Provo, Utah 1968-1969
I arrived in Utah in early September, 1968 and stayed with my parents and sisters while I waited for Richard to arrive from Virginia. It was a full and rather busy household. It soon became evident that Meg was allergic to cats and cigarette smoke, both of which one or the other of my sisters provided.
None too soon Richard arrived with his Volkswagen van loaded to the top with our household goods. He had hardly enough room to sit and drive the car. He told us of his adventures in crossing the country, particularly the rolling hills of Iowa where he barely made it to the top of one slope, then coasted at increasing speeds down the opposite side and part way up the next hill in neutral to save on gas.
We found a duplex in Provo and Richard started his graduate program. He also contracted to do some work for the Utah State Highway department and he was working in a consultant contract for the federal government. Our duplex was on a cul-de-sac with many children near the same age as my own. In a nearby meadow the abandoned body of a small blue sports convertible provided opportunities for play. One little boy, only five at the time, was the rather heedless possessor of a bb gun. After he managed to get a bb in the ear of one of the neighborhood toddlers the gun disappeared. He was also the fount of mangled information about the physiological differences between boys and girls. Meg set him straight with a few facts.
Meg began kindergarten dressed in stylish clothing. Her grandmother Heywood made and purchased several spiffy little outfits, including a bright red polyester dress with a golden apple pin near the neck and a bright pink jersey jumper worn over black tights and black sweater. She looked like an ad in a magazine, but the other little girls in her class were dressed in plaid or gingham smocks. She rode the bus to a school on the other side of I-15 each weekday.
My fourth child, Nancy Mei-yun was born on October 21. Once again I spent a few hours in the hospital on a false alarm, but a few days later I had no doubt I was ready to give birth. Richard took the children to Salt Lake to stay with my parents and assumed that he would come back and take me home after another false alarm. Apparently the obstetrician felt the same way. When the nurses called him to say I was at the hospital he told them to give me a sedative and send me home. I refused to leave. With my husband in Salt Lake after leaving me off at the hospital, I had no
way to get home. I practiced the techniques for controlling my labor that I had learned in various books. It was no particular method, but what I liked best of all of them. A few hours later I rang the nurses' call button and announced that I was fighting the urge to 'push'. I wanted someone around to help when the baby was born.
The doctor arrived several minutes after Nancy was born. I was looking into her lovely eyes which were full of seeming intelligence and wonder as she looked around. The obstetrician chided everyone for not telling him I was having 'back labor'. I said I hadn't had any back pain. He seemed eager to find excuses for his tardy appearance, but other than doing some sewing up, we had gotten along just fine without him.
Life got busy. My father fell twenty feet onto a concrete platform and was hospitalized with multiple fractures. I received an urgent call to come up to Salt Lake. Meanwhile my sister Jane gave birth in the same hospital where my father was being treated. For a brief period I had been banned from visiting while Jane's ex-husband was visiting her, but a desperate prayer from my injured heart brought a flood of charity toward those who I felt had offended me and I learned that Charity can be a gift from God rather than a developed character trait, although having tasted its sweetness I tried to cultivate it.
In her shock at my father's accident, my mother seemed to find support in my presence and I spent a fair amount of time on the road between Salt Lake and Provo with my children in the car. I was also involved in the activities of the Engineering faculty wives at BYU. I helped plan the Christmas party, creating decorations and suggesting that instead of putting the cookies out on plates where they could be scooped up wholesale by greedy older children, we should prepare small plates of an assortment of cookies and cover them with red cellophane, tied together with a small gold bow. My suggestion was successful. I also painted a life-sized Santa on the glass of our front storm door. Several times I opened the door and received a shock before I remembered that the figure looming there was my own creation.
David knew exactly what he wanted for Christmas and he kept repeating that he wanted a 'digger'. After taking him from store to store in search of the mysterious item I discovered that he wanted a Tonka tractor with a backhoe attached. Meg received a doll very much like the Alice in Wonderland doll I had received as a child. She was almost two feet tall with long flaxen hair.
Meanwhile I went through a crisis with my latest child. When she was sleeping Nancy was a pale as her sister Katie had been in death. Time and time again I touched her cheek or lifted her arm to see if she responded. She was evidently bright. When she was only two weeks old she learned to hit a capiz shell wind chime I hung above her head and listen for the gentle clashing noise of the small shells. When I took her to the pediatrician for her six-week check-up the doctor examined her and then told his nurse to call his assistant into the room. I was worried that he had found something wrong with her, but when the other doctor appeared the pediatrician demonstrated her muscle tone, bright eyes and responses. "I just wanted you to see what a perfectly healthy baby should look like he told his new associate." One chilly night I propped her in the infant seat next to our bed as usual after nursing her and fell asleep. I woke with full breasts and wondered why she hadn't signaled she was ready to nurse. I reached down and touched her cheek, by now quite cold in the winter air. Dread filled me and I cried out and grabbed at her. She woke screaming and wriggling against my clasping hands. I knew my nervous twitching of her sleeping form had to end. Somehow I trained myself to stop thinking of Nancy's sleeping form in terms of Katie's pale and lifeless body.
My father got out of the hospital and started his stoical recuperation. He was offered disability retirement, but although he was a union man and had helped bring about such programs through his quiet activism, he was disdainful of those who retired before their time. He worked relentlessly on rehabilitating his limbs so he could return to work full time.
Early in 1969 Richard decided to acquire a lot that we could invest in and use to build a home for our retirement when we were older. With that in mind, he took every opportunity to look at property in Utah County. One day he came home and told me about a farm he had seen advertised. It was 160 acres in Lehi, a working dairy farm. The price was very good, the mortgage, with a low interest rate, assumable.
Shortly after seeing the farm he decided we should become dairy farmers. It was early March in 1969 when we made the move from a duplex in Provo to a dairy farm in Lehi. The snow covered bulk of Mount Timpanogos rose like a white wall in the east and my strange portentous dream of a year before in Arlington came true not as an allegory, but as fact.