Emily wrote this letter to Don in August, 1979. He was working and living in Saudi Arabia, and the kids and I were waiting for housing and visas so we could join him. We finally got there in January, 1980, and were so happy to be a family again.
August 13, 1979
I colored this picture. Mommy did the letter for me. I wish you were here. Mark is getting bigger. I think we’ll bring our bikes. Daddy, I hope that you’re safe. I say my prayers some nights, but not every night. I hope that you have choosed us a nice home. My mom bought me some gum and Nate is getting four pieces of his. Daddy, I hope this is a nice letter. Markie is not being good, but he’s being good. On Saturday night we picked up our legos and straightened our room. This is the end of my letter.
I went to Mr. Steak tonight. I had big French fries – bigger than McDonald’s. I had shrimp and I gave my mom one piece, but I ate half and she ate the rest of it all gone.
I had to write a little more, but I said this is the end of my letter.
* * * * *
I love memories from my kids’ early years.
Anticipating the delivery of Don’s birthday TV, and realizing that it would never fit into the old entertainment center, I knew that I had to find some kind of stand for the new Samsung – and fast! Because I had spent plenty on the television itself, I was feeling kind of frugal (actually very cheap), but I knew that laminated pressed board from Wal-Mart was not going to go over well with my consultants (kids and spouses) even though it might fit my budget.
So with Don gone for the day on a Church youth activity, Emily and I set out for the thrift store, hoping the perfect piece would simply present itself. Half price Saturdays at the local Arc are wildly popular with Greeleyites, because let’s face it – 50% off at the thrift store is frugal living at its finest. The store was crowded with bargain hunters, and the checkout lines were long as patient customers waited to purchase jeans, dishes, school clothes – and even lingerie.
But we were two on a mission and (once Emily made peace with the thrift store smell), we made a beeline for the back of the store. Because we weren’t sure what we wanted, we weren’t sure we’d recognize IT when we saw it. Our first look around the furniture department identified a couple of possibilities – not ideal, but worth consideration. But after Emily talked me out of a couple of false positives, and she had gone to check on the kids who were delightedly perusing the toy department, I spotted a piece that I thought had great potential. I couldn’t go find her, because furniture is a hot item on half-price day, and I couldn’t risk somebody else staking a claim on what could be our piece of promise.
Shortly they all returned to check on my progress, and Jack proudly showed me their fabulous find – Don’t Break the Ice” game for $1.00. Emily thoughtfully examined the old dresser I was hovering over, and agreed that it was a great find and would fix up well. And for $25 how wrong could we go?
We decided to go for it, and quickly paid (watching closely that the helpful employee tagged my piece with a SOLD sign), made arrangements to pick it up later and hurried to the car. Emily had just about reached her limit on the Arc ambiance and she passed disinfecting hand wipes all around.
A quick trip in and out of Home Depot yielded sandpaper, primer, black paint and polyurethane finish and we were ready to get to work. Taking confidence from our success with the Great China Hutch Makeover of 2002, Emily and I set up shop in the garage. We sanded, primed, painted and finished and then suggested Don spray paint the drawer pulls – tricky, huh!
About three days and several tall tales later (most of which Don probably didn’t believe, but was too polite to challenge) we finished in time for the paint to be dry before the television arrived.
Now I wonder if I can do a make over on a couch . . .
First born children typically seem to be especially resilient – perhaps chosen especially for that role. They are the guinea pigs, the lab assignment, the hands on training for those who have jumped into parenthood. Firstborns often are strong willed, bright and determined – qualities which enable them to train two inexperienced and clueless adults in the proper care and feeding of children. Emily handled that role with skill and finesse!
Don and I eagerly anticipated the birth of our first child, wondering in those pre-ultrasound days if we’d have a daughter or a son. Don was sure it was a boy and referred to the growing baby as little “Sheide” after Gary Sheide, BYU’s outstanding quarterback of the 1974 season. I thought we were having a girl, but really just wanted to get that whole labor and delivery thing out of the way. Fear of the unknown was intense.
So after a Relief Society Homemaking meeting on April 2, 1975, feeling like I would never get comfortable again, I vocally listed my complaints, pains, concerns, and frustration.
That must have been just what I needed, because less than 24 hours later we were the picture of happiness – or at least relief!
The next day life looked great.
Utah Valley Hospital in the 1970’s was an absolute baby machine. Health precautions were strict – Don had to put on a gown before he was allowed to hold Emily. And the only people who could visit other than the dad, were grandparents who were allowed only one visit during my 3 day stay in the hospital.
We left the hospital on April 6, 1975 and went home to our one-bedroom basement apartment where Emily began her training sessions with us. We had a lot to learn, but she was a great teacher covering such topics as sleepless nights, projectile spitting/throwing up, and muffling a newborn’s cries so as not to disturb the upstairs neighbors!
Thirty-four years have passed since those days in Provo, and we’re still proud and in awe of our first born child and only daughter. Thanks for the continuing education. Current classes are a lot more fun than those prerequisites you put us through, and we look forward to many more semesters under your tutelage.
. . . so we took her with us. To Iran in 1976. I know – what were we thinking?
With these fresh-from-BYU faces
mounted inside these official documents
we began our 10 year Middle East adventure on January 27, 1976 .
We said good bye in Pueblo.
We said good bye in Greeley.
We were off to make a home in a country that I had only been able to locate on a Bible map.
Yes, that’s a leisure suit Don is wearing. What else would match my faux fur collar? It was 1976, and we were at the height of fashion.
Don had accepted a job teaching English to Iranian Army helicopter pilots and mechanics in training in Isfahan, Iran. The salary was $1000 a month plus a 40% cost of living allowance – an incomprehensible amount of money to these married college students who had been living on about $270 a month in a basement apartment in Provo, Utah.
We landed in Tehran and spent a few days in the capital before traveling to Isfahan – the city that would be our home for the next three years. The first day in Tehran, I forced us to be up and awake in an attempt to win the battle against jet-lag. When I pulled back the drapes in our hotel room and was greeted by this sight, I wondered if lack of sleep had caused me to hallucinate. Was that really the hotel laundry drying on the roof?
Upon our arrival in Isfahan, we worked with a real estate agent and located a brand new building with apartments to rent. We rented the upstairs flat (3 bedrooms) for 28,000 rials or $400/month. The Iranians take the term “unfurnished” very literally – the only appliances included were a water heater and a swamp cooler. No heat, no stove, no refrigerator. . .
Shortly after moving in to our house, we rented a car from some fellow Americans. At 6,000 rials or $85/month it was a real bargain and renting would give us the chance to see if we wanted to depend on taxis or have the luxury of our own transportation. A couple of months later, we purchased the car , a 1961 Volkswagen Beetle, for $1000 – no extra charge for rust or dents.
The first few months (actually about a year!) were rough for me, as I was desperately homesick and realizing that $1000/month didn’t make anybody rich, regardless of location. However, eventually I came to appreciate the adventure and life experience this move allowed. Some of the friendships we nurtured in that very foreign country have continued over the last 3+ decades, and we have some very happy memories of our years in Iran.
And if these pictures don’t make you laugh, I’ve got more to come.