About alivingpencil

Hi, I'm Carol. My life is full of solid joys, deep sorrows, and aggressive hope. I search for truth, beauty, goodness, amusement, and comfort in books, music, worship, photos, conversation. I'm fond of the *idea* of gardening, writing, exercising and practicing scales. Cooking is the best fun with a friend. I like to talk, but it's harder to write.

My Tummy Isn’t What It Was

Saturday 5-4-57

My Dearest John,

I just got home from shopping so will get a note off to you before I start lunch. Spent $18 on groceries this week, but quite a bit of it went into the deep freeze so I guess that is not too bad. Lots of day-old bread on sale, a half gallon of ice cream at 59¢ and a pork roast in the freezer. Also go fryers for 29¢ for dinner tomorrow. I guess that I should have gotten a couple for the freezer, but the pocket book wouldn’t take that.

Perhaps you are wondering where the money came from. The Lord directed others and are needs are being met – the enclosed letter from Wheaton explains $30 that was sent here yesterday, and Kreimes sent $24 for insurance that I used. Got the rent paid, groceries for today, and enough for offering tomorrow. Still have the utilities, gas, and telephone, plus insurance that will have to be paid this coming week, so if mail comes from you today, those things will be taken care of.

Danny stayed with the girls this morning without complaining much. He is feeling much better, but still has a bad cough, cold, and measles on his body. But the temp is down a lot and he wants to get going, though he tires easily. I won’t take him out tomorrow and it is the rally for CEF [Child Evangelism Fellowship] which disappoints the youngsters. They will go, but I won’t hear Dorothy’s Welcome Speech.

Got the whole downstairs cleaned yesterday – really cleaned, floors even waxed. It won’t last long, as sand is tracked in by the shovelful. It is beautiful pure sand that they dug up from the sewer hole, and the children play in it and bring it in. This afternoon while Danny naps we hope to start our garden.

Have had a good fire going yesterday and today – a cold wind blowing – so different from the first of the week.

I have a terrible headache. Dieting always causes constipation. Guess I’ll have to choke down some all bran today. Dr. said to take mineral oil or milk of magnesia whenever I wanted it, but they are both terrible, too.

The package came from Sears that Mrs. Warner ordered. Two lovely dresses – dark blue with a white collar, lovely for Sunday, and a navy blue with pink-rose top that is lovely, too. Smock type. David keeps kidding me about starting in to wear them. Since I’ve lost some weight my regular dresses still fit, though I guess my tummy isn’t what it was.

David just brought a pup in. The eyes are open now. Two weeks old today. My typing is horrid, but I guess you can take me by what I mean and not what I write.

As much as we would like to see you and are waiting for summer, I still think that you had better stay near school next weekend and try to get caught up with your papers, etc. It should all be done soon, and if it goes to the last week, you’ll be a wreck for the whole month of June which is no good. Another thing about staying near school this summer — perhaps you could work on the radio programs that Dan Ball has been working on. Camp still intrigues me, but unless we ate in the dining room all summer I can’t see where with our size family we could get much done outside of taking care of them. I keep looking for ideas in case we do go, and at the same time, work on things here in case we move to Chicago. We are praying and planting as though we will stay here! Quite a situation! If we do stay, let’s think about a trip to Washington.

I can day dream and suppose a lot – eh? Well, I had better close and get down to realities – plenty of them around here. I love you and marvel at the Lord giving me such a patient, loving husband, when I am so much the opposite.

All my love,
Nellie
xxxxxx

Like Children Waiting for Christmas

Thursday 5-2-57

My Dearest,

The days seem so long with you gone – perhaps more so now than ever because we have turned our calendar to May and this is the last month to wait. Like children waiting for Christmas. And still I can hardly believe that the year is so nearly gone by.

Danny is feeling better today but acting worse!! Not sick enough to just be rocked, or sleep and cries at every little thing that displeases him. He is certainly coming along faster than Johnny! And Jimmy is lost today without his gold-dust twin. Johnny was up early today, dressed, and anxious to go. This week he even said, “Mrs. Lewis is so nice!” Quite a change of tune!! Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

We are ruining our desk top and glass by letting Danny and the others crawl on top to watch the record player. Sand has gotten under the glass and scratched the top and glass and somehow a large corner was broken off this last weekend – right corner of desk, about 6″x8″.

David and I are going to try to start planting garden yet this week. David has been working hard on the lawn, mowing it. The girls can get supper while we work outside. Danny should let me out of his sight by tonight.

