My Religion Is a Lot Like the Game of Baseball

Chapters Chapter 1 Early Years Chapter 2 Patty Chapter 3 1-room School
Chapter 4 Friends Chapter 5 High School Chapter 6 Grandpa
Chapter 7 Marianne Chapter 8 Rookie Chapter 9 At the Plate

Chapter 7  - Marianne

Two months before we graduated from high school, I dated the man I would marry.  We were not in the same class for English Language and Literature, but we had the same teacher.  That teacher wanted his students to see the movie of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”  Delmar Sherwood asked me to go to see the movie with him.

Friends who had known him since early grade school pronounced his name as if to rhyme with Elmer.  I met Delmar in high school physics class.  I couldn’t help noticing the auburn hair and dark penetrating eyes under heavy eyebrows.  I was shocked and delighted when he asked me to go with him to the movie.  He was so neat, so clean and so unapproachable he could have been living inside an invisible protective wall.  The equally divided syllables in both the first and last name went with the way he moved with certainty and aloofness.  His controlled actions were in direct contrast to my open and uncertain behavior.  Like the action of magnets we observed in physics class, on one side we were drawn to each other and on the other side, we repelled each other.  I had never known anyone obsessed with learning.  Delmar won two scholarships and chose Bradley University.  I had been accepted at the University of Illinois, but during the summer I found work with the telephone company and decided to work at least one year before going away to school.  If we were both home on the same weekend, we went to church together.  Del had never gone to church before he met me.  Worship was similar to hearing snatches of a baseball game when Grandpa was listening on the radio.  It was like walking through the room and maybe picking up something of interest in the passing.

The summer before his senior year at Bradley, I was going to summer school to get in some extra courses.  The “attract” side of the magnet was pulling us together and Del came to the campus to see me almost every weekend.  He proposed, saying we could live on the money from his scholarships and his job with audio-visuals.

We were married the following March and lived in Peoria until Del graduated with honors and a degree.  In 1952 he accepted a job that moved us to Milwaukee, Wisconsin – the same year the Boston Braves baseball team became the Milwaukee Braves.

In 2004 I heard Thomas Moore speak and review his book, “Dark Nights of the Soul.”  It had taken fifty-two years for me to name our move to Milwaukee a dark night of my soul.  My life changed directions and I was not prepared for the change.  Del studied math and science in preparation for becoming a high school math and science teacher.  I was comfortable picturing myself as the wife of a member of a faculty.  The job in Milwaukee was with an insurance company.  In my mind, the business world was “unknown” and frightening.

Baby Ruthie - CLICK to view enlargement.

Baby Ruthie
wearing Cubs ballcap

Our first child, Ruth, was born in Milwaukee.  We lived in the only apartment building in a neighborhood of private homes.  In fact, the building was a converted “mini-mansion” and the landlady lived above the garage.  A couple from South Carolina lived in a neighboring apartment.  Marianne had an eye-catching flash of a smile, gentle, large brown eyes, and short-cropped, loosely curled black hair.  Her husband was “in training” for a job in the business world, but, unlike Del, Bill had a degree in business.  They didn’t have any more money than we did, but any money they could spare and any money they received in gifts from relatives went to buy better looking clothes for Bill.  We could have learned something from that.  I am not sure the business world was any easier for Del than it was for me.

Marianne and I became good friends.  Marianne had excellent secretarial skills.  Sometimes she recorded our conversations in shorthand just for practice and because it was so easy for her.  She was pregnant, thus, in those days, not eligible for full-time employment.  Occasionally she worked an afternoon through “temporary employment.”  Most of the time we were both home alone.  I had a baby to care for, but neither of us had a lot to do.

Marianne was from Charleston and had a strong accent, and by Milwaukee standards, I, too, had a southern accent.  People laughed when we talked.  Neither of us had a telephone.  Any call – no matter the reason – meant a walk down the street to the drugstore pay phone.

