Saturday, July 26, 2014

Summer of '76 and the Bicentennial Baby!

The Bicentennial Baby! 

Happy 200th Birthday, America!

George and I were married November 13, 1975.  After less than a month of marriage we discovered that we were expecting our first child.  We were so excited to be parents and began making plans for our growing family.  George was in the Army ROTC at Brigham Young University...on track to becoming an officer at graduation.  One day he came home and gave me some kind of upsetting news.  George would be going to Fort Lewis Washington in June for ROTC Advanced Camp, which is basic training for officers.  The bad news was that he was scheduled to be gone until after our baby's due date, which was the end of July.

Wedding Day!

This was quite a disappointment!  George would probably miss the birth of our first child.  There is only one first child.  But we decided to make the best of things...who knew, maybe the baby would be late.

So George packed his gear and went off to basic camp and I prepared to spend the summer without him.  We wrote a lot of letters that summer.  I forgot all about them until I found them recently.  Those letters are a window into our young married life that I am so grateful to look through again almost 40 years later.

George's letters to me.

Amber's 38th birthday is this Saturday and I have transcribed all the letters and put them in order with pictures as a birthday gift to her.  I won't be including the letters here...maybe just a few excerpts here and there.  But I have a few pictures to illustrate that summer of 1976.

Our cozy first home in American Fork.

Our first home was a cute one-bedroom trailer nestled on a tree covered lot on 400 east in American Fork, Utah.  I loved decorating it with vintage items I found at the thrift store and patchwork pillows and quilts.  I loved my cute little "bug" and made patchwork seat covers for it.

Max the cat and friend Moses

George knew I would be lonely without him so he got me a cat that we named Max.  Many of my letters referred to Max as a "she."  I didn't discover Max was male until later that summer.  My letters spoke of missing him, doctor appointments, bills I paid and cute things Max did.  I know it doesn't sound very exciting, but I found out that we were living on just $200 a month!  We didn't know we couldn't afford to get married and start a family...we just did it!

GI George

George's letters gave me a good picture of what life was like for him.  He spoke of the great guys in his platoon and their nemesis, Captain Corey who...according to them...made it his life's mission to make their lives as miserable as possible. 

The Barracks

Life in the barracks with his squad wasn't miserable at all.  They ate well and had a lot of time to joke around and share news from home.  George told his bunkmates that his wife looked just like Audrey Hepburn...and after showing them a picture of me they agreed.  He was so sweet!  I don't resemble her at all...but I did try out for "My Fair Lady" in high school.

M-60 A-1 Tank

 I got to hear all about the latest tanks and weapons that they got to fire.  George reminded me of a little boy who got a lot of really cool toys for Christmas and invited a whole bunch of other little boys to come over and play.  They ran a lot and had difficult maneuvers at night.  Some of the tests sounded terrifying to the "girl he left behind."  But he was having the time of his life.

Log Walk Drop

Rappelling off 60 ft. Tower

The Viet Nam War was over by this I really have no idea what it was like for those families waiting for their boys to come home.  But I just know that I missed him so much I could hardly stand it.  He missed me too and told me so in every letter.  He ended one letter like this:  "I have a few requests:
    A.  Write me every day on the day and NO EXCEPTIONS.
    B.  Send a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies.
    C.  Don't forget me.

I love you and don't worry, it's not bad at all here.  We'll see you in 5 weeks and take it easy.
Love,  Cdt. George"

The "Uglies of Pregnancy."
How I described myself at the time.

 And so it went...the weeks passed by and I became more and more anxious that he wouldn't make it home in time.  In my letters I worried about whether I was being selfish, wanting him to come home no matter what.

What Happened Next...
The letter dated Monday July 19 was the last letter I sent to George.  On July 25, I started having labor pains that wouldn't go away.  I think it was Mom who took me to the hospital.  George's mom got on the phone with the Red Cross and was able to contact George in Fort Lewis.  He wouldn't be able to leave until the 26th, which worked out just fine because I was in labor until sometime on the 26th.

The Old American Fork Hospital

After a long night of painful labor that wasn't going anywhere, I was beginning to give up hope of ever seeing my husband or baby.  Then suddenly he was there by my side, giving me a kiss and letting me know that everything would be okay.  Since George had completed the pre-natal classes with me, he was able to be in the delivery room and didn't miss a thing!

Beautiful Amber Lee Hatfield
Born July 26, 1976
7lbs. 12 oz.

It was all worth it.  She was a beautiful baby and I didn't have to name her Fred or Geoffrey George.

John Denver's "Aerie" Album

We had planned to name our baby girl "Aerie Anne" after our favorite John Denver album, but when I saw her for the first time I just knew her name was "Amber Lee."

Daddy's Little Girl

She was such a beautiful child...a head turner in the grocery store, and always...her daddy's little girl. Every child should know the story of his or her birth, how much they were wanted and how eagerly they were anticipated.  I never knew how much I could love someone until I looked at my baby Amber's face for the first time.  She was our blessing and made us into a family.

Our beautiful daughter Amber all grown up!

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!
Mom & Dad


Margaret said...

What a great family story. One to remember and I'm sure your lovely daughter will cherish always. I agree that kids should know how much they are wanted. I've shared with my kids their stories!1976 was my favorite Summer. I was 11 and I remember a 3 day bbq, patriotic desserts and "bicentennial minute" commercials on tv! We went to the Liberty Bell and USA fireworks shows. The best Summer EVER~ and for you too!!!! Maggie

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

What a beautiful story. I love telling my boys the story of their's a tradition. She sure is a lovely young lady. Happy Birthday to this special girl! Sweet hugs, Diane

Musings from Kim K. said...

What a fantastic post. I love all special family photos mixed with such beautiful memories and details. Wishing your daughter a blessed birthday!

chris mckinley said...

Love the pictures, and love the story!!

Tammy's in Love said...

"Back during the Bicentennial" was a 'Nothing Book' that I wrote for my Best Friend. I love the story and another piece of our shared sisterhood: I love John Denver!

vintage grey said...

Such a sweet story and loved seeing all the photos!! Thanks for always sharing!! Birthday wishes and blessings to your daughter! xo Heather

Blessed Serendipity said...

What a special heartfelt post. Happy birthday to your daughter.


Jann Olson said...

Sweet post Shirley! Young love is wonderful, isn't it? My hubby spent time Fort Lewis when he was activated for Desert Storm. I was lucky to get to travel there with two friends and see him before they sent them to Germany. They originally thought they would be gone for two years. Sounded like an eternity with 5 young children at home. Luckily he came home after only 5 months. So glad that your hubby made it home for the birth of your first little miracle!

LBP said...

What a wonderful post! I love that you kept all your letters. That's what I hate about e-mail nothing physical to hold in your hand. Happy Birthday to Amber!