with Connie. It was hard to keep her at home because she preferred playing with friends.  We rode bikes with her and took her on walks over by the levee. First grade was going along okay as far as we could tell, but she occasionally brought home frowny faces for talking too much in class. She complained that her teacher didn't like her. She probably thought that because she was being scolded for talking. We went to the school on parents night, and her teacher didn't have anything bad to report.
 
We also had more time for each other now. For a while when you wanted to talk about our country property, you talked to Carol, because she would listen without expressing an opinion. Now that Carol was no longer here, you turned to me again, even though you knew that I didn’t want to move there. Since our expenses were so much more now with the children in expensive schools, you realized that now was not the time to think about leaving our jobs and moving back. I knew you were frustrated, but it would be a while before our children were on their own. We wanted them to have an education. That meant sacrificing some of our own wants and needs for them.
*******

My job, which had gone along well for some time, was starting to get on my nerves. The company had grown, and they had moved to a new building out of the Metairie area. One of the new employees was making my work days unpleasant, and I was tired of coming home worn out from excessive overtime. I found another job in a smaller shop where the people were friendlier and the pace was less hectic. Here I would have an opportunity to do more art work, so once again, I changed jobs. This company was called Christian Print Shop.  I thought at least the language used by the employees would be cleaner. The owner’s son, who worked there as a negative stripper and plate-maker, was a lay preacher for the Assembly of God Church.
******


In National news, Ronald Reagan, long time actor and former governor of California had just announced that he would be running in the 1980 election as a Republican against our current president, Jimmy Carter a Democrat.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 79
The Family Together Again

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

We got a chance to see the twins often, because on weekends when we went to visit our parents and check on our property we always stopped at the Academy. Most of the time they were busy doing other things, and they had little time to spend with us. On Sunday afternoons, Don played baseball with his friends, and we were often unable to locate Christi. They both loved this school and were able to make a lot of friends. 

The gymnastic team had a special show one night, and Don insisted that we come to see him in action. Christi wasn’t a part of the main team that went on tours. We were amazed at some of the seemingly dangerous feats the kids on the team were performing. It was scary seeing my son on the top of a four-person-deep pyramid balancing on one hand. Again, we wondered if he would live to grow up. He was developing some powerful muscles and becoming very agile.

Carol was able to find rides with people coming back to the New Orleans area when the school had holidays and other long breaks. She liked the school and was making good grades. Since it was her first time to be away from home, I'm sure she wished she wasn’t quite so far away. She was our quietest child, and she enjoyed having some alone time. When she was young she didn't seem introverted, but she became more so as she grew older. She didn’t make new friends quite as quickly as the twins did. We didn’t learn a lot about what was going on with her. She had a campus job which helped a bit with her tuition. She worked on an assembly line that made kitchen cabinets.

Her P.E teacher had the students keep a diary of their daily activities, and insisted on them either running laps for 30 minutes or running up and down flights of stairs. Carol chose the latter as a way of getting exercise. Even though it was more strenuous, It involved less of her time. She wasn’t happy with her math teacher, who was very strict and spoke with a strong Chinese accent, making him hard to understand. Because of him, she had given up on the idea of getting a degree in something involving math. Now, she was playing with the idea of becoming a dietitian. This surprised me, since she had never shown an interest in food preparation. 

Connie was still taking the gymnastic class and spending as much time as we allowed at Diane’s house with her friend Lesley. The Juneau family had a backyard pool and television that got a lot more stations than our TV. Also Diane had a Brownie Scout group and Connie had joined it.
******

Holidays were always a big deal in our family. We went to great lengths to make them memorable for our children, hoping those memories would keep the family together even after we were no longer around. As long as our extended families were alive and well, we celebrated the main day with them, which unfortunately made work for our parents.

Your mother was especially insistent that her children come home often. My own mother wanted to see us, but I think she was beginning to feel the pressure of the cooking, cleaning, and the chaos the holidays brought on. For that reason, we celebrated Thanksgiving in our own house this year. It was a new experience for me to do all that cooking, but I was able to make it festive and provide as many special dishes as we were used to having. The new tradition didn’t feel right for the children since they were used to seeing their grandparents and being around their cousins. Christmas would be spent as usual with extended family.

You enjoyed Christmas, but I was the one who did most of the shopping and wrapping the gifts. Some sort of wavelength existed between the two of us which we never quite understood. It only worked when we weren’t thinking about it. For years without either of us saying about what we would like for Christmas, we ended up buying each other the same gifts. One year we gave each other watches, one year radios, another year, Bibles, and still another year, boots. I loved having a poinsettia during Christmas. You seldom bought flowers, but each year on a whim, we would both come home with a poinsettia plant, always on the same day. This must have happened at least ten or fifteen times.

It wasn’t just a Christmas thing. We did it with groceries and other items throughout the year. We weren’t organized enough to make a list, or discuss what we needed. Both of us would stop by the grocery store on a impulse. We would both come home with same items. It wouldn’t necessarily be things we needed. There would be duplicates of things which neither of us had ever thought about buying before.

In the New Orleans area there was a drug store named K&B. It was known for the purple color on their building and on many of the store brand products. One day, we both had the urge to stop at that store on the way home from work. To everyone’s amazement, both of us came home with a large purple garbage can. No one had even mentioned that we needed a new garbage can.

Trying to second guess what the other might decide to do was impossible. If one of us decided to stop by the store and buy a can of coffee or some other item, and then reasoned that if we did, we would likely end up with two. We would let the urge pass only to learn when we got home that the other had almost stopped but had reasoned the same way. This time instead of two of the same items, there would be none.
*******

For the Christmas break of 1979, all of the kids coming home from school was a happy occasion. Connie was especially excited to have her siblings home. At least while they were home, she didn’t beg to go spend time with her friends.

They didn’t have to go back to school until the second week in January. Don wanted to see Ce-Ce on the break. He was crazy about this girl. He had met her mother, who lived and worked in this area. They weren't members of our church, but they did visit there  in order to meet us. Ce-Ce was a beautiful girl and her mother was very friendly. She was a single mom with only the one child. She urged us to let Don come over to her house, because Ce-Ce would be very lonely with her away at work. The idea of them being together with no supervision didn’t sound right to us. But since her mother didn’t seem to have a problem with it and seemed sure they would just watch TV and play board games, we reluctantly agreed that he could go.

After the New Year break, Carol rode back to the school with friends and helped pay for the gas. We drove Don and Christi back to their school. Once again, our house felt empty. It was 1980, I had made my usual New Year's resolutions, which if I was really lucky, might last until at least mid-month. We wondered what new adventures another year would bring.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 80
To Graduate or Not to Graduate

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

The thing I liked most about living in Metairie during winter was that there were very few cold days. There was seldom a need for a heavy coat. If we went out of town for a weekend in the winter, I was anxious to get back to milder temperatures. There were always interesting things to do in the area. It was fun to walk around in the French Quarter or down the river walk. Sometimes we would go to Audubon Park and take Connie to the zoo, or to City Park where there was a petting zoo and playground equipment. Both parks had very old and beautiful live oak trees that spread their branches over the ground inviting children to climb among the limbs. If we did go to one of the parks, Connie always wanted to invite a friend along.

I remember an incident which happened one day, when I took Connie and her friend, Jennifer, to the zoo. We were watching the animals, blissfully unaware of the people around us. A couple of older girls came up and decided to start trouble. They began to make fun of Jennifer for some unknown reason. Connie bristled like a Tomcat and was ready to start a fight to defend her friend. It was all I could do to calm her down and get them away from the rude girls. I hadn’t realized how quickly my daughter was ready to take on a bully.

Connie had always had her own taste when it came to clothes. Now that she was in school, she became even more concerned about her wardrobe. I found it shocking that six and seven-year-old children wanted to wear designer clothes. I had not had that problem with the older children. I’d been able to find things they liked at Sears, Penney's, or Kmart. Now Connie wanted stone-washed jeans that looked like they’d seen better days, but still cost a small fortune and would be outgrown in a month or so. She insisted that she needed name-brand tennis shoes. I went to yard sales, when she wasn’t with me and found some of the brands she’d mentioned that looked new enough. She was so fashion conscious that if I stopped the car in front of a Kmart, she would hide on the floorboard, in fear of being seen by a friend.
*********

In May, Don and Christi were scheduled to graduate from high school at the academy. Don was popular at school. He had always liked Elvis Presley, who had died three years before. Elvis impersonators were everywhere. Don discovered that he could do a pretty good impersonation. He had a similar voice, and the girls loved it. He visited a thrift store and found some vintage clothing and put a costume together. After performing at some of the school-based talent shows, he was asked to sing an Elvis song on Class Night for the program put on by senior students on the night before graduation. He was told he could sing one of the mellow love songs without the objectionable hip gyrations. Christi was part of a singing group which would perform, as well. All the exams were over and the seniors had little left to do, other than practice for class night and the graduation exercises.

We planned to go for class night and the graduation the following day. We were relieved to know that both of my children had passed their finals and would be graduating. Unfortunately, a few days before all of this was to take place, we got a phone call from the school, telling us that Christi and a couple of other girls had violated the school rules and wouldn’t be able to participate in class night.

In fact, the school was trying to decide if she would be allowed to graduate at all. There was talk of her being expelled. They informed us that she was not allowed on campus, and that we should come and pick her up immediately. At the moment, she was staying with a friend who lived off campus. They didn’t explain, other than to say that they would talk to us about it when we got there. 

We were frantic. What had our daughter done that was so bad that she wouldn’t be able to get a high school
diploma.
 We were preparing to make the trip to the school. when we got another phone call. This time it was the father of the girl she was staying with off campus. I answered the phone.

“Listen, you folks don’t need to make an extra trip here. Christi is more than welcome to stay with us. What those girls did wasn’t that bad. They were just trying to have some fun. The school’s overreacting. You need to let her stay with us, until you originally planned to come. Your daughter is standing right here with me. Do you want to talk to her?”  

“Yes, please! Put her on,” I said. He handed the phone to Christi.

“Mama, please don’t get upset. Let me explain. We were just joking around. The boys didn’t even see us. We were only in the dorm for a minute. Some girl saw us going over there and had to go tell on us.”

“Christi, what on earth did you do? We don’t need this, right here at graduation. If you don’t get your diploma, we might as well have kept you home all year.”