Mary Dillon brought over a pair of medium blue summer pants for you. Still a lot of wear in them. The girls went to prayer meeting. I guess they enjoyed it, but it was a long meeting, 7-9. Glad I didn’t have the children downstairs all that time. Gerrard from Argentina was there.

I’ll close for now — not any news but I’m lonesome and wanted to talk to you. So this note. Beautiful spring now – need you to enjoy it with me.

All my love,
Nellie

A Letter to Mom

I wrote a poem using the Golden Shovel form that I learned from the poet Nikki Grimes. This form uses the words from one poem to create a new poem, using the original as the last words of each line. I was looking for a Mother’s Day poem, and happened across the words my son Carson once wrote to me. Thank you, Sonny! I honor you for the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that you poured into me as a child; and want you to know that these have been small seeds planted in my life, but they have reaped a bounty of blessings on me.

To Nellie Harper (3/23/1920 – 5/7/1968)

Your letters to Dad came to mind as I
longed for a way to love and honor
your memory, your rich legacy. You
never imagined that strangers would look for
your quotidian news with pleasure. The
grace with which you accepted the hard
reality of separation and leaned into your work
kindles my affection and warms my blood.
You were never one to sweat
the small stuff, nor did you melt when things got tough. And

though you confess to getting depressed, tears
on your face are no memory that
your children hold. You
made tuna sandwiches and poured
milk with good cheer, not going into
a dither when money ran out. For me,
I wish I had studied these letters as
a young mother. They are a
fount of wisdom in child
nourishing. And

though we lacked funds, there was no want
in faith, in affection, in friendship. You
took your youngsters to
Sunday School, taught them to know
God, their Heavenly Father, and trust that
He would provide all of these
needs. What wealth we have!

Your story has been
full of love for people, both great and small.
You scattered seeds
of kindness and planted
strength, courage and truth in
my siblings and into my
beautiful and blessed life.
I miss you fiercely, but

I am grateful for your letters. They
remind me again of all we have
been given. Your investment in lives has reaped
a harvest whose yield continues, a
compounding bounty.
You sang a song of the faithfulness of
God, of morning’s new mercies, of blessings
all mine, of bright hope for tomorrow. On
this Mother’s Day I thank you for loving me.

The brothers: Jimmy, David, Danny, Johnny
The sisters: Margaret, Dorothy, with Carol (me) in front
The parents: Nellie and John Harper

It Amazes Me

Monday 4-23-57

My Dearest,

Time for another epistle to my beloved. I like to write to you, but sometimes I have trouble taking time to write so that it doesn’t sound like a hasty afterthought.

Your phone call Sat. night was a real treat, although I nearly broke my back to get to the phone. I was in the tub again! My feet were wet and I slipped on the floor. Dorothy was awake and I should have called for her to answer, but I thought I could get there just as soon. Funny, I can think of reams of talk when going around the house during the day, but I almost feel like I can’t think of anything worth saying when a long-distance call comes. I do hope that you are feeling better now. Much of it must be from being tired and burning the candle at both ends. We are praying for you and hope that you’ll feel better so that the last six weeks of this [school] year might be enjoyable ones for you.

Today Johnny’s temp dropped and his measles are a little lighter. He had the full dose — awful cough, eyes matted shut, and some earache. I expect that I’ll keep him home from school all this week. Dr. Fiegel said that it is contagious as long as there are any spots at all.

While Johnny was asleep yesterday I ran the youngsters into Sunday School and asked Roger Damer to bring them home, which he did. Then we didn’t go in the evening. Today because of school vacation, Dillon came out after the youngsters for Good News Club and then Mary Lou brought them home. I could have left Dorothy here with him, but they offered and I felt a little better. It seems that I have to leave them a lot more than I anticipated doing this year, as it is.

Those capsules the Dr. gave me for my appetite may help a little, although without self-control I could eat everything in sight. But they have certainly helped that dragged out feeling I’ve had for the last two or three months. I have been able to do an honest day’s work for a change. I’m so thankful because the work was getting so far behind that it seemed impossible. Ironing to do by the bushel, etc. You’ll have to try one when you get home!

We have had some sun and showers by turn today. it was cold this morning and because of Johnny I tried to make a fire. The thing didn’t really catch until later in the morning and now we are really warm in the house. We’ll have such changeable temperatures for a few weeks.

