Sunday, September 16, 2018

Ramblings and Recipes, Part 5 - Early Married Life

“All marriages are happy.
It's the living together afterward that causes all the trouble.” - Raymond Hull

I was only 17 when Rick and I were married.  Fresh out of high school and ready to take on the world.  OMG!  I was so na├»ve!  No matter how “worldly” a girl may think she is, she has no idea what married life is like at that young age.  How we made it through those first few years, I will never know.
We didn’t have a big church wedding like that in most girl’s dreams.  No, we went to the courthouse one Friday when we were both able to take off work a bit early and were married by a judge.  Only our immediate families were present and after the ceremony we went back to Rick’s parent’s house for cake.  

While we were there, my brothers and my sister sneaked over to our newly acquired apartment and sprinkled rice between the sheets of our wedding-night bed.  Little did anyone realize that by the time we got there, little bugs had infested the rice which put a definite damper on any wedding-night romance.
Our first apartment was right around the corner from my in-law’s house.  We had to borrow the money for the security deposit and we bought a sofa from the old lady downstairs for $40.  My mother-in-law gave us an old patio table and 2 chairs that served as our dining set.  We probably could have afforded more, but Rick was so totally embarrassed by my little pink flowered car, that he felt it was more urgent to buy me something a bit more presentable to drive.  I was sad to lose my little car at first but we found it a new home with the Ringling Circus in Sarasota.  It was amazing to see how many clowns they were able to fit into it!
Unlike so many women I know, I never had a problem with my mother-in-law.  She was one of the sweetest ladies I ever met.  The first time Rick brought me home with him, she immediately wrapped her arms around me and gave me a big ole hug, making me feel very welcomed. 
My mother-in-law, who her grandkids referred to as “Mom-Mom”, did tend to have strange things happen to her from time to time.  She couldn’t even buy the Sunday newspaper out of the machine in front of the drug store without turning it into an adventure.  One day she sat her purse on top of the machine because she needed one hand to open the machine door and the other hand to pull the newspaper out.  When the door snapped shut, it shut on the strap of her purse.  She tugged… but no luck.  The purse wouldn’t budge.  Frantically she looked for another 75 cents to open the door again.  No change.  She couldn’t leave her purse sit there while she walked into the drugstore to get change for fear someone would steal it while she was gone.  Finally, a man came by.  “Do you have change for a dollar”, she asked, embarrassed at the situation she had gotten herself into.
“Sorry, I don’t” he said, “but maybe I can help you.”  With that, they both began tugging at the purse strap.
A passerby saw this scene, thought the man was trying to snatch the purse from the little old lady, and called the police.  Imagine the embarrassment of my mother-in-law as the two policemen drove up and jumped out of their car to arrest the “purse-snatcher”.  This type of thing could only happen to my mother-in-law.  Bless her heart. 
This was a time of vinyl records and 8-track tapes.  We listened to the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, the Grateful Dead and the Rolling Stones.  Date night for us as a young married couple meant going to the drive-in movie to see Planet of the Apes or Dirty Harry and sharing a box of popcorn.  Money was tight, but somehow we managed.
Rick worked long hours trying to get his business started, with every dime he made going right back into the company.  I worked two jobs to pay the bills.  My jobs had benefits though.  With my job at the bank I was able to take a few college courses at no cost to me.  And my job at European Health Spa got me free access to the exercise equipment and the swimming pool, which was the key to keeping my sanity.  That second job had to be cut out though when I found out I was pregnant.
We managed to save up enough to buy our first home for a whopping $17,500.  It was a two bedroom, one bath little house with a nice big back yard and a screened in back porch.  We bought a gawd-awful red velvet sofa that at the time we thought was the most beautiful piece of furniture we had ever seen.  We accompanied that with a black velvet painting of a matador, or anyway I think it was a matador, which hung on the wall centered over that red velvet sofa.  When you add in the green shag carpet it all became a decorator’s nightmare.  But we loved it.