Marianne had only her mother back in Charleston.  Travel and communication was not what it is these days.  People didn’t just get on a plane or pick up a cell phone and make a call.  Marianne’s mother came for a one-time visit.  That was soon after the baby Marianne was carrying was born prematurely and died at birth.  I felt isolated from my many relatives.  Even though Peoria was much closer than Charleston, there were no interstate highways and our car was old.  Traveling with a baby in an old car on two-lane roads had its obvious risks.

During the summer Marianne and Bill moved to a more modern apartment building and Del and I moved to a duplex on the other side of town near Milwaukee County Stadium, “The Home of the Braves.”  I listened to Chicago Cubs games in the afternoon and to Milwaukee Braves games in the evening.  Some evenings if our east window was open, we could hear cheering from the stadium crowd.  The Braves had Eddie Matthews, Hank Aaron, Lou Burdett and Warren Spahn, just to name a few of the players who became baseball stars.

The first night game in the Major Leagues was played May 24, 1935 in Cincinnati.  It was three years before another team installed lights (the Brooklyn Dodgers), and 10 of the 16 teams had lights by 1941.

The Monarchs were experimenting with lights as early as 1930.  They had a caravan of trucks that carted the lights and generators from one city to the next.  There was also some experimentation with lights in the minor leagues during the 1920s.  If you’re interested in learning more about night baseball, David Pietrusza has written Lights On! a book on the subject of night baseball.

August 8, 1988 the Chicago Cubs were ready to play their first game under the lights at Wrigley Field.  It was rained out.

- (1988)

Marianne and I continued to see each other, and on weekends the four of us had dinner or went to the park by Lake Michigan.  Soon after Bill, Jr. was born, Bill took a management position in Greenville, South Carolina.  I had new neighbors and new people to visit with, but no one came close to the friendship with Marianne.  I used to think it wasn’t really “friendship” only a need for each other, but I now realize common needs do not necessarily lead to friendship.

Especially on days when the pitcher has good stuff, balls hit into play may be grounders handled by infielders.  An outfielder may go a long time between plays; he stands there.  It is hard to stay alert and ready for a ball hit in his direction.

I continued to wish for a place to worship God.  Our daughter, Ruth, had had her second birthday.  At night when I read to her until she went to sleep, I followed with reading from the Bible aloud.  Easter was only a few weeks away, so it seemed chapters 5, 6, and 7 from Matthew would be appropriate.  After 30 consecutive evenings of the Sermon on the Mount, the words were alive in my mind.

I started a phonebook search for a church.  I knew there were no Christian Churches on the northwest side of town, but when I checked locations closer to where we lived I found a church listed as “United Church (The Christian Church and American Baptist).”  I didn’t have a Wisconsin driver’s license, so when Sunday came, Del dropped me off at that church and walked with Ruthie in a park near the church while I went to worship.  That day the minister announced he had accepted a call from another congregation.  That minister would be at United Church three more Sundays.

A few months later I visited United Church again.  There was a different minister in the pulpit.  I was able to get to church the next three Sundays.  Each time the same elderly man greeted me at the entrance.  There was something in his eyes that seemed to shine.  On the third Sunday when they sang the “hymn of invitation,” I decided to join that church.  I found out later that it is a good idea to talk to the minister before you do that, but I couldn’t wait.

It was February.  The minister’s wife was expecting their first child and all of the women were invited to the shower.  That was my first social function as a woman – as a wife and mother.  I decided that being with women is one of the most wonderful things in the world – especially Christian women.

The minister’s wife was an energetic, friendly person who never overlooked anyone.  She mingled freely and sincerely with young and old, men and women.  How could she do that, I wondered.  In school I had met outgoing girls who seemed to tackle life with fearless ease, but I had never observed anyone with the genuine desire to make people feel welcome, needed and loved as did this minister’s wife, Dagmar.  It was she who invited me to a group meeting of churchwomen called Christian Women’s Fellowship.