After breakfast Ray had a habit of filling his thermos with coffee, and then filling up a mug and taking it outside to the veranda. He liked to watch the day begin, see the sun rise, listen to the rooster crowing, observe how much this crop or that crop was growing while reflecting on what he had to do that day. Sometimes he would sit on the bench, but most mornings he just stood at the rail and looked out at their farm. On the occasion that he would sit on the bench he found that it was too far back against the wall for him to have a good look at the land he loves so much.
Sometimes Livy would join him, and he loved that. She had not been in the habit of getting up early before Daniel was born, but now by the time Ray was ready to go to the barn or the fields Daniel would have had his first meal of the day, and then he would have his morning nap so Livy would come out and spend time with him. They both treasured this time together because if Ray had to work in the fields all day they would not see each other till supper time.
Livy had not joined him yet this morning, so Ray was thinking of his plans of a surprise on their first wedding anniversary. Ray knew that he and Livy loved each other now, and he wanted them to renew their vows. Their wedding last year was definitely arranged, but now that they loved each other Ray wanted to express that with a renewal of their vows.
A couple of days ago he had asked Rev Case about being able to renew their vows. Rev Case’s eyebrows raised with surprise and he said, ‘Well now, you two seem to be getting along quite well.’ Ray nodded, smiled and said, ‘Umhm.’ Rev Case said he would be happy to officiate. Ray asked Rev Case not to tell Livy, he wanted it to be a surprise. ‘Well,’ Rev Case had said, ‘I hope you can pull it off!’
Just then Livy came out on the veranda which startled Ray. She said, ‘Sorry! I didn’t mean to startle you.’
Ray said, ‘No, no, that’s okay. I was just lost in my thoughts is all.’
Livy didn’t enquire about his thoughts because she sensed that he seemed reluctant to reveal them. Probably just farm stuff, she thought, and he knew how little she knew about that! They each talked about what their plans were for the day, hugged, and kissed each other warmly, and each went their own way.
Back in the house Livy got busy with her own daily activities. As she did her housework she was especially excited about a plan she was working on as a surprise for their first wedding anniversary. She knew how Ray liked to go out on the veranda each morning to sip his coffee and reflect on the days activities, and that he usually stood at the rail rather than sit on the bench. Whenever she sat on the bench she noticed that the rail cut off the view. She also noted how uncomfortable the bench was when they both came out to the veranda to read, or just sitting and chatting, enjoying each others company. She thought it would be a wonderful idea if they had a swing for the veranda. It could be set up so that it was closer to the rail, therefore giving them a better view. Livy was going to get a mattress and make pillows to make it more comfortable.
Livy had already made a sketch of how she wanted it to look, and then she measured all aspects of the veranda on a day when she knew that Ray would be out working in the fields. Her next step was to ask Hank if he knew someone who could build it for her, and for him to keep it a secret. Her biggest problem was how to hide it until their first anniversary. She laughed to herself when she thought of this big thing sitting out in the yard covered up with tarp, and her telling Ray not to look! Somehow she had to get Ray away from the farm on their anniversary day so that it could be set up.
Ray talked to Martha about the renewal of his and Livy’s vows. Martha looked like she was going to cry when he told her. She said that she was very happy for him and Livy, and that this was a testament to how he felt about her. And Ray assured her that Livy loved him in return.
Ray said, ‘I have never done anything like this before, and wonder if you could help me.’
Martha said, ‘Sure! What do you need?’
‘Well,’ Ray said, ‘First of all it is a secret.’
‘Oh!’ Martha laughed, ‘Well, that might take a bit of doing to keep it a secret!’
‘I know,’ Ray said, ‘But that is what I want. I would like you to do us the honour of being our matron of honour, and if Hank would be our best man again.’
‘I don’t even have to ask him, we would love to,’ Martha said.
‘I knew you would help. Thanks, sis. And another thing,’ Ray said, ‘I would like Ruth to be a bridesmaid.’
‘Oh, my goodness, she will absolutely love that! But what about Daniel? Who will look after him?’ Martha asked.