“We were just playing a joke. We slipped into the boys’ dorm about midnight while they were sleeping, and we went in this one boy’s room who was always teasing us, and we jerked his covers off and yelled “Truckin!’ Then we ran back to our dorm. It wasn’t even my idea. Nobody would have even found out about it if it wasn't for that girl ratting us out.”

“YOU WENT IN A GUY’S ROOM?  ARE YOU CRAZY? NO WONDER THEY WANT TO EXPEL YOU!"

The girl’s father came back on the phone. “Listen Ma'am, calm down. We’ve all done crazy things. They just made a little mistake. School’s about out, and they were just clowning around. I’m gonna’ talk to the school, and see if we can get things straightened out. I think they're getting all worked up over nothing. They’re not gonna expel them girls. This thing’s all going to blow over. Y’all let her stay here. I’ll tell them that we’re taking care of her. She’ll be fine.”

I was furious, but what he said made sense. Why should we have to make an extra trip? Maybe he would have some influence with the school. I talked to you about it, and we decided to let her stay with his family, until we went to the school for the Class Night program.

On Saturday afternoon, we drove to the school, dreading what we might find and wondering if we would see Christi. On Sunday morning, the school would have the Baccalaureate sermon and the graduation ceremony would be that afternoon. We were staying at a motel, so that we would only have to make one trip. Mom and Dad were coming up for the graduation on Sunday afternoon.

That evening, we sat in the auditorium anxiously glancing around at the crowd. Some of the people from New Orleans, who came for the graduation, sat with us. We hadn’t been able to get in touch with Christi, as of yet. Don sang, wearing a black outfit that had large stars sewn on using sequins. He had darkened his hair and painted on some black sideburns. We were amazed at how the crowd reacted to his Elvis rendition. The song had barely finished, when the crowd stirred, and we heard murmurs around us. Heads were turning and people were pointing. “Did you see that old lady.” someone whispered, “I think that’s Christi.”

We turned in time to see what appeared to be an old lady in a long dress wearing a bonnet over a curly gray wig. She was sitting a few seats behind us. She rose quickly, lowered her head. and hurried out of the building through a side door. Oh no. Surely that wasn’t our daughter. She wouldn’t have had the audacity to come to this program, knowing she wasn’t allowed on campus…or would she? Did we even know her any more?

We returned to the motel with, what felt like lead weights, in our stomachs. We were sure that if the school administrators learned she had attended that night, after being warned not to come back on campus, she would be expelled.

The following afternoon, we met with my parents and the five of us watched nervously, as the graduates marched in wearing their caps and gowns. We hoped, but didn't dare to expect, that our daughter would be among the group. And then….there she was, marching proudly with a male student by her side. The relief that flooded over us was palpable, causing the knots in our stomachs to dissolve.

After the ceremony, we met the man who had talked, in our behalf, to the school about overlooking the charges against our daughter. He apparently was a prankster himself. It had been his idea to dress Christi as an old lady, so she could see her brother perform.

We never found out if the school was aware that she had attended. We just loaded our van down with our two graduates' luggage and other things and headed home, thankful that this segment of parenting was behind us.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 81
Summer and Fall of 1980

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Shortly after the twins graduated, Carol came back from college in Texas. She decided she wanted to spend part of the summer with Mom and Dad. She wanted Mom to teach her to sew, so she could make some new school clothes. Carol only stayed a few weeks. Mother helped her make a few skirts and dresses, but then Mom talked to someone she knew at the local café and told Carol she had found a job for her. Carol tried it, but she didn’t like the work. She hadn’t expected Mom would want her to take a job. She let us know she was ready to go back home.
********

The week we had taken Carol to Newton was the week prior to Connie’s seventh birthday. Connie wasn’t feeling good that day, and she was running a fever. Your sister, Nan, happened to be visiting your mother that weekend. Richard wasn’t with her, but she had brought Kelly. Connie was irritable and didn’t feel like playing with Kelly. Nan let Connie sit in her lap, since she was sick.
 
By the time we returned home, we discovered that Connie was breaking out in a rash. My trusty Dr. Spock book confirmed that the problem was chicken pox. The rest of our family had that childhood disease behind us. Unfortunately, Nan and Kelly hadn’t had chicken pox. Nan told me later, the disease almost killed her. That may have been an exaggeration, but I know those things are much harder on adults.

After the fever broke, Connie didn’t seem that sick. The following day, she was covered with the red patches that looked like little blisters. She enjoyed her birthday in spite of the disease. She was pleased with her presents. Connie had begged for a scented Strawberry Shortcake doll for Christmas, but since they were new on the market, all the kids were asking for them, and the stores were sold out. By June, I was able to find them, and I bought her one, as well as a Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag and other presents.
*******
 
During the first weeks of summer vacation, Don and Ce-Ce spent a good bit of time together. Eventually Don and Christi both got summer jobs and Ce-Ce and her mom moved out of the area. She and Don stayed in touch throughout the summer. The twins both worked at Wendy’s for a while. Later, Christi had some temp jobs. Her jobs didn’t usually last long.
********
 
In July, we took a short family trip down the East coast of Florida and spent a couple of nights in a beachfront motel. While we were there, we went to Cape Canaveral and toured the Kennedy Space Center. You were especially interested in that. We saw the control room and their space museum. They showed films of the rocket launches and took us on a bus tour out to the launch pad.

We also spent a night in Saint Augustine. While the kids were still asleep at the motel, you and I got up early and took a long walk over the bridge into the main part of the city. We walked up and down the streets until we found a nice little hidden café serving breakfast. We were gone several hours. When we returned the kids were just getting up and watching cartoons on TV.
*******
 
In August, Don and Christi decided to go to the college in Texas with Carol. Carol had a different roommate this year. She and Carmen were still friends, but they had both found other people who they wanted to room with.

 I gave Carol a checkbook and put her in charge of any money they would need while there. She had a head on her for business, and I knew she wouldn’t abuse the privileges. She wrote all the checks with our permission and was responsible for taking care of their needs. It wasn’t a smart idea, because the twins never learned to be responsible with money. For them it was like having a parent there, and they nearly drove Carol crazy with their demands. She resented having to be responsible for them, as well. Don’s need for money caused him to start selling pints of his blood in order to meet some of his needs.

Carol and her roommate attended a word-of-mouth Bible-study group someone told them about. She was already a bit obsessive in her beliefs, and after attending meetings with this group for a while, she became even more so. She decided it was wrong for women to wear pants or shorts, and she decided that from now on, she would wear nothing but skirts and dresses. A man that went by the name of Mac was leading the studies and some of the things he was telling the group seemed to us like more of his own ideas, rather then something purely from the Bible. She told me enough of what was being said that I talked to you about it. We became worried that she might be getting involved in something more cult-like than Christian.

She had also met a boy, who she was more than a little interested in. Tommy was part Korean. His father was a GI who had apparently abandoned the Korean mother. Unable to care for a baby,  she had placed him on the steps of a orphanage. At some point, he ran away and spent some time on the streets of Korea. Eventually, he was found and sent back to the orphanage and was adopted by an older American couple when he was around thirteen. Neither his background nor his nationality bothered me, because I thought it was about time Carol started dating. 

However, having served in the Korean War, you were concerned about what he might have gone through while living on the streets. I think there was a bit of prejudice involved as well. You were worried that your family might have a problem with a member of the family perhaps marrying someone from another culture. You wanted me to discourage her from dating him. I listened to her and knew how much she liked him, but I didn’t pass judgment. I figured she had three years of college left and maybe it was too soon to let this become an issue.
*******
 
The Christmas break was coming up soon. The kids were hoping to be able to take the van back to college when they returned for Spring semester. This was something we needed to think about. We still had the Dodge charger, but we both needed a vehicle to drive since we worked in different directions. If the kids had a car, they could come back and forth without us having to provide them transportation.
******* 

In November of 1980 there was a presidential election and Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter to become our 40th president. George H.W. Bush was his vice president.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 82
Changes in Store For the Four

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Shortly after Christmas in 1981, we bought another car. It was a Ford with low mileage, and it had an automatic transmission, unlike the Dodge Charger. I would be using this one for work. The kids wanted to come home for Spring break, so we told them to find a ride back to New Orleans, and we would let them take the van back. In the end, we checked around and found a bargain on airline tickets and decided to drive back with them and leave the van. That way we could see how well Don and Carol did driving on a long trip. You and Connie and I would fly home.

On the break, we talked to Carol again about choosing a major. Since Carol already had a year and a half of college, she needed to decide what she was working toward, else, she might be taking classes that she didn’t need and would take longer to graduate. She had taken Anatomy and Physiology to check off the science course she would need for a BS degree. Since nothing else appealed to her, I suggested nursing. She was reluctant, and said those classes would be hard. I told her she just passed the hardest nursing course she would be required to take, with the Anatomy and Physiology. She decided to rethink nursing as a possible career.

You and I had talked about it, and decided we would like the three kids to change colleges next semester. There was another college supported by our church near Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was more convenient for us, being a little nearer and with a really beautiful campus. Part of the reason we wanted Carol to change schools was because we were concerned about the group she was involved with. It sounded like some kind of offshoot from the church, and that bothered us. She was so impressionable. What I hadn’t realized was that Mac, who was the leader of this group, actually lived near the Tennessee College and had a group there as well.

We used the fact that the Tennessee school had an outstanding nursing program to try to convince Carol that it was in her best interest. She was reluctant to change. I know she didn’t want to leave Tommy, her Korean friend, but I guess she realized that she didn’t really have a choice. The kids were dependent on us to help pay for college.

When we drove back with them to the campus, we got a chance to meet her friend, Tommy. I liked him immediately. He was polite and nice looking, and I could understand why Carol had been attracted to him. He was serious enough to talk about deep subjects. Carol was not a person to enjoy small talk. She had told him already that she wouldn’t be coming back there for school. He seemed pretty upset about that. He told me he really cared about Carol, and he wanted her to come back. I felt bad for both of them.  

Don and Carol dropped us off at the air terminal at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. The weather was threatening. It didn’t take long for us to learn the flight was overbooked. This would be Connie’s first time to fly. I hadn’t flown that much either, and I didn’t enjoy flying. When they offered free flights to those who wanted to postpone, you and I thought it would be best to wait for a later flight. We were too late. A lot of people lined up to postpone their flight.

