By Del Starr, a pseudynym, all rights reserved.

Our Little Corner of the World

With five children and Kitty Mow, it was a long, arduous trip to Oregon. The family didn’t even stop in the valley but drove directly to their new home. It wasn’t so new but it was new to them and it was theirs! Their household goods would not arrive for a few days, but Dianne and Gary didn’t care. They had slept on the floor before and they would do it again. It was a gay and rowdy bunch that pulled into the driveway. Bowls containing food and water were put out for Kitty Mow to let her know that this was home and the family toured their house and land.

Gone were the days of living surrounded by walls that were always a neutral ivory color. Dianne could now have her yellow kitchen. In the new home there were windows on the corner of the kitchen, large windows on both sides of the L, looking out on the park-like yard. The one thing that Dianne had missed in her travels was the evergreen trees, and now she had one of her own—a large evergreen tree, only a short distance from the window.

The land upon which the house sat had been deeded to the county with the stipulation that it would never become a part of the city. It was also on the water table and mostly unbuildable. This provided Gary and Dianne a country-like setting in the middle of the metropolis of Portland. Opossums, raccoons and china pheasants were a common sight in the yard.

There were fruit trees—pears, apples, plums; there were two nut trees and even a small raspberry patch. There was plenty of room for a large garden and Dianne looked forward to being able to provide healthy, natural, home-grown foods for her family. She loved Oregon partly because it was home and mostly because of its temperate climate and the ability to raise beautiful produce and flowers. She looked forward to the moment she would plant her trademark Tropicana Rose. Once more she was in her own home on her own land.

The children loved the yard where they had trees to climb and bushes in which to hide. Dianne and Gary loved the solidity that the move seemed to give to their family.

The only shadow over Dianne’s life was her uneasy feelings about Gary, but she hoped that this too, would dissipate with the change in their life style. He would begin looking for work as soon as the household goods arrived and they were a bit settled

The nights on the floor passed quickly and the day arrived when the moving van pulled up outside of their front door. Once more it was an extra Christmas as the children dug through the boxes in search of their favorite toys and Dianne and Gary tried to keep some semblance of order while they put dishes in the cupboards and distributed furniture.

Dianne was excited that the home had a very large book case that extended from floor to ceiling along the stairwell that led to the second level of the home. It was actually two stories high and provided plenty of space for her beloved books. As she lovingly placed the books on the shelves, she made sure that her books which bore the name Ellen G. White as the author were at hand near the top level so that she would be able to easily access them. She very often read herself to sleep in Ellen’s books. She found deep spirituality and what she believed were the answers to many of life’s situations in Ellen’s words. The Bible was so dull and unexciting with its begats, but Ellen added life to the Bible and Dianne knew that she could depend on the words of the prophet of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

They immediately found the local church and on the first Sabbath, loaded up the children and headed for church services. The family was welcomed to the church and made to feel comfortable. Elder Elmer Unterseher was the pastor and he was warm and friendly. The family felt at home and Dianne felt warm and secure. This was her heritage! This was salvation! She believed that only in the Seventh-day Adventist church would she find eternal life for herself and her family.

Gary found a job as a welder several miles away with a company that rented most anything one would desire. They were finally completely settled in and life began its routines. It was September, 1973.

It was a gentle winter that first year. It rained at night and the days were sunny and bright. Gary and Dianne were eager to get started on their first garden and when January arrived, Gary took shovel in hand and cultivated a place where Dianne could plant Chinese pea pods. With great anticipation they watched for the first tiny sprouts to burst from the soil. Dianne was tempted to set up heaters to rush the event but they were finally rewarded with the little sprouts. Gary began to cultivate more territory for the rest of the garden, all by hand with a shovel.

The days began to warm and Dianne began to plant seeds. There were carrots, radishes, beans, beets, corn, squash, melons, and of course, Dianne’s favorite, tomatoes. Soon there were rows of sprouts covering the area. Near the edge of the garden Dianne had planted cherry and pear tomatoes. These would be for the children and would hopefully keep them from tromping on the rest of the garden. And oh yes, there was to be another child. Dianne wanted to get as much done as possible before the new baby arrived in August.

