This month would be the 75th wedding anniversary of my parents, Ray and Ruth Longenecker had they lived. True, they bickered from time to time, but I knew their love was deep and abiding. I rested in the assurance that they would never divorce. There were signs: Before Daddy left for work down at his shop after the noon meal, he often played a little game with Mom, chasing her around the house to get his hug and kiss, as she pretended wanting to escape him. Daddy dried dishes once a week, on a Sunday somewhat unusual for a culture with strict divisions of labor between husband and wife.
They celebrated their 25th anniversary with the attendants at their wedding, Howard and Pearl Longenecker, also married twenty-five years.
When their 40th came along, we had a big shindig in early November, a week after their actual anniversary date of October 26, 1940. My sister Jean sent out fancy invitations:
The table was set just so with the “tulip” design wedding silverware, a florist’s bouquet, and finger food with cake the grand finale.
All four of us, my sisters and brother chipped in money to buy a chiming clock that sat for years on top of Mother’s buffet in the dining room, the ticking heart of the home. Our son Joel has inherited this clock.
And there were sparklers – and smiling faces on this happy day when I heard Daddy say, “I could never have found a better wife!
How It All Began
October was a favored month for weddings, at least among Mennonite couples in the 1940s-1960s. Farmers had harvested their corn, wheat, and sweet potatoes. The sowing-hoeing-harvesting cycle was slowing down. The land was preparing to lie fallow for the winter. Thus, plain weddings were often celebrated amid the riotous colors of fall.
I was born in July — 9 months, almost to the day, from my parents’ honeymoon night the previous October. When I got older and could figure out such things, my mother simply said, “Nothing happened before we were married.” Because she said it, it must be true, I reasoned. In those days, abstinence was the professed norm for engaged couples, and a white dress almost certainly meant the bride was a virgin. A couple whose first child arrived too soon after the wedding date had to appear in front of the congregation and confess their sin of fornication before they could be restored to church fellowship. I saw it happen once.
That was not the case for my parents, of course. I was born right on time, a honeymoon baby, possibly conceived right here within this idyllic, stone cottage.
My parents were married by the bishop of Hernley’s Mennonite Church and then returned to the bride’s home on Charlotte Street in Manheim, Pennsylvania where these pictures were taken. My father was wearing a plain, Mennonite Nehru-style coat with bow-tie paired with a natty fedora hat on his honeymoon. My mother too sneaked in some fancy touches on her dress. Another, of course, a large, fancy bouquet on the lawn.
And though Mother wore covering strings attached to her prayer veiling and her dress was plain with no collar or lace, tiny buttons covered in white crépe traced a vertical line on the snug cuff of her sleeves. They don’t show on the photograph, but as a child I remember seeing them all in a row, sewn on her dress then draped on a hanger and pushed to the back of her clothes closet. Were there five? Seven? I don’t know or remember, but in my mind’s eye I can see them attached there. And I thought they looked pretty!
I liked her wedding shoes too, black suede with a vamp that reached almost to her ankle, very modish, I thought. When I saw Nine West with a similar vintage shoe and a button on the strap, I knew they had to be mine.
When we cleared out Mother’s house after her death, we discovered a saucer I had never seen before with a charming pink & blue imprint, a prophecy of things to come. They would have a baby, a girl, in fact three daughters and then a son.
Sparkling or not, what anniversaries (or other milestones) can you recall?
Coming next: Halloween Advice from My Good Witch of the North, Aunt Ruthie
What a lovely post, Marian. I love the mix of personal memories with the touch of historical/cultural. It\’s funny that you mentioned the births that came too soon after weddings. I have a good friend whose dissertation/book was about that subject in 17th century Massachusetts. (\”Daughters of Eve\”).
I was struck by the elegant sleeves of your mother\’s otherwise plain wedding gown. It reminded me of Anne of Green Gables wanting puffed sleeves. The shoes, too, are quite elegant–very stylish, but in a classic way.
Most of all, I love the way you captured your parents\’ love for each other–in their playfulness and humor and kindness.
You always read my posts with an historian\’s eye – and here also with the practical viewpoint of a daughter. I didn\’t remember that Anne of Green Gables wanted puffed sleeves. And your friend\’s dissertation piqued my interest too. Thanks once again for getting our discussion off to a fine start, so appreciated.
