What follows is another yearly installment in our family’s complete history told via the 1988 Flanders Family Christmas Update. To see a full listing, see Our Christmas Letters. For tips on writing your own family history in this fashion, follow this link. In the meantime, enjoy!
The Flanders Family Update: 1988
January 1988 Happenings
Why our apartment complex insisted we rent an extra 350 sq ft to accommodate one tiny infant is more than I can understand — baby still sleeps in bed between us while the nursery stands empty — but rules are rules, so in January we transferred all our worldly goods from a cozy one-bedroom flat to slightly-more-spacious two-bedroom studio. As we don’t own much, this didn’t take long. Doug was able to cart most of our stuff down the block on his back, including our sofa (a tufted vinyl settee that was missing three buttons), our bed (a queen-size mattress, no frame), and our kitchen table (a drop-leaf Duncan Phyfe with water marks and one wobbly leg).
February 1988 Happenings
He might have saved himself the trouble had we waited another month. Most of those second-hand furnishings were replaced with the real thing in February. We spotted a notice in the Sunday paper that a North Dallas furniture store was going out of business and liquidating its inventory. We attended the auction and came home with a four-poster bed, a Queen Anne dining table, and — best of all — a Clayton Marcus camelback couch covered in an exquisite white damask fabric. (Flash forward six months to the first time baby drooled on the seat cushion and ruined the upholstery: What on earth were we thinking?)
March 1988 Happenings
Doug was sick for 16 days straight in March. His fever broke just in time for him to accompany Jennifer to her first Natural Childbirth Class. For all the talk about relaxing completely and breathing deeply, Jennifer was beginning to feel a little nervous about her impending delivery and was glad to have Doug at her side. Unfortunately, when she tried to discuss what she was learning in class with her doctor, he became livid. “Don’t tell me how to deliver a baby! I’m the expert here. I’ve been delivering babies longer than you’ve been alive! No, I can’t guarantee your husband can stay in the room with you. He may get horsy on me, and I’ll have to throw him out….” Perhaps he missed the good old days, when women were knocked out cold before giving birth. Jennifer wasted no time in finding a new obstetrician. Dr. Ben Howard graciously agreed to take her on, and we’ve been delighted with his clinical expertise, as well as his bedside manner.
April 1988 Happenings
April brought cause for great jubilation. Not only did we celebrate both our birthdays and the anniversary of the day we met, but Doug finally heard from Southwestern: “We are pleased to offer you a position in our 1988 entering class….” Glory hallelujah! We won’t have to move to San Antonio, after all. (He’d received an acceptance letter from that branch of UTHSC back in January).
May 1988 Happenings
May was filled with music. While Doug despaired of ever learning to sing (he’d been taking lessons from Jennifer’s voice teacher for over a year now — an exercise in frustration for both parties), Jennifer re-auditioned for the Dallas Symphony Chorus, now required of all members annually. She sang Mozart’s Queen of the Night Aria. Director Ron Shirey stopped her half-way through, fearing she’d go into labor if she had to hit any more high A’s. One is enough, he assured her: She may keep her spot in the first soprano section.
The Chorus performed Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky mid-month. As soon as the strings began to tune, our unborn child stopped turning somersaults and settled down to listen, thus demonstrating a discriminating taste in music, even in utero.
The month was nearly over before baby showed any sign of wanting out. Jennifer eventually felt a few contractions, and Doug drove her to the hospital. They were more intense by the time we pulled into the parking lot, but she was still determined to deliver without anesthesia. Ninety minutes later, she was wondering how her friends whose labors lasted two solid days ever survived 48 hours of this. “I can’t do it,” she begged, “give me an epidural!” Too late, the doctor informed her. Baby is crowning, so push. That she did and was rewarded with a beautiful son: Jonathan Douglas entered the world May 31 at 3:02 AM. He measured 22½ inches and weighed a whopping 10 lbs 6 oz, with ruddy skin, dark eyes, and a shock of long black hair. His sideburns were so long, in fact, it was all Jennifer could do to resist trimming them on the spot!
