Our First Christmas, 1978

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly, in front of our first apartment, Fall of 1978

On a hot summer day in July of 1978, a young, naïve couple recited their wedding vows, and with a kiss for luck they were on their way.  Little did they know that they really didn’t know each other as well as they thought they did. Young love, also known as mutual infatuation, will do that, obscuring character traits and flaws in your one and only.

Polly and I were college freshmen at Midwestern Baptist College when we started dating in September 1976. Five months later, with a 1/4 caret, $225 engagement ring I bought at Sears and Roebuck in hand, I asked Polly to marry me. She enthusiastically said yes. Polly was 18 and I was 19.

We had grand plans, 3 kids, a house with a white picket fence, and a lifelong pastorate in a nice community somewhere. Like all such fantasies, it didn’t take long for us to see that being married to one another was not quite what we expected.

In the spring before our wedding, we rented an upstairs apartment on Premont Ave. in Waterford Township (Pontiac) Michigan. Our apartment had four rooms, a living room, bathroom, bedroom and kitchen. The walls were freshly painted and there was new green and white shag carpeting in the living room. (I would come home from school one day to find a discolored, brown stain on the carpet. Polly had spilled her tea and she used bleach to try to clean the carpet. Yeah,we both really were that naïve)

After classes ended in May, Polly went home to prepare for our wedding and I lived in the apartment. I worked at nearby grocery store, Felice’s Market. I also took on tarring Felice’s roof with aluminum reflective tar. They paid me well and I used this money to furnish our new apartment.

polly gerencser 1978
Polly standing in front of our apartment, late summer 1978

One day, while out and about with Wendell Uhl, a friend of mine from college, we stopped at a yard sale that had a bunch of furniture for sale. I made them an offer for the all the furniture and that’s how I furnished our apartment. I did buy a new double bed from Hudson’s. After a few months of marriage we bought a love seat from Kay’s Furniture to replace the futon couch I had bought at the yard sale.

After our wedding we had about 6 weeks before classes started again. We settled in as newlyweds to a wonderful life of wedded bliss. Little did we know how quickly life could throw you a curve.

polly gerencser 1978
Polly with my sister and niece a few days after our wedding, 1978

Not long after classed started, we found out Polly was pregnant. We had everything planned out, yet it seemed “God” had a different plan for us. We now know that Polly got pregnant because of the ineffective form of birth control we were using. Polly was quite sick from the pregnancy, forcing her to reduce her class load.

We planned to go to Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve and then get up early the next morning and drive to my Mom’s home in Rochester, Indiana. At the time, we were driving an old beater of a station wagon, one of many such cars we would own over the years,  so we borrowed Polly’s parent’s car to make the trip to Rochester. We returned later that night.

Even though we were spending Christmas with family, we still wanted to have our very own Christmas tree. We had a few decorations that our Mom’s had given us and we bought a few more. We were ready to decorate our very first Christmas tree!

We decided to buy our tree from the Boy Scouts. We put it in the back of our Ford station wagon and drove home. Once there, I drug the tree up the long flight of stairs to our apartment. I put the tree in the cheap tree stand we had bought, tightened the screws, and let go of the tree so I could admire my handiwork. The tree proceeded to fall over. No matter what I did, the tree would not stand up.

The more I tried to get the tree to stand up the angrier I got. For the first time, Polly saw how angry I could get. That redheaded temper people talk about. I finally reached a breaking point and I opened the upstairs window and threw the Christmas tree out the window. It landed with a thud in the front yard, the same yard where a badly beaten man would be found lying a few months later.

After I cooled down, we went out and bought another tree. And just like before, I couldn’t get it to stand up straight. As I look back on it now, I suspect the problem was the cheap, undersized tree stand.  My answer for the falling tree was simple; I nailed the tree stand to the floor.

And that was our first Christmas.