50 Years of Us: Part 2 A Full House and Busy Careers
Updated: Mar 1
1 Peter 4:8: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."
Proverbs 30:18-19: "There are three things that amaze me—no, four things that I don't understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman."
(Click here for Part 1, in case you missed it).
There's nothing quite like a mortgage, no money in the bank, and a baby on the way to provide motivation to get up every morning and work as if your life depended on it. From April 2, 1973, until the fall of 2002, Steve doctored dogs, cats, cows, and whatever walked through the doors of Pearson Animal Hospital or could be found in barns and farms around Morgan County. We both vividly remember the day he finally took in $100. That led us to believe we were actually going to make it. Maybe that was because we also remember a time when we only had $25 to our name. That's it. A total of $25, and that included searching through the couch cushions for loose change. We began our lives together with faith in God, love for each other, and our brand, new college degrees. . . . but NO money.
Steve's practice was built on integrity and being there for his clients. Long before the days of emergency clinics, Steve kept the road hot to the clinic on weekends, on holidays, during the middle of the night, and, invariably, when we had something else planned. He appreciated the people who put their trust in him, and we believe the feelings were mutual.
I was absorbed in teaching music and playing for church. My goals were to instill a love of music in my students, to give them an avenue for self-expression, and to create an atmosphere for worship when I played on Sundays. I fervently hope that's what took place.
At the same time, we were both committed to rearing our children and making our family a huge priority. We would love to have those years back, knowing what we know now. We adored those years, but given another chance, I believe we would have treasured the moments even more deliberately and joyfully, and just maybe we would have made fewer mistakes.
Laura Katherine arrived on November 1, 1973, three weeks early, weighing 5 lbs.14 oz. She had a couple of grossly-inexperienced parents, bless her. We now know that she was possibly the most perfect firstborn child a set of parents could have. Healthy, beautiful, brilliant, and amazingly well-behaved. She teases all of us that she would have made a great ONLY child, but she wasn't allowed the luxury of proving it. Laura is actually the funniest of our three, but she's quiet about it. Most of the time. The longer you know her, the more layers you discover.
Matthew Steven arrived on March 22, 1977, SEVEN weeks early. Matt aspirated some fluid at birth and spent most of the next two weeks fighting for his life. God spared him. Hallelujah.
Bringing home an infant weighing only 4 pounds and 12 ounces was a bigger deal than we knew. He needed to be fed every 2 hours, and each feeding took 45 minutes. It was rough. He had numerous ear infections and didn't really start thriving until after his second set of ear tubes. But, look at him now! Six feet 4 inches tall, 200 pounds. Every inch and pound crammed with personality, or as we say, "Pearsonality." Matt thrives on people and making them laugh and feel instantly better. His sisters refer to him as "The Golden Boy," but I'm sure they would also agree that he's the life of every Pearson gathering.
Julie Rose arrived on Sunday morning, October 15, 1978, two weeks early, weighing 6 lbs. 14 oz. I had been essentially confined to bed for 9 weeks before she arrived because doctors feared I'd have another preemie, not an easy situation with a 4-year-old and a toddler to keep alive and fed. Praise God for family and church friends who pitched in. It was a HUGE relief to bring her home. Easygoing and delightful from the beginning, Julie's personality has always been happy and magnetic. It helped that she had 4 people catering to her every whim, of course. Those who know Julie recognize that she puts others first and loves to make those around her smile and share their stories. A huge hint about her future was her love of baby dolls.
Steve and I attended their band and chorus concerts, piano recitals, basketball games, spelling bees, and track meets. We took them to piano lessons, dentists', orthodontists' (ask Matt why we have 3 children but paid for FOUR sets of braces), and doctors' appointments, birthday parties, sleepovers at friends' houses, and CHURCH. Lots and lots of worship services, children's activities, Vacation Bible School, youth retreats, youth hayrides, mission trips, choir rehearsals, Bible drills, Disciple Now weekends. If there was something going on at church involving ANY of us, we were there. We did our very best to "train them up in the way they should go."
We had their friends over to our house. I always fixed extra at mealtimes, just in case there were additional folks at the table. We had a great time with their friends, and Steve and I were frequent chaperones for pretty much everything. Laura, Matt, and Julie had imperfect, mistake-prone parents, but they still managed to make us look good with their personalities and accomplishments. To this day, we say that they are THE REASON God put us together.
