Arnold Lane, Falls Church, Virginia 1976-1983
The house on Arnold Lane was still undergoing major renovation and was partially old and cramped and partially unfinished and drafty, it had a charming setting. The road sloped steeply to end at Holmes Run which was surrounded by a park along its length. An estate that had belonged to the owner of DC transit system occupied the opposite side of the street. For several years there were horses on the property and one day a movie star, Robert Wagner, came to make an episode of a spy series "Lime Street" at the mansion.
Our 3/4 of an acre had a broad lawn in front of the house. A forested area covered the rear of the lot. My children enjoyed the small adventure of venturing into the 'far back' to fetch raspberries. I tried to grow a garden, cutting down a line of trees to bring in more sunlight, but Virginia's wildlife and weather defeated me. The yearly summer trip to Utah always seemed to come at a time when critical care of the garden was needed.
I wondered how long my toddler Mary Jane would wait to challenge the nearly non-existent traffic on Arnold Lane. I watched when one of the older children opened the front door and forgot to close it all the way. Mary Jane slipped out of the house and toddled down the wide lawn to the edge of the road. She stood there for twenty minutes before giving up. But there were other amusements at hand. One day I was looking for her when I heard a curious noise coming from the neighbor's yard. I found Mary Jane standing at the wheel of the neighbor's boat which was mounted on a trailer. She had started the engine.
In time we made friends with neighbors several houses up the street who had a daughter named Jennifer who was six months younger than Mary. As an only child and only grandchild at the time, she had a room full of toys of every description as well as various pets. As our years on Arnold lane passed, Mary spent many hours playing with Jennifer and correspondingly little time at home.
Becky Williams, Jennifer's mother made a wonderful neighbor. Spunky and friendly and somewhat weird, (she practiced TM and nursed her children until they were four or five), she instituted the neighborhood Fourth of July parade which began at her yard where the children gathered to decorate their bikes and make banners, and ended with watermelon on our front lawn. One or another of my children usually provided the instrumental accompaniment to the march. The parade has continued as a neighborhood institution for many years. Becky also started Christmas Eve neighborhood caroling which ended at her home with Christmas goodies.
Annandale Ward chapel was not far away and I soon became involved in the production of a musical, "Pirates of Penzance. " I designed the costumes and sang in the chorus. As one of the many 'aunts' of the "Commander of the King's Navy" I was not expected to have a svelte figure and was about five months pregnant when the musical was presented in the spring of 1977.
My eighth pregnancy seemed normal until about a month before my baby was due to be born. A few dark stains were dismissed by the obstetrician as within normal range, but one morning my younger son, Richard, came into my bedroom and looked around. "Where is all the blood?" he asked me. He told me that he had dreamed that there was blood on the bed and all over the floor of the bathroom.
Curiously, I felt reassured instead of panicked. I felt I was being warned. I had been reading a book about experiments that had been conducted at Jet Propulsion Lab in California regarding distant viewing. I decided to use one of the techniques to see if I could determine the health of my child. Suddenly I was upside down in a dark place with loud liquid sounds around me. I quickly withdrew from the state of mind that had put me there. I then realized that I might have experienced what it felt like to be an unborn infant. Less than a week later my labor began and my young son's dream became a reality. I phoned the doctor and told him about the blood. He told me to go to the hospital immediately. I had made my preference for a natural birth clear from the beginning of my visits to the Kaiser Permanente Health Care obstetrical group, and the doctor who met me at the hospital seemed a little nervous when he said I might require a Caesarean section because of placental tearing. I told him the health of the child was paramount and he relaxed. He said they would keep me under close observation and see how things went. Close observation apparently meant I would be wired up with various monitors and left alone except for shift changes when the new nurses on duty would introduce themselves and check the progress of my labor.
I learned that my second cousin and his wife were in the hospital expecting the imminent birth of their own eighth child. I asked my cousin to join my husband in giving me a priesthood blessing on behalf of my baby's health. He agreed and they gave the blessing. I asked him if he wanted Richard to return to his wife with him and give her a blessing. He chuckled and shook his head. "She's just fine. We don't need a blessing," he said. Their baby died minutes before being born.
