We walked into our favorite breakfast place, where literally ‘everyone knows your name’ after church. Today as the hostess showed us to our cozy table by the windows, I noticed this sweet elderly couple cozily sitting side by side looking out happily at the restaurant, their backs facing towards the window, like teenagers on a date.
I did a double take as Dave, said “Hi Norm and Chris”. I really am in need of my glasses full-time, I guess, because I didn’t recognize them They each had a giant waffle piled high with whip cream in front of each of them and told us that they were celebrating 70 years of marriage. Dave and Norm attend an early morning Bible study once a week. I have met only met his wife, Chris, on several occasions, but her personality and joyful way of living each day of her life just bubbles over. Norm is in his 90’s and Chris isn’t far behind him. What has been their secret to this long and loving relationship?
Suddenly my mind drifts back in time, which sometimes is my custom.
The Lamp Sellers had the same secret and they told it to us 35 years ago.
Part 2 Honeymoon from _ _ _ _ !
We were on our honeymoon road trip. Most of our friends, even back then, took honeymoons to the Dells, or Florida. Not Dave and I, we went camping from Illinois to South Dakota, to Wyoming, to Idaho to Colorado, to New Mexico and back home to Illinois. We were virtually penniless, except for the wedding money that we used along the way. I was in charge of purchasing our home away from home, a tent. I, of course, found the cheapest pup tent possible from Sport- Mart. It literally snapped into two pieces one windy night near Mt. Rushmore. I felt Dave’s quiet anger as he scooped up the tent and threw it in the trunk of his Dad’s car that we were borrowing for the trip.
He grumbled, “I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you with our living quarters for this trip, geez, you are sooo cheap, Nancy.” I remember thinking, I think I am just frugal and you are pretty lucky to have someone who is pretty frugal.
Later he fashioned a new tent pole out of a fallen tree limb and I smiled. I’m so glad I married a handy person. I was really pleased that we didn’t have to buy a whole new tent because, after all, we needed to get new brakes for Dave’s dad’s car in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This gas station in this sleepy little ski town knew that they could charge us a pretty penny for new brakes to get over the mountains with. Note to self and Dave- maybe he should have had his Dad’s car checked out before we took the biggest trip of our lives!
When we got to Yellowstone, Dave insisted that he could make this delicious meal for me, it was called ‘Red Flannel Hash’. It really should have been called, Red Flannel Trash…because that is right where I put it after taking a bite. We discovered many things about each other on this trip.
1. I could not buy tents ever again…
2. Most of the time it would be imperative for me to be the head cook…
3. And we should save some money occasionally, because emergencies happen !
The best one, though was this. If you don’t have teaching jobs yet, you probably shouldn’t go on a month-long vacation during hiring season, because jobs are important so you can eat better than ‘Red Flannel Trash’. When we got to New Mexico, Dave called back home to see if there were any calls for interviews while we were gone. It was a miracle, three different district had called wanting interviews. So instead of turning south any further we decided to step on the gas and get home as soon as possible.
The night before we left we realized that we hadn’t gotten any souvenirs for anyone else or even ourselves. Come to think of it though, we did have a new tent pole and new brakes, but we decided to go to this mall in Santa Fe to see if we could find anything memorable.
Part 3 The Lamp Sellers Wisdom
That is where we met the Lamp Sellers. There was this craft fair, no offense, neither of us really have ever liked them, so we were pretty much moving quickly through the booths. We stopped at only one booth. Lights from these lamps that were made from logs were glowing in this booth. Two elderly people sat, rocking in chairs facing each other.
The older man said, “Howdy, are you two newlyweds?”
We started laughing, “How could they tell, I wondered.”
Dave said, “Well, yes we are.”
The older lady said, well, I know you for sure don’t want any advice, but I’m going to tell you a secret. You think you will never love each other more than you do on this day…right? ”
She said, but you will. You will love each other more and more each day for the rest of your lives. That is our secret… but you will need to tell yourself that when the way is hard and when you need to forgive each other.
We did buy a lamp fashioned out of a small log. It was our remembrance of the beginning of our lives together. Norm and Chris obviously also knew the lamp sellers secret, as they lovingly sat enjoying the day together.
“Happy anniversary” we both said to our friends. Generous Dave asked them if we could contribute to their celebration by picking up their check. I chucked to myself, knowing that my frugality helps him to be able to make these loving moves. Hopefully, we can continue to be this team – 35 more years, at least !