love among the pines
In 1996, TLM sent around a questionnaire to family members. The questions revolved around the courtship and marriage of our respective siblings. I recalled writing an extensive response, but a few years later, when I went looking for it was never able to find it. TLM assured me that it was someplace and she would find it. In TLM’s words: “This year after Christmas, I decided to clean out some shelves in the storage room where we keep the decorations. In one box was old genealogy records from Kevin’s mom’s family. And, lo and behold, in the middle of the box were the completed questionnaires! “
So, in belated honor of Valentine’s Day this year, I am posting my recollection from 1996 of our courtship and marriage. It is a long post so I blame no one who skips it. TLMarianne has appended recollections of her own which I will note.
Marianne and I first met at the BYU alumni camp—Aspen Grove, though neither of us recalls that first meeting. Aspen Grove is a family camp. Families sign up to spend a week at the camp. We were both teenagers at our first meeting—she 16, and I 14. I was a guest at the camp along with my family. Mari was working there for the summer as part of the staff. I remember distinctly being interested in girls at that age. I also vaguely remember some girls of interest at Aspen Grove, but no one to be terribly excited about. For her part, Mari does not remember me at all. “You were only 14. I would never have paid attention to anyone so young.” Famous last words.
My sisters and I must not have made much of an impression on the Bates family either. They have several pictures of themselves with different staff members, but none with us (we were the lowly kitchen staff).
There seem to be some people with whom we are connected. The connection may stretch thin but remains to bring us together at odd moments. So, in the summer of 1978 I found myself working at Aspen Grove as a waiter and dishwasher. Marianne was there working with the 3-5 year olds.
I was at Aspen Grove almost by accident. Mari was there by design, although it soon became apparent that her design had gone astray. I was living at home during the Winter semester of 1978. I had returned from my mission to Italy the previous summer. As I recall it was the end of January or beginning of February when Mom came home one evening with a suggestion about what I could do for work the next summer.
Mom was teaching at BYU at the time. That day she had been obliged to spend some time working on a phone bank attempting to raise money for the school. While she was manning the phones, she had run into Doug Doxey, who worked for BYU raising money and was the Director of Aspen Grove. My parents had first met Doug when he had come to Berkeley to give a presentation on Aspen Grove to members of our ward. Somehow, he had roped Dad (who had immediately included the rest of us) into raising money for BYU. Dad and Mom got to know Doug fairly well from those experiences. So, when Doug saw Mom they fell to discussing old times. In the course of catching each other up, Mom informed Doug that she had a returned missionary son who looked like he was going to be at loose ends this summer and maybe he could talk to Doug about a job at Aspen Grove. Doug remembered my father fondly and said he thought they had an opening.
I was only mildly enthusiastic about this “opportunity.” I was also too lazy to make other arrangements. So, a month or more after Mom first told me about my destiny, I hauled myself over to Doug’s office for an interview. I had called a couple of days before and he told me that he was going on a scuba diving trip to San Diego that weekend. We would have to meet on Friday afternoon or wait until he returned in a week. Uncharacteristically (because I have a habit of procrastination and was, as noted, less than excited about this option), I told him I wanted to meet on Friday.
When I arrived at the appointed time for our meeting, Doug seemed less than receptive. I sensed that he had forgotten about his conversation with Mom. I was, even at that tender age, intimately familiar with the expression, tone and vocabulary of rejection. Doug was giving a clinic: I was too old or inexperienced for the available jobs. He just didn’t think there was anything available, etc, etc. In principle, I abhor influence peddling, pulling strings, throwing weight around. I was not going to remind him of his conversation with my mom nor tell him of our connection through my dad. But as the interview wound to a painful close, he considered my name again. It sounded, he said familiar. Could there be a connection?
There ensued a struggle between Principles and Practicality. Principles argued for continued silence on the subject. Practicality, already in agony from enforced silence, demanded to take charge in this situation. When Principles refused, Practicality, incensed at Principles’ intransigence, appealed to Higher Intellect on the ground that not to answer the question would be dishonest thus violating a principle of higher priority than influence peddling. Higher Intellect did not buy that argument but agreed that Doug’s posing the question evidenced an interest in the subject. Providing requested information was perfectly acceptable because the information would not be provided solely for the purpose of persuasion. It was, therefore, permissible to answer even if part of the reason for answering was for the purpose of accomplishing something against Principles. Upon hearing this verdict, Principles went off in a sulk complaining about being ignored again.
