Kathleen no longer makes luscious chocolates at our house because they would be too tempting. As someone quipped, we would eat them one day and wear them the next.
But thinking about those chocolates takes us back more than six decades, and we have lived long enough to gather distant memories, enabling us to compare how things were then with how they are now.
We often recall how strapped for funds people seemed to be in 1948. Starting teachers earned $100 a month. Wardrobes were sparse by comparison with today. I remember that during our dating days Kathleen alternated among only four outfits – a brown corduroy jumper, a turquoise blue dress with a lace collar, a store-bought patterned rayon dress, and an attractive suit.
As for me, suits were a part of most men’s wardrobes, if only for Sundays. I had a tan gabardine suit handed down by an older brother, Wilf. His seamstress wife had cut it down a couple of sizes. The pants fit well at the waist but the legs ballooned out like two pillow-cases. No one seemed to notice but I smile now when I run across the pictures. For our house wedding my brother sent a dark suit from his haberdashery store in Saskatchewan.
I remember that when we were married I brought all my earthly possessions (apart from limited clothing) to our apartment in two small cardboard boxes.
We had a 13-year-old 1934 Ford. Its two doors were rusted out at the bottom. The speedometer and windshield wipers did not work, and neither did the gas gauge. Also, whenever it rained, water leaked copiously from the windshield onto the driver’s feet. It even had a bullet hole in the back end which only a previous owner would be able to explain. Kathleen and I painted this car with a black paint applied with powder puffs which succeeded in making it look a bit more respectable.
Other newlyweds, it seemed to me, were at similar levels of scarcity immediately after World War II. Salaries were low and some goods were still hard to find. Even so, we always managed to meet our rent payment and Kathleen diligently stuck to her $7-a-week grocery budget.
It’s through those mental images of scarcity that I view the present state of abundance in society. Now, closets bulge with clothes, some never worn; cars of a quality and excellence available not even to millionaires back then now line our driveways; we have color televisions, computers, and an array of other electronic gadgets — Blackberries, iPads, iPhones, Smartphones, etc., in some cases owned only for pleasure. And eating out has become common.
Yet without all of these extras back then, our happiness was solid. We had each other; we had lifetime goals we were eagerly pursuing; we had our faith in the Lord; and by that faith we weathered the rough times. As time passed, we had children to brighten our lives and anchor us to the earth; back then our pleasures were simpler but deeply satisfying.
But, amidst today’s abundance, we are happy also. We enjoy so much more of the good things of life but we hold these as tangential to what really matters: our faith; each other; a growing family; continuing opportunities to serve — and all these by the grace of God.
Present abundance makes people anxious if they invest too much in the fragile hope that these blessings will always be there. We treat them as a gift from God but we know we will not enjoy them forever.
Homemade chocolates may stand as a metaphor for the things that sweeten life. But we look back across 64 years of marriage and say that during good times and bad, during the greatest challenges and the most searing disappointments, when material things were scarce and when they are abundant, the constant has been the living presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have served him all too imperfectly but with serious intent, and his presence has nourished and delighted our inner beings as no homemade chocolates ever could.