The plane took off in the middle of horrible weather. You and I were on edge during the whole flight. The turbulence was frightening. We were sitting over a wing, and it reminded me of a bird’s wing by the way it kept moving up and down. We had to keep our seat belts on for the whole flight. The pilot kept changing altitudes, trying to get out of the turbulence, but nothing helped. I’m sure without meaning to, we communicated our fear to Connie. I was so relieved to be on the ground again once we landed.
******

When the semester ended, Christi had the nose surgery that Carol and Don had gotten. She had a different doctor from the one we had used before. I think Christi must have indicated to him she wanted an upward tilt to her nose, because instead of the straight nose the other two got, her nose turned out slightly different. Even though she didn’t really need it, it was a cute nose.
*******


In May, news of the discovery of an AIDS virus was on TV. It was alarming, because there wasn’t much known about how it was spread, and there was talk of a coming epidemic from other countries. Christi, who was a bit `ditzy’ when it came to understanding things, freaked out, because I was using a diet product which was on the market at that time which was named Ayds. It was a caramel like cube that you ate with your coffee, and it helped with appetite control. She was sure that meant that I would get the disease.
*******


Don and Christi had both signed up to work in Summer camps. Both were accepted at Camp Kulaqua in Florida. They would be there most of the Summer since different age groups would arrive at two week intervals. We planned to go down and pick them up at the end of the summer.
*******


That summer, my friend Diane became interested in the difference in our Christian beliefs. She and her family had always been Catholic, as most people in New Orleans were. A Baptist friend had caused her to doubt some of her earlier convictions. She wanted to know what you and I believed. We were having a series of Evangelist meetings going on at our church, so I invited her to attend. She went every night, and at the end of the Summer, she and her daughter, Lesley, started attending our church regularly.

We had about decided to take Connie out of public school, and let her have a year or so in a school where she could get some spiritual training. Diane decided to let Lesley go there as well. I was glad she did, because Connie wasn’t thrilled with the idea of changing schools. This would be her fourth year. In spite of going to church all her life, Connie didn’t seem at all spiritually inclined.

Since her friend Lesley would be going, Connie didn’t give us a lot of trouble about changing schools. This school was much smaller and she could get more individual attention in all of her classes. She was the most socially inclined of all our children and wasn’t very concerned about studying. She had been dubbed class-clown by her third grade teacher. We loved her sense of humor, but we wanted her to have a serious side as well.
*******

Some of the other things that happened during the year 1981 included the wedding of Diana to Prince Charles. Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. There were assassination attempts on the life of both Pope Paul II, and also on our new president, Ronald Reagan. Neither attempt was successful.

In the case of Reagan, the attempt in March was for a ridiculous reason. The young man, John Hinckley, Jr.,  who fired a bullet into Reagan’s lung, was obsessed with the movie star, Jodie Foster. It was an attempt to impress her. The first shot he fired hit the Press Secretary and left him paralyzed. Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sent to a psychiatric facility.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 83
Changing Colleges

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Near the end of the summer when the last of the campers had gone home, we took Carol and Connie and drove down to Florida to pick up the twins from their summer jobs at Camp Kolaqua.

I was driving when we went through Tallahassee. I made a wrong turn and got stopped by a cop. I was very nervous when he asked for my license and I pulled  an old one out by mistake. In Metairie, you are allowed to keep the expired one, but they probably don’t expect you to keep it in your wallet.

Apparently the old ones are destroyed in Florida. This patrolman had no sense of humor. Sternly, he informed me that my license was expired. I said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I think I gave you the wrong one." I thought he was going to haul me away to jail. “What are you doing with more than one license?” he demanded. He didn’t like my explanation and told me it was illegal to carry more than one. Luckily, I didn’t get a ticket, but he did manage to scare me enough that I had you take the wheel.

The camp was in the little town of High Springs, not far from Gainesville. Christi seemed excited to show us around. They had both enjoyed a summer of horseback riding, swimming, and crafts, while living in cabins as counselors with a group of six to eight kids under their care at each session.

One of the most interesting things we did while there was to take a walk on a wooden walkway built over a cypress swamp. Some of the trees dated back thousands of years. They had a huge slice of a tree on display, showing the sap rings which form each year. Written beside the rings was information about the historical event occurring at the time the ring was formed. One of them listed the birth of Christ; I hadn’t realized cypress trees can live that long.

Christi had met a guy she liked at camp, and Don was excited about a girl named Angie. Summer romances don’t usually last, so it is hard to remember the names. Both of the twins met people who would be going to college with them in Tennessee, so they were glad they would be going there instead of Texas.
*********

A few weeks later, we drove them to SAU in Tennessee. You and I were exhausted after helping the girls take all the things they brought with them up to the third floor of their dorm. Don met some old friends and they helped him with his luggage, so we didn’t go into the boys' dorm at all. 

We called them all after we got back home. The girls had been assigned some campus jobs. Don had been able to get a job teaching gymnastics at the nearby high school. This would be the second year in college for him and for Christi. Carol and Christi started the year rooming together, but we were sure that wouldn’t last very long. Our older daughters didn’t have a lot in common, other than being sisters.

Don was happy about being in a school which had an active gymnastic program. He was very good at the sport and didn’t have any trouble making the team. He was inspired by the Olympic gymnasts; Curt Thomas, from Indiana, and by Bart Conner, from Illinois. Bart married the female gymnast, Nadia Comaneci from Romania. Don's involvement got both of us interested in the sport. Connie liked gymnastics as well.

Being good at the sport didn’t keep Don from getting injured. He was soon wearing a cast on a broken ankle. The doctor who treated his ankle taught him some things which helped him decide the direction he wanted to go. He learned some things about kinesiology as a healing tool and decided he might like to get into sports medicine. His ankle healed quickly, so he was able to keep practicing for the upcoming events and competitions. There would be a college gymnastic show later in the year, and he was hoping we could come up and watch him perform.

Christi still hadn’t decided in which direction her interests lay. She liked to sing, and she had talent, but she had never mentioned music as a career. Once she thought she might be interested in teaching. She tried substituting at Jefferson Heights but found it impossible to control the kids. After that, she decided teaching wasn’t her calling.

She was tested once in school to determine possible career choices that she might be suited for. One of the suggestions was as a hair dresser. She didn’t need a college education for that, but she wasn’t interested in going to beauty school. For a little while, she thought about nursing. After taking one class in that direction, she decided that wasn’t her calling either. We hoped she would find something to major in before another year passed.
********

Back in Metairie, Connie was attending Jefferson Heights, the same school our older children had attended. She was in fourth grade.

Unfortunately, she got a new teacher, who didn’t really know how to handle the children. She was the nervous type, and it was her first year to teach. I remember that she suffered from eilpepticoccasionally and that frightening for the children  Some times when the children got to be more than she could handle, she would start praying aloud and asking God to remove the demons from them. Connie upset by this. Connie might have been the pupil she got upset with the most often. 

On my job back at Christian Print Shop, a driver from a paper company came in and asked the owner if he wanted to buy some reams of paper at an unbelievably low price. He asked that the money be cash and paid directly to him, with no paperwork involved. It was obvious the driver had stolen the paper and was selling it and pocketing the money himself. The owner jumped on the offer and bought all of it he could get. He was a very religious man, and I was shocked that he was buying stolen paper.  

He came in to tell me how the Lord had blessed him, knowing that he needed a break on the high price of buying paper for his shop. I told him I didn’t believe that the Lord would impress someone to steal paper in order for him to profit that way. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but apparently, it caused him to rethink the bargain. A few weeks later, the same driver was back again with more bargain paper to sell. This time my boss preached him a sermon on the sin of stealing. He told him that the Lord had shown him how wrong it was to have bought stolen goods. I found the whole incident amusing.
**********

After the Christmas break when our older three went back to school, we let them take the van back with them. It was too hard for them to find rides back to Metairie. They were hoping to come home on Spring break. 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 84
The Firebird

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Just before Christmas in 1981, we went to Tennessee to pick up our older three from College. We stayed overnight in order to see the student gymnastic show, which was just before the kids were to leave for the holiday break. We got a motel, in nearby Cleveland, Tennessee. It was a smaller city than Chattanooga, and we liked the country feel. There weren't any motels near the college.

The gymnastic show at the college was excellent. We were amazed at how skilled the students were. One of the main exercises that Don preformed was on a piece of equipment called a pummel horse. It is the second event in the Olympics floor exercises for men. It requires balance, strength and endurance. The Pummel Horse is an upholstered bench with two rings, and the exercise is done with the person standing on their hands while gripping the rings and swinging the body and legs in circles and splits in the air. They also have to rotate from the left to the right bar. Don was in the best physical condition that he’s ever been in, and his performance was impressive.

The next morning we all went back home to Metairie. As usual, we drove to Mississippi for Christmas, in order to spend time with our parents. We left the kids in Newton to visit with my parents and came back to pick them up the following weekend when we got off work a few days for New Year. You and I went to our house in the country and spent some time there. 

On the second day of 1982, we planned to leave Newton and to go back to New Orleans. The weather was warm for that time of year, and the sky was almost black  in the Southwestern sky. A terrible storm came through that looked very much like a tornado. We left as soon as it had passed over, not knowing if there had been storm damage in the town. We hadn't gotten over a mile from my parents home when the highway traffic came to a standstill. Up ahead, we could see police cars and ambulances.

When we were finally able to inch forward a bit, we saw a partly covered body being loaded into an ambulance. Don said the man was headless. Thankfully I didn’t see that, and I hoped that Connie hadn’t seen it either. We later learned there was extensive damage in Newton, but that was the only fatality. Newton is a town in central Mississippi that has seen a lot of tornadoes. Along with the one that totally destroyed our home when I was ten, another one damaged their home after you and I were married. That time only part of the house was damaged. This damage we had witnessed on this day took place only a mile away.


After the storm came through, the temperature dropped rapidly. It was even cold in New Orleans. The following morning, our students left to go back to college. Once again, we let them take the van back with them. They ran out of gas just as they got into the Chattanooga area and had to walk to a service station in a freezing wind.
*********

Carol was starting her second semester in the nursing program. She was a good student, but she was much like I had been in college. She crammed for exams and did well, but that isn’t the best way to retain the information. I really don’t think she found the nursing subjects that interesting. I wondered if nursing was really her calling. Christi and Don were still taking core subjects, which they had to have in order to graduate, whatever their major. Both of them had made a lot of friends. Carol was the type of person who kept her friends to only one or two who were close enough to share her feelings with. She was a more private person.