At church, an evangelistic series was held and they attended each and every meeting. Gary had attended church with Dianne and was familiar with the beliefs, for Dianne shared Ellen’s words with him often. She was proud of the fact that Seventh-day Adventists had so much knowledge about upcoming events and how time would end and had specific instructions for how to live as pertaining to the way to dress, eat and conduct themselves. Dianne was a Seventh-day Adventist to the core, but had not rejoined the church since she had received the ill-fated letter while in Germany. At the end of the series both Gary and Dianne pledged their allegiance to the church. They took off their wedding bands and gave them to the pastor, requesting baptism. And so it was that Gary and Dianne became members of the church. Dianne was thrilled to be once more a part of the family of God.

Gary began to bring things home from work: a tool here, a can of paint there. Dianne was a little apprehensive but Gary seemed to suggest that these were things which had been discarded, and she wanted to believe the best. One day, however, he came home from work early, with a pink slip in his hand. Dianne knew that he was a good worker and was dependable. In her heart, she knew the reason for his termination but she never mentioned it to him nor he to her.

They kept their yard in a park-like condition, with the lawn neatly mowed and the 20-foot laurel hedge on one side of the property always clipped. They purchased a swing set and merry-go-round for the children, and Gary made a tire swing and built a sand box. The children carried bits and pieces into the nut trees and Gary helped them to design a tree house; simple, but it served the purpose and the children loved it.

The garden began to produce and meals were abundant with fresh vegetables. Dianne sliced tomatoes onto a large platter. Heaps of tomato slices were eaten daily in nearly their entirety. She purchased canning jars and what was not eaten immediately, she canned. Pickled beets, corn, beans and, of course, tomato sauce, sliced tomatoes, and tomato juice. They had planted ten tomato plants and all had thrived.

Very little watering was necessary, for the moisture underground watered it naturally. That first year they had a banana squash that was six feet long and about twelve inches in diameter. There was plenty of food.

Gary could not find another job and finally turned to some of the local training programs. In August, Kira was born.

Dianne now had her hands full with six children under the age of seven. Janetta was not in school for Ellen White says that children should not enter school until they are at least seven. Janetta’s birthday was in January and so Dianne kept her home until she was very nearly eight years old.

Kitty Mow had taken the move easily as she had the previous moves and now produced a litter of kittens. Grandma Grace laid claim to one of them which she promptly named Kleine Mow (pronounced Cline and meaning Little Mow).

It really was a happy family. Weekends brought friends and relatives. They played croquet, badminton, and card games. They sat around in the yard and visited or had barbecues. Dianne bought a 30-cup percolator so that there would always be plenty of coffee. Gary was not working but it was a good life anyway.

All too soon it was time for Janetta to begin school. Dianne sewed school clothes for her, as did Grace. Because Ellen said she should not, Janetta would wear no pants to school, only dresses, but she would be beautifully dressed.

Dianne believed that it was the right of every Seventh-day Adventist to have their child in church school. She could not accept that her child might attend public school, where she knew there were many evils. It was a shock to realize that they must pay, and pay dearly, to place Janetta in church school but Dianne was determined. A job driving one of the school buses became available and she grabbed the opportunity. It would pay tuition and even leave some over for other things. When Janetta began school, so did Dianne. Gary was home to care for the other children during Dianne’s absence.

Dianne found that not only did the job provide Janetta’s education but she loved it. She interacted well with the children. She loved them and they loved her. Hers was a very long route and she picked up her first child, a first grader, at 6:25 in the morning.

She shared God’s nature with the children. Every morning they watched the sun come up over the mountains. They watched as housing projects went in and they watched flowers bloom and fade. Dianne had found her niche. It also afforded her time away from home in which she could do her own thinking and planning.

The next year found Brian ready for school also and the job driving school bus would pay his tuition as well as Janetta’s. Dianne made fast friends with the other drivers and with her boss. She was well liked by all.

She was happy except for the cloud of questions that still hovered over her regarding Gary and the fact that he was not working yet. They were back to arguing a lot and Dianne once more suggested that they obtain counseling. Gary consented and the sessions began. When things seemed to be a little easier between them, he again refused to continue with the counseling.

