Saturday, September 5, 2009

Family Matters

Our Family, 1983

These guys grew up! It's fun to share parenthood with our kids. "Did you feel this way, Mom? Isn't he amazing? I never knew. Was I this cute?"

Double the Fun, 2007

I watch my sons and daughters wipe noses and hands, buckle car seats, peel apples, clean up orange juice, dry tears, read stories, blow bubbles, monitor the TV, play Candy Land, build snowmen, line up swimming lessons, coach a team, go to parent-teacher, practice spelling lists. I am struck by the rigors of parenting — how hard it is and tiring and endless, and how amazing it is that anyone signs up for this job.

And then I think, this was once my job. I did all this. "How did you do it, Mom?" my kids ask. I honestly don't know. But I knew back then that families matter. I'd known it forever.

Marty and Tommy, 1954

When I was a little girl we went to see both sets of grandparents every Sunday afternoon. At Grama L's there were six families visiting, including twenty-three grandchildren. Our parents all gathered around a big table in a tiny kitchen and chatted and laughed. The kids played hide-and-seek and andy-I-over in the enormous yard, or checked the chickens in the coop and the cow in the orchard with Grampa's dog, Tuffy.

Grampa L and Tuffy, 1959

I was in heaven sitting under the table, listening to the grown-up's conversation, hearing the problems and the laughter. It felt warm and cozy as I learned at their feet about families.

Grama B's house was just a mile away and we were the only cousins that lived in town. Often there was a quilt set up in the living room and we would play under it while the adults chatted. Grampa's genealogy was spread out on their big dining room table and I was shown pictures and charts of my ancestors. I loved hearing true stories about whoever he was researching that week. I was part of them all—they were my family.

Grama's House, 1968

The evening would always end with a singalong. Dad played the piano and Aunt Marie, who wasn't married and lived with Grama, played her ukulele. Grama and Grampa held hands as they harmonized: "Shine on, shine on harvest moon, for me and my gal."

Home is where I learned about families, and from my family I learned about creating a home. Observing my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, I knew I wanted to find a sweetheart and have a family of my own. But even if I didn't, I'd still belong somewhere. Marvin J. Ashton said, "One person plus God is a family." None of us is left out. There's really no place on earth I would rather be than home. It's a sacred place to me.

This kind of home doesn't just happen. Maren was a dear friend. She had grown up in an abusive, fragmented family in Ohio, got pregnant and married the father with the understanding they'd get divorced after the baby was born. He was in the service, and while they were stationed in Turkey a couple of things happened to Maren. First, she fell deeply in love with her new husband (even knowing he didn't feel the same about her) and second, she joined the Mormon church: her outlook changed. With no experience, and almost no hope, she decided she was going to create a loving marriage, a solid family and a happy home.

Jerry didn't care that his wife had become a Mormon. He didn't know anything about the church and assumed he wouldn't be around long enough to be bothered by it. When they moved into our neighborhood three years and another baby later, we liked them both immediately. When Jerry told us their story, he joked that theirs was a marriage of convenience. He didn't seem to notice what was obvious to us: he was falling in love with Maren. Her commitment to their life together was changing his outlook, too.

They invited our family to their house one Sunday afternoon for one of her gourmet meals. Classical music drifted through the rooms, and the kids were impressed by the elegant atmosphere. Before she started serving, Maren welcomed us and took a minute to say how blessed she felt to have such a happy life, beautiful family and lovely new home. She thanked her husband for all he did to contribute joy to her life. Then she asked Dee to say a blessing on the food and said, "In the prayer would you dedicate our home, and ask the Lord's blessings to be upon it and on our family? I want it to be a place of love and learning and service."

It was really incredible to watch Maren create a strong family. She went about it very deliberately. Her own experience growing up had been miserable, so she had no example to fall back on. She and Jerry have now been married almost 40 years and their five kids are awesome. Three are now starting families, and they have an excellent pattern to follow.

Joseph B. Wirthlin says, "The place to cure most of the ills of society is in the homes of the people. The righteous molding of the immortal soul is the highest work we can do, and home is the place to do it." Bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchen tables are sacred places where this can happen. I love the observation that a table surrounded by a happy family who loves God becomes an altar.

Thanksgiving at our house, 1982

It's easy to get discouraged by the improvements we continually need to make. One of my favorite passages of scripture is when Jesus said: "Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."—Doctrine and Covenants 6:34-36

Daddy-daughter date.

"The most important work you will ever do
will be within the walls of your own home."

—Harold B. Lee

Family matters.

Graduation Announcements:

  1. Everyone who has completed every assignment for every class wins a prize. (You're on the honor system.) Email me your name and address by Nov 20th, and I'll send you your prize. Write Honorary Degree in the subject line.
  2. Everyone who has done most of the assignments (grade yourself) gets a Graduation Certificate. Email me your name by Nov 20th, and I'll email you your certificate. Write Graduate in the subject line.
  3. Everyone who came to class fairly regularly gets an Associate Degree. Email me your name by Nov 20th, and I'll email you your certificate. Write Associate Degree in the subject line.
  4. Graduation Ceremony Wednesday, November 25th. Prizes will be mailed that day, too.
My email is martyhalverson at (use the at sign.)


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diane said...

Love this post!

I am in some big transition years. My kids are all in the decade of decisions. I have some decisions of my own to make about what I will do with myself next fall when the nest is empty. You have given me great insight and inspiration. Bravo Oma!

Christie said...

What an amazing story - just shows you that home, family, and marriage are really what you make it.

cannwin said...

You should get another western picture with your kids, that way you can compare. That would be way cute, put them all in the same pose and everything. I'm loving the idea!

the hogan's said...

Great post! I love all of the old pictures. This makes me really excited for the day when I start my own little family.

Sarah N said...

yes, yes, and yes! family matters - perfectly put.

gab said...

I am so lucky I was raised in a home where family mattered. Thanks, Mom! Great post.

marta said...

thank you for always teaching us to see the best in every situation. you've always taught us the highest thing on your priority list is family. i hope to carry on the tradition.

'tradition... tradition..'

Kim said...

What a great post! Thank you :)

KJ said...

yes indeed

polly said...

i loved the post and the pictures!

dalene said...

thank you--i needed that.

deidra said...

I have this quote from Elder Bruce C. Hafen hanging on my happy board (the only quote there), "A family dinner table surrounded by parents and children who share their laughter and their lives is a sacred setting, not just a place setting." I am so grateful for the beautiful example my parents set for me. It makes it easy for me to keep it up!