I told Doug who I was and the interview took a decided turn in my favor. His face lit up. “Oh, Woody’s boy! Well, we can certainly use you.” I walked out of his office with a summer job. In a macabre but fascinating footnote, Doug Doxey never returned from San Diego. He died that weekend in a diving accident. For want of a nail as they say. If I had succumbed to my usual tendency and waited until after Doug’s trip I never would have gotten the job for after Doug’s unfortunate demise there arose a camp Director who knew not Woodrow (my dad).
Mari had completed college in three years from her high school graduation and immediately gone on a mission to Venezuela. Mari had taken a degree in English and obtained her secondary teaching certificate. When she returned from her mission in 1977, she looked for a job in the vicinity of her home in Orem, Utah. She was unsuccessful. The job she eventually got was teaching high school and junior high in Fillmore, Utah, a small (1,500 inhabitants) community two and one-half hour’s drive south of Orem. She started teaching there in the fall of 1977 just as I was returning from my mission.
Late in 1977, Mari received a call from an old friend—Don Cook. Don informed her that he had hired on as the assistant camp director at Aspen Grove for the next summer and asked Mari if she wouldn’t like to work at the camp in some capacity. Mari considered the idea long enough 1) to remember Don was a cute, unmarried, returned missionary whom she had previously dated and liked, 2) to recall that she was unmarried but that according to her five-year plan, this was the year to get hitched, and 3) to consider that Don had called her and maybe he had more in mind than wanting to find a responsible, excellent leader for the Kitten Korral. She accepted Don’s offer.
Her acceptance was made all the easier by the fact that she had worked at Aspen Grove during two prior summers and thus was familiar with the surroundings and working conditions. Furthermore, she had fond memories of her experiences, though she did not remember a certain family from Berkeley, California who had stayed at the camp for a week during her first summer. She did remember working with Don Cook. She also claims to have thought that the camp would be the perfect opportunity to pay off her car. I suspect, however, that the car was a post hoc justification because her plan was spoiled.
After Doug Doxey died, there was a meeting for all of the summer staff, so we could meet the new camp director and have an orientation for the summer. I remember I talked to Don, but I also remember that one of the staff had been a missionary in Italy, and I asked him which mission he had been in because Russ Schneider, an old flame, had been an Italian missionary. I remember that our conversation was very brief.
Aspen Grove hosts families for most of the summer. Before the family season starts, however, youth groups are invited to come and spend time there. These groups begin arriving at the beginning of May. I, as lowly kitchen help, and Don, as the lofty assistant camp director, were at the camp. The setting was spectacular and the hours were acceptable. I was really enjoying myself. At the end of May or the very beginning of June, the families arrived. A day or two before that, the rest of the staff arrived to begin preparations for the families’ arrival. It was on this last weekend of youth groups that Mari first remembers seeing me.
This is how she always tells the story. At dinner time the cafeteria was filled to capacity with teenagers—hungry teenagers. At this particular meal we had run out of rolls. The rolls were the one item that all of the teenagers liked and could not get enough of. The crowd had become impatient because no more rolls were forthcoming from the kitchen. They began a chant. “We want rolls. We want rolls. We want rolls.” Mari, at the time, was sitting at the rear of the dining hall observing the unruly crowd. At the height of the disturbance with the crowd chanting for more rolls, I came out of the kitchen with the last two plates of rolls—one on each hand. At the sight of the coveted bread, the diners let out a big cheer and began applauding. I stopped, faced the crowd and bowed. I also recall that event. What is more natural when entering a room to clapping and cheers than to take a bow for your obviously well accepted performance?
For my part, the first recollection I have of Mari was during the opening night show for the campers. The families arrived on Saturday afternoon to begin their week’s stay. That evening the staff performed an opening night’s show. On this night, I do not remember which show it was, but if it wasn’t the first show of the summer, it was certainly one of the first shows, I was standing under the pine trees beside the stage watching the show. Mari was among the audience leading them in one of the two activities that formed her part of the show. Next to me was Don Cook, assistant camp director, and, unknown to me at the time, one of the reasons for Mari’s presence at the camp. As we watched Mari work the crowd, Don leaned over to me and said, “Someone really ought to marry Mari. She is a wonderful girl.” I remember thinking at the time that was a bit odd. “Is he trying to tell me something?” I thought. In any event it piqued my interest. I started paying more attention to Marianne Frost.
