When I was a freshman at Underwood High School, my Business teacher Julie (Hanson) Driessen had our general business class fill out a questionnaire. It pertained to what we would be doing twenty-five years from our high school graduation. She attended our class reunion years later and returned them to each of us. I had stated that I would probably be involved in the arts-perhaps a photographer, even owning a studio at some point. Next would be something to do with antiques-maybe a store or even working in a museum. In addition to this information, I added that I would, around the age of 28, marry a gal of Scandinavian heritage, hopefully blonde, smarter than I, and she should be able to play the piano and have a real talent for sewing. Of course, from time to time she would be willing to participate in a real adventure or two.
Guess what? It happened! On June 18, Jan and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. It amazing how quickly 25 years can zoom past, and now that it has, I have some insight I feel that is worth sharing.
I was junior in high school when my parents marked their silver wedding anniversary, and I remember the day well. Mom and Dad went out for supper, drove to the church in Mercer, ND where they said their vows, and then to the Christensen homestead north of Mercer. I wondered at that point if I would look anything like my dad did when I celebrated 25 years of marriage. The proof is now available, and we have a number of considerable likenesses.
The first feature I noticed about Jan was that she was exceptionally smart, yet she gave into my sense of humor and often laughed at my jokes. When thinking about humor, it’s good to realize that it has two elements. One is the acceptance of life’s incongruities and secondly, the ability not to take ourselves too seriously. Humor requires a sense of honesty about yourself-like me realizing that 25 years of marriage causes a number of body shifts which are especially noticeable when standing in front of a full-length mirror. I can now say that dad and I pretty much celebrated our silver anniversaries looking very much alike.
Over the years we have taken time to laugh. It has been good for our souls and, I am sure, for our bodies as well. The very first week of our marriage brought about a moment of laughter that still makes me smile. I was in need of a pair of summer shorts and, being newlyweds, Jan decided to come with me shopping in Rugby for them. Our looking took us to the former Pamida Store. I located a couple of pairs to try on. Naturally, I headed to the fitting room, which I realized was communal upon moving into it because on the hooks were two ladies muumuus. (You remember those flowing, usually flowery, women’s garments!) I simply could not resist. Hanging there soft, like a flower petal, and light, like the wing of a butterfly, was this light blue muumuu with bright coral flowers and citrus lime leaves frolicking about. Jan was outside the dressing room and said “How are you doing?” I opened the door and stepped right out in full bloom. Those little bell sleeves were happy as they could be as we exited the fitting booth.
Jan took one look and was off like a deer on the run. Of course, being a newlywed, I chased right after her as the bell sleeves of my muumuu were doing the hula shake. Like a dancer I went from first position in ladies apparel to fifth position as I glided by the ladies blouses (this was not an easy task when you consider how close those racks are to each other) and right past the checkout counter. I was a rose parade float on fast forward. Jan was now in the entrance and about the leave the building. When I did my best to express myself, my voice was a combination of Marjorie Main (better known as Ma Kettle) and Jimmy Durante. I said in a voice loud and clear while my hand rested on my hip, “Honey come back, they also have it in orchid if you feel that color would suit me better!” We were new to Rugby and had just opened the studio. I can honestly say I did not know a soul in Pamida. As I returned from the entrance, I was greeted by several sets of eyes that looked just like Peter Sellers in “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”. I looked them directly in the eye and said “This just goes to show what impact the wrong color can have on a newlywed moment!” I can assure you I have not done this since!
Over the years, I have come to realize that some of our most enjoyable moments have been spent on our porch reading privately or with each other. This has been a place in our home to think. Our world can keep us very busy if we let it, and that can be very difficult on a marriage. It is not necessary to fill every hour with whirling activity and chatter. A marriage needs moments, and even hours sometimes, of quiet reflection. We relax in our wicker chairs surrounded by the violet and ivy strewn cotton curtains, sewn years earlier by Jan, and the at-ease, vintage wainscoting still can’t decide if it looks best in overcast light or twilight. But we all know this is a room of happy hues that have contributed to the harmony of our hearts.
Handling the small stuff counts, and it is a good idea to help your wife who is often taking care of these duties. Have you heard the comment, “One candle can wipe out darkness?” How about, “One tree can start a forest” or my quote, “A freshly scrubbed kitchen floor can raise our spirits”? So when you see her pull up with a load of groceries, get out that door give her a helping hand and stick around long enough to put all the purchases in their proper places. This reality check will rein in your grand vision that getting the groceries is simple.
We both know that forgiveness and understanding play a very important role in marriage. After all, we are human and mistakes will happen. The words “I am sorry” or “Please excuse or forgive” can do wonders. Another moment of inspiration for me is our meal times as we take time to pray, visit and enjoy the blessing we have been given. This break in our daily, busy routines is most refreshing. Like prayers in the evening, this allows God to enter and change the canvas we think we desire. I have been amazed and grateful for the new dreams he has painted on our hearts over the years. This has allowed me to go beyond worry and to step into faith. Miracles continue to happen daily; however, we are often too busy to even notice them.
The greatest change to the canvas in our lives was the birth of our daughter, Lydia. As a couple we knew our lives were meaningful, and without children, we had the blessing of giving our time to others. This led and guided us in many meaningful directions, which have helped us to be guiding parents to Lydia. She, too, teaches us daily when she says something as spontaneous as, “Hey guys, let’s take a different way home.”
In marriage, you realize that your spouse’s family truly does become your family. How can they not? With them, you often spend special weekends, holidays, moments of joys and sorrows. In the 25 years that I have been married to Jan, our families have been such a blessing. The support, encouragement, and understanding given by my in-laws, Norman and Delores, are an example to live by.
Yes I did get the girl of my freshman request, and as all of you know, I am way better for it!
The one thing that has appeared on our table (almost as often as salt and pepper!) is cottage cheese. Lydia loves cottage cheese from mixed with Spanish rice to this recipe.
Cottage Cheese Cake
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
Combine all ingredients like pie crust, using egg for liquid. Line a torte pan that is 5 inches deep.
1 pounds cottage cheese
1 cups sugar
5 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Rind of 1 lemon, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
5 egg whites
2 tablespoons cream
Sieve cheese twice. Add sugar, egg yolks, flour, nutmeg, butter, lemon rind, and lemon juice. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites and cream. Pour into crust. Bake in a 425 degree oven 5 minutes, reduce to temperature to 325 degrees and bake until filling is firm. (Approx. 1 hour)
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