Merrilee wanted to know: "May I write that marriage recipe down, Aunt Anne? It is such a sweet thought, and maybe if in the years to come I read it once in a while, our marriage will be bound to succeed." So Merrilee took her pencil and pad and wrote the following recipe:
Recipe for a Happy Home
Cream gentleness with love. Add well-matured understanding and mix well. Sift together plenty of hard work, a pinch of jealousy, and a sprinkle of disappointment many times, till light and fluffy. Add practicability and stability. Add slowly to sweet mixture, along with courtesy. Last of all, mix in plenty of affection. Bake in the fiery oven of pressing duties and public opinion till well browned. Turn out on the family altar and garnish with the Rose of Sharon.
"And now," said Merrilee, seating herself by the kitchen table, "while we wait for the cake to bake, can you tell me more? What if we have a quarrel? I just can't imagine quarreling with Marc, he's so good-natured, but I suppose it happens to everyone." "Unfortunately, I'm afraid it usually does," answered Aunt Anne, picking a yellowed leaf from the red geranium blooming on the window sill. "But some times you understand each other better afterward. It's not always easy for two people of different personalities, who have been raised in different environments, to merge their ideas without an occasional bit of friction.
"And don't try to 'make over' your husband. You can't do it anyway, unless he is a person too easily influenced. You want a husband with personality—and not necessarily like yours either. He may complement yours. I remember a friend of mine telling about her first months of marriage. Her mother told her to be sure to get off to a good start—to train her husband, you might say. The mother knew he had been pampered and spoiled by older sisters, and she cautioned her daughter against letting him go on that way. Of course, most men will try to be helpful and take care of themselves, but some consider it the wife's duty to pick up after them and generally pamper them. So Lila made up her mind to start off right.
"The first days in their new home her husband left his pajamas in the middle of the bathroom floor, the soggy towel on top, and the water in the tub. 'Now,' thought Lila, 'now is the time to begin! I can't let that go on, or I won't get anything done all my days but pick up after him.' So Lila left the bathroom just as it was. When her husband came home for lunch she said casually, 'Didn't you forget something this morning, dear?'
"Hubby started going through all his pockets. Keys, wallet, everything was there. 'Why no, I don't think so,' he answered. 'You might look in the bathroom,' Lila suggested with twinkling eyes. Hubby went to the bathroom door, took one look, turned, and walked out of the house, slamming the door behind him. The experience was very upsetting, I can assure you.
"As Lila mingled her tears with the cold bath water and tidied up the bathroom, she did some serious thinking. Why should she let her marriage suffer just because she had outlined certain duties which she felt were his. Never again did she say a word about the messy bathroom, and to this day she still hangs up his pajamas and cleans out the tub after him. But knowing them, I know that he does his share of helping about the house in other ways.
"You cannot expect your husband to be like everyone else's. You wouldn't want him to be. He has his own personality, and you must learn his likes and dislikes, and learn to live with him just as he is. It doesn't always help to listen to others' advice or try to follow out a theory you've read somewhere. For instance, let me tell you an experience I had just a few months after our marriage.
"I had read in a book or magazine that one bride had hit upon the idea of each of them making out a list of things they did not like about the other and then discussing them together. So one evening as my husband was studying I suggested it to him. Of course, I knew he'd have lots of things about me, and so when he agreed, I immediately sat down and made out a long list—everything from 'hang up your pajamas' to 'please don't make me keep the dinner waiting.'
"When I was through I said, 'All right, you read yours, and I'll read mine.' 'No,' said my husband, 'you have to read yours first.' So after much insistence, I read it gaily through. He sat there looking at his notes, and when I'd finished he said quietly, 'Quite an old beast you married, wasn't I?'
" 'Now let's hear yours,' I said eagerly. My husband looked closely at the point of his pencil and then said, 'You know, dear, I just love you so much I couldn't think of a single thing I don't like about you.' Can you imagine how I felt? I was never so humiliated in my life. Plainly the supposition was that I did not love him as much as he loved me, or I'd take him as he was and forget the minor things that we disagreed upon. Since then I've learned that you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar.
