Friday, April 30, 2010

Just Like Kindergarten, I Started Playing House

I have reconnected with people from every stage of my life. From people who knew me as a child in Brooklyn to people where I now reside, in South Dakota. My facebook friends range through all the years of my life and many of them are reading this blog. Many of these friends knew me when all these events were going on. For countless reasons, they never knew.  Any one has the chance to know now. If you are reading, I'd love to know. Comments are welcomed!

Shortly before our wedding, we had also purchased our first home. We had rented a small house and cleaned it spotless. I remember the discussion with my mother of whether hands and knees scrub-brush or a mop with lots of water was better. I, always wanting to be the martyr, wanted to get on my hands and knees. She and Alvin both agreed a mop with lots of water best. Other than the day we spent their cleaning and my adventure of trying to pee in the shower since the toilet didn’t work, I don’t remember much of the details of this short rental.

Alvin coming from a culture where even if it was a shack, you owned your home if possible, found a trailer for sale. I had been enamored with trailers when we first moved to Missouri. Our Sunday afternoon entertainment was going through trailer open houses on the various lots in Columbia. I thought they were new, modern and would be a wonderful place to live. My parents, never having owned any real estate considered this major move, but never took it while my father was alive.

He found our first home parked in a trailer court. It was a red and white camper. It’s dimensions were 8 feet by 16 feet. It had a full size not frost-free refrigerater, a small gas stove and sink. The bathroom was smaller than a closet but worked. Built-ins provided limited storage. What furnishings we had were from the bounty of loved showered on us at our reception.

I remember only a few things of the gifts we received that day. Most remarkable was the $100 given to us by my brother. I hesitate now to say it was a gift given by love, but I don’t know what his motivations were then. I know he had refused to allow his son, Ben, to be my ring bearer saying that he wanted to use the money he’d have to spend for that for a gift. I would rather have had my nephew in the wedding party.

I am sure I must have gotten an electric skillet. It was sort of the microwave of its day. You could cook almost anything in it. I remember learning to use it to make all manner of burgers, sauces, pancakes and more. Armed with my Betty Crocker cookbook, I practiced with diligence to be a good wife. I rarely offered up burnt offerings to my new husband. I even entertained. One time inviting the visiting evangelists to our home I prepared lasagna and salad topped with a homemade cake and coffee. The wife marveled at my willingness to bring them to a trailer and that I actually knew how to make a good cup of coffee at 16.

I always thought that cheese ball with the crackers was the coolest looking thing. And that gazpacho looked interesting but I never tried it.
The other gift I remember so clearly was the gift that I thought was the best wedding gift I had received. It was a bucket. Yes, a bucket – it was filled with brushes, sponges, dish rags and all manner of kitchen gadgets, peelers, paring knife and more. I even remember who gave it to me. It was the mother of my husband’s best friend. She said I’d need those things. And indeed, it contained the things I needed the most. When her son got married, I got the same gift for their new life. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to be as appreciated by that happy couple.

I was set. I was playing house with greater expertise than you would image a 16 year old would have. I looked forward to a life of a preacher’s wife. He was already working on credentials with the Assemblies of God. He got them. We thought about being evangelists until we were experienced enough to pastor.

We parked our trailer in another trailer court next to Ronnie and Connie Cooper, a college couple we knew from church. Somehow, even though just a few years older, they seemed so much wiser. They were good neighbors. So close they could hear the sound from our trailer. At times, they stayed up at night listening to my cries. 

At church we no longer went downstairs with our peers to Sister Riley's High School Sunday School class. We now were in the chapel with the ever fiery Pentecostal teaching in Sister Parker's Young Married class. I couldn't imagine reaching the old age of 35 and having to go to the adult Sunday School class taught by her husband. We would be young marrieds for a long time. 

In that week before we got married I also saw a doctor. My mother, now understood that I wasn’t pregnant after all, took me to a doctor to get the “pill.” It was relatively new at the time. She thought this was wonderful. A crusty old doctor who saw me not as a young girl to be helped but as yet another low-class teenager, gave me the prescription. His instructions were that after you have your next period, you should start these. Then come and see me again. I’ll examine you once you are a married women.

That next period never came. Fertility never being an issue, I conceived immediately. Now I had given cause for the suspicions and rumors of those convinced I had been unchaste before my marriage. I wasn’t the first in that church to be guilty. Mixed with the rumors was acceptance and even forgiveness. At least we had made it right, we were married.

As I cleaned that little trailer, learned to cook and shop, dreamed of our future and child to come, I didn’t realize that emotional abuse had already begun and physical was not far behind.


  1. Joyce, I'm sure this has been hard to revisit all that went on. But I for one, commend you for doing this.

    I remember the Betty Crocker cookbook and when the pill first came out.-

  2. The best present we got was a set of stepladders from a lady friend of my mother in law... very practical, still in use 30 years later!

    Thanks for sharing Joyce, can't imagine being in your shoes at 16!

  3. thanks for sharing so openly

  4. Thank you Joyce! it helps me so much to know that I am not the only one who faces the fearful place of rumors and feeling powerless as people opporate out of how they see you rather than compassion. It is a great thing to know that our Father God hears all our cries, even ones that seem so fresh after so many years. He loves us and cares for us even as we don't know what lies ahead. Thank you Joyce, your openness gives me courage to keep being open despite the pain.

  5. Great line: I rarely offered up burnt offerings to my new husband.


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