My husband went home to take a nap and check on the other children. The 'close supervision' of the many monitors I was wearing was interrupted as nature took its course and Lucinda came into the world with only her mother in attendance. I pressed the buzzer to summon the nurse. When she came into the room I told her my baby was born. She said that the fetal monitor had stopped working and she had to see what was wrong. Then she pulled down the sheet and gave a small shriek. "The baby is here!" she said, then rushed from the room to get help.
Lucinda was a beautiful child but her several months of being immersed in dilute blood may had affected her health. After giving me the usual instructions to go home and stay off my feet as much as possible, the attending pediatrician gave orders that her blood should be drawn and tested every day for a week because of elevated 'bili-rubin'. Eventually they tested my blood and found that there were no antibodies present. I couldn't help thinking that it would have been better to check my blood before subjecting a tiny infant to repeated piercing. I have learned recently that the mandatory administration of vitamin K to newborns may be responsible for the jaundice that now seems nearly universal in new babies.
Lucinda had a number of unusual allergies. When I dressed her in any clothing that was blue, green, or yellow, her skin would turn red. I soon realized that she had an allergy to 'normal' florescent light. I made a special quilt for her. On one side was soft pink knit fabric, on the other side, a black chintz with pink flowers. The filling was black knit fleece material. I used it to shield her face whenever we went into a public building such as stores, church, hospitals and doctors clinics. She would constantly rub her face, abrading the already fragile skin. At last I found a way to ameliorate the damage. I sewed up the cuffs of a little anorak made of fine woven nylon. She could rub her face, but the nylon spared her skin further damage. I knew she must be intensely irritated and itching, but she was not a fussy baby. Instead, she had a sweet and stalwart temperament that has persisted through the years. My parents drove their camper to Virginia that fall,but I was distracted during their visit because Lucinda was very ill. She had been given penicillin for an infection and had a severe reaction.
Meg started Falls Church High and often walked home through the park. One day she was late coming home and I was worried about her. When she finally showed up she told me she had stayed at school to audition for the fall play. I said that was nice, and she had probably done a good job, but since she was only a Freshman and the play had only a few female parts, and it was an English comedy, and she was part oriental, she shouldn't feel bad if she wasn't cast in a part. The next day she came home late again. She said she found her name on the 'call back' list that afternoon. I congratulated her and assured her that she should feel complimented, but not to get her hopes up. The third afternoon she came home even later. She had been given the part of a ditzy maid in the play "Something's Afoot". Her performance was excellent but it seemed that every evening of the performance something happened, including tossing an armful of phones down the stairs when she tripped and forgetting to put an important clue into a hiding place. She earned the 'Golden Klutz' award at the drama banquet. She also participated in a beauty pageant, wearing a pretty gown we made from sari material. She was active in the Northern Virginia Youth Symphony and took private lessons from a former concert master of the National Symphony.
I directed a road show not long after we moved to our new home and became members of Annandale Ward. I created a story about a grandmother telling stories to a couple of children. While she concentrates on the story book, the 'toys' around the room portray the various stories. David and his fellow scouts were given the assignment of being a 'seven-headed dragon' that ran out from under the bed on which the 'grandchildren' were perched. I made a long tube of polyester jersey material in bright green. Each of the 'heads' was a boyscout wearing a coned hat of bright fuschia fabric. The heads ran down the back of the 'dragon'. Just as the line of scouts finished running around the stage and ran back under the bed, the bed collapsed. It was an accident, but the audience thought it was part of the plan and laughed and applauded. Fortunately no one was hurt. My last road show was a space themed show. I helped with other productions, but never again had the fun of coordinating the youth in writing, directing and producing a road show.