‘Well,’ said Ray, ‘I was thinkin’ ‘bout asking Hank Jr. I know, he’s not as experienced as Ruth, but it will only be for a short while. And I was thinkin’ ‘bout asking Chester to help out by getting Livy’s attention somehow so she doesn’t go into the church too soon.’
Martha thought, wow, he’s really thought this through! Must have been when he was on the tractor for hours at a time! ‘Sure, we could find some way for Chester to get her attention for a few minutes,’ she said.
‘Good!’ a relieved Ray said.
A couple of days later when Ray saw Martha she said Hank Jr. would look after Daniel for a short period of time. And she said that Chester had come up with his own idea of a way to distract Livy when they arrived at the church. He said he could show her the flowers he had planted in the church flower beds during the spring. Ray smiled. He knew how Livy loved flowers, a passion passed on to her from her mother, and that this was a very good idea Chester had come up with. Ray worried that Livy might not like his surprise.
Martha said, ‘I was thinking, how are you going to get Livy to the church? And you would probably want her in a nice dress. How did you plan on telling her to dress nice?’
‘Wow! Never got that far yet!’, said Ray, ‘Thanks for thinking of that, and for giving me more problems to work out,’ he said with a smile.
Livy contacted Hank about the swing, and about who could make it, deliver it, and hang it up, and how much it would cost. Livy had the money for the swing, and she didn’t even have to hold back money from the household money Ray gave her. Livy’s mother had always set aside money for her education, and since her mother knew that in the summer of 1944 Livy wanted to go on an excavation trip to the city of Troy as part of her studies, she had been saving money for that, too. After her mother died, and then Livy got pregnant and was sent away, the money had just sat in a bank account.
When her dad finally took the time to settle his wife’s accounts he mentioned the money to Abby, and asked her what they could do with it. Abby said that it was for Livy’s education. Her father was adamant that Livy should not receive it after the shame she brought to the family. Abby said firmly that Livy should get the money, it was intended for her, and so they were at an impasse.
Finally, after a year, her father relented and had Abby send the money to her in mid June 1945. It arrived at the exact perfect moment, remembered Livy! Now she had the money for the swing! She said a prayer of thanks to her mother for looking out for her. Livy also reflected that if her mother had lived she would have loved Ray as her son-in-law. Livy smiled at the thought of how well her mother and Ray would have gotten along. Ray was interested in farming and planting crops, and her mother loved planting and tending her flowers. And then a sadness came over her as she realized what a wonderful grandmother her mom would have been to Daniel.
As the anniversary approached, Ray and Livy were separately busy with their surprise agendas totally oblivious as to what the other was doing! There were a few times when one or the other almost let their plan slip, but managed to cover up and keep it secret.
A couple if days before their anniversary Ray told Livy that they were invited over to Martha’s for dinner with her family, and, by the way, he asked her to wear her new dress. Livy was a little disappointed because she was planning to cook a nice meal for Ray at home. I guess men don’t get that it is the married couples event, not a family affair! Livy kind of muttered to herself, oh, well, Martha was a better cook anyway!
The plans for the swing were going well, and now that Ray told her they were going to Martha’s for dinner it made the plan even better! She told the guy that was building the swing that they would be away from the house from about 3:00 in the afternoon till about 9:00 that evening, therefore giving him plenty of time to deliver and set the swing up.
On the day of their anniversary Livy and Ray got ready to go to Martha’s. She was surprised when Ray was wearing his suit. She said, ‘Ray, why are you wearing your suit?’ And he had said, ‘Oh, uh since we didn’t get pictures taken on our wedding day, Martha wants to take pictures of us today on our first anniversary.’
‘Oh!’, she said with surprise in her voice. ‘That’s nice!’ said Livy with a smile for Ray. He loved it when she smiled at him like that, it made him want her, but all he could do right now was to kiss her, and it wasn’t just a peck on the cheek or a light brush of their lips, it was full of love and passion. Livy said, ‘Ray, we have to go now, but I really don’t want to now that you kissed me like that,’ and she blushed.
