300 North Salt Lake 1962-1963
Our apartment at the head of Main Street had been spacious and full of light. We had a dining room, a living room, a balcony, a large bedroom, a smaller bedroom, a bathroom and a large kitchen. We moved to a semi-basement apartment with a compact kitchen, a living room that was not too small, a narrow hallway that bordered a strange bed sized pocket that had once held a bed that could be pulled out into the living room, a bathroom and a sleeping area barely big enough to accommodate our full sized bed. The dresser was kept in the living room.
The one real advantage of the apartment was the nearby laundry area, although after one or two adventures with the ringer washer, I returned to doing my laundry at my mother's house. Since she worked during the day, I seldom saw her when I did my laundry. My grandmother was living at my parents' house but she had been dismayed and bitter at my marriage and tended to avoid me. She thought Richard was Japanese and she still had vivid memories of WWII. As far as she was concerned I had married one of the enemies.
She died that September, not long after I had begun to take art classes at the university. Her funeral drew a large attendance. I was told that many had come to honor not only her, but my grandfather who had died in disgrace after being cut from his position as an apostle for continuing the open practice of polygamy. I had a good feeling at the cemetery. My grandmother was returning to beloved brothers and sisters and a husband she had missed for many years. Her mind had begun to fail her and one day she had said that the worst thing about getting old was forgetting. She had always wanted to be useful, and in her old age she could not rest gracefully. We had not been very good to each other. She had come to a crowded farm house to care for a rowdy group of young children when she was nearing seventy. Her one possible helper had been a rebellious, near-sighted little girl of six years old. I could easily understand her circumstances and forgive her.
Not long after the funeral my mother asked me to come with her to the cemetery. She had some flowers she wanted to place on her mother's grave. She was distraught as we walked from the car to the family plot. With bitter weeping clouding her eyes, she knelt over the newly disturbed sod and mourned her mother. I settled down on a nearby set of stairs and experienced a peaceful, healing feeling. The place had been sanctified by all the great good people who had been buried there. A nearby pylon marked the grave of my great-grandfather, John Taylor. who had been with Joseph Smith in his last hours and nearly shared his martyrdom. Other heroes and prophets shared the nearby family plots in this cemetery where many stones bore dates extending back to the mid nineteenth centurey. I was filled with a sense of joy and it seemed that heaven was just beyond a very thin veil. I tried to assure my mother that Grandmother was happy, but she accused me of lacking common sensibility. The only mourning I did that day was for the gulf that stood between the two of us.
I had surprised my husband with a painting not long after we married and he was impressed that I had talent. He agreed it would be a good idea for me to return to school during the period that I was waiting for our first child to be born. As my schooling continued that fall I made a somewhat comic figure in my ceramics class where my swelling belly tended to catch the clay while I threw pots. I loved my art history class but I had mixed feelings about my watercolor and oil painting classes. Both were taught by noted artists, but they gave short shrift to theory.
One day our watercolor class met outdoors where the skyline of Salt Lake City was visible through the branches of Russian Olive trees. My professor seemed surprised that I had depicted the haze that had settled over the city. "You are pretty good at painting smog," he said somewhat acidly. My oil painting instructor had a heavy hand when it came to 'correcting' his students. On one particular abstract piece he painted so much on my canvas that I finally abandoned my original concept and let him have his way.
When Christmas came we found a tiny tree and decorated it. Richard gave me a gift that I foolishly scorned. It was a lounging set of quilted white satin with a Chinese design painted on the front and bright red nylon jersey pants. It was neither subtle or classic, but I should have welcomed the idea of being given a gift. Instead I suggested that he should return it and I would help him choose something more flattering. My heedless attitude nearly succeeded in strangling any impulse he had for choosing gifts for me.
In late pregnancy I often dozed for an hour or so after Richard left for work. I began to have unnerving 'waking' dreams. I would sense someone lurking outside our apartment, then I seemed to see them breaking the lock and opening the door. A black-gloved hand would be inserted through the opening. I struggled to wake up, but my body wouldn't respond.
I had not had the habit of using the chain lock until the dreams began, but soon I checked to make sure the door was locked and the chain attached each morning after my husband left the house. One morning as I dozed it seemed that I was once again dreaming about the intruder, but when I struggled to wake up, I did. I rose from the bed, still hearing the rattling of the chain as someone shook the door. I walked through the passageway and saw a hand in a black glove inserted through the gap between the door and the wall, fumbling with the chain lock. I knew I was in danger but all I could think to do was mutter. "Who is it?" I raised my voice and asked the question again, louder. For a few dreadful seconds more the hand continued to fumble with the lock and shake the door. Then the hand was withdrawn and I heard steps hurrying away. I dashed over to the door and slammed it shut before I reached the phone on the other side of the living room and called the police.
