Marlene is four years older than I. We grew up two houses away from each other. I wore her hand-me-downs as well as the hand-me-downs from another cousin , three years older, who lived much farther away. I admired both cousins and tried to emulate them. They are both talented, and I endeavored to develop their abilities myself. Marlene was a cheerleader, a blue-ribbon winner and district and state level achiever in 4-H. Etha was a baton twirler with a cabinet full of trophies and is an excellent pianist. I was a cheerleader through high school and college, had many 4-H awards, was a majorette (with no trophies) and a pianist (but not Etha’s level of public performance).
This past week, Marlene and her husband Dick were with me. They were high school sweethearts, Marlene was Valedictorian and Dick was Salutatorian of their class. I remember Dick chiding he deserved to be Valedictorian as he took a college entrance curriculum while Marlene took the business program. I was the Maid of Honor at their wedding — fifty years ago next year! Also fifty years ago next year, I was Salutatorian. Aside from school, church was a center of our combined childhood activities — youth group, choir, Youth For Christ including being on a quiz team, and summer church camps.
We did much reminiscing this past week, as we always do when we are together. In our day, a girl’s choices for occupation seemed to be limited to being a secretary, nurse, or teacher. She chose secretary, and I chose teacher. As children, she liked playing secretary. Her house had three porches. My office was her front porch while hers was the back porch. The side porch was our post office. We both had cash registers and toy typewriters. Our registers held equal amounts of Monopoly money. We wrote notes to each other, making up names for our companies, and billing the other company for a certain amount of money. We left our notes and our payments at the post office porch. The goal of the game was to have the highest income. I think we both were too smart to lose much money, so the fun was in playing the game as there was no winner.
Marlene has been a marvelous cheerleader for me during my past five years of trauma. They were present at my daughter’s funeral traveling from NY to NC. Marlene has counseled and advised me on my marital break up. She is quick to point out the shallowness she observed. I initiated “Cousin Camp” a few years ago which is an annual gathering of cousins for a day or two. Our spouses usually attend, except mine, and I was the one planning the event! One thing I had totally forgotten is – we had stated, after our marriage, that we did not want children. I do not remember the reason for that, but she did resurrect that memory. I do remember we revisited that decision with the conclusion there would be no one to look after us in our old age if we had no children. Talk about shallow! They visited me before I moved away from the northeast, and aided in my preparations for moving and showing my house for sale, and they attended my significant year birthday party.
They have experienced rejection from one of Dick’s closest family members, so they can identify with that pain. Max Lucado’s devotional today reverberates in our bones: “God’s plotting for our good. In all the setbacks, He is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our day is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny. When people junk you in the pit, God can use it for good. When family members sell you out, God will recycle the pain. Falsely accused? Utterly abandoned? You may stumble but you will not fall. You will get through this! Not because you are strong, but because God is. Not because you are big, but because God is. Not because you’re good, but because God is. He has a place prepared for you!”