‘Uh, I know,’ he said, ‘Do you think we have time for a quick one?’
‘No!’, she said laughing.
‘Okay, if you’re sure about that then,’ and he raised his eyebrows in question, ‘I guess we better get going,’ Ray said. ‘Oh, yeah, we have to stop at the church for a few minutes, Martha wanted me to pick a few of the flowers that Chester planted last spring to bring over to the house.’
Livy thought this was odd, Martha had plenty of flowers at her house, maybe there were different ones at the church than she had at home.
When they arrived at the church they saw the Reverend’s wife on the step with Chester. ‘Oh,’ she said when she saw them, ‘I want to see Daniel!’
Ray and Livy exchanged questioning glances, but decided to take him out of the truck. Ray said, ‘I’ll take Daniel to her, you go with Chester to get the flowers.’
After Chester and Livy had picked the flowers they came around the front of the church. Mrs Case, Daniel and Ray were no where to be seen. Chester said, ‘Maybe they went into the church.’
Livy looked at him. ‘What’s going on?’ she thought.
Chester handed the flowers to her and said, ‘Lets go in and see.’
Chester put his hand on her arm as if to guide her into the church vestibule. When he opened the inside door to the church Livy’s jaw dropped. Already at the front of the church was Reverend Case, and his wife was sitting at the organ. As she and Chester entered Mrs Chase started to play a hymn. On the right just in front of Reverend Case was Hank and Ray. Ray had the biggest smile on his face that she had ever seen. In a pew on the right was Hank Jr with Daniel.
On the left side of the church at the front was Martha and a beaming Ruth! There were two women in the pews on the left that Livy couldn’t immediately identify. Chester started to walk her up the aisle, and the two women stood up and turned toward her. Livy, in shock and surprise said, ‘Oh, my God!’ Tears were already in her eyes when she saw Ray and his family, but the tears came down when she saw Abby and Dot. She could barely walk, and Chester was there to help her. As she neared Abby and Dot, they stepped out into the aisle and hugged her.
Chester then took her to the front of the church to stand beside Ray. She was so emotional and overwhelmed by what Ray had arranged for them that Ray had to give her a hug. She stayed snugly wrapped in his loving arms until he was assured that she was okay. She finally was able to say very quietly, ‘Thank you.’ He looked at her and said, ‘You’re welcome. Are you all right?’
Livy nodded yes. ‘All right, then,’ said Ray quietly, and he kept his arm around her waist for support, ‘We’ll let Reverend Case take it from here.’
Since this was a renewal of their vows, and they now loved each other, the words the minister said had a special significance this time. Ray had bought Livy a beautiful wedding band, so she took her diamond ring off for a moment while he put the wedding band on her finger, and then put the diamond ring back on. And when it was time for the kiss, they did it this time, no awkward glances. Ray and Livy turned toward each other, looked lovingly into each other eyes, and put their arms around each other. It was a beautiful kiss, no tongue, but sincere, and sweet, and not to icky for the boys to see. It spoke of the love and respect and caring they had for each other. After the kiss they gave each other a hug. The women were smiling and crying, and the men were trying to make it look like they weren’t affected by what just happened.
Reverend Case said, ‘With the renewal of their vows, may I present to you Mr and Mrs Ray Singleton.’ Everyone applauded, and Hank Jr helped Daniel clap his hands. He thought that was fun and giggled. Livy smiled at their son. Ray took Daniel so that Livy could greet her guests. She thanked them all for their contribution to Ray’s and her day, and said a special thank you to Abby and Dot for coming such a long way. They both said, you’re welcome, and that they were happy to be there for her and Ray.
On the way over to Martha and Hank’s, Livy asked Ray about inviting Abby and Dot. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘When I started planning this renewal of our vows, I thought you might like to have a family member present.’
‘Thank you,’ Livy said, ‘That was very thoughtful of you, Ray.’
Ray nodded. ‘And,’ he said, ‘When you told me about missing your friend Dot, I wrote and asked Abby to invite her. I was very happy when they said they could come.’