They came to the apartment and found that the lock had been ruined with some kind of tool, the suspected the intruder might have used a heavy screwdriver. "I should have been braver," I said. "I should have slammed the door shut on his hand."
The policeman shook his head. "He might have had a gun and if you shut his hand in the door, he might have shot you. You did exactly what you should."
I have often dreamed premonitory dreams, but this may have been the only time when the dreams had caused me to take action that could have saved my life.
One evening when I was expecting Richard to come home from work and take me to a dinner that had been planned by his colleagues I was overtaken by an awful pain. I feared it might have something to do with my pregnancy and I called his office with no result. He had taken the car with him that morning and I had no way to drive myself. My parents were away from home visiting my sisters who were attending college in southern Utah.
I felt that I was being crushed and it was difficult to breath. I prayed for relief and I tried different postures to relieve the pain and tried not to give in to panic. Finally the pain receded after I vomited. Minutes later, and about a half hour late for our intended departure, my husband came home. He had become involved in a conversation with a former classmate who had recently come to work for the Highway Department and lost track of time.
That winter we purchased a case of oranges and another of apples for an unbelievably good price. With the house cramped with our own belongings and the items we had purchased for the baby, Richard decided to store the produce in the back of his car. The temperature fell well below freezing a few days later and the fruit froze rock hard. Richard insisted on eating the mushy apples and bitter oranges until they rotted. I refused to try after the first taste. It had been a false economy to buy so much fruit when we didn't have a place to protect them from the bitter cold.
Not long after the beginning of 1963 my brother married one of my best friends. Mike and Mary Martineau had met at my wedding and had corresponded until at last he proposed to her. Heavily pregnant, I couldn't attend their wedding in California. We gave them a gift of cash. We repaid the loan he had extended when if was in college and increased it by 50%.
Many people were surprised when I gave birth on March 8 of 1963. Some assumed my child had been adopted since they had seen me weekly and never noticed I was pregnant. We had anticipated having a baby boy and everything we purchased was pale blue. When the month of February approached its final days, I hoped my labor would begin. On the final night of the month I stayed up late studying the new set of encyclopedias we had received for Christmas. From early on in the pregnancy we had decided to name our first child after my father who had been born more than fifty years before in February. My mother had been born in March and Richard suggested that if the pregnancy extended that long, we should name the baby Margaret. My emotional relationship with my mother was burden to me. I had been given the first name of Margaret, but I seldom if ever used it. Only utter strangers addressed me by that name. I wanted to find some other people in history who had been named Margaret. My search revealed that there had been a saintly queen of Scotland named Margaret. After reading something about her, I could be at peace with naming my little girl Margaret, and I was certain that it would be a girl. In later years I discovered that Saint Margaret of Scotland was a distant ancestor.
Meg was such a pretty infant that she offended a number of new mothers. Fathers and relatives visiting the nursery to look at their newborns could be heard exclaiming over Meg's pale ivory complexion and shock of silky black hair while the other new mothers stood sullenly waiting for the admiration their own child should rightfully receive. Unlike most of the newborn infants who still looked rather wrinkled and a little blue, possibly exacerbated by the means of their delivery which left most of them limp and sleepy. Meg was wide eyes and alert. I had refused to be anesthetized until she was already coming into the world, at which point someone forced a cone of gas over my nose and mouth and sent me into a swoon while her body was delivered.
It was not education in natural childbirth or heroism that caused my refusal to take advantage of 'science'. My mother had warned me years before that I should avoid learning any dirty words because she had worked atna hospital as an aid and she had seen how women lost every inhibition when they were given the popular painkiller of that time. "Every dirty word you ever heard will come out of your mouth when you give birth."
I knew that I couldn't avoid hearing dirty words, so to prevent the situation, I would just avoid the anesthesia. That resolve made it relatively easy to handle the sensations of pressure and stress that might have otherwise overcome me.
I was kept separate from my new baby for more than a day according to the truly harmful obstetric practices of the era. I could feel sorrow and knew my body was in mourning because I had given birth but no child had been allowed to suckle at my breast. There was no real education in nursing available at the hospital. We were sent home well supplied with formula and warnings about proper sterilization of bottles. I had refused a shot to keep my milk from coming in and by the time I reached home after nearly a week in the hospital I looked like a Playboy fantasy as my milk came in with a vengeance. It took a week to adjust the supply with the demand. My mother suggested frequently that I should just stop trying. When engorged breasts were added to cracked and bleeding nipples I had accepted her invitation to stay in her home until I recovered. After everything adjusted and I was back in our apartment I proceeded to follow the directions the hospital had given about introducing cereal and other solid foods to my tiny infant. She quickly developed a rash. Fortunately my pediatrician was young and recently trained in more enlightened methods. He told me I didn't have to feed solids until the baby was six months old and that I didn't have to bathe her daily as long as I washed her diaper area when I changed her.