********

The kids hadn’t been back in school long before we got a call from Don. “Mom, get Dad on the other line. I need to talk to both of you about something important.” With a bit of anxiety, I called you, and you picked up the other line.

“What's up, Don?” you asked.

“Y`all won’t believe this deal, I’ve found.It’s a classic car. It’s a Fire Bird. I’ve always wanted a Fire Bird. The girl who had it last, hardly drove it. And I can get it for practically nothing. I just need to borrow a little money. It is a really great deal. I can’t pass this up. It needs a little work, but I’m planning to take a course in Auto Mechanics next semester, and I’m gonna have to have  a car to work on. I can do all the work on it myself."

“How much, Don?”

“Not much at all-- Just $500. Can you believe it? It’s a really good looking car. I just need to borrow the money. I’ll pay it back when I get a job this Summer.”

After much more discussion, with emphasis on the urgency of needing the money fast before someone else scooped up this wonderful bargain, he finally managed to get us to agree to send him the money. Maybe our son had a future as a used car salesman.

Believe me, there were a lot of things left out of our negotiation with Don. These things were slowly gathered over the next few months, in spite of the fact that further information had to be dragged from our son. First of all, the fantastic car that he found was located in the junk yard. The reason the girl that owned it last hadn’t driven it much was because it didn’t run. The motor was toast. All the other mechanical parts were, as well. Our son and his friends almost got arrested trying to tow it down the highway. Once he got it to the school, he wasn’t allowed to leave it on the campus. He finally managed to get a married student, who had an off campus apartment, to agree to let him leave it in their drive. I have a feeling that this agreement was arranged without the guy’s wife getting to express her opinion.

No more was said about the car for many, many months. If Don was having buyer’s remorse, he didn’t dare mention it. I’m thinking the anxiety over the deal, along with Don's hyperactive nature, and also the fact that he’d never really learned how to study, caused his grades to drop to the 'C' level. He was very intelligent, but due, partly to bad decisions things weren’t going so well for him. I felt maybe we deserved some of the blame for allowing him to go so far away to school when he obviously wasn’t ready to be on his own.

The car would bring about more problems during the following semester

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 85
Night School

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Right after I finished college, I took the exam and obtained a teaching license in case I might change my mind about wanting to teach. Since most of the schools had phased out their art classes, it occurred to me that if I decided to renew the license, I should get into another field rather than art.  The subject I was most interested in was English, particularly Literature.
 
I’d gotten a notice that my teaching certificate was expiring, and that if I chose to renew it, I would need to take 10 hours of additional classes. Why not? I thought. I always liked school. It might be fun to go back and take some classes. I could do evening classes since my job didn’t require overtime, as some of my previous jobs had. UNO (University of New Orleans) had sent me a brochure listing their evening classes. I asked your opinion, and you told me I should do it if that is what I wanted to do.
 
The only two listed classes that interested me were Post WWII Novels and Creative Writing. I signed up for both, which meant I would be in school for two hours a week for each class. I was expecting to find other older students there, and a few had signed up, but after the first few nights, they all dropped out. Most of the students left were in their early twenties. The classes had eight to twelve students.
 
In the Post WWII Novels class, we were expected to buy and read six large books, which the professor had selected to reflect his own views of life. He admitted freely that he was an atheist, and he intended to teach existentialism from the standpoint of proving that life had no meaning other than an eternal cycle of pursuing a pointless existence from birth to the grave. I should have dropped that class, but I stuck with it. I’ve read better novels.
 
The creative writing class was far more interesting, but the professor in this class also had a negative view of God. He was the son of a Baptist minister, who gave up Christianity when he became deeply fascinated by the biography of the Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi. When his father informed him that Gandhi couldn’t possibly enter Heaven in spite of his good deeds, because he had never embraced Christianity, our teacher decided if God couldn’t accept Gandhi, then he wanted no part of God. At least, this teacher didn’t dwell on his lack of belief. I thought his father had made a mistake by setting himself up as a judge and trying to speak for God.

In this class, we were required to write three stories and make copies for each student. Then each student was required to write a comprehensive critique of the story. The author of the story would have to sit, without uttering a word in their own defense, as the critiques were read aloud. It was an uncomfortable position to be in. One girl, on her night to be critiqued, wore a hood covering her head like she was anticipating a firing squad. Still, I was glad I took that class. I learned a lot.

All of this did become a lot more time-consuming than I had anticipated. I didn’t go any further with my continuing education. I never did renew the teaching certificate, but much later, I did take a college course in writing poetry.

This experience made me realize that many professors in state-supported colleges have philosophies that might shake the faith of a student still struggling to form their own world view. I was glad our children were attending a Christian college.
** *********

During Spring break, our college students came home. They had made it to Metairie and were on one of the streets leading to our house, when a little black dog ran out in front of the van, and Don wasn’t able to completely avoid him. The kids got out of the van and examined the still body of the dog. He seemed to be breathing, and there was no blood, but he was completely out. Not knowing what to do they picked up the little dog and brought him home. It was late at night and vet clinics were closed. We put the dog in a box and covered his body with a towel. We were afraid he would be dead by morning since his breathing seem very shaky.
 
When we got up the next morning, the dog had regained consciousness and was happily wagging his tail. We had planned to take a short camping trip to Pensacola Beach in Florida, but something had to be done with the dog. The kids took him back to the place where the accident occurred and tried to persuade him to go home. He kept trying to get back into the van. When they came back home, the dog was still with them. We decided to take him along. It was beginning to look as though we had acquired a dog.
 
We enjoyed our trip to the beach. The dog followed us like he had been with us forever. We were all getting attached to him and were trying to decide on a name. We’d only been home a day when he simply disappeared. We called and looked everywhere, but it was as if he’d never been with us. We assumed he'd had himself a nice vacation and was ready to go back home. He was a sweet dog, and we’d enjoyed his company while it lasted.
*********

In June, the semester ended for the kids and they returned home briefly. The brakes had gone out on the van in Birmingham, and they had driven miles with no brakes.  Such stunts made us rethink letting them have a vehicle.

They all had plans for the summer. Don and Christi had signed up for work at a summer camp again. They had both been accepted to work at Blue Ridge in Virginia. Carol had planned to take a summer nursing assignment at the college in Texas where she had gone for her first two years. I had an idea she was hoping to see Tommy, her Korean friend, again. In September, when her third nursing semester would start, she would be sent to Florida to work in a large hospital there. All the nursing students at her school did a semester at Florida Hospital in Orlando.
 
When it came time for the twins to go to Camp Blue Ridge, they had to take a train from downtown New Orleans. I took them down to meet the train, but while they were waiting, they remembered that they had forgotten their sleeping bags. I thought I had enough time to run back home and get them, but half way home on the interstate highway, I had a  flat tire. To make matters worse, it was starting to rain. I had Connie with me, and we were a long way from a place where I could use a phone to call for help. We had no choice, but to get out and start walking. I was upset about our situation, and it was making Connie nervous as well.
 
We hadn’t gotten far when a man pulled over and offered us a ride. I hesitated because I’d had a bad experience once back in college when excepting a ride from a stranger, but I decided maybe he just felt sorry for us. It didn’t feel safe walking on the side of busy highway in a thunderstorm. The man was nice and got us to a service station where I could get help to change the tire. Since the errand to get the sleeping bags was in vain, we sent them money to buy new ones. The cost of sending them by mail would have been almost as expensive and would have taken longer.
********
 
If things worked out, we hoped to be able to take Connie to Disney World in late August. We would be driving  to Orlando to take Carol down for her semester at Florida Hospital. Connie had always wanted to go to Disney World. Don and Christi would probably be able to go as well.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 86
We're Going to Disney World

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Connie had her ninth birthday in June. She had complained the whole year at Jefferson Heights about her teacher, and she begged us to let her go back to Alice Birney Public school for the fifth grade. The main reason she disliked the school so much was because the teacher seemed to think she had a demon that needed to be rebuked. She could be a handful at times, but I wasn’t happy about the demon thing. Also at this school, there was no lunch program, but at public school, she could get a hot lunch in the cafeteria.

You and I talked about it, and since she was so unhappy, we decided to let her go back to Alice Birney. It wasn’t a bad school, and our budget, with three in college, was being stretched pretty tight. The private school was almost as expensive as college.
********

When Don and Christi returned from camp, Don couldn’t quit talking about some girl he had met named Angie. He always seemed to find a girlfriend wherever he went. This girl would be going to college with him in the fall, so he was hoping their friendship would continue in September.

Things hadn’t worked out so well for Carol with Tommy, her Korean friend. They had continued writing to each other while she was in Tennessee. He had made a trip up to visit her. I think she actually cared deeply for him, and he had often talked about marriage. He was her first serious boyfriend, but she didn’t feel she was ready for marriage. Still, she had hoped they could get back together while she was in Texas.

She spent the summer doing nursing clinicals at a Fort Worth hospital and living in the college dorm with her Asian friend Li Lin. Carol was still extremely religious, and was wearing only dresses and no makeup. Tommy was a lifeguard at the campus pool. Carol didn’t care for the way he was flirting with the girls in the pool. In some ways, he had changed. Tommy had started drinking occasionally. They argued a lot, and at one point he got drunk and came to her dorm late at night.  He tore the screen off her window and tried to drag her out of her room. 

When it was time for her to catch the bus back home, they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, so she assumed it was over with them. She came back from Texas in a somber mood, and sometimes when she talked about Tommy, she cried. You were okay with them breaking up, but we both felt bad for her.
********

In August as we had planned, we took Carol to Orlando so she could work at Florida Hospital as a nurse technician. We were able to rent a room for the rest of the family at the dorm provided for nursing students. I remember we all watched the movie, Oliver Twist, while we were there. Carol would be rooming with a friend from Southern College in Tennessee. Her name was Cheryl.

The following morning, the rest of us went to the Magic Kingdom of Disney World. Carol didn’t want to go. This was the first trip there for all of us. You weren’t excited about it, because fantasy wasn’t your thing, but I think you were impressed with the place. Everything was so clean. It was beautifully landscaped with flowers and streams everywhere. Disney characters were roaming the streets and having their pictures taken with children.

The place was divided into sections that contained different kinds of rides, restaurants, and souvenir shops matching the theme of that section. In Adventureland, you decided you were going to get sunburned, so you bought a wide brimmed hat that made you look like Indiana Jones.