"That doesn't mean that you can't be helpful to each other. Most men need a little coaching on manners and etiquette in general. But don't be surprised if your husband gives you a pointer now and then. Learn to take it, too, and just as gracefully as you expect him to take yours.
Helping Husband Succeed Is Greatest Need
"But laying aside little personal things that you may or may not be able to help him correct, you will find that your greatest contribution can be to help him succeed in his work. It may entail a great deal of sacrifice on your part."
"You are really giving me a lot of things to think about. I do want to be the right kind of a wife, Aunt Anne," said Merrilee. "Please tell me more."
"I knew a young couple," continued Aunt Anne, "who entered the ministry solely because the wife insisted. Now, you understand, that can be carried too far. No woman wants to be thought of as wearing the pants, but in this case the young man had an impediment in his speech and a burning desire to preach. No one wanted to hire him. This gave him such a complex that his impediment only got worse, and he lost all confidence in himself.
"Then the wife rose to the situation. She was an extremely intelligent young woman and had held an important position before her marriage. No one could understand why she married this shy, stuttering young man with no future. Nora went to the conference president. 'You've got to give him a job. I know he can overcome this. He just needs someone to put confidence in him. Why, when he talks to me he never stutters. Give us anything. The worst place you have we'll gladly take.'
"The conference president thought a while. 'No, Nora, I couldn't send an intelligent girl like you down there.'
" 'Why not, I'd like to know?' Nora's eyes flashed. 'It's not money or prestige I want. My husband can't go through life with the feeling that he's no good. You've got to let us prove that he can preach and win souls!'
" 'All right, Nora. Tell him to come in tomorrow, and we'll talk about it.'
"The next day Tom took off for his district to find a place to live. When he came back he was truly discouraged. 'But, Nora, there's not a decent place to live in the whole county. You've never in your life seen such a forsaken wilderness. No, no. We won't go. I'll go out and dig ditches, but I won't have you living as you'd have to down there in those awful backwoods!'
" 'But you did find a house?'
" 'Nobody would call it that.'
" 'All right, we'll leave tomorrow.' And they did. And as they drove along, Nora would find the worst house and say, 'Is it as bad as that?'
" 'Oh, that's a palace beside what I've got waiting for you.' So she'd look for a worse one and ask, 'Is it as bad as that?'
" 'My dear, you can't imagine how much worse. We'd better go back and tell them that after all we aren't animals. I can get another job somewhere.'
" 'But not preaching, Tom. Nothing can be too bad for me.'
"Finally, after creeping over miles of ruts and stones, passing shanties such as Nora never imagined existed, Tom stopped. 'Here it is.'
" 'But I don't see any house,'
" 'Good thing. It's behind all those tall weeds over there.' Nora jumped out and began pushing aside the matted greenery. Prepared as she was for a tumble-down house, she could hardly conceal a gasp.
"Tom observed her closely. 'Come on, dear. No one could make anything out of that.'
"But Nora went inside. 'At least we'll have a shower every time it rains,' she laughed, looking up at the sky through the roof. She surveyed the tiny room. 'It is small. It won't cost much to paper and paint and fix the roof. And with our nice things we'll make it a real cozy home. Come, help me get some soap and brushes from the car.'
"And they did fix it up. They hired a boy to cut the weeds. Nora pruned the rosebushes and other perennials. They painted the rail fence and mended the outdoor toilet. And it was home. There by the light of the kerosene lamp Nora helped Tom with his speaking. The ignorant mountain folks did not bother him, and in a short time he was preaching to them and giving Bible studies with no sign of the old impediment. And all because his wonderful wife was willing to make any sacrifice to help him. Today he is one of our most successful evangelists."
"Oh, Aunt Anne, I hope the cake's not burning!" Merrilee fell to her knees and opened the oven door. "Um-m-m-m-m, smells good! Shall I take it out?"
"I think so. It's shrunk away from the pan. Yes, it's done. Turn it out, and tonight when it's cool, you and Marc come over and eat all you want."
"Got to go now or I'll be late for class. Thanks for all the stories and advice. I'll try to remember everything."