June 1988 Happenings
Doug began a research job at Southwestern the day after Jonathan was born. He spent the summer in the pathology lab studying rat hearts — poor little rats. Jennifer’s parents were concerned about her being alone while Doug was at work and insisted she shouldn’t be climbing our apartment stairs so soon after giving birth, so we ended up staying at their house the first week of June. Doug suspects this was really just an excuse to pamper their daughter and hold their new grandbaby, but he dutifully delivered his wife and son straight to their doorstep the day they were discharged from Presbyterian Hospital.
Our dear friend and philosophy professor, Jim Parker, came over for dinner once we’d moved back home. He brought two pounds of chocolate, explaining that his mother always claimed it made her milk rich. (Eager to test that hypothesis, Jennifer polished off the entire box in about three days). Dr. Parker also brought news of Doug’s biological family, having sleuthed around San Antonio with the information Doug had gathered from opening his own adoption records earlier this year.
July 1988 Happenings
Although his birth mother is no longer living, the rest of the family welcomed us with open arms when we made their acquaintance a few weeks later. Doug went from knowing absolutely nothing about his blood kin to having a detailed, written genealogy that dated back to the 1300’s in Norway and the 1500’s in Germany — complete with photographs of the last 6 generations, copies of their marriage certificates, and maps of their ancestral homes!
The story of his mother’s death is very sad: she conceived out of wedlock, was forced to give her baby up for adoption, grieved over the separation for an entire year, and took her own life on Doug’s first birthday. She wrote that she could not bear to live with the knowledge that someone else was raising her child. Tragic though it was, the story provided a measure of comfort for Doug, who had always assumed he was unloved and unwanted.
August 1988 Happenings
August took us to San Antonio to celebrate our first anniversary, although it wasn’t the romantic getaway Jennifer had envisioned. Doug’s childhood friends were home for the summer, so we spent the evening at Trek Doyle’s house, reminiscing about bygone days until well after midnight.
At least, one of us was reminiscing — the other was trying to piece together what disjointed fragments of conversation reached the corner of the room where she sat nursing the baby. It was a little like listening to an inside joke for six hours running. The candlelight dinner and schmaltzy music would just have to wait for the next night.
September 1988 Happenings
September was spent party-hopping. In addition to the baby shower given to us by our friends at Town East Baptist Church, we attended half a dozen events designed to welcome new medical students, introduce them to various clubs on campus, acquaint their wives one with another, and celebrate our embarking on the long educational journey that lay ahead.
October 1988 Happenings
Doug attended his classes faithfully, at least until he discovered the scribe service, which allowed him to just read over class notes instead — something he could do much faster than actually sitting through the lectures.
Jennifer took a sabbatical from her graduate studies to stay at home with Jonathan. With baby in arms for most of the day, she adapted to doing many things one-handed, including reading, vacuuming, washing dishes, and ironing clothes. Sewing and handcrafts have been more of a challenge, although she did manage to stitch curtains for the nursery and paint a heart-shaped welcome sign for the front porch in October while Jonathan was napping.
November 1988 Happenings
In November, Thanksgiving found us with hearts full of gratitude for our marriage, our baby, our home, our families, our opportunities.
Jennifer has developed an even deeper appreciation for God’s many blessings having spent time this fall getting to know our new neighbors, a startling number of whom work as topless dancers to pay the rent. By day, these single moms congregate in our living room to share meals, study the Bible, and learn how to cross-stitch, while their little ones play on the floor at our feet. By night, they take the stage at a downtown strip club and sell themselves cheap. It is heart-rending.
December 1988 Happenings
We’ll be heading to Corpus Christi in December, stopping in San Antonio on our way to enjoy the bright lights and festive atmosphere of the Riverwalk.
We hope your seasonal celebrations will be joyous, as well, as we remember again the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. May He bless you and yours in the coming New Year.
Doug, Jennifer, and Jonathan
Do you prefer to do your reading offline? You’ll find more of our family’s embarrassing moments, hard learned lessons, and hilarious antics all in Glad Tidings, a compilation of the first 25 years of Flanders Family Christmas letters. It also includes a few favorite recipes, seasonal quotes, time-saving tips, and fun family traditions. Volume 1 is on sale now. We’re hoping to release Volume 2 in the year 2037.