The lines were long, and after we did the Tree House, the Jungle cruise, and Pirates of Caribbean, you wanted  coffee. In those days, your body ran on coffee. If you didn’t have it often, you got a severe headache. We stopped for coffee and then walked around a bit more. Connie wanted to do some of the things in Fantasyland. We did the It’s a Small World ride and let Connie ride the Tea Cups. By that time, you were ready to eat lunch.

Don and Christi were tired of hanging around with us, because we were slowing them down. After we ate, they went out on their own. Connie wasn’t happy about having to hang out with just us, but we didn’t want to risk losing her, so she had no choice but to stay with us. Don had called a girl he knew who lived in Orlando. Cindy had been his girlfriend when he worked at Camp Kulaqua. She came to the park and joined him and Christi. It was a while before we all got back together again.

We went through Liberty Square where we watched a parade. While there, we enjoyed the Hall of Presidents ride. The U.S. presidents were made of wax, or vinyl. They were animated and actually talked. They looked very real. In Frontierland, we rode a very scary roller-coaster ride. I think Tomorrowland might have been your favorite. We sat down for a while and watched the Carousel of Progress-- where inventions from the distant past -- all through the years-- all the way to things expected to be invented in the future went slowly past us.

The Wild Mouse ride in Space Mountain was the scariest ride I’ve ever been on. I had Connie in front of me, and I was so afraid she would be flung out, that I was holding on to her with all my might. She kept wiggling, and I thought she was trying to get out. It was because I was pinching her, but the more she wiggled the tighter I held her. The music and sound of the ride was so loud we couldn’t hear each other.

By two o’clock, you were ready to leave, but after many cups of coffee and a few pain pills, we persuaded you to stay in spite of the pain. We didn’t miss much. There were too many things to do to mention them all. We actually managed to get through the whole day and even stayed for the last show at the Magic Kingdom and then watched the fireworks. We met Don’s friend, Cindy, and she insisted on buying me a china teapot before we left. The kids all got Disney sweatshirts.

The following day, we did get Carol to go to another Disney park. She and I took a boat to an island that had all sorts of birds, wildlife, and unusual trees and flowers. It was called Discovery Island. It was an eleven-acre island, which Disney finally closed to the public in 1999. Later, we also went to Sea World, where we toured a huge aquarium, watched a dolphin show, and walked through a place teeming with flamingos. It was a trip to remember.
******

Not long after we got back to Metairie, Don and Christi went back to college. This time, Don took the Auto Mechanic course, for which he thought he needed the Firebird. This turned out to be a major fiasco. Right after he started the class, he got on the bad side of the teacher. He brought parts of the old car in and started trying to clean them with a solvent, and he spilled motor oil all over the tile in the work area. Apparently, he must have done some permanent damage to the floor, because things went from bad to worse in that class.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 87
One Down And Three To Go

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

After her summer in Texas, Carol had continued writing letters to Tommy while she was in Florida doing the third semester of nursing, and at times everything seemed to be going smoothly. Sometimes they talked by phone. Both of them wrote long detailed letters about feelings and subjects that interested them. Sometimes the letters made Carol happy and other times sad. She often felt they both had a lot more growing up to do before they could be on the same page.
 
When Don and Christi went back to Southern College in the fall, he still had his girlfriend, Angie, from Summer Camp. He thought he’d been in love with Ce-Ce from high school and Kelly from during his first year at Southern. Angie was the third girl that he really had fallen hard for. Being in love and having a teacher, who had gotten upset with you and written you off, puts a lot of stress on a college student.

Don called and told us he was going home with Angie one weekend to meet her parents. We thought this was a bad idea. Parents are unpredictable and can often put a quick stop to a relationship for any number of reasons. They may think their daughter is too young to get serious, or for some reason, they just don’t like who she is dating. We never told Don, but when their friendship deteriorated to the point of her breaking up with him shortly after that weekend, you and I thought perhaps the parents might have asked her to stop seeing him.


Don was brokenhearted and had no clue as to the reason she wanted to end it. Things had been going smoothly with them. We might have been wrong about the parents having any bearing on the breakup, but I’ve known a lot of people whose relationship went sour after meeting the parents. For whatever reason, Don’s grades suffered and the Auto Mechanic class carried six hours of college credit. Most classes carry only three. We had no way of knowing anything other than what Don told us, but at the end of the semester in December, Don got his first ‘F’ in that class and a ‘D+’ in another class. That brought his grade point so low that he was told he would have to stay out of school for a semester, before he would be welcomed back on campus.

We probably could have gotten him into a junior college in New Orleans, but he really came home in no condition to study at all. He moped around the house very depressed and thought of himself as a failure. When Carol came back from Florida in December, she had two more semesters and would graduate the following  December, so she and Christi went back to Southern in January of 1983.

In February, my mom took a friend to the doctor, and decided to have her own throat checked while she was there. The doctor felt her throat and became concerned that she might have a thyroid problem and sent her to a specialist. The specialist took a biopsy and sent it off for evaluation. It was a month before the final diagnosis came back. The tissue sample was sent to three different labs before thyroid cancer was confirmed. The surgeon removed part of her thyroid and set her up for eight chemo treatments. After the second one, Mom lost her hair and started wearing a wig. We were all very concerned about her. My older children adored her. Connie had never bonded with her the way the older three had. The chemo was sapping her strength. Mom had always been a bundle of energy.

Don got a construction job remodeling housing units over near Tulane University. His boss seemed happy with his work. One day, Don asked if it would be alright if he brought home this beautiful golden retriever dog. His boss said it was too rambunctious to be around his small children. We talked about it and agreed to take the dog. We had an area about eight feet wide and around twenty feet long on the side of our house that was fenced with a gate, so we figured he’d have room to run in  there. The dog’s name was Nick. In spite of the fact that we think of St. Nicholas as good, Satan is also referred to in many stories as ‘Ole Nick’. I think that might have been the thought behind this dog's name.

Nick was so large that it was no wonder he shouldn't be around small children. He was about two years old and had never been trained to obey any commands. He could leap up and plant his paws on my chest and knock me to the ground easily. He wasn’t fond of being put inside of a fenced area that had a house on one side and a seven foot wooden fence on the other side. He couldn’t see out, and that made him unhappy. I put a leash on him and decided to take him for a walk. I wasn’t able to take charge, and he dragged me all over the neighborhood on our little walk. He got into at least five serious altercations with other animals. I began to wonder if we’d ever make it back home again. We all agreed Nick needed a different home.

Since we had decided that Nick had to go. I wrote up a nice ad with the heading, ‘Free to a good home.” I focused on his beauty and energy. I got a phone call right away from a lady who wanted him, and we were able to say goodbye to Nick. The funny thing is that a couple of days later my ad reappeared in the paper. This time the contact number was that of the lady who had taken him off our hands. We wished him the best and hoped that he would eventually end up with someone who could handle a dog like Nick.

In the summer of 1983, Carol did two nursing internships. The first was in Madison, Tennessee, near Nashville, and the second was at small hospital in Lakeland, Georgia. The school set up an arrangement so that Carol was able to share a room in the home of an older lady. It was a very comfortable arrangement for her.  After a few weeks, we decided to take a Georgia vacation and see Carol while we were there. The lady Carol was living with told Carol to invite us down to stay at her home. She went to visit a friend and let us have the house for a couple of nights. Carol was happy to see us.

After visiting with her, you, Connie, and I went over toward the Atlantic and spent a day in Savannah. Then we went to Jekyll Island, which is a barrier strip of land off the coast of Georgia, and we spent a couple of days there. Jekyll  is a 240-acre island  with eight miles of white sand beaches. Its historic district is known as Millionaires Village. It was once home to some of America’s most wealthy and prominent citizens, such as the Pulitzers, Morgans, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and the Goodyear clan, to name a few. Connie enjoyed the beach and playground equipment that was there for children to use.

The last semester for Carol ended in December of 1983. Carol had the nurse pinning ceremony and her graduation was the following day. We were there for both events.  We had one down and three to go to finish educating our children. I knew you were counting the days until you felt financially able to retire. I wasn't sure how much longer you would be willing to wait.


 
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 88
Leaving the Nest

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

Some people go to the doctor and do everything they are told without question. Doctors love having these kind of people for patients. My mother was not one of them. She didn’t go to doctors often, and when she did, she wanted to know exactly what was happening with her body. When she was told she had thyroid cancer, she allowed the doctor to remove part of the thyroid, and she did a couple of the chemo treatments without giving the doctor too many problems, but after that she started questioning everything he told her. He had done some other tests and told her the cancer was in her lymph system. He said that she had lymphoma.
 
After the fourth chemo treatment, she asked one question too many. The doctor told her, “You have cancer and it is terminal, but I know you don’t believe a word I’m telling you, so I don’t want to treat you any more. I would suggest you go find yourself another doctor.”

Mom was driving twenty-five miles from Newton to Meridian for treatment. Daddy's attitude toward  doctors was as bad as Mother's. Because he had no faith in doctors, he didn’t believe that she had ever had cancer. He said if it was really cancer, it shouldn’t have taken a month to get a diagnosis.

Mom didn’t know any other cancer doctors, so she just stopped having treatments. She was juicing greens and broccoli and trying to eat healthy foods. She quit taking the thyroid medicine the doctor told her she would need to stay on the rest of her life. Mom was sixty-eight at the time. Her hair grew back, and she regained much of her strength. The surgery left her voice with a hoarse quality, and the chemo treatments shrunk her veins, but other than that, she seemed no worse for the wear. She and Dad celebrated their 50 anniversary that year.

*********

Carol started looking for work, and after she found something, she packed leaving home for good. One of the most emotional moments for me was when I watched her saying goodbye to Connie. She had treated Connie almost like she was her own child. When I heard her telling Connie that she was so sorry that she wouldn’t be around to watch her grow up, it made me realize that life was about to change for all of us. Even now when I think about that moment, I feel tears coming on. Always before, even with them away, I felt like our home was still theirs. From now on, she would only visit.  I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to say goodbye.
 
After she left, Don moved into her room, because it gave him a little more privacy. Christi took his room and Connie had a room of her own. We sold the bunk beds Connie and Christi had shared and got a double bed for Connie.

