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This Is A Beautiful Woman, V

thumbnailThis is a picture taken at a tea honoring the women in the back row who were graduating from college in 1953 despite having started the process at a later date than usual. Sunny is second from the right. Her daughter and her best friend, recruited to serve as kitchen help, sit on either end of the sofa. Sunny’s mother is second from left. The gracious hostess and Sunny’s favorite college professor is seated on the sofa at the far right.

The Tough Summer of 1954

Although grateful and inspired by the many kindnesses extended to her family during the bout with hepatitis, Sunny was delighted to began earning a living again. The only problem was that she could bring home just about six weeks of pay before the schools closed for the summer. Still, she and her children were eager to work at any job available because it felt so good to be independent again. 

Sunny took classes so she could sell insurance door to door during the summer and planned to add weekends during the school year. However, that was not a good career move for her particular talents. She doggedly put in the time and foot work, but never did quite well enough to consider herself a success or to become comfortable in that venue. 

The older son, who  had graduated from the elite, preppy Capitol Page School in May, came back to Dallas and found work as a hod carrier on one of the big buildings going up down town. He earned enough at that to save some for college in the fall and to help fill in a few of the gaps for the rest of  the family.

The daughter, still in high school, kept up her baby sitting career in the neighborhood.  She earned a few shekles for spending money and frequently helped purchase gas at twenty-five cents a gallon for the family car. 

Sunny’s mother continued to live with them for awhile and cheerfully contributed portions of her social security check to help out as she could. 

Despite the joy of beginning to recover from total financial devastation, the Tough Summer of 1954 was the hardest period financially that Sunny and her family had to face.  For example, many times they drove to town well after dark to put a house or utility  payment  in the night depository box so they could avoid the late penalties which would start at the beginning of the next business day. 

Another frequent trial was buying gas. At a time when all service stations were full service, they frequently purchased two or three gallons at a time because that was all the money they had. Even so, they didn’t always make it back to the house or station before car ran out of gas again. Then they would have to ease the car to park it in front of the nearest stranger’s house, and walk to a nearby gas station to buy enough to start the car again, if anyone had any money. If everyone in the car was flat broke, they just walked home until they could afford to rescue the car.

Fortunately, the big bad city was much safer and friendlier in 1954 than it is today. No one worried about the car being stolen or tires slashed before they could return with a gas can to begin a new trip. The strangers in the house near where they parked never complained. The police never gave Sunny a ticket or had the car towed.  And when they did get the car back home, they always left it in plain sight in the drive with the keys in the ignition —- for fear of ever losing the keys. They continued doing this at least until the early 1970’s without any anxiety or loss. 

Also, they never locked their doors – even when going away for the weekend. Actually, Sunny never was quire sure just where the door key was and didn’t find it until she packed up to move to another town, years later. The term, home invasion, had not been invented yet and no one would have known what it meant, should someone use the term.  If burglar alarm systems were available at the time, only the ultra rich knew about them. 

A big sacrifice for the daughter was to reluctantly give the family dog to the neighbors three doors down because there just was not enough left over scraps to keep him alive, even with the bacon grease gravy she had learned to make for him. And buying dog food was totally out of the question. Many days, a half piece of bacon a day for each family member was all the meat they could afford. 

Although it was a tough summer, everyone pitched in to help any way possible. No one gave  up hope,  grew depressed, or became angry with either God or society. Yes, life was more onerous than they had expected, but never impossible. They still laughed at each other’s jokes; still listened to classical music on vinyl records; still reminisced over escapades from New Mexico; and they still teased about how hard they all worked to get a college degree for Sunny. College life for a whole family had also started a new tradition that they continued – keeping  the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary near the dining table.  That made it easy to reseach new words that came up during dinner conversation.  Any time that any of the family heard a new word, they talked about it. Often one word would lead to another and then, another. While the practice improved vocabulary without the kids catching on, it also cultivated their social skills. Times were tough, but Sunny and her family were tougher and just as much fun to be around as ever. 

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This is a picture proof of Sunny’s three children taken during her freshman year in college.

 

The next chapters will show the welcome changes in fortune that began shortly after The Tough Summer of 1954.  If you missed the earlier episodes, it’s easy to catch up by using the following links:  

This Is A Beautiful Woman – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-uh

This Is A Beautiful Woman, II – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-um

This Is A Beautiful Woman, III – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-ux

This Is A Beautiful Woman, IV – https://wp.me/p3AOt2-uL

Homecomings Are Beautiful, Even at Three O’Clock in The Morning

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“Life takes you to unexpected places; love brings you home.”  Author unknown

We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary Pompeo, and the people of the United States for bringing us home. We thank God, and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return. God Bless America, the greatest nation in the world.”  (link)

Statement by Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang Duk (Tony Kim), and Kim Hak Song

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Caveat: Ideas about Silence in Previous Post Does Not Apply to Parents of Small Children

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I should have remembered to put this disclaimer in earlier. Interestingly enough, parents of small children probably appreciate silence more than anyone else – as long as their kids are safely in bed asleep.

Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather

This Is A Beautiful Woman, IV

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Portrait from the early 1940’s

When Sunny succumbed to hepatitis, the Dallas School System allowed teachers one day of sick leave for every month of teaching. Most employees found it quite generous as they often accumulated six to nine days of sick leave every year which could be changed into money at the end of their employment.

For Sunny, the four days of earned leave were used up before she even entered the hospital. So she found herself with absolutely no income for living expenses,  much less the quickly mounting medical bills. All of this when she had just purchased a house and a car on credit,  and was just starting a savings account for Hard Times.

But Hard Times knocked her down before she was ready and she was too sick to fight back. The “easy living” the family had expected after graduation evaporated even while new debts increased her needs. 1954 was years before the Federal and State Governments had crafted their “poverty solutions” for families in a financial bind. Fear and despair almost eradicated all hope.

But God was in the picture. He just used other people’s hands and pocketbooks to provide for widows and orphans:

  1. Her mother left her own home and closed down her own affairs to move to Dallas to help care for Sunny and her grandchildren.

  2. Her sister saved enough out of her family’s expenses to send three checks during the months of illness and recovery.

  3. A Sunday school class at her new church arranged for one of the members to come every Monday and Thursday with a meal prepared for the whole family and a bag full of additional groceries.

  4. A group of friends from New Mexico “passed the hat” around and collected several hundred dollars to help with expenses. Then two couples drove to Dallas to deliver it in person. While visiting, the men also took care of several honey-do type repairs that needed attention. Then they drove the thirteen-hour-one-way trip back to Lea County.

  5. The teacher of the younger son’s Sunday school class asked if he could take him out for a movie one Saturday. When they returned home, the son wore new shoes and carried a  bag with a new shirt, a new pair of trousers, and three new pairs of socks.  Of course, what excited him the most was the movie he had gotten to see and attention from an adult male.

  6. All the neighbors on the street made sure the sixteen-year-old girl had all the babysitting jobs she could possibly handle. Most of those earnings bought gas for their car, which at that time was about twenty-five cents a gallon.

  7. A woman in the church provided the daughter with hand-me-downs that were more expensive and better quality than any clothes she had previously worn.

  8. New Mexico’s senior senator had earlier appointed the older son as a page to the US Senate. So he was living in a home with other pages at a nominal fee, going to a private school at no cost, and earning a small salary, not to mention the extraordinary experiences at the US Senate.  While still in high school, he managed to send a little bit of money home every month. (By the way, Sunny’s in-laws had helped Senator Chaves with free room and board when he first ran for office decades earlier and this was his generous re-payment for their hospitality.)

Probably there were many other gifts and extensions of kindness that I am not aware of. But at least this helps people understand a real-life example of providing for the needy in a way that builds self esteem and bonds of friendship in both giver and receiver. Without the Byzantine rules, restrictions or admonitions of our current welfare system, each gift encouraged the family members to use it wisely, living up to all opportunities that became available. While those were difficult times, each one grew emotionally and spiritually because of the people who helped them, in effect putting their money where their mouths were and saying, “I believe in you.” And, no doubt, the givers were also rewarded for their generosity.

It was so much more compassionate and efficient than our current system that fosters a permanent underclass of third and fourth generation welfare recipients. These people have become people who are poor, not just currently broke, because they have neither incentive nor belief they can honestly do any better. What a loss for the whole country!

Copyright 2018 by Kaye Fairweather

A Grateful Heart Creates Beauty

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This is a picture of my mother in an earlier, happier time when she visited in Garden Hills. This was on the back deck and she was busily setting the table as if the King of Siam was coming for dinner. Instead, it was just us kids, eating supper together.

If you have followed this blog awhile, you will remember that her memory is practically non-existent now. It’s so bad that I have to re-introduce myself when I call her. And an hour later, she may or may not remember that I called at all, much less anything we discussed.

But I still call several times a week because she is so happy to talk, whether she remembers much about the call or not. She doesn’t forget that warm, happy feeling of being loved and does all that she can to return it.  Despite some cognitive losses, she’s never forgotten to show gratitude.

This weekend, when I talked to the person caring for her, she interrupted our conversation to explain to him how happy the supper she had just eaten made her feel. She extolled its delicate flavors and nutrition as if some famous chef had just dropped in to prepare it. Mind you, she’s served three meals a day, many of which are boring and repetitive. Still, she thanks them out loud for any effort on her behalf.  Every. Single. Time.

 And she’s never lost that rare ability to bring out the best in other people just by having a generous attitude toward them. I have watched many social misfits that everyone else found boring, blossom and actually becoming rather witty after an hour or two of her rapt attention. Strangely enough, often they even became easier on the eye as they relaxed in the warmth of her approval.

As I eavesdropped over the phone, I began remembering how often I had seen her eyes light up and her face soften as she tried to convince someone else of his great value to the rest of the world.

Apparently, gratitude brings beauty to both the giver and the receiver. Maybe we don’t get halo’s, but everyone appears more attractive and happier when they have a grateful heart. Perhaps we should try it more often.