The Portugal Adventure – The Long Year – Surprise !

If all mothers-in-law were like my husband’s mother, there would be no mother-in-law jokes. She is kind, thoughtful, a hard worker and honest. I have never heard her say anything bad about another person. But she has skills.

My sister-in-law had a veil for me to look at.
My sister-in-law had a veil for me to look at.

One day, she called me and asked me if I had found a veil yet. I hadn’t. She told me that my sister-in-law to be had offered to let me use hers. After describing it to me, she asked me if I could come down on Friday after dinner and try it on to see if I liked it. Friday afternoons are not exactly prime time for teachers, but I felt I owed her given that her son never let her know he was inviting me to visit him in Portugal until after the fact. I wanted to stay on her good side.

Friday afternoon, therefore, I headed to the outskirts of Philadelphia. I had changed out of my work clothes into my most comfortable, well-worn jeans, an old t-shirt and my sneakers. My hair was a little oily. Did I mentions it was the end of a long school week? No makeup – I didn’t want to risk getting it on the veil.

It was a pleasant spring evening. The sun was setting  when I arrived at the home where Harry had grown up. It was what we called a “twin house,”  two homes with a common wall between. Mom Price said that she would drive me over to Sally’s apartment, so I got into her car with her.

As she drove, Mom said that she needed to pick up a document at the church on the way to Sally’s house. (She was the treasurer for the Ladies’ Missionary Society.) She stopped in front of the education building and invited me to come with her. I waited while she unlocked the door  and followed her in.

This is what I felt like. Only without makeup.
This is what I felt like. Only without makeup.

The lights came on, and a loud chorus of  SURPRISE!!!!!!!! resounded through the building. The place was filled with women. Women who had taught me in Sunday school and women who were future relatives. I was stunned. I never saw it coming. Apparently one of Mom’s skills is keeping a secret.

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The Portugal Adventure – The Long Year Part 4: Drama

aeroporto-LisboaLong Distance Wedding Plans

If you’ve ever planned a wedding, for yourself or for someone else, you know that it nearly qualifies as  full-time employment. Add in the facts that “wedding coordinator” was a relatively rare bird in the 1970’s – unless you were royalty. And your mother is clueless.

Your fiance lives nearly 3400 miles away from you during a time that transatlantic phone calls were rare and expensive. And he has more relatives than Ping “who lived with his mother and father and two sisters and three brothers and eleven aunts and seven uncles and forty-two cousins.” ping

Do  you wonder that my first choice was to go to the pastor’s house for the wedding ceremony and throw  a reception party after the honeymoon?  If it had been up to me…but it wasn’t. Not entirely. At least I had my attendants picked out before I left Portugal; My flower girl (pastor’s daughter) (Harry’s little cousin to be) the ring bearer, my sisters-in-law to be, my high school friend, and my younger sister who was to be my maid of honor.

A Dark and Stormy Night

I was still dazed with the wonder of being engaged to Harry when one Sunday night in September my sister’s boyfriend came to pay a visit to my parents. I was up in my bedroom reading, but I soon felt the thick tension spread through the house. It would have required a machete to cut through it. After some time had passed, I heard the front door close, and then someone climbed the stairs evidently looking for a gun in my parents’ bedroom. Clearly,  something out of the ordinary was going on.

I went down the stairs  with apprehension. At the bottom step I noted that the boyfriend was gone. My dad was on the sofa clutching his chest and popping nitroglycerin pills like they were little sugar pills. My younger brother looked angry enough to commit murder. My mother turned around, looked at me and wailed, “Your sister is pregnant. What will the neighbors think?”

And, in this Corner…

 I would like to say that I was all compassion and understanding that night. The best I could muster up at the moment and for a good number of minutes to come, was to keep my mouth shut. At least until I had a chance to process it all. Then I was confused and apprehensive.

At that time in history, unwed mothers either got married or were sent off to a home. Often, they were forced to give up their babies for adoption. Happily, that did not happen in this case. Unfortunately, though, I had still no experience to draw upon in the situation, and I put my foot in my mouth more than once.

My pastor was aware of the turmoil in our family, and was concerned for all of us. He called me in to talk to him one day while I was still at school. When he asked me how I was doing, I started to cry. I told him about how I felt and that I didn’t know what to do. At the end, he said that he couldn’t tell me what to do, but that I should listen for the Lord to tell me, and do what God wanted. I took his advice. And that was when the compassion grew by leaps and bounds in my heart for my sister. I realized that she carried the heaviest burden.