It\’s always a pleasure to read your posts. You will have to re-read Anne of Green Gables. 😉
It has been on my to-do list, and want to pair it with grand-daughter Jenna\’s reading. At 10, she is just the right age to appreciate Anne\’s gutsy adventures. I\’m sure I\’d notice detail like the puffy sleeves. 😉
Good morning what a beautiful tribute to Mom and Dad\’s marriage. They were a beautiful couple. Very stylish too. How I loved their marriage. Being a young single mom. I prayed to have a husband like Dad. God granted my wish. Sad that Dad never got to meet each other. We spent many days with Mom and Mel and Marian Wenger. We played hand and foot and many times Pablo played ping pong with Mel. We have many great memories. Mom and Dad were a beautiful couple as young married couple and beautiful to the end. Great loving fun memories. Thank you for today\’s post and beautiful pictures.
Good morning, Gloria. Yes, you know many of the character\’s in my life story. I\’m glad this post jogged some memories, pleasant ones too. Thanks for adding some detail I didn\’t know about.
You sure do have some wonderful memories. And all the keepsakes, wow so special. The picture of your parents standing at the door that says 10, well, that sure looks like Jean. My parents were married about a year later, Sept, 1941.
I can picture your parents in that era. I\’m pretty sure they would have worn similar wedding garb.
Yes, I\’m thankful for all the photos and keepsakes, especially the saucer I had never seen before we were clearing out Mom\’s house.
Another delightful post! Thank you, Marian! You have given your readers a beautiful picture of your parents and their loving marriage. You have, also, jogged my memory of my own parents loving marriage. Thank you! 🙂
The last part of your comment especially thrills me: \”You have, also, jogged my memory of my own parents loving marriage.\” That\’s the point, after all: to ignite memories to preserve our family\’s history.
Thank goodness you were a full-term baby! ……………………………….. firstname.lastname@example.org Q.
Chuckle-chuckle, Cathy. I never thought about that before. Thank goodness, I was a 7-pound baby and didn\’t raise any eyebrows. Or so I think!
What lovely memories! I do like the no frills wedding as I don\’t like too much pomp and ceremony, so I would have enjoyed your parents\’ wedding and anniversary celebrations.
The one celebration in my family that sticks to mind is my father\’s parents\’ 50th wedding anniversary and, although I was too young to be taken (they lived in Andalucia in southern Spain and we lived in Galicia, north west), my 4 eldest siblings were taken and they came back with lots of stories to tell. I now enjoy looking at those photos of my grandparents surrounded by all their grandchildren, of which there were many and think of how special that must have been.
My husband and I were lucky enough, though, to be able to treat my parents-in-law to a celebratory meal in a lovely restaurant in southern France, where they live, for their 50th anniversary, which was very special indeed as my sister-in-law came with her son from Brazil and my son travelled on his own from England to be there at the same time too.
You and your family\’s globe-trotting tendencies have resulted in ceremonies in many cultures. Right now your RV is somewhere in Slovenia – right? Fortunately, you can celebrate anywhere with your portable home. Thanks for keeping up the conversation here, Fatima.
I must admit that my family on both sides, for better of for worse, are scattered all over the globe. We have been back in England since September, but Peter and I are going away again on Friday, this time to stay with one of his school friends in the Limoges area.
I can visualize your putting along in that trusty motor home. When I think of Limoges, I think of the finely crafty china pieces. We\’ll probably hear more about it on your blog soon, Fatima.
Of course you will. 😉
Just a few minutes left before I get on a plane and fly to Cuba. But just enough time to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this post. I agree with Merril about the skillful weaving of the historical/ cultural with the personal. Such vivid details! Lots to resonate with at every level here.
We threw a 25th party for my parents also. Not nearly as elegant as your table. The gift was a trip to Austin, TX, to visit us where we were going to grad school.
How smart to give a gift that would result in visits from Mom and Dad Hershey, especially since you were going to a place without close family connections back then. I believe you received your doctorate from the University of Texas @ Austin, and maybe Stuart did graduate work there too.
Happy, safe travels. Your followers including me – will enjoy your Cuban experience vicariously. One of my former students has a blog website entitled \”Armchair Anthropology\” where she has logged her trips with photos and journal entries.
