Sunday, February 12, 2012

What My Family Thinks

Maggie and Suzi
September 1993

Some readers have wondered what my family thinks of me. In today’s blog, my sister-in-law, Maggie Smith Shumaker, writes about her courtship with my brother, and how his annoying little sister (me) affected her. Maggie and I grew up together in the FOC, but rarely associated with each other. We were fire and gasoline from the start.

* * *

It kind of started before we were married. We had conversations about men in church doing things that were not legal. With some research, he found documents that gave titles to men that weren't all together true. I was freaking out that he didn't want to get married in the church by any of these men. After much consideration of feelings, he agreed that we didn't have to have a courthouse wedding. There were supporters of going to the courthouse, and I argued against the whole thing. I am very proud of him, for putting up with me.

We followed the church rules: we got engaged, went to the bookkeeper's home and set our date. Wow...six months down the road. That was forever in our days! We were supposed to have a short, maybe three mont engagement, but since everyone wanted to be married that year, (17 year old girls mainly), and we were "older" at the ripe age of 19 and 21 respectively. We just wanted to get married!

The men and boys of the church had a meeting about whether or not there could be double weddings, so some of us could be married sooner. Several of us couples were agreeing that it would be kind of fun to get married on the same night. My parents had a double wedding, and I was fascinated by looking at their wedding pictures. However, the rule was every two weeks. No one would budge. Partly because the older men thought it would put too much of a financial strain on the families that attended, having to give two gifts every two weeks. I thought that was a stupid reason to base their decision on. So, six months it was. We'd wait until September 10, 1993 to walk down the aisle and be husband and wife. It seemed like an eternity in March.

"Rumors fly when you're in the spotlight." Those were the thoughts of my dad as he and my mom questioned us one evening in my living room about not acting appropriately. Someone had seen us doing something in a parking lot, or somewhere. All they said, was it was outside of the truck...first off, if we wanted to be "inappropriate", why would we act that way outside of the truck? Really? There were some gossipy women saying things to relatives and then they would in turn go to my mom. Weird, but that's how this place ran...on he-said-she-said. Horrible to be called a Follower of Christ and this is the behavior that was going on. We put that rumor to rest, as neither of us could think of anything we had done that matched that description. I did teach him to waltz one evening outside of his truck, in a dark parking lot, down by the river.  I'm such a tramp! It was at my mom's request that I make sure he would waltz at our wedding. Therefore, I was doing what she asked! 

The days got closer, and it was finally time for his bachelor "dinner". The only food to my knowledge was donuts and vegetables. This tradition was typically all the males over 14 in the church, gathering in the "old church" back then, to watch a movie, or slideshow. The men would put money into a big dish or box for the guy getting married.                         

He walked away with a small chunk of bills that wasn't nearly the amount most guys had been getting those days. Guys would tell or talk about how much they got...or maybe it was their moms on the phone that Wednesday morning. Who knows how it got out how much each guy got in his box. Well, it was going to be enough to do something with anyway, and I was thankful he got any at all.

He and his best man came up with a slideshow of older pictures from when the church began, old baptisms, and played those for everyone at the bachelor dinner. I wondered if that's why his pot wasn't as much? No one liked people "causing waves" as my mom called it. He was a ripple maker, and I think that freaked her out. There was even one conversation where my mom asked me if he was a wave maker. I just laughed at her and thought, if she only knew! Of course he was! But, I smiled, and said, "What do you mean?" knowing exactly what she didn't want him to be.

None the less, we walked down the aisle, dad tripping on my dress the whole way...but finally, he took my arm and we walked up the four or five steps to the pulpit to face my cousin. He was the "man" marrying us. Traditionally, after kissing the bride, there was a song. They mixed up our songs. We were supposed to have "Let it be Me" first, THEN "Battle Hymn of Love" but "Battle Hymn of Love" was shorter, so they played that second, as the wedding party waited on the pulpit watching the crowd below. I was ticked off because I planned it that way according to the lyrics of the songs. It was MY wedding! Whatever, I was married, I didn't care about the rest of the, dancing, cake, present stroll, and the going away!

So, after the song ended, the guy and his bride walk up to the podium and microphone, and "traditionally" thank the man for marrying them, thank everyone that helped, and whatever else needed to be said to make people feel good.  However, as you probably gathered, I didn't marry a "traditional" church boy. I married HIM...the guy I couldn't stand to date...the one I tried to hide from at parties so he wouldn't dance with me...until my prayers had been answered, and I knew God had shown me the father of my children in HIM.