The house was on a busy street, but if we kept the windows closed the noise wasn’t too bad.  At least the noise wasn’t as bad as the first house we looked at.  I remember standing in the living room with the real estate agent, ready to sign a contract to buy the house, when this rumbling was so loud the jalousie windows rattled and dust vibrated off the walls.  Apparently there were railroad tracks bordering the back yard, just beyond the fence.  We couldn’t get out of there fast enough!
With a new home and a baby on the way we felt like we needed a dog to make our family complete.  So we adopted a German Shepard.  Shep was a sweet dog, but quite a handful.  Our big back yard soon began to look like a race track with a dirt path that encircled the large mango tree in the middle.  Shep would run around and around that tree chasing an imaginary squirrel or cat or whatever, totally destroying any actual grass in his path.  And heaven forbid if the ground was damp because every bit of that mud would cling to his big paws and end up on my floors.
Rick and I decided to have his parents over for dinner in our new home one night.  This was the first time I had prepared an entire meal for them and I was a bit nervous.  I carefully roasted a leg of lamb and had prepared a mint jelly glaze, red potatoes, carrots and baby peas.  The table was set with our best china with real linen napkins and a crisp, freshly ironed tablecloth.  I made sure the glasses didn’t have any spots and a pitcher of iced tea sat in the fridge.
Shortly after my in-laws arrived, I excused myself to the kitchen and removed this beautiful leg of lamb from the oven.  The aroma was wonderful and it was browned to perfection.  I positioned the lamb on the serving platter, surrounded by garnishes of roasted potato and carrot wedges and sprigs of parsley and left it to sit for a few minutes so that it would be easier to carve.
Leg of Lamb
1 tbsp crushed rosemary
1 tsp salt
7-8 fresh mint leaves, crushed
Mint jelly
1/2 tsp garlic, chopped fine
1 tsp cracked pepper
1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
With a sharp knife, make several slits about 4 inches apart in the fatty portion of the lamb, but not near the bone end.  Insert a sliver of garlic into each slit. Combine the fresh rosemary, chopped garlic, salt, pepper and half of the mint leaves and crush together to form a rub. Using your fingers, rub this mixture into the meat of the lamb. Roast the lamb at 350 degrees until desired doneness. Crush the remaining mint leaves and mix them with the mint jelly.  Serve the mint jelly on the side of the lamb for added flavor.
As my in-laws were being seated at the table, I went back to the kitchen to retrieve my prized leg of lamb only to find Shep standing with his front paws up on my kitchen counter, leaning forward with his tongue hungrily licking the side of the lamb, totally consumed in his ecstasy.  It was all I could do to not let out a shriek!  I shooed the dog out of the kitchen, telling him I would deal with him later.  I took the lamb over to the kitchen sink, ran a bit of water over the spot Shep had contaminated, added a bit more mint jelly glaze from the pan drippings… and served the lamb to my hungry guests, not saying a word to anyone about what had happened.  Some things are just better left unsaid.  As I looked over and noticed the dog lying on the floor licking himself, I almost barfed.  Needless to say, I wasn’t very hungry and didn’t eat much.  I blamed it on my pregnancy.
You can actually get away with a lot when you are pregnant.  People bring you food.  Chocolate.  Ice Cream.  Anything.  Get angry and snap at someone?  They look at you sympathetically and think it’s just hormones. 
Then the big day comes.  You are rushed to the hospital and they actually expect you to push something the size of a grapefruit out of an opening the size of a quarter.  I was given meds to help me relax.  All that did was remove any inhibitions I had prior to my arrival.  I didn’t care who was attaching monitors by reaching into the private parts of my body and I didn’t care who heard the expletives hurled toward my husband who wasn’t there in the delivery room, the doctor who wouldn’t hurry up and get that baby out of me, and the nurse who wouldn’t shut up and kept telling me to push.  Uncharacteristically, I called them names a drunken sailor would have blushed at.
But then there she was.  All pink with a ton of dark hair sticking straight up.  My beautiful baby girl.
And from that moment on, my life would be changed forever.


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