Did you see the Sword of the Lord recently – Rice’s ultimatum to Plymouth Brethren and Pete Fleming’s book? [Peter Fleming was one of the 5 missionaries killed in Ecuador a year before in 1956.] Also McClain had an article in that. I had already read it in the Missionary Herald.

The youngsters have really been playing on their Monopoly set – I bought it for them with the money that the folks sent.

David has been out with Marv again this morning — plowing and moving some fence posts. He lives for that and his main object to leaving here is Marvin. The other day, however, he voiced a real desire to have a boy his own age to play with. I with that could be so, but I don’t know who it would be around here.

I wanted to get this in the mail this morning, but when I thought I had time between washing and lunch, Johnny demanded some attention, it was for some lunch, and I was so glad to see him hungry that I hastened to prepare it. In those few seconds he dropped off to sleep and wouldn’t eat then! I know that he is feeling better because he wants so much more attention – “What can I do?” is the question.

I’ll close for now and perhaps get more written before mail time tomorrow morning. Je t’aime (tres) beaucoup. On the week before you get home, we really count the days off until your day. We say Friday to make it sound shorter although we all know it will be nearer Saturday when we will likely see you. It amazes me, when everything seems to count to that, only Danny seems to be able to show the love and affection he feels when you get here. I can’t quite figure out why, or the remedy. Self-conscious, I guess.

[to be continued the next day]

Blossomed Out with Measles

Friday, 4-20-57

Dearest John,

While I’m sitting by Johnny’s bed I’ll get a note off to you. Johnny was very sick last night and this morning he finally blossomed out very red with the hard measles. Last night I stayed down here with him. He chattered in his sleep and temp was high. Towards morning it seemed to break and he rested then. 103° temp. all day yesterday. He is still feverish, but his head has stopped aching. Slept most of the morning.

Shortly after Johnny started to rest better during the night I head Danny start to holler first for you and then for me – really screaming. I hurried upstairs and what a sight when I turned on the light. He had crawled into our bed and, not finding either of us, got scared. He really snuggled up and loved me. The other night James [? usually Jimmy] had a nightmare and when I went in he jumped up and clung to me – just felt glued to me, but he soon woke up and never even told me what it was about, all gone then.

Very warm today – some thunder now so we’ll probably have a storm.

We gave the upstairs a good cleaning today – much to the chagrin of the girls as they were anxious to start coloring eggs. David is out with Marvin and having the time of his life. He said he got to steer the new diesel [tractor] for a mile on the way home from the feed mill.

We had some lovely cards from your Mother for Easter. She sent $5 for Easter things for the kiddos. The older ones have been aching for a Monopoly set, so I’m going to put the money in that instead of Easter trimmings.

I called Lennie Moss today and asked her about these capsules Dr. Friegel prescribed. Mary Rogers once used them. I took one today and they certainly give me pep and take away my hunger like magic. But Mary Rogers says that when you stop, you are hungrier than ever and your eating pattern hasn’t really changed – as you must change it if you expect to lose weight and keep it lost. And they are expensive – 15¢ a day. So I don’t think I’ll rely on them except when I feel too tired or pepless.

Storm is getting nearer and I hoped to corral David and get yard cleaned this afternoon. Jimmy and Danny will likely get the measles in 9-16 days. I could have had shots for them if I had suspected the hard measles in time. I kept thinking it was scarlatina – so much if it around. By today it is doubtful if it would help and just added expense if it doesn’t.

Now I’ll close. Johnny has gone back to sleep. He has been so good all week. Danny will be the hard one to care for – so much younger. We miss you, but pray you’ll get much done.

All our love,
Nellie

He Throws Off Trouble

[The last post (4/18) was out of order. This one, and the next, come before it.]

Monday, April 15, 1957

My Dearest,

This will likely be just another note as I have several irons in the fire and have to be at the Doctor’s office at 1:30.

The weather is so lovely. I have to mention it, although it got down to 11° last night. We must get the yard cleaned up.

Gertrude took the girls to the auditorium yesterday to hear the American Piano Trio. They got autographs on their program. I had to laugh — Dorothy went out without a hat and Gertrude wouldn’t take her that way!! Fortunately, Mrs. Wolcott had just given her one or she would have been out of luck.

Lennie Noss came out and said that John and Bill McPherson and Al had spent a long day at camp on Wednesday and poured all the footing for the new cabins – a huge day’s work donated. She brought me two M. [maternity] dresses – and has she ever lost weight. She looks grand.

David was home with a sore throat yesterday a.m. so we just went to S.S. [Sunday School] and only left him alone that long. By evening he felt good, so we all went. He is really healthy and throws off any trouble in a hurry.