He started by thanking everyone that had helped with the wedding that day. He knew what went into this gala of an event...he showed up for some reason at the church that afternoon, and I was told not to go out front because he was there. You know, traditionally, the groom isn't supposed to see the bride before her walk down the he saw all the ladies in church that had been working on flowers, pressing dresses, hanging ribbon and what not. That impressed my groom. It's probably why as my mom drove me into the church parking lot that morning, I started bawling uncontrollably...she didn't understand why I was sobbing. They were all there for ME...and HIM...Why? Why would all of these "volunteers" come out and work the whole day, or four hours maybe, on getting MY special day ready?? Well, bless their hearts for it. My wedding was fabulous (ly over the top) in his mind.
The Wedding 1993 (with Maggie's parents)

So...he expressed he was thankful for everyone's help on the wedding that day, the gifts, for people singing, everyone who came out, but he neglected (on purpose I'm sure) to not mention the mere man that married us. Why should he get glory? He wasn't even supposed to be up there was he? Well, that didn't make very many people very happy. What a rebel! And so, more rumors flew. That was the story of our marriage for the next several months, if not years.

Seven months into our happily ever after, a blessing came upon me. You guessed it, we were starting our family. We'd tried to conceive, hoping for the first try, but it took a couple of months to actually get the positive reading. What were we to do? Our apartment would not hold the both of us AND a baby and all the baby comes, we broke the lease on the one bedroom we were renting, and moved in with his mom and dad...and little sister, who was only nine months older than me. Oh joy.

Suzi and I could barely get along, now I was going to be in her house.  Well, we'd have to save somehow, and this seemed like the most logical way. Shortly after two months, we'd had enough for a down payment on a single wide mobile home in a park on the outskirts of Maple Lane Road.

Then, I got to start calling everyone to "tell" that we were expecting. I'd witnessed my friends become mothers, now it was my turn. I was so excited! It was all planned, we'd go to my moms, as tradition would have it, and birth the baby there...given I survived, we'd have a sweet little family just before Christmas time.
Oh the hormones, Oh the turmoil that came with being big and pregnant, and the hurt feelings it caused on mine, and other's parts in preparing the "in-laws" for this addition to our family.   When you hear things like, "She said this, and such and such" while you're pregnant it doesn't always sit right with the lady carrying the baby, or maybe it was just me.   So, with a sickened stomach, I made the dreaded call to his brother's wife letting her know that her kids were not the only ones that were going to have them as grandparents. My child, and hopefully children someday, were going to have just as much right to them as her kids did, and there wasn't anything she could do about it. It was the first time I felt like I stood up to her, and it felt good.

During heat of summertime, in our tin can of a home, I sat whining to my husband about how hot it was and how much of a heater I was carrying around in my abdomen. He said to go to Sears and buy an air conditioner and he'd install it after he got off work. I love him.  The emotions built and built as the pregnancy went on. I remember sobbing to my husband recollecting the incident that happened at my nephew's school. I had been standing next to my mother, who looked just as pregnant and I did at 7 months. Whatever the reason for it, she had a huge swollen belly most of my married life. For all I knew, it was some kind of a tumor. But, to elementary kids at the school, we were both having a baby!  "No," my mother corrected, "I'm just fat." That was her comment to everyone that asked, "No, I'm not pregnant." she say, as she climbed on the back of my dad's Harley Davidson. It was embarrassing, but also sickening that I had to watch the persecution she faced for not going to doctors our whole life.

But wait...let's throw a "worldly" wedding into the mix! Why not? There wasn't enough controversy already surrounding this, being 5 mo. pregnant, cried as I was told my sister in law that was 9 months older than me ran off and married a "worldly guy" she met at work. How could she do this to our family? My baby will never see her. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing. No! We loved her. We wanted the best for her. She was a pest. She had a brain, that's what threatened people. This man found her, she found him. Where is the sin? Why was she blackballed? Why couldn't my baby see her, know her, or her husband? Oh, because he wasn't born in the church like us righteous ones. That was the difference. I don't believe this man lived much differently than some of the attendees of the FOC.  That's beside the point that Suzanne would not be allowed at my baby's birth...she was married, which was a requirement mostly, so she COULD attend, BUT she was now worldly. This was a big contentious problem with my mom and sisters. And it kept being a problem for years down the road.
Maggie Shumaker 2012

 Please come back next Sunday to read part two of Maggie’s story.

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