Oh marian, Do give us the link for the blog. I love the title. But when I googled it, … alas. You are doing a bit of anthropolical digging too, it appears. Lots of delicious finds to savor. I love the weaving of your family story with the era, the context is so important. learning much. Thank you.
If you are referring to the 25th anniversary post \”Finding Silver,\” here it is: http://plainandfancygirl.com/2015/08/01/finding-silver/
When I clicked on the link above, this post popped right up. If I\’m not a good mind reader here, let me know and I\’ll try to find the link to what you really want to see. 😉
Oh, now I\’m thinking you are referring to Armchair Anthropology, a website one of my former students maintains when she goes off on junkets. I check for the link, and couldn\’t find although it was active a week or so ago. I believe she deactivates the website when she\’s not traveling. Odd.
I met Karen when she was my student in English Composition at the college. She has earned an MBA from Purdue, and I have just written a recommendation for a stipend so she can pursue translating the diary of a French woman during World War I. A star, for sure!
Yes, Armchair Anthropology. I was surprised I couldn\’t find it. And now surprised that she unpublishes it at times. You\’ll have to \”have a word\” with her, hey?
Karen has a rigorous schedule and perhaps she doesn\’t want to be bothered with commenting when she gets back to her job in Cincinnati. That\’s just a guess. When she starts publishing again, I\’ll try to remember to alert you. If all goes well, she\’ll receive the NEH summer stipend and be off again on another excursion.
Marian — I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. The photographs you shared are great. My favorite one is of your parents holding the sparklers. Even though your mom\’s not facing the camera directly, her smile is so big you can see that it matches your dad\’s!
Your memory of the buttons on your mom\’s wedding dress, and the \”I knew they had to be mine\” shoes made me smile!
You can see the \”fancy\” was planted in my DNA probably by my oh-so-plain mother early on! Yes, I can imagine you voting for the sparklers photo. Thanks for showing up here, and for going tweet-tweet on Twitter.
I love that you got this close to asking your mother such a personal question: \”When I got older and could figure out such things, my mother simply said, \’Nothing happened before we were married.\’\” We always thought Mom and Dad\’s post war baby–married January 1, 1946 with a first baby born Dec. 26, 1946, was quick, but not as quick as you! We feted them on their 40th–by going to an Amish home for a wonderful homecooked meal in northern Indiana, smallish group, and then again on their 50th–full blow out with all the family and church and community invited–reception, which they LOVED. I do regret–mightly–that we were so tied up with our own affairs that we did not plan anything special for their 60th in 2006–and then Daddy died in March. We thought it appropriate to give them for their anniversary a new ultralite wheelchair to make it easier for Mom to take Dad places. Kind of sad. Such is life. I think they were very satisfied with their two big parties, however, and a trip to Puerto Rico for their 45th, I think.
I sense the hint of regret in your voice about the 60th and I do understand. We always wish we could have done more, but as you say, \”Such is life.\” Without a doubt, your parents felt your love and care.
How lovely to remember your parents anniversary …they may not be with us but it\’s still their special day .
We have a couple of things in common Marian , you have a sister , like me , called Janice and we both had a dad called Ray …how about that . My parents would have been married 73 years next March 17 …st Patrick\’s day ☺️
Love the word \’ Shindig\’ I use that loads …I must look up its origin . Love the fact you\’re a honeymoon baby …so romantic . Love the shoes soooooo cool and the retro lounge for the 40th like a snapshot of pure history .
Thank you for pointing out this post is a blend of the historical and the romantic and glad you enjoyed it. And how swell there is a commonality of names in our families – quite a coincidence. 😉
I had to smile when your referred to the \”retro lounge\” for the 40th anniversary. Of course, it was my parents\’ living room. The whole house looked like a museum of the 1970s when Mother passed away last year. Now a young family lives in the house. Odd, but times moves on.
Here\’s to more shindigs, Cherry!
That\’s a beautiful story; I\’m glad your parents\’ love was so long-lived and profound!
Hi, Rebecca. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments showing up here. Thank you!
I so LOVE your family stories! I was also a honeymoon baby born a few days after the 9th month of my parents wedding. It was not fancy. They were married by a Justice of the Peace in Elton, Maryland the night before my dad went to fight in WWII. The never had big celebrations when their anniversary came around. Sadly their marriage wasn\’t such a happy one.