For a number of years we had kept a tank and sometimes two of tropical fish. We had purchased the initial setup at a yard sale complete with beautiful fancy guppies and fossilized shark teeth. Over the years we had maintained the fish, now probably generations later than the initial several pairs. I loved the colorful and graceful guppies, but the sword tails seemed intent on jumping out of the aquarium. We purchased some angel fish, but as they grew they developed an appetite for the guppies so we purchased a separate aquarium. One of the angel fish had been injured when we went on vacation and a bird flew into the house. The neighbor boy who was hired to feed the fish told us that he had scared the bird away, but the fish was missing an eye. As time went on this fish proved hardier than its companion that we had purchased at the same time. When one of the children tossed a dish-washing sponge into the tank, the half blind fish survived, but not the other. We set up the tank in the back 'florida' room at Arnold Lane, but the heater stopped working. My husband thought a tea heater would work to heat the water. Instead, it electrocuted all the fish.
David had attended Glasgow Middle School for only a year before going on to Falls Church High School as a result of advice given by the Johns Hopkins University program for gifted children. They encouraged shortening the school years of able children and sending them on to college while sixteen or even younger. At Falls Church High Meg and David became involved in Latin Club activities. They did really well and soon we added 'certamens', contests about Latin language and ancient Rome, to our schedule of violin practices and other activities. When summer came we drove the two high school students to a National Latin Convention in Lansing, Michigan and made the excursion into a family holiday. After leaving Meg and David at the college where they would take part in various competitions, Richard acknowledged that our brakes were shot and he purchased some brake fluid and stopped in a public park to attempt a repair. After opening the system, he discovered the situation had become worse. We needed several parts as well as brake flued and the only place we could get them was across town at a Volkswagen dealership. We dozed in the van, waiting until after midnight when the streets were clear of traffic, then we proceeded at a bare crawl, grateful that Lansing, Michigan is a very flat city. Noises from the parking lot of the VW dealership indicated that at least one of their employees lived in his car. After a few hours, the mosquitoes became unbearable. We slowly drove to an all-night store where we bought some repellent. As soon as the dealership opened my husband purchased the parts that were needed to fix the car and we drove to a campground located on the river. There were boats for rent and Mary located a camper who had a television. We enjoyed ourselves with simple pleasures for the next couple of days, making wonderful French toast over a campfire.
Meg and David worked hard to deliver newspapers and attended early morning Seminary afterward. I soon found that between the massive Thursday edition when the ads were published, and the even heavier Sunday paper, I was usually helping with the delivery several times a week. When winter came with icy roads and dangerous traffic, we decided the cost in time and effort wasn't worth the money.
I was also involved in helping my husband finish the house on Johnson road so that it could be sold or rented. One day I had my two little girls, Mary and Lucinda, with me while I worked on staining the two-story high side of the house. I did something quite stupid when I stood on the top of the ladder to reach up with my long-handled roller. I fell, breaking one of the bones in my lower left leg with a definite snap.
I sent Mary to a neighbor's house to summon help. My neighbor came and I asked her to drive my van close to me and help me into the back where I sat on the floor with my leg extended. At the hospital emergency room I asked for a wheelchair with the leg support raised. At one point a nurse insisted that I could not have a broken leg or I would be in more pain. She wanted me to lower the leg support but I politely refused and asked for an ice pack. I had given birth eight times and had suffered gallstones. I didn't whine easily, but I knew from previous experience that I had a fracture.
Eventually the other cases were seen and it was my turn in the examination room. My fracture was confirmed. I had broken the tibia, the thicker of the two bones in the lower leg. I was given a cast that went from my toes to my mid-thigh. The doctor joked that it would be a bad idea to get pregnant. In a few months I found that once again, a broken bone had preceded a pregnancy.