We paid for homecoming corsages, uniforms, basketball shoes, tuxedo rentals, hair products, haircuts, and prom dresses. We allowed them to go to Opryland and Six Flags with their church youth and school groups and wrote the checks for their chorus trips to New York City and Switzerland. Thank goodness, Pearson Animal Hospital was doing well!! We purchased a pop-up camper before Julie was even potty-trained and spent many nights exploring the campgrounds within a couple of hours' drive from Hartselle. No television. No air-conditioning. Bathrooms and showers only at the campground bathhouses. Just nature and togetherness. I've read since then that camping is one of the best bonding activities families can do together. I believe it's true.
Laura, Matt, and Julie loved each other then and still love each other today -- a fact that makes Steve and me extremely happy.
We took some great family vacations: Minnesota, Panama City Beach, Sanibel Island, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii. But I believe our best family moments came because of our practice of family dinners around the table -- with no television competing for our attention. Steve's arrival in the evening was often delayed because of last-minute emergencies with animals, but we waited for him. It was worth it. We ate, we talked, we shared our thoughts, our opinions, our lives. (Too bad Steve was the one taking the photograph below, so you can't see him at the table with us).
Laura, Matt, and Julie were saved and baptized within a year of each other. Seven-year-old Julie was first. Matt followed soon after, and the two of them were baptized the same day. Laura followed a few months later. She, a very deep thinker, just took her time absorbing what salvation and accepting Christ really meant.
Between 1973 and 1992, we moved twice -- from Walker Road in Tanner Heights to the end of Moss Chapel Road in 1976, then in 1988, we built our first dream house on 10 acres in Cedar Cove. I also decided to go back to college for another degree, this time in Music Education from U.A.H. Happily, that decision and degree led to a position teaching public school music which I thoroughly enjoyed. Steve and the kids were complete troopers during the year and a half I was a student. It was a true team effort.
Steve and I also started participating in international mission trips during these years -- 1990 to Brazil, 1991 to Guatemala,1992 to South Korea, and 1995 to Kenya. Those would play a major role in the next phase of our lives.
Our children were tremendous sources of pride and joy -- no doubt about it -- but they also kept us on our knees. They were/are wonderful children (now adults), but they weren't/aren't perfect. They each had periods in their lives that were challenging for them and for Steve and me. We didn't escape their teenage years without a fair number of broken hearts, speeding tickets, missed curfews, slammed doors, and angry words requiring eventual apologies. To add to the merriment, we even threw in an exchange student from Germany for a year. We HOPE Sebastian improved his English during that time. We KNOW we learned a lot about German people and traditions, and Matt certainly gained some sermon illustrations he has been able to use from his time of sharing his room, closet, bathroom, and friends during that year.
When I think about our marriage during those years, I believe we did several things right:
1) Steve and I supported each other's careers. Many times the kids and I loaded up in the front seat of his truck (before the days of seatbelts) to go with him to pull a calf. Occasionally that came with the promise to "stop at Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone on the way home." We can remember a number of instances, though, when the calf would turn out to have been dead for a couple of days, and Steve would REEK when he got back in the truck. Somehow, the thought of an ice cream cone lost its appeal. Steve, for his part, certainly hauled his share of sound equipment to various concert venues and helped with the clean-up afterward. He also helped to calm my nerves before the concert and then put up with how hyper I was after it was over. He was a great cheerleader.
2) We did our very best to present a united front when difficult or unpopular decisions had to be made, especially those pertaining to discipline. When we weren't united, the kids were quick to figure out "the weakest link." They turned us into fast learners as we groped our way through parenting in their changing stages.
3) We had some great couple friends, most of whom had children of similar ages to ours. Those friends led to some wonderful family-to-family times together.
I think, though, we could have improved in one important area. If we had it to do over again, I believe we would have planned more "just the two of us" times. With such active children, that was always a challenge, but if we'd tried harder, we could have been better prepared for Part 3 which was approaching at lightning speed.
Next Friday -- 50 Years of Us: Part 3 They Left Us Then We Left Them
1 Peter 3:7: "In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered."