Zacchaeus Kissing in the Tree

Saturday 5-13-57

My Sweetheart,

A rainy cloudy day so we are not getting anything done in the garden. I was hoping that we could, since David is home. He makes a good gardener, especially if I work along with him out there. But this rain should help our corn and potatoes to sprout that are already planted.

I was feeling rather blue last night because I didn’t make arrangements to come down to the banquet. I kept thinking that Jimmy would be coming down with the measles, so didn’t give it much serious thought until yesterday. Then just as supper time arrived Mrs. Wolcott called to remind us of an announcement that I hadn’t even heard that Leonard Brooks would be at the Chapel to speak. So it was good to have my mind diverted and we hustled around and went to that. We did enjoy his testimony – he went back and told a good bit about the war days there, then of his work and studies here in the states, and now how he is going back. Then he showed pictures of the work there. I’m glad that we got there.

After the meeting I called Mrs. Storms over to ask her if Karen and Mary Ellen would consider staying with the youngsters if I should be able to get away for any of the graduation exercises down at Emmaus [the college where my dad taught]. She thought that they would be glad to do it if I had confidence in them. The youngsters love them and would not mind being left with them. So if dates do not conflict with graduation here, why, I would like to come down and make an appearance before school is out. After hearing of the work all year, it would be a treat to see the student body and see, at least, the finish. Providing that would work out O.K. with your time there. I really would not enjoy it much if I couldn’t see a little of you.

Well, today Jimmy has a hollow cough, a half degree of temperature, and a nose that is beginning to trickle – so you can guess what is coming! He doesn’t complain and is playing inside as it is damp and cold out. I have a little fire going in the house.

I could write a page or two about Jimmy and the things he says. Time has not much meaning to a four year old. He came in last Sunday morning to ask if he could wear the overalls he had worn the day before. I said, “No, this is Sunday.” Beaming, he asked “Oh, is this tomorrow when we go to Sunday School?”
“How long till my birthday?” “Two more months.” “Is that as long as a year?”
Another time, “How long until the school bus comes?” “Just a few minutes.”
“Will that be about an hour?” I smile and give up.

The other day he came running in, “I know why Jesus came to earth.”
“Why?” I asked.
“To die on the cross for us,” was his answer and off he ran.
Next thing I heard him singing, “Zacchaeus kissing in the tree —-“
Did you catch your breath like I did? That line comes from a rhyme they use to tease the girls about their boyfriends.

I just told him yesterday that he was to visit kindergarten next week and we have been going through the questions of how long it is till then. It will be hard to break the news to him that he can’t go now with the measles! I’ll not say anything until he feels punk enough that he won’t feel like going anyhow.

The girls brought in a lovely bouquet of lilacs and narcissus.

I have to go to Howe for gas, milnot [canned milk], and want some seeds from the hardware store down there. So I had better stop this Saturday chatter and get to moving. Always plenty to do on Saturdays.

I hope someone moves in here that wants a large garden – as I still feel sure that we will be doing something else besides taking care of that this summer.

I love you, and am as bad as the youngsters about counting the days until school will be out this year. I hope you get a little extra sleep this week end – and you had better not count on coming home until school is out. If that Sorenson house should develop into a possibility perhaps that can be an excuse for me to come down on a Friday and then back on Saturday afternoon, so we’ll be together at least once this month and save you the tiring trip home when you have so much to get finished up. I’ll bring David along as he knows how to change tires and I don’t care to travel alone that far. Well, we’ll see, and I’ll not feel too badly if nothing develops so that I can come down.

Always yours,
Nellie

Mom, Migration, and Graduation

Nellie young

Mom was raised in Wapato, Washington, in a farming family in a farming community. Her father, a widower with two sons, married a much younger woman who had immigrated to America from the Netherlands. They had two daughters and three sons. Mom was the oldest.

Hers was a life of rising early, milking cows, doing chores, watching siblings, weeding gardens, canning produce, cleaning up. Evidently it was also a life of reading and studying. After she graduated from high school, she studied one year at Biola (Bible Institute of Los Angeles).

She wanted to transfer to a recently established college in Dayton, Tennessee, named after William Jennings Bryan. She was offered a car ride across the country—before the interstate highway system—, so she decided to check it out. Her mom was doubtful. She wondered how Nellie would pay for tuition and books? The admissions director had the same question, asking her what skills she had. “I know how to milk cows,” Mom offered. It just so happened that the college had cows but lacked knowledgeable milkers. So she was hired. She earned money ironing and eked out a degree with academic distinction.

She also met my dad, whom she called “Johnny.”  She wrote in his yearbook: “Labs, water fights, Gutenburg trips, Sun. Piano playing, Street meetings, Dr. Gregg, or reading together, I’ve enjoyed it all and been blessed by it. He has been extra good to us, hasn’t He? Ps 103 — Nellie. I Cor 15:58

It’s a wonder to me that Mom started in the Yakima Valley of Washington and ended in Lombard, IL, two states over from Ohio, where her father began his life. And I, raised in Lombard, settled a few hours south from where she lived.

I’m gobsmacked that this quiet girl took it upon herself to ride halfway across the nation to go to an unknown college. I hitched a ride with friends to go to one year of Bible school in Los Angeles. My plan was to establish residency and go to UCLA. I never stepped on the campus, frozen with fear. If I had but asked, a dozen people would have been willing to help me navigate both the mass transit and the admissions process.

So Mom migrated, milked her way through school, and graduated. She never knew that her oldest son became both a scholar and a dairy farmer. I imagine a conversation today between her and David, her intelligent questions and thoughtful replies. She would chuckle and sigh, “Farming sure has changed.”

Mom left her mark at Bryan. Reading her senior yearbook, I find these benedictions:

Your life has been a blessing and joy to us. — Eugene Rosenau

I’m unable to tell you what your daily work has meant in my life! — Cleo Graham

I’ll never forget what a friend in need you were. Knowing you has really enriched my life. —Dorothy Borror

I’ll never forget your beautiful smiles. — Delbert Baker

Thanks for letting me sleep in your bed overnights-even if there were stones in it! I could never tell you what a blessing you’ve been to me this year. I really enjoyed my frequent visits to your rooms. — Miriam Levengood

Years later, I’ve been told, Mom was in the throes of a nursing baby, dirty diapers, hungry toddlers, and active preschoolers. My dad arrived home, scooped up a child, and asked the most pressing question on his mind: “Did you study your Greek today?”

Yesterday, on the (46th!) anniversary of her death, I talked to my husband about my mom. A sob caught in my throat, and I admitted, “I still miss her.” He nodded and said, “One day you’ll never have to miss her again.”