Not long after the cast came off I began participating in the production of another Gilbert and Sullivan musical, The Mikado. At first I planned only to design the sets and costumes, but the director was given a job far from Virginia and I said I would like to try my hand at directing. I had directed many smaller productions over the years, but never one with a cast and script as extensive as this. I was asked to try out for the part of Katisha, the zealous woman who accuses the hero of flirting with her, sending him into exile. I said it would be rather more of an irony than the script called for if I were eight months pregnant when the production was put on stage. I designed sets, costumes, props, and publicity posters. Except for one costume, a genuine scarlet silk kimono from Japan, I found sheets for the kimonos and made wigs from fake fur. I hand painted the heroine's kimono and made 'samurai' costumes that looked quite authentic even though the helmets were made from construction hard hats. A gifted musician, Nancy Reid, played the part I had turned down, as well as directing the vocal music.
We had a fine chorus and a full orchestra. My daughter Meg played a significant role as one of the "Three Little Maids From School". My son David played one of the 'samurai' guards of the Mikado. Several performances, including a dinner theater, were well attended and we raised several thousand dollars for the ward budget. One woman challenged me after seeing the production. "Why didn't you tell me it would be so good? I would have told my neighbors."
Richard had continued his property acquisition and purchased a little house on a big lot in Alexandria. He also purchased an eighty acre piece of desert in Duschesne, Utah. We were renting the farm in Utah to one of the LDS stakes in Orem during these years after being disappointed by the first people we had rented to. We had tried to be generous with our rental arrangement with them, but they not only failed to pay us, but bad-mouthed us to other potential renters and trashed the house when they were finally forced to leave.
A month after the 'Mikado' was performed, I went to Fairfax hospital to give birth to my ninth child. I had known for some time that she would be a girl because of amniocentesis. and had already given her a name, Eliza, after my maternal grandmother. It was a time when pregnant women were taken from a labor room to a delivery room. It seemed that tiny women were usually given the task of guiding my stretcher down the corridor and into the elevator. They usually hit the wall a couple of times before I was finally settled in the presence of the high priests of birth, the obstetricians. Eliza was not born in the labor room, like Lucinda, but nearly so. One of the great advances of hospital birth is the installation of labor/delivery/new-born care rooms. Unfortunately, the increasing incidence of Caesarean sections is reversing the benefits.
Eliza was born with little incident and we were soon released to go home. It was June and I was able to put her in front of a screened window where she could receive the benefit of sun. Any tendency to jaundice quickly disappeared under the influence of the light.
I had been called as the cultural activities chairman and a few months following our Mikado production I produced a variety show. I made myself a towering white 'powdered' wig and a fancy dress and performed a song from 'The Gondoliers'. We held the show in conjunction with a ward dinner. When I came down from the stage and approached my family, my two year old daughter, Lucinda was frightened of me because of the wig.
Eliza was about four months old when her Chiu grandparents made another attempt to come and live with us under Richard's urging. We set up an apartment for them with their own sitting room, bedroom, and bathroom. Meg and David had finished the plasterboard in the addition and with stairs installed, the upstairs bedrooms were now usable. My in-laws truly seemed to enjoy taking care of the baby, taking her from me as soon as she was finished nursing and caring for her whenever they could. They even told my husband that I should wean her to a bottle so they could take care of her all the time.
Richard's mother spoke not a word of English and I only the most basic of Chinese, but we could get together in the kitchen and with gestures and smiles, soon produce a meal. Richard's father, on the other hand, would struggle for a half an hour to translate a sentence into English before approaching me and saying: "Can I help?"
I made fresh noodles regularly and we usually had them for lunch if not dinner as well. One day at lunch their grandfather had haltingly lectured the children that they must eat everything they were served. While he had his head turned, his wife quickly put some cheese on his noodles and turned away with a straight face but twinkling eyes at the joke. When he turned back to his plate and discovered the cheese,his face fell, but he ate it.
Although there was a lot to value in the presence of my in-laws in the home, I felt some resentment that they had virtually taken over care of my baby and were pressing to have her with them all the time. I found solace in Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
One day my oldest son, David, smacked his younger brother, Richard as he passed him after coming in the house with his father. I was upset by the casual violence and turned to my husband. "See what happens when your children think it's okay to hit people?"
He reacted by grabbing David and trying to wrench his arm. David had trained as a wrestler and a weight lifter. Even at 15 he had the strength to hold his own against his father. They crashed around the room while my father-in-law stood near the piano begging them to stop. Richard broke David's glasses, but he wasn't able to overcome him and in the end, David brought his father to a stop and restrained him until Richard realized he wasn't going to succeed in 'punishing' his son with violence. David had restrained himself throughout, only trying to protect himself from his father's attempts to hurt him.
The explosion of wrath on Richard's part seemed to bring his parents to decide that they could no longer hope to find a future with our family. It was probably just as well, since Eliza soon after began to crawl and was quite a busy little baby. She early showed the athleticism that prevailed through most of her youth.
That winter I started the tradition of Christmas Eve music worship at Annandale Ward. We planned that the choir would sing some carols, the congregation would sing some carols, the children would present a brief creche scene and someone would give a brief talk. The program would end with any who wished to do so participating in the "Hallelujah Chorus". There was some resistance to the idea. Somebody said no one would show up. I said my family would be there.
Christmas Eve was a night of freezing rain, coating streets and sidewalks with icy sheets. I resolved that I would keep my promise and our family would attend, expected that the fears of others would be realized and we would be the only ones attending. When we got to the church the parking lot was filling and the chapel held many of our neighbors who had been told what we were planning. The tradition established that evening has persisted.
Nancy began to attend the GT Center at Frost Middle School. Both Nancy and Tisha were intelligent and talented, and for a while they took piano lessons, but although they sang well and played various instruments, neither of them seemed interested in pursuing band or orchestra. Their younger brother Richard was selected to attend the Pine Springs Elementary GT center. He had always been a mixture of charm and strangeness, reacting strongly to certain types of people in either positive or negative ways and his teacher at the center began a struggle with him that upped the ante of his autistic quirks.
Meg took the PSAT test and was acknowledged as a 'Merit Semi-finalist'. She made the decision to graduate a year early from High School. There were several possibilities for her college education and she was scheduled to interview with representatives from West Point. Before taking her to the interview, I dropped by a local department store. On the way out of the parking lot a strange 'accident ' occurred. I felt a thump against the side of my car and halted immediately. Two women dressed in dark clothing were next to my car. One was on the ground moaning. I was concerned for their health and sent one of my children to call the police. The women didn't want me to call the police but seemed to want me to pay them money. Meg was soon far overdue for her appointment. The police and ambulance appeared and the woman who had fallen was taken to a nearby hospital but quickly dismissed. The police told me I might have been the victim of a scam.
Whatever the truth of the situation, Meg missed her interview and decided to accept a scholarship at BYU. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if she had become a cadet. She has spent years as a military adjunct in her job with the Navy.
Meg got her first job with the Navy when she was in High School. A special program provided jobs for young people interested in engineering and science. Meg's assignment took her to her father's work place at David Taylor Model Basin near the Potomac in Maryland where she soon showed unusual talent for technical work.
Meg worked for the Navy again during the summer before she went to college. Once at the BYU she was called as a Relief Society president. Her interests, always broad, wandered through the tantalizing offerings of the BYU catalog and she spent a semester in the French House.
David soon joined his sister at BYU. He had jumped to high school a year early, and now he also qualified for consideration under the Merit Scholarship program. For a while it seemed he might attend medical school but although he qualified to enter Northwestern University, the tuition would not be aided by a scholarship. He spent the summer between high school and college at a job in Idaho with the Navy. When he returned home he had a severe attack of asthma that required emergency treatment. When he was tested for allergies the verdict was that he was essentially allergic to Virginia. I had taught Meg to handle asthma years earlier by counting between coughing and it seemed to help my son as well.
David had always been an enthusiast. He would adopt an interest and become deeply involved in it. He didn't have hobbies as most people understand them. When he was a body builder, he went at it with enthusiasm. He developed an interest in bikes, and soon had a very nice racing bike for an excellent price because of clever shopping based on his knowledge. At college he rode his bike around Utah Lake.
In the summer of 1981 I had a brief vision of my next child. Years before my husband and I had filled a page with potential names for our children and there were plenty of male names. Shortly after parking my car at the top of my driveway, I found myself pondering what my next child would be like. Suddenly I had a short but very explicit vision. I was informed that my child would be a son, his name would be Sam, and he would have a knack for taking things apart. Fortunately, I was not required to don a body cast before this pregnancy. Both Meg and David were away at Brigham Young University as college students when my youngest son was born on October 23 of 1981. I had been expecting the baby to be born in late October since all but one of my children had been born up to two weeks later than the stated due date. When the 21st passed with no indication of labor beginning I was told to go to the nearby Fairfax Hospital and take a fetal stress test. I was not concerned because I felt the child moving strongly. The stress test was a combination of monitoring and self reported movement and the technician refused to accept my report of how the baby was moving. As a result I was ordered to remain in the hospital and have birth induced immediately. A neighbor came to take my two little girls. Soon after the administration of pitocin, labor started and continued without the drug. Various monitors and misunderstandings ensued and although experience of 9 other labors convinced me that I was well on the way to giving birth within an hour or so, the labor nurse assured me it would be several hours. I finally decided to have an epidural since the labor had become almost unbearable. To my chagrin, by the time the anesthesiologist inserted the needle and began the drip, I was in active transition and the baby was born as I had predicted, only about five minutes later. The important thing was that he was healthy and all the anxiety and technical 'assistance' had been for naught. I brought Sam home to a house in which most of the major appliances had ceased to function, along with the sink in the bathroom next to our bedroom. To do my laundry, I had to transport two pre-school girls and my baby boy down several flights of stairs and drive to the laundromat. In addition, the stove and the refrigerator were not working very well. I had a pediatrician who failed to see the bright eyes and healthy body of my infant and used charts of normal growth to try to convince me to stop nursing my month old baby and put him on a bottle and solid food. All my infants had an oriental stature with large heads and smaller bodies. I felt harassed and worried that I would lose my milk under the Doctor's negative influence.
We had already decided to travel to Utah and have Christmas there. It would give us an opportunity to introduce our new child to my family as well as seeing our college children for the holidays. I decided to go a few weeks ahead of the rest of the family, leaving my school aged children in the care of some neighbors and their father. I took a bus across the country. My little girls were very well behaved and other passengers commented on how sweet their voices were when they sang together. At one stop an elderly woman brought several bulky pieces of luggage onto the bus. I had purchased three seats for myself and my three children. The older woman gave me a hard look and muttered loudly: "People shouldn't be allowed to take up a whole row of seats when they just have a couple of babies. They should hold them on their laps."
I spoke up, knowing she was addressing her remarks to me. "I paid for three seats for myself and my children. How many tickets did you buy." She snorted, but the other passengers applauded and cheered.
When I reached Salt Lake, I stayed with my youngest sister, Katie and her family. When Richard arrived with Nancy, Tisha, Richard, and Mary a couple of weeks later, I was more than ready to welcome them. In my absence, Richard had found dealing with the broken appliances intolerable and had repaired or replaced them and fixed the broken plumbing.
We hired a photographer to come to my parents' home on Christmas day and take professional photographs of the various family groups as well as the extended family. It was unusual to have all my parents' children, their spouses and children together at the same time. Although in a few years grandchildren would extend the family, since that picture was taken only one child, Katie's daughter, Emma has been added to that particular group.
Richard had driven a Volkswagen Rabbit to Utah to save on gas, even though we had another, larger car. He had arranged to stop in Akron, Ohio to do business on the way back to Virginia. With four more people added to the five who had made the trip, we had to fit nine people in the Rabbit. In addition to the crowding, the trip began with a furious snow storm. Richard insisted that we couldn't delay because of his appointment in Akron. The roads were declared closed, but we drove up the highway as the markers disappeared. The traction on the tires of our over-loaded car was probably responsible for making it possible for us to continue when there was no other traffic on Interstate 80. When we reached Evanston, Wyoming, we were the only people who had made it through in several hours.
We encountered every kind of winter weather as we continued our trip. We slid off the road and five people piled out and pushed the car back on the pavement. I prayed and prayed. We had experienced many 'car miracles' over the years of our annual trips west.
It was early on Sunday morning when we drove into Upper Sandusky Ohio. I was going twenty five miles an hour when I crossed the railroad tracks which required a speed closer to 10MPH. In a moment the oil light came on. I had peeled back the oil pan. My husband turned to me and snarled: "What are you going to do now? Pray?"
"There is a diner open over there. Maybe you can find someone to help us," I suggested.
He swore a few more times and got out of the car. In the few minutes he was gone, I prayed. When he returned he was followed by a fellow who looked under the car and pronounced that indeed the oil pan was wrecked. He brought a pick-up truck and towed us to a garage in the center of a block. It didn't seem to be a regular commercial enterprise.
He took off the oil pan and welded it together, then filled it with new oil. While he worked a song played on the radio. "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord," was the repetitious refrain.
"There's another fellow here in town who could do this better than me," the man explained. "But he's too good a Christian to work on Sunday."
"As far as I'm concerned, you are a true Christian," I replied. When he finished the job he told my husband the cost of the repair and the oil. It was just about exactly the amount of cash that Richard had in his pocket. It truly seemed like a miracle. We were able to drive on to Akron where we stayed in a motel while Richard concluded his business with a government contractor and cashed a check to pay for the motel and provide gas and food for the rest of the trip.
Since I have opened the subject of car miracles, I will say something about them now. One year we drove our Volkswagen van west with frequent stops along the way to charge the battery since the generator was no longer functioning. Richard insisted that it would likely fix itself if we had patience. Some people thought we had an electric car because we kept it plugged in overnight and started it by pushing it. Like the Thunderbird without a reverse gear years before, we became very careful about where we parked.
The engine would keep on running as long as no other load was put on the electricity such as lights or radio. When we made our return trip from Utah to Virginia, I decided that we needed to arrive home in time for the children to begin the school year on time. This would require driving through the night. I prayed that it would be possible to continue through Ohio and Pennsylvania instead of parking in a gas station and charging the battery for an hour or so every 50 miles.
I began when the sun set as we drove out of Indiana into Ohio and continued praying for light as the night grew darker. The children were sleeping in the back of the van and my husband was dozing in the passenger seat. When we got to Columbus, Ohio I began to doubt that my intense concentration was doing any good. I relaxed the effort. Just then a car pulled in front of us and I could see the reflection of our headlights in his bumper. They were rapidly turning a dull orange. I concentrated on praying to have light again, and the reflection brightened to yellow-white. I focused on my prayer as I drove through Pennsylvania and into Maryland. Even though we stopped for gas, there was no need to get a charge for the battery.
Dawn was well established when we hit Interstate 70 and came near Hagerstown. I was overcome by fatigue. I left the engine running while I woke Richard and told him to drive straight home without stopping. We had enough gas to take us to Virginia and the kids would be able to bathe and dress and make it to the first day of school on time. I fell asleep. He ignored what I told him when he saw some gas for a good price. He pulled into the station and stopped the engine. It wouldn't start again, the battery was drained and we spent several hours getting it charged. The children missed the first half day of school.
A few days later he decided to see if he could fix the generator. He thought it must have started for the eight hours I had been driving. When he opened it he found that it was completely burned out and rusty inside. It couldn't have worked for the past several months.
On another trip we were traveling in the winter. I had a premonition that we would go off the road in Wyoming and I packed blankets and some emergency rations. Indeed we did go off the road when we reached a section of interstate that was icy from side to side. Richard ditched the car rather thoroughly and the conditions of my premonition were met. Fortunately helpers were so frequent that we posted my son Richard up by the road to tell them we had already had someone call for a tow truck.
Driving into Salt Lake in the early hours of the morning, I had a feeling that I should stop and put the baby in the back with all the other children who were sleeping in rows like egg rolls. As I was passing the Salt Lake Temple at north temple, the light ahead of me was green and I proceeded through the intersection of North Temple and Main Street. A sleek late model white car came speeding down from the avenues. The woman must have braked and swerved to avoid my car, but instead, on the slick street she became airborne. When she hit me, she took out my front bumper but there was no damage to her car except that the entire wheel and tire assembly was sheared away. She landed on a little tree that was on the corner. None of us was hurt, but as my car completed a 180 degree turn, I looked up and saw that the light was just turning red, assuring me that I had not been the offender.
On another trip west our car was getting less and less mileage and since we traveled with only the cash on hand, we soon had to make a choice between eating and fueling. We were in Nebraska when I purchased a large package of peanut butter cookies and used up our last cash to fill the car. We had been getting less than 5 miles to the gallon and it seemed impossible that we would get to the next major town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. I decided that it was time to pray in earnest. I called on the Lord to make it possible for the gas to take us where we needed to go. I had an impression that I should find a Sears store in Cheyenne. As with the light that didn't fail, the gas gauge stayed impossibly close to the full mark as we proceeded. At one point my husband started cursing at the children for some small issue. "Please stop," I pleaded. "We need a miracle and we need to pray."
He fell silent. The miles went by and it was if we were driving in a protective shield of light. When we reached Cheyenne, the gauge suddenly fell close to the empty mark as I turned into the auto repair area of a brand new Sears store that had been opened since our last trip. While the mechanics examined the car we went into the store. Much to our delight and surprise. The people in customer service were willing to cash a check for $50.00 with proof of our credit card, an unusual thing at that time. We returned to the auto repair bay and they said they couldn't identify the problem. Puzzled, I began to back the car out and suddenly it stalled and began to smell of gasoline. The mechanic quickly diagnosed a broken fuel pump. Unfortunately, he said, the man who went for parts had probably already departed the parts store. I asked him to call and he found that the other man was still at the counter and was able to purchase the fuel pump we needed. In very little time the car was fixed, we were able to put the charge on our credit card and we set out on the final leg of our trip with plenty of money in hand to complete our journey.
Life on Arnold Lane was filled with incident. Our street became one of the finest local sledding hills when snow fell. People would gather from around the area and sled late into the night. The nature of the landscape and the snow, meant that schools and businesses would close routinely when it snowed. Failure to follow this procedure would result in children arriving home late at night because their school buses would stall. Although our younger children attended a school within walking distance, the entire system would shut down.
Holmes Run was like a summer resort for the children. The stream was just large enough to provide a pond when it was dammed up. There were crayfish and other creatures in the water and the shady trees in the swamp made the area relatively cool in the hot humidity of Virginia summers.
There were other interesting parks in the area. I would usually drive the children to a park and read while they played. I taught them how to pump themselves on the swings and help each other as they played while I enjoyed my own favorite form of relaxation. We visited the museums and parks in Washington D.C. fairly frequently.
There was always something to finish or repair around the house. Richard preferred not to hire anyone to fix things, from plumbing to automobiles. Unfortunately, he didn't understand the need to maintain things. This provided for a fairly consistent need for miracles to get us out of various fixes.
When Sam was about a year old my husband Richard was given the opportunity to pursue his career in a new assignment. For several years he had been putting in applications to serve as a 'science adviser' to the commander of the second fleet. Recently he had purchased a really nice suit. He wore it to the interview and although nothing else was really different, this time he felt a new level of respect. He soon received word that he had been accepted to the temporary post which could last as long as two years and included a substantial raise in salary. We made plans to rent our house on Arnold Lane and move to Virginia Beach. He had gone ahead of us while the final days of school were completed and rented a house in the Lynnhaven area. I loaded our furniture into a truck and drove south.