I did mention that there was bickering between my parents, but I never feared that this back-and-forth would escalate into divorce. As I recall, PSTD figured heavily into the dynamic of your parents\’ marriage. Nowadays, acknowledgement of and treatment for such a condition would be available.
Always nice to see you in this column, Joan!
Lovely details, Marian, of the wedding and also the anniversary celebrations. But the ones I enjoyed most were the game of chasing after a kiss before going back to work, and your dad washing the Sunday dishes. My dad helped set the table for Sunday dinner, and he and Mom cleared it together. Then Mom washed and Dad dried dishes, and we could hear them in the kitchen talking and laughing.
The sounds of harmony are inscribed on our brain-capes, I guess you could say. \”Precious memories, how they linger . . . .\”
In the hurly-burly of living, we don\’t realize how greatly we have been blessed. Until later. I am sure there is a quote for that, but this will suffice for now. Thank you for taking the time to read and reminisce here, Marylin.
Great photos. Great stories of great love. My family has always been good at marriage. There were no divorces from my mother\’s or dad\’s siblings and only two from a wide range of cousins. I thought I inherited the capacity for a good marriage from all these relatives. The anniversary parties are beautiful. It all is, Marian. Thank you.
If the capacity for a good marriage can be inherited, you have the gene, Elaine. I guess that means those in our ancestry we write about have had the ability to trust too, for trust is the basis of all love, don\’t you think?
What lovely and abiding memories – not to mention those amazing shoes!
I know you love beautiful things as evident from your own special photography. You are the first one, I think, to point out the shoes. Thanks, Lady Fi!
A wonderful glimpse into a solid marriage it seems Marian. The photos weave a beautiful picture, taking us back in time. I love when you touched on \’the honeymoon baby\’ and the Niagara Falls pink plate was a foreshadowing of things to come, mainly you. It\’s funny when we\’re youngsters we don\’t really calculate the math of such things as conception. But I was around 10 years old when I questioned my dad about his November wedding, and my June birth .. .and of course, that\’s when my mother began her lies and made up fantastical stories of a previous fake wedding, lol. Kids aren\’t really stupid! 🙂
You are SO right – kids aren\’t really stupid, especially when they smell something \”off\” about family matters. I\’m glad you can enjoy vicariously excerpts from a 1940s plain wedding. It\’s clear I got my love for fancy early on – and from my mother. Thanks, Debby!
Oh, that is quite obvious! Lol, and no doubt you\’re a shoe lover too! 🙂
I love the description of your mother\’s wedding dress, and your father\’s game of chasing your mother for a hug and a kiss good bye before he leaves for work.
The idea of the public shaming, however, is one I hope is a thing of the past. My folks were married less than nine months when I was born, but I was a preemie. I recall a relative trying to put doubts in my head about the timing, but I set her straight with the stats – I was 4 pds. 2 oz. and 14 inches tall. Her comments were a shameful thing to do and, frankly, none of her business.
Yes, public shaming is a thing of the past as far as I know. And I would put a check-mark by all of the points in your story, particularly the one about you nosy, meddling relative!
Marian … The person who said that was someone who tried to break up my Mom and Dad\’s marriage from the beginning. Some 21 years later, she still was trying to stir things up. I actually felt sorry for her.
When I was working at my first job in a bank, one of the girls my age became pregnant. She was single and I remember the mean-spiritied actions and comments about her. They came from girls who had no room to talk. Hypocrites. She later married someone I worked for at the bank. I hope they all had a good life.
All those mean-spirited people you describe have gone through their lives spreading more of the same. Fortunately, you have chosen living life with grace and forgiveness, and that\’s why you are blessed now. Like you, I always like to choose the high road. No regrets there. 😉
Marian … I left you a private message on your Facebook page. This whole conversation sparked a moment of clarity for me that I should have hit on decades ago. It relates to the relative that tried to break up my parents\’ marriage. A young man I loved – and we\’d talked of marriage – broke up with me after his mom told him to wait until he was out of the military before he got married. I realized I dodged a bullet and that the end of the relationship was really a good thing. 😉
I got your private message and did reply to it – thank you.
Watch here for a \”dodging bullet\” story next week. So happy to have you part of the conversation here, especially the ones that spark memory and insight – so appreciated, Judy!