The next time Marc accompanied Merrilee to Aunt Anne's. They seated themselves on the sofa by the fire and accepted the dishes of popcorn and rosy apples Aunt Anne offered them.
"Sorry Uncle Lan couldn't be here tonight," Aunt Anne said, taking up her knitting. "He was called out unexpectedly, so we'll just have to get along without him."
"Guess that's the minister's life, isn't it?" commented Marc. "I don't suppose there are too many nights Uncle Lan can toast his toes by the fire."
"Of course it would be nice to have him home every evening, but when I think of the otherwise dull life some people have I'm glad ours is different. A minister's life is never dull. How do you two like guinea pigs?"
"Ugh, I hate them," Merrilee shuddered.
"Well, get over it. You'll both have to be guinea pigs."
"You mean Marc will have to be one till I learn to cook?" Merrilee smiled.
"After that wonderful applesauce cake, I'm not worried." Marc looked fondly at his fiancee.
"You'll both have to be guinea pigs—and I'm not thinking of cooking, either. For instance------""Here comes a story," Merrilee whispered to Marc, as she settled back into the soft cushions. "When Uncle Lan was just new at being a preacher, he was giving Bible studies to a man who thought he was quite a theologian. And every day before my husband went to the study, or after he came back, he would argue some point of doctrine with me. Of course, I was naive enough to think he believed what he was telling me, and I marveled that one who had had so much ministerial training could be so poorly grounded in our doctrines. It kept me on my toes, I'll tell you, to keep him straight. And one day I boldly suggested that if he didn't believe our doctrines, he should get out of the ministry.
"Then he told me what it was all about. He wanted to see if he was using the logical argument, and he said sometimes I used one he hadn't thought of. After that, though, we still kept up the game. I tried not to get upset, and realized it wasn't because he was poorly informed that he argued with me. It was because he wanted to be sure his own arguments were foolproof.
"But the experience that caps the climax, so to speak, is the time he practiced baptizing me. We had held an effort, and had ten people ready for baptism. So Uncle Lan wrote to the conference president asking him to come and baptize these people for him. Immediately he got an answer saying he would be glad to come, but not to do the baptizing. The committee had voted to ordain Uncle Lan, so immediately after the ordination service he could baptize his own candidates. Of course, this pleased Uncle Lan very much, but he began to get jittery about the baptism. What if he would drop someone, or they would choke, or begin clinging to him, or something? What if he splashed too much when he immersed them?
"So one day he decided we would go to the nearest pool for a swim. There weren't many people in the water, so he took me to one end and practiced immersing me. You may laugh, but at least he knew how to do it when the time came."
Marc laughed. "These wives 'have to take a lot, don't they? They really have to be good scouts."
At that moment Uncle Lan, a rim of snow on his hat, and his nose red from the cold, entered the front door. "Aunt Anne was just telling us how she had to be a guinea pig for you." Marc rose and extended his hand.
"I tell you, Marc, we couldn't get along without these wives. They are our mirrors, you know. Aunt Anne tells me when I have food in my front teeth or gravy on my chin! But one day I introduced her to a visiting celebrity, and I didn't have time to tell her she had an ink spot on the end of her nose!"
Merrilee laughed. "Being a minister's wife is going to be fun, I think."
"The most important equipment a minister can have is his wife." Uncle Lan looked fondly across the coffee table at his spouse. "Your wife will observe the things that you do, and tell you how to improve your speaking, your manners, your personal appearance. I used to have a terrible habit of bursting onto the platform like a runner doing the hundred-yard dash, knees bent, eyes on the floor, and then drop into my seat as if we were playing musical chairs. It took a lot of effort before I learned to enter the pulpit in a deliberate but dignified manner. And I had a bad habit of pulling my nose when I didn't know just what to say or became a bit rattled."
"Oh!" Marc looked at his watch. "If I don't get Merrilee in before the doors close, the dean won't let us go again."
"Good night, Aunt Anne. We've had such a nice evening." Merrilee squirmed into the coat Marc was holding.
"Come again when I can have a longer visit," Uncle Lan called after them as their feet crunched over the snow toward the lights of the girls' dormitory.
Part 2 of an eight-chapter story of a young minister's wife.