Carol's first nursing job was working at a small hospital in Valdosta, Georgia. She and a friend named Carolyn rented a trailer near Moody Air Force Base. We sold her one of our cars at a low price, so she would have some way to get around. Her Bible teacher at the church she attended was a doctor who had a clinic in an even smaller town in Georgia. Carol met one of his sons, named Glen Egolf, and they began doing things together. I think she was still writing Tommy as well. Dr Egolf had a wife, four sons, and a daughter. Carol got to know the whole family and became a frequent visitor at their home.  
 
The nursing job was difficult for her at first, because, since the hospital was small, nurses had to work in all departments and do everything without much supervision. In a larger hospital, she would have been put in one department like orthopedic or pediatrics.
*********
 

After Don wasn’t able to go back to Southern for the second semester, Christi decided she wanted to wait on her twin, so she didn’t go back either. She hadn’t decided on a major, and she didn’t have enough college hours toward anything in particular. She had tried taking nursing courses, but she decided that wasn’t something she wanted to do. She thought she needed to make a decision before she went back. We had to agree, because if taking classes wasn’t leading toward a degree, she was wasting money being there.
 
In the summer of 1983, Christi got a job for a second year at Camp Blue Ridge in Virginia. Don worked at Yorktown Bay, a summer camp in Arkansas. Christi met a boy named Glen, who was a minister’s son from Australia. She was crazy about him. After camp ended, he came to New Orleans to see her and to meet us. Glen was an interesting young man. He had taken a year off from college to see the United States, and he intended to see as much of it as possible. When he left on his “walk-about,” he and Christi continued to write. After he got back to Australia, he wrote letters wanting her to come to Sydney and visit him. She was working and trying to save enough money to go.
*********
 

Your company sent you for some training sessions, preparing you to move up in the company. You weren’t really interested in moving up. What you really wanted to do was take an early retirement, but you went for the sessions. The first one you went to was a course on the Power of Positive Thinking, but later courses required a lot of concentration. The classes were giving you severe headaches and nausea. Since the company had planned for you to go, you went reluctantly. On the third day, you came home and said you didn’t intend to do it any more, because it was too stressful. You never told me what the company thought of you refusing to go.
*********


In the Fall, Don started taking some night courses at the University of New Orleans in order to get his grade point average back up. He was taking an Economic course and also an English course that was called The Bible as Literature. I thought this would be an interesting and easy subject. He had to read old Testament stories from the Bible, and they would be discussed at length in class. I had the Bible on tape, so Don and I started listening to the Old Testament stories read aloud. I was shocked to learn that Don’s teacher referred to these stories as Jewish fables and folk tales. The teacher himself was an atheist. However, Don did start to make better grades. I think he was finally learning how to study.
 
It seemed our son was starting to get past his latest breakup. He was interested in some health seminars that were being held at our church. He and a girl he met became interested in colonic irrigation which is a way of cleansing the colon for health reasons. The subject seemed too gross to interest me. They were shown how to build a table with plastic hoses for this purpose. I was amazed that this would be a subject that a boy and girl could discuss together. Don built a table for himself, and then he helped her build one. There was also a girl in one of his classes that he seemed to like. She was from Iraq. She was Muslim and wore a hijab on her head. He and the girl would go out after class for coffee and sometimes they would study together.
 
Don had been rebaptized since he came back home and had joined the church choir. They were practicing for the Christmas Cantata. He would sing the lead part. The choir leader, who was a very pretty young lady from Singapore seemed extremely interested in him, even though she was several years older. Don considered her a good friend, but it appeared to us that we had a 'ladies man' on our hands.
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 89
Highlights of The New Year

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

The year 1984 was one in which many things seemed to be happening. One thing was that New Orleans was getting ready for a World Fair. It was big on my bucket list. I had always wanted to attend a World Fair, and now it seemed that it was in my future. It would be opening in May, and I could hardly wait. I’d been anticipating going to such an amazing exhibition ever since I’d been told that my grandmother sent a quilt which she had made to the Chicago World Fair. This happened four years before I was even born. She had won a blue ribbon, and the quilt was one of the few things I inherited from her.

You were less enthusiastic about the fair, thinking excessive traffic would make getting to work harder. The space shuttle Enterprise did capture your attention though. It was flown into the New Orleans airport and towed to the fair site.
*******


Then to complicate things, Carol revealed to us in a phone call that Glen Egolf had asked her to marry him, and she was giving it some thought. You and I had never met the guy. All we knew was that he was a doctor’s son, and he was a few years younger than Carol. She seemed to be enjoying Glen's company, but she didn’t sound quite as enthusiastic over him as she had Tommy. I think she was impressed with his family.

We decided it was time to plan another trip to Georgia. Don wanted to go along as well to check out the guy who was going to marry his sister. Don and Carol had formed a strong bond, and during the years when they were both in the same college, Carol had been there for him when he felt his heart was broken, and he needed advice. The two of them had always been able to talk for hours about deep subjects that most teenagers would scorn.

We had bought a 1980 Ford LTD after we sold our other car to Carol. It was a large car and the kids called it a boat. We drove it to Georgia and found the mobile home Carol and Carolyn were renting. We weren’t there long before Glen came over on his motorcycle. He seemed a little nervous and anxious to impress us with his knowledge of every subject that was touched on. He wasn’t exactly the type you and I thought Carol would be attracted to. He seemed a bit immature and someone who would be more interested in material things than in feelings. He was talkative and outgoing which was the opposite of Carol’s personality.

After he left, Carol and Don took a long walk, and Don tried to talk her out of marrying him. When we went back home, Don seemed to think he had succeeded. You weren’t expressing your opinion. I wasn’t sure what to say either. We just wanted Carol to be happy, whatever she decided.

Not long after we got back home, Carol informed us that she was going ahead with wedding plans. She was twenty-two, so we hoped for the best and sent her money for the dress she had found and other things she would need. She said they planned to get married in the little church in Valdosta. She wanted you to give her away, and she wanted Don and Connie to be in the wedding. Her friend Carolyn would be her maid of honor, and she planned to ask Carmen, the girl she’d roomed with in Texas, to be a bridesmaid.

It would be a small ceremony with the reception in the church banquet room. Carol had a friend who was helping her plan the wedding and was making the food for her. Other friends were helping her fold wedding programs and prepare net rice bags. She was trying to keep expenses to a minimum.


I can’t remember whether or not Christi went down with us to meet Carol's friend. She was too wrapped up in her own world to be that interested. She planned to go back to Camp Blue Ridge, and it was beginning to look like she might not come home in time to see Carol get married. Don had accepted a job to work at Summer camp in Texas, but he was planning to come back for his sister’s wedding.
**********


In April, Wayne, your sister, Maxine’s husband, had a heart attack and died. Maxine and Wayne’s oldest son, Gary, had married his high school sweetheart. Chuck, the younger son, was serious about a girl and thinking of getting married, so soon Maxine would be alone. Chuck was about nine months older than the twins. We left New Orleans the day after Gary called and went down for the funeral in Jackson, Mississippi. Wayne was buried in the same cemetery that our first baby, Susan, was buried in. We would miss Wayne. He was a lot of fun to be around.
*********


The World Fair opened in April. Our family was one of the first visitors. Eighty-four acres of downtown New Orleans had been cleared all the way to the river, in order to make a spot large enough for the fair. The permanent structures which would remain after the fair were the 15-acre convention center and over a mile of a beautiful river walk that went along the Mississippi River from the fair area and past Lafayette Park in the French Quarter. The gondola was supposed to remain. The gondola was suspended 300 feet in the air. It carried people in small pods from one side of the river to the other. It was to be a permanent public transportation system, but after the fair bankrupted New Orleans, the Gondola was disbanded.

Rivers and Waters of the World was the theme. One of the most interesting things was the half-mile-long Wonder Wall; it was
 a visual parade of well- endowed mermaids and Neptune riding an alligator, and other figurines that referred to water and New Orleans. Countries from all over the world participated with fantastic exhibits. In some ways it was like Disney World. You could ride a river boat down into Cajun country or through the old South and other interesting spots.
 

As far as I was concerned, it was everything I had anticipated and more. It’s a good thing I got to cross that off my bucket list, because it was the last world fair held in the United States. I loved the fair and went many times before it closed in November. The cost of the fair was close to five hundred million dollars and it left New Orleans nearly a hundred million in debt. World fairs are still held in other countries, but they are becoming a thing of the past. Don and Christi got a free trip to the fair before they became involved in their other plans for the summer.  The Fair sponsored a twins day.  As long as you showed proof of being twins, the admission was free.
*********

My mom came down in order to go to the fair. While she was in New Orleans, she made arrangements to go to Ochsner Hospital and have herself checked for signs of cancer. I sat in the waiting room all day, praying that it hadn't returned. They did a battery of tests and found no sign of cancer. Her doctor had been wrong. Maybe Mom's immune system had taken care of the disease.  Whatever the reason, she never had a problem with cancer again. 

The year was far from over.  For one thing, we had a wedding to attend, which would be coming up
shortly.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 90
Camporees and a Wedding

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

July of 1984 found Don working at a summer camp in California. Christi was working at a summer camp in Virginia and it appeared that she had no intention of leaving a few days early in order to come home for Carol’s wedding in August.

Connie, who was now ten, was involved with the Pathfinder Club, which was similar to scouts, for children from nine to sixteen. That year, the national leaders of Pathfinders had decided they wanted to have a first ever worldwide Pathfinder Camporee at Camp Hale, an old Army base in the Colorado Mountains. Connie and her best friend, Lesley planned to go. Since the camporee was in July and the wedding a little later, there wasn’t a scheduling problem. Many of the kids at Don’s California Camp were also Pathfinder members, and Don and one of his friends were in charge of getting them from California to Colorado.

A bus took the Pathfinders from the New Orleans clubs. The leader of Connie’s group was like a drill sergeant, and he treated the kids like they were soldiers under his command. They complained, but they wanted to go camping badly enough that they stayed in the club. The planners of the camporee anticipated 18,000 kids from around the world would be there. They planned a night when the Cosby Kids from the Cosby Television show would entertain. The New Orleans leader didn’t consider this proper entertainment, so the New Orleans group didn’t get to participate.

When Don’s group from California got there, he managed to locate Connie. With so many kids there, I was surprised he was able to connect with her. When it was time to leave Colorado, the New Orleans bus broke down, and they were forced to fly the whole bus load of kids home. I’m sure many of them had never been on a plane before. I think most of them were more impressed with the plane ride than they were with the camporee.
******

My friend Diane, Lesley’s mother, insisted on making Connie a long dress for the wedding. Connie’s job was to be one of the two receptionists. When we drove down to Lakeland, Georgia for the wedding, we took Carmen, Carol's bridesmaid, in our car. Don took a bus over from California. His job was to operate the sound system. We had a flat tire after we got there, and you had trouble getting it off to change it. I don’t remember what the problem was, but you overheated. The weather in south Georgia was hot and humid. Your face got badly sunburned, which left you red-faced for the wedding. 