‘How did you find out they could come?’ Livy asked.
‘Well, when I wrote to Abby, I had enclosed an envelope from a farm machinery place, and had it addressed to me so you wouldn’t open it,’ Ray told her. They both laughed!
As usual, Martha had prepared a fabulous meal that was enjoyed by all. There was lots of talk and laughter around the supper table about the days events. Before they got up from the table Ray thanked everyone for their part in making this a memorable day for him and Livy. They moved the conversation to the living room, and continued talking and laughing about each others contributions to the day, and the support they had given each other. There was a universal feeling that this is what families do for each other.
Livy wanted to talk to Dot, but knew that this was not the time and place. Martha had invited Abby and Dot to stay at their house for the night to give Ray and Livy some time alone. Martha had even arranged that Daniel would stay overnight, too, so Livy pumped some milk for his evening feed.
On the drive home Livy sat right beside Ray. They had smiles on there faces for each other that just wouldn’t fade. They talked about the day, and Livy thanked Ray for arranging such a beautiful service for them. They both knew how they felt last year. They had never met and there was no guarantee that they would even still be together in a year. They felt so much more for each other in that year than they ever thought they could.
Ray asked Livy when she thought she knew she was in love or falling in love with him. Livy said, ‘I know for the first few months I never gave it much thought because I figured I would be moving back to Denver after the baby was born. But the longer I stayed, the more I felt that this could be my baby’s and my home. I couldn’t tell you the exact moment, but before Edwards letter arrived there sure were some feelings beginning to happen, but it wasn’t until the day of Daniel’s birth that I really knew for sure. And what about you, Ray? When did you know you loved me?
Ray cleared his throat and said, ‘I know it didn’t happen right away, but, same as you, slowly over time as we got more familiar with each other I began to have stronger feelings for you. I for sure knew by the time I gave you the ring, but the exact date, not sure. I just knew that I loved you.’ Love had bloomed for them both and it was wonderful!
When they got home it was still a bit light out, and Ray looked quizzically at the veranda. He said, ‘What’s that on the veranda?’
Livy pleaded innocence and said, ‘I don’t know, guess we’ll have to go check it out.’
Ray looked at her and saw a mischevious smile on her face. ‘You know, don’t you?’ said Ray.
‘I’m not telling,’ she said.
They got out of the truck and walked toward the house. Tears came to Ray’s eyes as he realized what was there. It was a swing! And it was beautiful! ‘Livy,’ was all Ray could manage to say, he was so emotional. ‘Did you do this?’
‘Well, I didn’t make it, if that’s what you mean,’ said Livy laughing.
Ray went closer and inspected the swing, and as he was doing so he saw something on the floor of the veranda, and said, ‘And what’s this?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Livy, ‘What are you looking at?’
He pointed it out to her. There on the floor of the veranda was a child sized swing! Livy was amazed! There was enough wood left over to make a swing for Daniel! They looked up at the ceiling of the veranda and there were three hooks in the ceiling so that Daniel could be at one end of the swing or the other, or right in the middle! They were both pleased by the extra gift.
Ray hugged Livy so tight she thought she was going to become a part of him. He kissed her over and over. He said he’s the happiest man in the world, with the most beautiful wife, and the handsomest son. And then he started to cry. He had prayed for a wife and children, and he still could not believe that his prayers were answered so well. He asked Livy to say a prayer with him, and sitting on their new swing, they bowed their heads and prayed. Livy had not been there to put the mattress and cushions out, so she went to get them. They enjoyed the view, the comfort of the swing, and found that they could easily put their feet up on the rail!
When they went to bed that night, they undressed each other slowly, kissing each other all over. Then they got under the covers and the kissing continued, and their hands were all over each other, working themselves up to ecstasy. Livy parted her legs and Ray knew she was ready. They started making love, and neither of them wanted it to end, but eventually it had to, and they lay wrapped in each others arms for as long as they could. They kissed again and again, and professed their love to each other. Eventually they fell asleep in each others arms.