I dread the ordeal this afternoon (at Dr’s).

Now I must get to work – washing. Wish I knew how the income tax was coming along. The youngsters want to drive down early Sunday (Easter) and come back Monday a.m. They have no school Friday or Monday. I’ll tackle it if you O.K. it and let me know by return mail. Lennie has asked us to dinner on Easter and I have to let her know. Would be wonderful to see you, but quite a trip for me and the car! Now I must sign off.

All my love,
Nellie

Measles

Thursday, 4-18-57

My Dearest John,

After yesterday’s sketchy note, I will try to do a little better today. I have three youngsters on the sofas in various stages of measles. Johnny causes me some concern as he has more fever and quite a cough with his. Margaret will soon be better and Jimmy is just starting a little fever. I take it for granted that he will be next. Dorothy stayed at home with them last night while we went to prayer meeting. I don’t feel quite right about leaving them, but I couldn’t get anyone to take the class. Not so many out either. Lots of sickness around.

Your reply certainly came back promptly. It came in Wednesday’s mail. A long time since service was so good. But as you have figured out, with the measles we’ll be staying home. Some of them may be better, but you never can tell when they will pop out on one of the other youngsters. I had hoped to plan a surprise for the youngsters and drive up to camp one of these days, but that is out, too.

I reported the furnace draft again, and Mr. Blanchard put another one on today. Because we have not had good draft there seems to be a lot of soot, so I’m going to buy some that stuff to clean that out.

Fluffy is getting huge – really wobbles around. She has been demoted to the porch again. She won’t stay in the house long because Danny won’t leave her alone and she is touchy.

You’ll have to buckle down and get your work caught up. Rather have a Hoyt reputation than a Bauman one, eh? A lot more satisfaction in the job done, also. Good thing that you are staying there because there is not much joy with sickly scrappy youngsters. The house gets a mess in a hurry. They are not sick enough to lie still and keep things in order. I guess that you know what it is like.

Millimans have changed to diesel tractors. Mrs. Milliman said that they figured they could save in fuel in three years the price of the tractors. Green John Deere’s.

I stopped taking the vitamin capsules, and take just the mineral tablets. Those vitamins seemed to increase my appetite, which is totally unnecessary. Dr. Fiegel told me to go ahead and diet and even gave me a prescription for capsules to take away my appetite. Everything seems to be O.K. with me. But I sure feel icky most days. I carried Danny too much on the weekend and hurt my back…so from now on he is walking on his own legs.

Almost forgot to tell you that he is progressing in this training business. “Big boy,” he says. But just part of the time now. He won’t let anyone sit on one of the dining room chairs at the end of the table in the kitchen. that is what you always use and he fights to save it for you!

Now I must get lunch. Tuna salad sandwiches. Only starch I’m supposed to have is one slice of bread each day. Leave eggs out too, unless I want just the white. Report cards came yesterday, but only Dorothy’s showed improvement. David brought one up and went down in two. I surely miss you and look forward to summer. We’ll be praying for you on Easter [4-21-57]. And we will surely miss you on that day. Love from all of us, me especially.

Nellie

It’s Convenient to Have $$

Saturday 4-13-57

My Dearest,

Your sweet letter came yesterday. I surely appreciate it and having you get the money here. With music lessons, eggs, etc. it is really convenient to have it.

Yesterday I heard on WMBI radio school of the Bible – Bill McDonald’s course on “Good News.”

As soon as the youngsters hear “Back to the Bible” we are going to town. A few bargains this week – sugar is one.

Psalm 37:5 [Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.] came to mind as I am praying about this summer. We need to also be concerned about deciding in time so that others concerned will not be inconvenienced.

The ground is white with frost every morning. We still haven’t gotten outside to clean up.

Margaret is OK today. David has a sore throat. We played checkers last night. They can beat me without much trouble!

I’ll close now and try to get a letter off the first of the week. Guess I shouldn’t write on the back of this paper; rather hard to read. Thanks again for writing – I surely appreciate each letter from you!

All my love,
Nellie

Down to a Few Cents

[No date. Between 4-8 and 4-13]

My dearest John,

About time for me to get another letter off to you. I didn’t intend to wait so long, but each morning has been busy and I’m no good in the evenings. Makes me wonder if I will be good at anything this summer. Just now I was sweeping — rather, trying to get the downstairs swept up in time to get a letter written before the mailman came. And suddenly I broke out in a sweat and got so weak that I had to quit. I’m glad that I go to the Dr. on Monday and maybe he can help me out.