The following morning, we found Carol, on her wedding day, working on her bank statement and trying to find out why it was less than a dollar out of balance. It seemed odd that she chose to obsess over such a trivial thing on her wedding day. Maybe it was the only thing she felt she could control.

Everything went smoothly, and the wedding was very pretty. Glen’s brother was his best man and one of his friends was a groomsman. Carol's two attendants wore matching blue dresses, and her bouquet and wedding cake were blue and white. The food was delicious, but if I hadn’t made plates for Carol and Glen and set them aside, they would have missed out while pictures were being made, because the food was gone quickly.

Carol and Glen decided to come to New Orleans and go to the World's Fair on their Honeymoon. They spent one night in Valdosta and drove across the coast the following day on their way to our house. They only spent two nights with us. The day they went to the fair, they took Connie with them. They went back by Newton, so Glen could meet Mom and Dad. 

We later learned that the wedding trip hadn’t gone so smoothly. Glen had managed to control his, less than stellar, vocabulary while they were dating, but he relaxed once they were married, letting some foul language escape. Carol, who was still very much trying to live a spiritual life, had a problem with it, and Glen couldn't figure out why she was so upset. Later, Carol felt she had overreacted and was showing her immaturity. They would have some trying times adjusting to each other's personality quirks. They wondered if they had made a mistake and even discussed annulment.

They returned to Lakeland, Georgia still married. Glen worked in Douglas, Georgia as an electrician for a company that built mobile homes, and Carol continued with her nursing job. She made an effort to get interested in some of Glen’s hobbies. Sometimes, she rode on the back of his motorcycle on trips out of town to places like Savannah. He was into ham radios, so she worked to get a license to operate one as well. He bought expensive camera equipment and did some wedding photography. He was also very much into guns and knives. Those hobbies didn’t interest Carol.

Later, however, she would get involved in scuba-diving. Glen liked expensive toys, so some of Carol’s salary, which Glen felt was his money as well, went to pay for those things.  Carol was more budget-
conscious, while Glen felt money was to be used for things one enjoyed. Glen didn't want children, and Carol felt there were too many children in the world already that had parents who didn't know how to care of them. It didn't sound as though we would be grandparents anytime soon.
*******


Don returned to the camp in California after the wedding. When camp ended, he invited a bunch of his friends to come back home with him and go to the fair. We had a couple of days with kids sleeping in sleeping bags on the floors all over our house. The World Fair was getting to be a nuisance, and we were relieved when it ended in November.

Christi came home from the Virginia camp more determined than ever to go visit her friend, Glen, in Australia. It seems younger kids cause their parents less stress than the older ones.  We realized that even when they marry and leave home, that doesn’t mean we will no longer be caught up in their dramas.
********

The outside world didn’t stand still in 1984. Much was going on outside of our little corner of the globe. Reagan was running for a second term. He was opposed by Walter Mondale who had, for the first time ever, a woman running mate, Geraldine Ferraro. Reagan won his second term. Our country was in the middle of a cold war with the USSR, and Russia boycotted the Olympics, as did other countries in the Communist bloc. This lack of competition led to the U.S. winning 83 gold medals. That was a world record.

Another first was when a Miss America lost her title. There was a big scandal when it was discovered that Vanessa Williams had posed nude for some very compromising pictures. It was a year for mullet hair cuts, Walkman radios, and boomboxes. Cabbage Patch Kids were the dolls all the little girls wanted for Christmas. Connie was no exception, but the dolls were so popular that by the time we found out, there was no way to get one. She would have to wait.

A Rubik's Cube was among her gifts, and she was able to convince us, briefly, that she was some kind of genius. We could hand her this very mixed-up puzzle, which we couldn’t solve, and five minutes later she would return with the tiles arranged in perfect order. It took us a while to learn that she was pulling the colored stickers off the tiles and rearranging them so that they matched as they were supposed to when solved. Don said ‘Connie’ was the correct name for her, because we had a little ‘con’ artist on our hands.

The New Year of 1985 loomed on the horizon. It would turn out to be another interesting year for the Shelby family.
 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 91
A Twin Down Under

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

With the wedding behind us and everyone back from their summer camp experiences, life returned to a somewhat normal pace. Don went back to taking classes at one of the local colleges in New Orleans. He also continued doing construction work on some student apartments near Tulane University. His propensity for being accident-prone continued.  While working on the apartments, he fell two stories and might have been seriously injured if he had landed in a slightly different position. Luckily, he was only bruised. He brushed away the occurrence as part of the work experience. His social life, at the moment, involved dating a Spanish girl he had met at church. 

Christi had a new job as a receptionist. Her jobs never lasted long, so I can’t remember exactly who she was working for at the time. Christi had a way of saying the most absurd things, and she often naively blurted out things which her acquaintances found amusing. She seemed to feel the need to fill any silence with chatter whether it made sense or not, and she often embarrassed herself when she realized what she had said. The World's Fair was continuing until November. Her boss was new in town, and Christi asked him if he’d had a chance to ride the gonorrhea, when she meant the gondola, across the Mississippi River. She said he looked at her in an odd way and said “Excuse me, Ma’am?" She realized she said something wrong, but had no clue as to how bad her mistake might have been.

Christi, like Don, always seemed to be dating someone. At the moment, in spite of constantly exchanging letters with her friend, Glen, from Australia, she was seeing a guy who drove a beautiful red convertible. He was quite well off and had been a dentist, but a severe accident left him disabled and had affected his speech. Christi felt sorry for him and was willing to go out with him, since he was attracted to her. When he called, if Connie answered the phone, she would annoy Christi by mocking his odd, almost robotic, way of talking.

Connie was ten and in fifth grade at Alice Birney Elementary school. She was happy to be back in a public school with friends she’d known for several years. She still spent as much time as we allowed with her friend Lesley, who had a large above-ground pool in her back yard and a TV that carried programs that we didn’t subscribe to. Connie decided she wanted to be in the school band and she thought she wanted to play the clarinet. We got her a used one, but she didn’t like to practice so that was pretty much a waste of money.

You sold your cattle and also some timber, and we were still debating what to do about the house and land we had in the country. It was still a subject that was hard for us to discuss. You weren’t quite ready to give up the idea that we might go back there to live. You were still hoping to be able to take an early retirement and leave New Orleans behind. Over the years you’d been with Chevron, you had a retirement plan where you contributed a monthly amount and Chevron matched it. It was growing but wasn’t nearly enough to support our family.

We talked to Carol weekly by phone. She always tried to put a positive spin on everything. She never said anything negative about Glen, but you and I sensed that she might be having trouble adjusting to being a wife and having to put another person’s needs ahead of her own. All the while she was in school, she was a very private person and valued her time alone. She had continued corresponding with Mac, an old man she met  her first year in college. Glen resented her writing to someone he didn't know. Glen was a outgoing person who enjoyed being around people, but Carol was more introverted. Recently, Glen had decided he wanted to try to get into nursing school. He had to get his grade point average up and getting into the nursing program wasn't easy. Carol was doing what she could to help him.

In the spring of 1985, Christi had become more determined than ever to go to Australia and visit her friend, Glen. He was willing to send her the money for the plane ticket but we didn’t think that was a good idea, and we eventually agreed to help her with the ticket. Glen said his grandparents in Sydney had a place for her to stay. Glen was in college in Sydney, but his father was a conference leader and pastor in New Zealand. In May, Christi bought a round-trip ticket with an open date as to when she would return.

The day of Christi's scheduled departure was a disaster. She always waited until the last minute for everything. She had stuffed the largest piece of luggage we owned to twice its capacity. We were pushing her to get to the airport early so she wouldn’t miss the flight. When we started out the door, the zipper broke on the suitcase. Everything had to be taken out and repacked into two smaller pieces of luggage. We barely got her there, but it seemed there was just enough time for her to make the flight. We went with her as far as they allowed us to go. She promised to call as soon as she arrived. The flight would go through Los Angles and wouldn’t arrive in Sydney for around twenty-four hours.

Three days later when she finally called, we learned she had missed the New Orleans flight after all, and had spent the night in the airport waiting for the next flight. She eventually arrived at her destination and Glen met her at the airport. The price of a collect call from Australia was extremely expensive, so we decided our conversations would need to be short. Christi seemed extremely impressed with Australia, and she said Glen's grandparents were nice. She didn’t act the least bit concerned about being so far from home. It appeared as though she wouldn’t be interested in returning any time soon.  

A few days later, she called to tell us that Glen’s dad and another pastor would be coming to New Orleans in late June for the World Session of the General Conference of our denomination. They had asked her to find out if we could get them a place to stay for two weeks that wouldn’t be extremely  expensive. Apparently there was a difference in the currency exchange rates, and the Australian money didn’t go as far in the U.S. as it did there. The amount they hoped to spend wouldn’t provide for a very nice place, but they said that wasn’t important. We told her that we’d do what we could to find something.

The General Conference had rented the New Orleans Superdome for the session and delegates from every country in the world would be in attendance. My mom had planned to come and stay with us, because she wanted to attend. There would be no room in our home for the pastors to stay with us. I had a feeling Glen’s dad, in addition to being a delegate to the convention, was also interested in checking out the family that had the daughter his son was so interested in.

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 92
Visitors from Down Under

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

With Glen’s father and his friend coming to New Orleans to represent New Zealand at the World Conference, I got busy and called every hotel and motel in the city trying to find them a reasonable place to stay in the area. I was shocked at the prices and the fact that almost everything was already booked for the time they would be in New Orleans. The only thing I could find within their price range was a motel pretty far from the Super Dome on Airline Highway. It wasn’t very nice or in a good  location, but at least, it was by a bus stop.

Within the week, the two men arrived, and we got to meet them. Glen’s dad, Pastor Townsend, was a very nice-looking man. He was extremely friendly and easy going. His friend, who was also a pastor, would be representing Fiji and Tonga rather than New Zealand. He also had a great personality, and both men had a sense of humor. It was fun getting to know them. We loved hearing them talk and found many of the expressions they used to be amusing. We felt bad about the motel being as old and rundown as it was, but they seemed grateful in spite of the fact they had seen roaches. Some of the other representatives at the convention had booked that motel as well.

