Through Any Given Door

1.33 Missive to Marceline

When our cousin Marceline turned seventeen (the same age Mom was when she married Dad), she became engaged to a young man named Roy. She wrote my mother of her wedding plans; Mom penned back a four-page letter in her cursive handwriting:

May 2, 1947
Dear Marceline:

Received your letter when I got home late last night. Carl didn’t know where he had put it, but I found it by accident, otherwise I never would have found it.

Marceline, I don’t know this boy and therefore don’t know anything one way or the other about him, but I am going to put in my 2 cents worth. I don’t care who you marry but if you marry as young as you are you will regret it. I did, your mother did and so have hundreds of women I know and every darned one of us wishes we had waited until we were older. From 16 until 26 is the best time of your life. You may think you will be divinely happy and you probably will be—for six months. By then the glamour is gone. I tell you going out on dates with a boy is a lot different than having to look at him across the table day in and day out, going to bed with him night after night; it may be swell at first, but oh you get your belly full in such a short time, and I don’t mean that with a double meaning, but you probably will. You know Marceline, you were raised to be a good Catholic and with your heredity you will probably have an immense family if you don’t do something, have you thought about that? If you intend to follow rhythm, for heaven’s sake, get some good advice on it and follow it, come hell or high water! But for your own sake, for God’s sake, change your mind before it is too late. When you’re married you’re married for a long time, don’t go into it with the idea in the back of your mind that if you don’t like it you can get a divorce, go on and finish school and get a little experience first, don’t ever fear that you won’t get another chance. You know another thing Marce, you have never had to skimp in your life, you don’t know how to stretch money, and boy, the price of things now you are going to have to skimp. You may think now that it will be fun to be working, but when you have to leave work you have to shop, then hurry home and cook. Oh, I know, your thinking, “well, we will eat out,” but you will be darned lucky if you get to eat out once a week, there is the rent, the gas lights, and dozens of other items that you don’t think of now, but they will pop up and soon there will be one continuous struggle to keep your head above water. Your pride will keep you from appealing for help from your folks or his. I know you don’t believe any of this is going to happen but you wait and see, the same thing has happened to so many thousands of others. Why do you think it won’t to you?

Boy, if I had the chance to live my life over again do you think I would have gotten married at my age. I’ll say I wouldn’t have.

He may be wonderful to you and probably is, but did you ever hear that men change, once they get you, they don’t have to court you anymore—they don’t have to be so considerate of you. Another thing, they have a wife to support now, so he has to work and work hard, they are too darned tired to go out and it can get pretty deadly staying at home night after night. Maybe you think now that you won’t mind staying home, but when a person is young they should go out and have a good time. Time enough to sit home by the fire when you are old, and if there are children then you are tied down.

Don’t do it, kid. Don’t do it. He may be a swell guy, don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t gamble. Well, Carl doesn’t do those things either but do you think I have had any bed of roses? If I could change places with Carl’s sister Elizabeth, who has never married, has a good job and is her own boss, would I do it. I would jump at the chance and don’t think I wouldn’t. If she wants to buy a new coat or dress or take a trip does she have to ask anyone first. No, she is her own boss. I feel sure that I am just wasting my time, but you can’t say you weren’t told, and I haven’t tried to mince words.

We expect to be in Minnesota or on the road from the 7th of June until the 29th. But if you still decide that you are going to take the leap then I wish you all the happiness in the world, but I hope and pray that you change your mind before it is too late.

Lots of love,

P.S. Tell your mother that Carleen’s arm is coming along fine. It must have not been a bad break as it didn’t hurt her a bit like the first time. I am going to the doctor with her tomorrow. (Carleen had broken her arm the first time when she ran it through the wringer washer. This second break was when she fell off her bike.)

Marceline and Roy 1947



Marceline was crushed by my mother’s letter, unable to understand from where she spoke. Everyone else had already tried to talk her out of marrying Roy, and now her staunchest ally had turned against her. She was so in love with this big handsome football player, how could everyone be saying these things to her, especially Babe? When Marceline showed the letter to her fiancé, Roy said, “This is the last you’ll ever have anything to do with her.” She never spoke to my mother again.

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Jill Hicks says:

    My Mom and Dad lived a great life and had four children, they would have been married 70 years on June 22nd. My dad died 15 years ago and my mom and I miss him to this day. My mom is now 88 and does not live in a home, but lives in a beautiful new Care Residence and has dementia induced from low blood sodium, she is doing quite well. My mom and dad are/were both wonderful parents and grandparents. For sure a happy ever after!

    • Hi Jill, thanks for the clarifications. I never met your dad, but I was glad to be able to spend time with your mom. She filled in quite a few of the gaps in our family history. I’m glad she is doing well.

  2. Jim Chatfield says:

    That was good advice. If I had got that advice I probably would not have gotten married the first time.

    • When we are young we seldom listen to good advice, especially from our parents.

      • Oh yeah!!!!! How I wish someone had given me that advice when I was 19 and dumb as owl shit (feel free to censor)….but would I have listened? And the flip side is that I learned some valuable lessons from being married to a tyrant that may not have dawned on me otherwise….and brought 2 amazing humans into the world to teach me even more!

      • Jim Chatfield says:

        Mine came from a buddy that I was stationed with, and he was so right, but at least I got the most beautiful daughter from the encounter and I kept her.

  3. This is so sad……..I think your mother wrote a very thoughtful caring letter, and wish Marceline could have taken her advice and at least waited awhile. And what a shame that she showed it to Roy and he took it so personally and ended her relationship with your mother. There must’ve been regrets on both sides.

    • We want what we want, our counter-will takes over to get it. Bob announced our engagement at his birthday dinner and my dad popped from his chair and cried “On no!” I dug my heels in and internally responded, “Oh yeah?” Ah, to be young, righteous, and stubborn.

  4. So much for trying to save Marceline. But you don’t tell us if she had an immense family or lived happily ever after.

    • Marceline remained married, though don’t know if it was happily ever after… and yes, she had four children. She’s in her late 80s now, lives in a care residence, and has dementia. She was the catalyst for this book and as it was written some time back, she had a chance to read it. Her response was why hadn’t my father gone to anyone in the family for help with the younger kids. All of his relatives were in Minnesota, and as mom was the one who left, he probably wasn’t about to go to her relatives to take us in.

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