by Guest Contributor Sonja
"No ﬁfty-four," she corrects.
"Are you sure?" he asks.
"Come on, let's say it together."
"Fifty-four long, horrible, miserable years," they chime together.
"The same year Disneyland opened."
Funny, I think to myself. The multi-billion dollar resort that bills itself as "The Happiest Place on Earth" cuts the ribbon the same year Martha and Richard White tie the knot. I can't exactly explain my fascination with the Whites. Perhaps it's simply because he still holds her hand when they cross the street. Or that they go everywhere together, even the gym. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with the way their eyes light up around each other.
I see in them a rare treasure. They have created the happiest place on earth and it's evident even in their wonderful tongue-in-cheek response to my question of how long they've been married.
Richard explains to me that when he was a young man, after he'd served his church on a mission, and served his country, he began to wonder when he'd get served. He wanted to fall in love and settle down. So he waited. And waited.
And then she came.
She walked in the room, and he knew. "It was like I was meeting an old friend."
Martha was beautiful, spunky, and seventeen.
Richard was her dashing, twenty-three year old Sunday school teacher.
He took her out for shakes and not long after that, they were married.
The following years were mixed with bliss and sorrow. In the midst of illness, blessings, miracles, tragedies and mercies Richard and Martha said they saw God's hand in it all.
Richard worked as an English teacher. Martha's desire was to be home with her four children. Her mother had to work during World War II, while Martha was a little girl. She says she didn't like coming home to an empty house and didn't want her children to. She smiles as she tells me how the children would shout, "Yoo Hoo!" when they walked in the door and she'd respond with the same.
While they lived comfortably, they didn't have a lot of extra money. Martha says she found all the free things to do in town with the kids. They converted their truck into a small trailer and went on road trips with the kids.
"Without DVD players and Nintendo DS's?" I query.
"Oh yes, they just played card games or counted license plates."
Simpler times, indeed.
I have to admit that I feel so much better when Richard and Martha say they don't always see eye to eye. They even butt heads sometimes.
"But we've learned to talk it through," Martha relates. "You never want to respond sarcastically when you are angry."
"And you need to have a sense of humor," Richard includes.
"Yes, humor is so important," agrees Martha.
Humor in a tense situation equals timeless perspective, I think to myself here. Gosh, that is one golden skill. I wonder if it is inherited? Or learned? Because some people seem naturally better at it than others. For instance, yours truly could really use some lessons. Which is probably one reason I have come to the Whites.
When asked speciﬁcally to share what they thought helped them to be happy for 54 years, Richard replies:
"Being honest and sincere about our commitments."
Martha adds, "Family prayers. How could I send my children out into a wicked world without asking God to watch over them? We didn't have much materially, but we had what we needed; happy kids. I also learned that when the father is able to work and provide for the family, the father is happy."
"Oh yes," Richard says as he recalls a time when he was working two jobs. "On the way home I was feeling discouraged and wondered if it was really worth it. When I came home, the house was in order. I kissed my dear wife and went up to kiss my dear, sleeping children and thought, 'Yes. It's worth it.'"
A delightful feeling has accompanied the entire interview. I think back to the few times I've visited Disneyland and wonder how any of the ﬂeeting joy I experienced there can compare to the decades of joyful memories the Whites share with me.
I thank this darling couple for their time and ask if I can take a few pictures of them. After spending an hour with them I feel bold enough to ask if Richard would like to kiss Martha for one of the pictures.
Fifty-four miserable years, indeed.