We still had the Dodge Charger which barely ran, and since we weren’t using it, we offered it to them to use.  They took the offer, but they did have a lot of problems with it. I also invited them to dinner one evening and they thanked me for having them over for`tea'. Pastor Townsend said he had met Christi, and that she was very sweet and pretty.

Since Mom was visiting and wanted to attend the convention, we went several of the nights. They had interesting displays and even an art exhibit of works by a famous artist who did religious paintings. The speakers were interesting and the costumes from around the world were beautiful and colorful.

We heard from Christi a couple of times during the week. Glen's grandparents had taken her into the outback and to some of the more tropical areas. She acted as though she had seen a little slice of Heaven and never wanted to leave. We couldn’t get her to say very much about what was going on with Glen. Pastor Townsend was talking to his son, and nearing the time they were to leave, he asked what I hoped would happen between Christi and Glen. I told him Australia was too far away, and although I liked Glen, I was hoping they wouldn’t get married. He told me he had talked to Glen, and that he thought I might get my wish. Ah ha, I thought. He knows something Christi isn’t telling us, and maybe we’ll soon be getting our daughter back home.

Christi actually missed most of summer that year. The time she spent in Australia was during their winter, and she was away from New Orleans when we had our summer. Eventually her Visa ran out, and she was forced to come home, but when her plane landed in Los Angeles, she knew a couple of guys she had met from there during the year she went to school in Texas, so she decided to spend several days there before coming home. Eventually she did get home, and it seemed almost like she had turned into a different person. She expressed herself more forcefully and wasn't as shy.

We never got the whole story of what went on between her and Glen. She said he had a bad temper, and that he liked to drive extremely fast and scare her. The more she protested the faster he would drive. He must have gotten aggravated with her because she said he slapped her once. We were glad they broke up, because although we realized she could be aggravating, we didn’t want our daughter marrying a man who would hit a woman.

At one point the grandparents insisted that Christi get out and find work. It might have been that she had to either be working or the country wouldn’t allow her to stay longer. The only thing she could find was some door-to-door sales work, and I don’t think that suited her. She wasn’t able to sell much. They were hard-working people, and maybe they thought she was lazy. When she came back to Metairie, she didn’t write Glen, but she and his sister did exchange letters for a while. They had gotten to be friends while she was there. It was many months before she quit talking about how wonderful Australia was.
******

At forty-six, I was starting to have some health problems due to heavy monthly periods. Once when I became anemic, I had a D&C (Dilation and Curettage) that involved an overnight stay in the hospital. It had helped for a while, but I was starting to have that problem again. My gynecologist wanted to do a hysterectomy, but I kept putting it off, hoping I would get better.

***********


Something else was in the works that would cause big changes in our family. Chevron Oil was merging with Gulf. The company was offering retirement packages for all who wanted to retire. You were only 56, but it was what you’d been waiting for. You definitely wanted out. Your mind was made up. You’d been with Chevron over twenty-five years and you’d decided you were going to take them up on the offer.

The retirement package was equal to six months full salary and the next six months at half a year’s salary. You could take the whole amount as a lump sum if you chose to. I knew there would be no way to dissuade you, so I didn’t even try, although it would be six years before you could even get early Social Security. I wasn’t convinced we could survive that long, but you believed we could.

Your last day to work was in early December of 1985. You had some vacation time coming which would pay you through the end of the year. You didn’t even tell the men under you that you would be leaving. You didn’t want a party send-off or to have to deal with the goodbyes. The boss who headed up all the drafting divisions and his wife took us out to an upscale restaurant for dinner and that was the extent of it. You took the retirement package as a lump sum.

Chevron would allow us to keep our health coverage and would continue to contribute a sum each month for as long as we lived, unless we chose to change plans. You also had a life insurance policy, which would decrease as you aged.

Luckily, CD rates were at historic highs, paying as much as 17%.  You kept out just enough for us to live on and tied the other up in CDs for ten years. In addition to the salary package, you also took a lump sum on the Chevron retirement plan which you had paid into all those years. It was a lot of money at one time, but it would have to stretch for many years.

At the moment, we had no plans to move away so I would continue working. I had left Christian Print Company when they were talking about moving into another county, and I was now working for another large printing company near the river. I was glad I had a job because as much as I loved you, I wasn’t sure how too much togetherness would work.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.


Chapter 93
Could Things Get Worse?

By BethShelby

For new readers, who may not have read my author notes, this is written in a conversational way as I talk to my deceased husband. When I refer to someone just as "you" this means I am addressing my husband, Evan.

As the year 1985 drew to a close, so many things were happening that were disturbing. I had incurred the fury of the new department head at the company where I worked. Earlier, an unexpected opportunity had arisen which involved a chance to go to California. I'd always wanted to go there, and it was something I didn't want to pass up. Don had bought a car, and asked you and me to drive out with him to visit a friend. We would fly back from Sacramento. It would involve two nights on the road and a third day to fly back home. I had some vacation time coming, so went to the supervisor's office to ask permission to use three days of my time.

The printing company was under new management, which was in the process of hiring and firing employees on a daily basis. The department head, who had hired me, had been terminated. The new supervisor was a man everyone feared. The day I requested the time off, he happened to be away, and the acting supervisor told me to go. He didn't see any problem with me being away for three days. When I returned from the trip, the new supervisor was angry that he had not been consulted and decided to punish me by having me work in a file room, where I would be alone handling heavy materials that I could barely lift.

I was in the early stages of menopause and suffering from heavy, almost constant, bleeding which was becoming more severe by the day. This heavy work exacerbated my physical condition to the point that I felt I would need to give up the job in order to survive. I was embarrassed to admit that I wasn't physically able to do the work.

Christmas came, and I did my best to hold things together until after the holidays. We went to Mississippi as we always did. At your mother's house that year, there were twenty-four of us attending. We all gathered outside to have a picture made. The younger kids were setting off fireworks, and one of the chaser rockets zigzagged, and headed straight for our photography line-up. Since I seemed to be the one the universe chose to frown on that day, the small rocket managed to collide with my leg, burning a hole in my hose and stinging like a wasp as it fizzled out. This was only the beginning of my problems.

The next day, we were back in Metairie and I was attempting to do a load of laundry. The washing machine overflowed and flooded the den. I tried to help you pull up and drag the soaked carpeting to the patio to dry. By this time I was pouring blood, and we had to drop everything and rush to the emergency room.

My doctor said my blood count was so low that he wasn't sure he could get it back up. They put me to bed and ordered five pints of blood and scheduled a D&C for the following morning. Carol and Glen were due in that night from Georgia, and I was upset that I wouldn't be home when they came. That was the least of my worries.

You were retired, so you planned to spend the rest of the day with me to keep me company. You went out for lunch and hadn't been back in the room but a few minutes, when the phone rang. Don, Christi and Connie were all home, so I assumed it was one of them. Your face turned white, and you were only grunting into the phone. Then you said "Okay" and hung up.

"Who was that?" I demanded.

"It was Don. I'm going to run home for a little bit."

"What do you mean, you're going home? You just got here. What's happened?"

"They've had a little problem. I need to go see if I can help them."

"No! Something bad's happened. You look like you've seen a ghost. You're not leaving until you tell me what's going on."

"Beth, I've got to go. They need me. Don told me not to tell you. There's been a little fire. I need to go see how bad it is. I'll see you later." With that, you gave me quick kiss and left the room.

The next person in the room was a nurse to take my blood pressure. When she read it, she thought I was on the verge of having a stroke. It had risen to the danger zone.

Meanwhile, back in the jungle.... Seriously, here is what I was told happened after I left to go to the hospital.

Connie's friend, Lesley, came over to play. They went into Connie's room and closed the door. They decided to put a couple of chairs together and make a tent. First, they draped a sheet over the chairs, and then to make it darker, they strung some heavy bath towels over the whole thing. Needing more light, they put a lamp under the covers. Apparently, they removed the lamp shade, because the bare bulb was against the towels. At some point, the towels began smoldering. Connie decided it was time to abandon the tent, so she threw the smoldering towels into her closet and the two of them left, closing the door behind them.

It was the end of December and it was cold outside, but Christi decided it was getting so hot inside the house, that she needed to take a shower to cool off. Don smelled smoke and opened the door to Connie's room. He didn't see any fire, but he did see some whiffs of smoke, so he decided the girls had been burning incense, and he needed to get the odor out of the room. He opened Connie's windows and closed the door behind him.

A little later, Christi opened the door, and the whole room was filled with smoke and fire. The smoke quickly drifted out and filled the whole house and panic set in. "What's the number to 911?" she screamed. "Quick, what's the number to 911?"

I'm not sure what happened at that point, but the kids got out. They said they had to crawl on their knees because the smoke was so heavy higher up in the room. The fire department arrived and managed to save the cat, that was making pitiful mournful noises from beneath the sofa. Our children escaped, wearing nothing but their older clothes and the crocheted house shoes that your mom had made them for Christmas.

Except for the brick outside walls, Connie's room and everything in it was totaled. The ceiling was gone and everything stored in the attic also burned. The rest of the walls inside the house were blackened from smoke. Everything was soaked from the fireman's hoses, which managed to put out the fire. You didn't tell me how bad it was that night, because you were trying to keep me calm. My friend, Diane, invited everyone to come there to spend the night.

Carol and Glen arrived around one in the morning, and banged on the smoke stained door of the dark house until they saw the note that read, There was a fire. We've gone to Diane's house.

The next morning, I had the surgery, and all those fresh pints of blood cells made a new woman out of me. I was worried about getting AIDS, because this was a time people were getting it from blood transfusions. The Insurance company went to work trying to find us a place to live. They were only able to find one motel room in the whole city because it was Super Bowl weekend and all the rooms were booked. With Carol and Glen there were seven of us, plus a cat, who were forced to share one room.

Poor Connie was traumatized with guilt over what her carelessness had caused, and Don felt terrible for opening the window to give the fire more oxygen. I was just glad everyone was alive, and that physically, I was feeling better than I had felt in months. What a way for you to start your retirement years.

 

Author Notes I'm continuing to recall memories of life with my deceased husband, Evan, as if I am talking aloud to him. I'm doing this because I want my children to know us as we knew each other and not just as their parents.Th


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