I remember watching Mari and becoming more interested in her. Because of the relative proximity in which we worked, it was fairly easy for me to spend time with her. Very early on we were assigned to work groups for Sundays. On Sundays all of the camp staff was given the chance to help with the cooking, serving, and cleaning up duties so that the kitchen staff would not have to bear the entire burden on the Sabbath. I think this must have been done either the first or second week after the families arrived, which would have been two or three weeks after Mari and the rest of the staff had shown up. However soon this process completed, I distinctly remember hoping that I would be placed in Mari’s group and feeling very pleased when I was. This allowed me to converse with her and be around her without having to go out of my way to do so. This, it turns out, was a very important part of our relationship because I was very shy around members of the opposite sex and had the hurdle been too high I might not have overcome that obstacle to be around her more.
I remember also being excited that I was in Kevin’s group and we would be working together every weekend. I remember the first weekend on the job he put peanut butter on his cinnamon roll in the morning and peanut butter on his brownie at dinner, and I thought it was a little odd. The first week we were there I remember sitting in the common area of our dorms with “Saturday Night Fever” blasting from the stereo and Kevin disco dancing through the common area to “Staying Alive.” A couple of days later I noticed that Kevin was reading in the common area. That was pretty uncommon! When I went to see what he was reading, I was somewhat taken aback to see that the book was Why I am Not a Christian. Kevin was quick to explain that he was in a book club and that they were comparing that book to C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.
I remember working with Mari and talking to her as we mopped the floors and did the dishes. I remember at one point asking if I could borrow her car to go to Provo because my sister had returned from girls’ camp very ill. She graciously allowed me to take her car. I was attracted enough to Mari by then that I was really thrilled that I had the chance to talk to her about using her car.
I remember that 4th of July weekend Kevin changed his days off, so he could watch Lyle and Lorna compete in a dance competition in Provo. I thought it sounded like he had an intriguing family!
Although I remember talking with Mari often about many things, I do not remember timing very well. I recall, for example, a great conversation we had about one of the priesthood lessons I had to give, but whether this happened before or after our first date is fuzzy.
That particular conversation is prominent in my mind because it was primarily as a result of that conversation that I could tell that Mari was very committed to and knowledgeable about the gospel. This was very important to me. In fact, I recall thinking after this conversation that Mari met that particular requirement. It was at this point that I thought that what I was doing was checking off Mari’s qualification on a little list I had been carrying about in my head. These things I remember, but not whether it was before or after our first date.
One of the lists I had was the 3 things I didn’t want in a husband (Kevin was definitely more practical about his lists)—1) would never marry anyone younger than I was (2 years, 2 months younger than me), 2) would not put my husband through school (only 4 ½ years), and 3) would never marry anyone from California (Kevin says I said that because I only knew people from southern California!)
My most distinct memories of our first date surround my asking her. It was the week before a holiday weekend. I was finishing up sweeping the dining hall when I went to the window at the front and saw Mari doing something down by the stage. I think I had determined to ask her out on a date and seeing her there by herself I thought this was the perfect time to ask. But I had always had difficulty asking girls out. I stood watching her for a long time trying to get up the courage to approach her. Finally, I left the dining hall and asked her. It is typical of the way my mind works that I remember distinctly the trauma of trying to force myself to ask her, but have only a vague recollection of what I said to her and what she said to me. My next distinct memory is of running back to the dining hall to finish my duties ecstatic over her agreeing to a date with me.
Our first date was a double date with my friend and former missionary companion Mel Mascherino. We went to see Heaven Can Wait and then out to dinner at wo Guys From Italy.” I remember feeling very comfortable with Mari. I remember most thinking that I felt comfortable with her even when we were not conversing. This seemed very important to me. I think even at that time I felt that she was family.
One of the details I remember about our first date was that Mel didn’t have enough money to pay for his and his date’s dinner, and Kevin was nice enough to bail him out! Kevin picked me up in his mom’s red diesel Peugeot which I thought was pretty fancy.
Before and after we began dating, we spent quite a bit of time together and saw each other in many different situations. One evening while a movie was being played in the dining hall, I asked Mari if she didn’t want to go somewhere else with me. I felt at that time as I do on occasion that I did not want to be around anyone else. I did not feel comfortable with anyone but Mari that night. We went to the amphitheater near the camp. We sat under the stars as Mari talked to me about constellations and I held her hand. I think that was the first time that I had held her hand.
