“Set the Table, God Will Provide”
I was six months old when my father died, leaving mother with five children and no money. The oldest in our family was Gary, fifteen.
For many years we lived in a rented house with enough land to raise vegetables, some fruit trees, a few chickens, and a pig. Nothing was wasted; we canned our winter food supply, and the pig was slaughtered and preserved. Any surplus vegetables and fruit we sold.
We lived in a small town in upper New York state, a summer resort on Lake Ontario. Mother worked as a cook or a maid, or on the small farms helping with sowing or harvesting. My brothers all worked at whatever small jobs came along. They stayed in school through the eighth grade. Gary bought a small truck and transported luggage for the summer tourists.
Having done everything she could to meet our family’s expenses, mother never worried when unexpected bills came along. She always said, “God will provide.” There was always some way to earn the money needed, or a forgotten wage check would arrive. Sometimes, to meet expenses, she sold all the fruit we had.
I was baptized when I was eight years old, and I believed in God. But it often worried me that I did not have mother’s faith. When I talked to her about it, she was reassuring. “You will grow in faith,” she said. “You will come to believe the truth that God lives and that he provides. If you ask, you will receive.” Now, as a grown woman, I look back and recall an incident that proved my mother’s faith.
I was ten years old, and we were spring cleaning when mother called me to the kitchen. She was washing windows; I had been cleaning pictures in the living room. Mother handed me a stack of plates and said, “Please set the table. It’s almost supper time.”
I hesitated, then blurted out, “But there’s no food in the house.”
She said, “Remember, if you believe and ask in faith, you will receive.”
I walked around the table, setting the six places. Then I dashed back to cleaning pictures. We had found a picture of an Indian princess in a box of books we bought at an auction sale. I picked up this picture, and after cleaning the glass, turned it over. There was a bulge in the paper. I tugged at a lump of green paper. In my hand fell first a ten-dollar bill and then a five-dollar bill.
A little ten-year-old girl learned a lesson that day. When my mother talked to the Lord, she asked him to provide food to fill those empty plates. And her faith was rewarded.
More Than a Garden
We needed a garden, and Arnold and Rena needed someone to work their land. So we “adopted” some grandparents one summer and embarked on a very rewarding experience.
Arnold was eighty-five and in poor health, and Rena couldn’t do the physical work required to care for their two acres. So they agreed to let us do the tilling, planting, irrigating, and weeding in return for a share of the produce. Arnold and Rena welcomed us as part of their family, and our five children loved them. It wasn’t long until Jeff, our sixteen-month-old, started calling Arnold “grandpa.”
Arnold could remember coming to Idaho from Oklahoma with his family in a covered wagon at the age of five, and we loved listening to his tales of the past. He could also tell thrilling stories of his uncle’s adventures in the Civil War. Arnold served in World War I as an aircraft mechanic, but it was later, during the depression, when Arnold and his wife had five children to rear, that his great love of gardening had developed. He not only grew all the vegetables and berries his family needed, but enough extra to sell to stores or trade to neighbors for other things his family needed. After a few years he opened a fruit and vegetable stand to sell his bountiful produce and beautiful flowers.
Arnold became a carpenter by trade, but the garden was his first love. Now, in later life, this love had made him and Rena quite self-sufficient. They owed no one, and with little more than two acres of land they were able to raise nearly all their food. Goats provided their milk, chickens their eggs. They generously shared garden produce with us and other friends and relatives. A small patch of hay was harvested and sold each year to buy the things they couldn’t raise.
Arnold didn’t have long to live, and some days we knew he was in pain, but he always came out to the garden to offer advice. Although we had raised a garden for several years, he taught us a great deal. Besides, Arnold always had to come out to say “hi” to our little Jeff, who always brightened his day with a big smile. Arnold called him “my little Smiley,” and even on days when he wasn’t feeling well and had been resting all day, he came out to see Jeff.
During other years the older children had complained about working in the garden; but this summer was different. The garden became our family “retreat”—the place we wanted to go for picnics, fresh air, exercise, or just to visit Arnold and Rena. My husband made a rope swing for the children in one of the big maple trees, and he always pushed each of them in it before we left the garden for the day. They enjoyed riding their bikes to and from the garden, even though it was a five-mile round trip. Playing ball in the pasture, floating things in the creek, building forts in the woodpile, and watching the baby goats, pups, and chickens also occupied many hours.
Arnold supervised and worked all summer long, keeping his illness at bay until he was sure his place was in order and Rena had enough produce put away for the winter. Before he died that fall, we promised him that we would look after the garden as long as Rena needed us.
There’s a special feeling of freedom and self-worth that comes from being out in the country working the soil and providing for oneself. Our pantry and freezer were well stocked that fall, and we had enjoyed fresh produce for five months. There’s a special sense, too, of peace and belonging that comes from associating with older people, and we will always cherish the memories of the time we spent with Arnold and Rena. Little wonder that we feel our gardening experience was an adventure in the “good life.”
Reunion with Gladys
During the summer of 1945, when I was a girl of six, my seven-year-old brother and I lived with my father in Seattle, Washington. World War II was over, and he had just been released from the U.S. Army after a tedious tour of duty overseas.
My parents had been divorced for several years, and my father had remarried. Our new mother, Gladys, was a very kind lady who spent many hours with my brother and me. She was a good cook, and I remember that she worked very hard to help dad remodel the old two-story home they had bought.
Dad had thought our stay with him would be permanent, and so had we. But after a few months my mother asked that we be returned to her in California. Throughout the years I thought often of Gladys. Their marriage deteriorated after our leaving them, and while I visited dad a few times over the years until his death in 1961, he could not tell me where Gladys lived.
In 1977 my young daughter and I moved from Salt Lake City to Tacoma, Washington, to live near my married daughter and her family. That same year my mother died.
After her death, missing her love and companionship, I began to think of Gladys more often and had a strong desire to locate her. I went to the public library and checked the old city directories to see if she was listed. Indeed she was, but only until 1953; I thought that she must have remarried, moved, or perhaps died. I went to the apartment building listed in the directory, and the managers told me of a woman living upstairs who might have known Gladys. I called her, but she could not help me. I was prompted to tell her that the city directory had listed Gladys as a clerk at a local cleaners, and I wondered if she had ever taken her cleaning there and perhaps knew of her. When I mentioned the name of the cleaners, the woman said that her sister and brother-in-law had owned that particular shop years ago. In fact, her sister happened to be there in the room with her—and she knew Gladys! She had not seen her for several years, but knew someone who possibly would know where she lived. This woman called me the next morning with an address and telephone number in Tacoma.
I was so excited that I drove immediately to Gladys’s apartment. When she greeted me at the door, I asked her if she remembered her stepdaughter from years ago. She hugged me, and we both shed a few tears. She told me she had thought about my brother and me many times and wondered where we were. She recalled how much she had loved both of us, and assured me that she had never forgotten the precious days we had spent together.
I told Gladys I was a convert to the LDS church; she replied that she had always respected the Mormons because the ones she knew were wonderful family people. We had a long visit, reminiscing over years and years of news.
A short time later the ward missionaries asked me if I knew someone they could visit. I sent them to see Gladys. They were warmly welcomed, and Gladys was baptized in July 1979. She is faithful to her testimony, pays her tithing, and reads the scriptures daily. She is nearly eighty years old, and our love for each other grows stronger each day.
Gladys feels strongly that our Heavenly Father sent me back into her life to bring her the gospel. And, as an extra bonus, she has been able to give me treasured mementos and photographs for my own personal history.
When I think of this very meaningful time of our lives, the words of Ecclesiastes come to mind: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1.)