Meg was a happy, healthy baby, but once a day she screamed for an hour. Nothing we did helped the calm her until we discovered eventually that she was soothed by riding in a car. At midnight and in the early morning hours we cruised the town to keep our baby quiet. One night when she was about four weeks old we had failed to stop her urgent cries and flailing arms.
We had assumed the space in the passageway that held her mattress and a low retaining barrier would be adequate for her first month or so, but she had kicked so vigorously that she knocked the barrier out of the way. We finally put her down on the floor on a blanket and went into the bedroom to try and get some sleep. The cries settled down into an almost mechanical rhythm for the next few minutes, then they took on a particularly wild and distressed tone. We hurried into the living room and found that she had flailed and kicked her tiny body across eleven feet of carpet and was wedged under the TV cabinet, unharmed, but thoroughly unhappy.
We started putting her in the plastic travel cradle that became her permanent sleeping place for several months. During the day I would usually place her in her reclined infant seat and put a rattle in the form of a plastic ring about six inches in diameter around her legs. She would kick and coo and entertain herself while I cleaned and cooked.
When I gave birth to Meg I weighed less than 150 pounds, a trifle skinny for my height at that time. My mother had given me an elegant shirt style dress of pale brown shantung silk with mother of pearl buttons running down the front. One Sunday I wore it to church and discovered two long, wet stripes running down the front of the dress when I took off my coat at home. Fortunately, the dress was hand washable, but I was careful to wear breast shields whenever I wore it after that.
I discovered that while it had been relatively easy to lose weight at the beginning of my pregnancy, nursing had the opposite effect. I gradually returned to the 160 pounds that I had weighed for at least four years before I married. Richard stepped up his nagging about my diet. I started to avoid eating a normal amount when we ate meals together, but while he was at work I indulged my hunger. It is likely that I sometimes ate when I should have been drinking water. I was repeating the patterns developed in my childhood of secretive rebellion to the imposition of authority.
Richard was doing well at his work. He had earned several national awards for the bridges he designed, but there was not much room for career advancement. He decided to go to California and look for a better job. We planned to drive, stopping at various cities from Sacramento to L. A. where he could submit applications at various engineering and design departments in both government and private business. My mother said she wanted to go along. Her reasoning was that we would need someone to look after our baby if we decided to go out in the evening.
She rode in the back seat of the Thunderbird with the baby. We crossed the Sierra Nevada to Sacramento where Richard visited the Highway Department and submitted his resume. My mother and I spent the day visiting sights around the city. In the afternoon we drove to San Francisco where we rented a motel room. Richard and my mother saw no need to waste money on two rooms when a double room was cheaper. Richard and I got dressed up in our 'Sunday' clothes and headed toward Chinatown.
He had picked up a guidebook at the hotel and we stood on the corner of Grant Street trying to decide which way we should go to find a restaurant that had been recommended by a friend. A small wizened Chinese man approached us and began to shout at Richard in Cantonese. Richard couldn't understand him so he switched to broken English. "What you need map? You Chinese, you know way alound. You tly to impless pletty woman?"
Richard strained to understand what he was saying, but I had been living with the failure to pronounce 'r' for more than a year. "He thinks that you should know your way around Chinatown without a map because you are Chinese." I said. The old man shook his head and left us alone to find our way.
We drove down the coast and visited a relative in Santa Maria, then continued on to Los Angeles. Sharing a room with my mother put a damper on romance. One night Richard cuddled me close and started whispering endearments in my ear. We heard the bed springs creak in my mother's bed which she shared with our tiny daughter.
"What? What did you say?" she said. Richard pulled away from me and tried to sleep. The next day while Richard was away from us putting in his application at yet another engineering firm, my mother had her say.
"I'm really worried about your relationship with your husband. I haven't heard him say he loves you or try to kiss you since we've been on this trip." She probably wondered why I laughed.
Eventually Richard's efforts to find another job bore fruit. He was offered a position as a civilian employee of the US Navy. He would be working at a facility in Port Hueneme, California.
I had rarely visited and never lived outside of Utah and I was excited to make the change. For the second time since marrying we prepared to move. The government moved our furniture and we drove our Thunderbird south and west to our new home, staying the night in Las Vegas where Richard made a brief experiment with gambling. He started with a quarter, raised it to over two hundred dollars in various slot machines, and lost everything including the quarter before quitting his adventure with chance.