Margaret is home again today. Had a little temp. but nothing much seems to be wrong outside of that. So many things are going around that I decided that I had better keep her here and see if anything develops.

More snow last night. It seems that spring will never come.

I’ve been thinking about the summer. I can think of worse things than living at the school [In Oak Park, IL] all summer. Just being here without you for instance. With a gym and swimming pool handy. An office for you to study in when you wished. I suppose we’d be eating and cooking in the kitchen for those around. The little ones could play down there. Perhaps eating with others would be good training for our mannerless crew. Might be embarrassing for awhile, but they are not so dumb but that they would catch on. And you will be in the position to get ready for fall better than if you were at camp. Of course being out at camp all summer seems almost ideal, but I actually doubt if I would be up to taking Girls Camp responsibility.

I’ve just been thinking on the typewriter. I’ll be glad when some decision is made as I’ll know what to do and what to work towards.

Tomorrow I’m invited to a shower for Wanda Garden down at Twitchell’s. They are the folks across from Millimans. She is expecting next month. I want to go because it will be a chance to get acquainted and I feel that I’ve not been a very good neighbor and you certainly can’t witness if you can’t neighbor to them.

Looks like Easter [is when] Fluffy is going to have her family, if she waits that long. A big mess all over the place again this morning. Yesterday we had wash water all over again. Just one mess after another. If she has them in the house some day, I’m likely to do something drastic, even if it puts me in the dog house!

I hope to hear from you today. No mail tomorrow under the new postal curtailment plan [?]. And we are down to a few cents. Rather awkward needing the money here when it all goes to you there. This is really the first time this has happened though. Usually there has been more here than I need. And if I don’t hear from you I’ll not be surprised as I know you have that income tax to work out this week besides all your other tasks.

Well, I’m about at the end of the page, and I’ve quit trembling so much, so I guess I had better close and get back to the work here. I love you and miss you so much. I would like to have a week or so together with no other responsibility but to catch up on all we’ve missed this winter. But we can only dream of such a time with all the cares of this world upon us. Take care of yourself – I’m afraid you’ve been going too hard and it will tell on you sooner or later.

All my love,
Nellie

Patience and Perseverance

Monday 4-8-57

My Dearest:

It was just this morning that we said good-bye but I’m going to start out a little better than last time and get at least a little note off to you. I just finished a letter to my folks. I hadn’t written since they called me, so I did that.

I can’t imagine how tired you must feel – I’m weary and you must be just so much more so. I did listen to the radio and it sounded as though the most snow you had was here and that it got less going west. Bill M. said that it was about two inches there, and I know it was all of four inches on the car this morning.

David went off to school without his books, his gym shorts, and called to ask me to bring them in. I refused at first, but he called again and I guess Mrs. Rerick had scolded him and he seemed about in tears, so I broke down and took them in.

Most of the snow is off the trees now, but it is not melting as quickly as I thought it would. It is staying down around freezing.

Jimmy asked if he could buy a record player, so he could listen to the children’s stories record. Danny crawled out of his bed, looked for you, then hustled down to look for the record player and for your car. He concluded that you had really gone to Oak Park this time. Yesterday afternoon he wasn’t sure, but really cried his heart out that you were gone. [Our family had one portable record player. Evidently my dad took it with him at his teaching job, but brought it home on weekend visits.]

Did you find your Mother there or had she gone to St. Louis? With that she could come up here now, but I know that is impossible.

And was Dean ready, have you heard more from him, and did you get to school on time? ‘Nuff asked. I expect that you would answer all those things when you write, even if I didn’t ask — but, being me, I ask the questions and wait for the answers.

We will be praying as a family, and I will try to set aside time to pray for the work of the summer. Whichever, or whatever, if we know that it is His place, we know that He will help us to do the work required.

Jimmy is out fixing a sandwich for his lunch and I had better go help him out a little. He’ll get enough but Danny won’t fare so well. However, he doesn’t look underfed!

Thanks so much for taking care of the checkbook. And I feel awful about the income tax being thrown in your lap. As a help-meet I seem to leave all the work to you. But though I don’t do my share, I do love you, and your patience and perseverance does inspire me to work harder and more carefully. Take care of yourself and I hope you can get more rest these next few weeks. Now I must close.

All my love,
Nellie

[All Nellie’s letters to John can be found by searching Mom’s Letters.]