The training program with which Gary was affiliated provided education, so he enrolled at Mt. Hood Community College. Dianne was astounded at some of the books he brought home. One book in particular, bothered her greatly. It was called, “Open Marriage” and Dianne was not comfortable with the things it suggested. Being a reader, she had absorbed, with interest, Gary’s college books. Until now…

A red letter day! Gary found a job! It was with the Multnomah County Parks Department and finally, Dianne mustered up the courage to speak about his dismissal from the previous job. She did not accuse but found ways in which to mention that she felt that honesty was of the highest importance, not only in the home but also at work. Gary took her advice.

His job actually allowed him to use county materials and make things to take home. He built a teeter totter for the children, and when Cindy, the dog they had acquired in Portland, died, he made a headstone for her and she was buried under the big evergreen tree.

Kitty Mow had another batch of kittens. Dianne did not want her to bring the kittens into the house. They were so messy. A box was provided on the back porch, but Kitty Mow was not happy. One night she brought her kittens over the rooftop to bring them in the window in Dianne and Gary’s bedroom. Dianne firmly closed the window to prevent it. Kitty Mow never came back.

It was time for Brad to begin school and once more Dianne drove the school bus. The school allowed for the buses to stay at the drivers’ homes and this was much to Dianne’s liking for she only had one vehicle to warm in the morning and there were no transportation costs to work. She could also stop at the store on her way home to buy groceries, so there were many pleasant byproducts of driving the school bus.

Gary and Dianne kept arguing. He wanted to try some of the things that were mentioned in the book he had brought home from college and though Dianne was reticent, she agreed. She wanted to save not only her marriage but her children’s father. As Dianne had feared however, those things did not serve to make her marriage better but rather, made it worse.

Gary and Dianne’s bedroom was on the second level of the home. A small V-shaped entry way separated the doors of their room from that of the girls. The entry way overlooked the living room and it was in that entry way that Dianne stood, late one night, when she had awakened. Gary was not in bed and Dianne wondered if there was a problem. As she stood in the entry way she saw Gary on the couch across the living room. Dianne was horrified! Once more she was faced with her husband in the blue dress and the fishnet stockings but added to it were women’s undergarments. Silently, Dianne made, her way back, contemplating what she should do now. Gary had been so involved with himself that he did not realize that Dianne had observed him but she realized that it could well have been the children who saw him, rather than herself. She knew now what the cloud was that had hung over her for so many years.

It was Dianne’s nature to avoid issues that would provide conflict. This was why she had not mentioned her concern about Gary’s honesty when he had been terminated from his job. She did not know how to deal with the latest events but this time she knew that she must face Gary. This was something that jeopardized her children. Dianne would not tolerate it.

Rather than being embarrassed about his wife’s observations, Gary seemed to take it all in stride. When Dianne asked about the women’s undergarments, he told her that they were hers and made him feel close to her. Dianne did not know where Gary kept those clothes but she determined to learn. She found them in the storage area under the stairwell. This time when she confronted Gary she held up the garments and showed him that she well knew that these were not her undergarments. They would not fit her. Gary still was not embarrassed but Dianne was horrified. Gary expressed that he felt no concern that the children might observe him and Dianne was forced to make some decisions.

She finally contacted one of the elders of the church, whom she felt she could trust, and counseled with him regarding her dilemma. Ellen White said, and the Bible backed her up, that divorce should never be obtained for reasons other than adultery. Whereas in Dianne’s first marriage there was no question and she had felt very free to obtain a divorce, now she was not so sure. She only knew that no matter what, she could not raise the children in that atmosphere.

 

The elder assured her that adultery is not only a physical act but is, rather, a violation of the marital vows and Gary surely fell into this category. With assurances to Dianne that he would never divulge the information he had learned, the elder departed and Dianne was left alone with her thoughts. She did not wish to hurt Gary, but she must obtain a divorce. She did not want others to become aware of his actions for fear that it might drive him away from God and the church forever and so Dianne bore her burden alone except for the elder, with whom she never spoke of it again.

Gary and Dianne were divorced. Dianne was now 31 years old.