At first, it triggered an unhappy memory or two. Then, as I said, it kickstarted a moment of clarity that was long overdue. I enjoyed our exchange. I can\’t wait to read about your \”dodging a bullet\” story. 😉
Thank you Marian for this lovely post which has me smiling from ear to ear! Happiness is always stylish – this was my first thought and, as I progressed in the reading it was confirmed in a way by the stylishness of everything, the sparklers, the cake, the table setting, your mother\’s dress, the shoes … the darling little plate and a very sweet photograph of a baby …
Susan, I shall always remember your newly minted phrase, \”happiness is always stylish.\” It would fit somewhere in my memoir, I think. Thank you for offering such insightful comments here.
What a lovely post and a tribute to the love your parents had for one another and their family. Precious memories.
Thank you, Linda. I always enjoy your writings/postings and realize you have recently explored some buried memories on paper. While such writing provides catharsis, it also is a painful undertaking. Thank you for commenting here today!
My parents married in October. We no longer have my father with us, but we still do a celebration of their wedding day. About 25 years ago at their anniversary celebration my mother was describing her cake she had to the grandchildren while they were looking at pictures. Since it was black and white, naturally, she was filling us in on the colors and flavors. It turned out it was a round white cake with white frosting, 3 layers, each layer sliced, so six layers total and had fillings of lemon curd, orange curd and cherry. The plate was surrounded with fall flowers and leaves in the same colors. We thought it sounded absolutely lovely, so one of my nieces who was 14 at the time, thought we should figure it out and make it for the next party. We did and it became a new tradition.
We (family) have been busy the last couple weeks with the marriage of my oldest brother\’s youngest son. This is the son that has been living with us since he joined my husband in business 2 years ago. He met the girl, now his wife, at our church. The wedding was Saturday and we had much out of area, out of state company staying over, many making it a long weekend when possible. Fall is a lovely time for a wedding, and a busy time yes. We went to 3 other weddings this month.
Thank you for including so many pictures…I loved seeing them.
I like how you color in the details of black & white photos. You have a good memory, Athanasia. Perhaps reading this post was a break from wedding prep and taking care of guests. Thanks for the reminiscences here too.
What a lovely celebration of your parent´s 40th Anniversary. My parents were married 59 years. My father passed away 4 months before their 60th anniversary. My brothers and I threw them a surprise party for their 25th. They were very surprised, over 100 friends and family showed up and we presented them with a set of good stainless steel cutlery. For their 40th anniversary we had a huge party and gave them tickets to fly to Arizona to visit my mom´s younger sister. (They had never been on a plane before) For their 50th, Dad took Mom on a trip of a lifetime to the Maritime Provinces in Eastern Canada. Mom had always wanted to see Anne of Green Gables country. She was delighted. When they married after the war, Dad gave mom a watch instead of an engagement ring (being a very practical German farm boy). While in Fredericktown, New Brunswick, he bought her an engagement ring. (after 50 years of marriage!) Enduring love for sure.
I love this story, all of it, especially the engagement ring after all those years. Yes, I understand the German tendency toward thrift and frugality – ha!
Maggie and Alan, the uncle and aunt we visited in Canada have been married for forty plus years and we were amused by how much they bicker. It is all so polite. \”Darling, I think you are wrong about that.\” and \”Oh, Alan, I don\’t think so.\” We bicker too, as I think most couples do, but, like Alan and Maggie, there is much love to soothe the arguments. Hopefully our marriage will last as long and be as happy.
We have a talk show host here in the states that advises his guests: \”Marriage is all about negotiation.\” Apparently your relatives are doing just that with their polite bickering. I like your expression \”much love to soothe the arguments.\”
You and your husband do so much together – traveling too. I have heard that the rigors of travel tests love. Apparently, yours is holding up just fine. Thanks for stopping here today, Marie.
We usually have a few spats on the first day of a trip, probably down to tiredness. A few of them have been quite epic, including our first hours in New York when we were both feeling grumpy and disillusioned, but we always make up and get over it. 🙂
Travel is a strain even though it\’s enriching and often delightful. I think you\’ve read my \”Moments of Extreme Emotion\” posts, one about the mix-up in Positano, Italy (\”Meet Me Under the Bougainvillea\”) and then my brush with the law in Westminster/London (\”Lunatic in London\”). They both illustrate the double dilemmas of jet lag and culture shock. Thanks for returning to continue the conversation here, Marie.