Our first date was the week of July 24. We dated and got to know each other for what remained of the summer. Among the experiences I remember was going to her cabin with her family and playing Rook. At the end of the summer, Mari left to go back to Fillmore where she had a teaching job, and I returned home to prepare for the next semester in school.
I had to leave Aspen Grove the week before the family season was over, so my sister Joey, took my place for the last week. (K-12 schools started in August, and BYU, where Joey was working on her master’s degree didn’t start until after Labor Day) I remember that Joey told me that she had heard that Kevin had had an altercation in the boys’ restroom with another of the staff, Dave Hagen, over me. Can’t remember the details!
After Mari had returned to Fillmore, Mom had scheduled a trip through southern Utah for something in connection with her teaching. At that time Mom had a small motor home which we took on the trip. I invited Mari along. So, Mari, mom, my sister Lorna, and I went on a trip to southern Utah in the motorhome. Details of the trip are hazy. I remember that on our way to visit one of the national parks, the window above the cab broke and we had to head home early.
I believe this trip occurred Labor Day weekend. My recollection of this trip was that Lorna’s nose was a little out of joint because Kevin kept paying attention to me and not her!
It is at the end of that weekend that I remember best. We were sitting in mom’s basement watching TV and Mari said that it was time for her to go. “GO?”, I thought, “GO?” What does she mean go? I felt at that moment that Mari should not go, that Mari belonged with me, that it was not right for her to go. At that moment it hit me: I loved her. I was not ready yet to ask her to marry me because I was afraid. I’m not sure at this distance what I feared—commitment, the future, the effect of such a choice—but fear was definitely there.
After our trip to southern Utah and my epiphany on our return I travelled to Filmore to visit Mari. She let me attend her classes but disguised my purpose there by introducing me as someone from BYU observing the class. During that visit as I thought about her, I was more and more convinced that I wanted to spend time, and eternity, with her, but fear haunted me. I have always had trouble making major, or any decisions and this particular decision was momentous. My parents had explained the importance of finding a spouse who was compatible. My mother once told me there was nothing worse than a miserable marriage. Thoughts of eternity fill my mind. With all of these concerns rattling around my head, I found it very difficult to make the decision to ask Mari to marry me.
I needed help making this decision so I determined to consult God on the subject. I remember praying and telling God I had decided not to marry Mari on the theory that if that was the wrong decision God would invoke the stupor of thought clause. Well, from the moment I said that prayer, I started feeling nervous and upset. The whole day seemed to go badly. I passed the next day in misery. The next event I recall clearly was being in the shower, just feeling awful and finally saying aloud, “Okay, I’ll marry her.” In my mind, that phrase released me from my pain and I felt good again.
That is not to say that I was without qualms about the part where I actually had to say out loud “Will you marry me?” I have always had a difficult time verbalizing my inmost thoughts. This would certainly not be any exception. I quickly realized that I needed help. I needed something which would lower my inhibitions and allow me to speak what was on my mind without fear of the consequences. I needed sleep deprivation. When I am tired, I become silly able to say almost anything because my filter (not terribly effective at the best of times) disappears. Lack of sleep operates in my psyche the way alcohol or drugs do (or at least the way I imagine they do) on others.
Mari was up in Orem for the weekend. We traditionally spent Saturday night out and returned to her or my parents’ home to spend some extra time with each other. I determined that I would stay up very late until the guardian of my speech centers had gone to sleep and I could say what I wanted to without interference. After our date, the rest of which is lost in the mists of time, she and I returned to her parents’ house where we began watching Saturday Night Live. (This was probably my idea since it does not sound terribly typical of Mari, but I cannot be sure) I remember waiting until the program was over at approximately 1:00 a.m. before suggesting that she take me home. What with getting ready to go and other miscellaneous activities, I think it was about 1:30 a.m. when we got to my mom’s house.
When we arrived, I engaged Mari in conversation for a period of time while I checked on the status of the Speech Center Guard. By about 1:45 I believed him to be asleep. Seizing the chance, I popped the question. “Will you marry me?” I asked. The Speech Center Guard immediately came completely awake and starting wreaking havoc. This is the only explanation I can think of for what followed. I looked at Mari and said, “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.” I soon returned to my senses and decided that actually that was probably the smartest thing I had said in my entire life. The problem I faced was how to recover I think I mumbled something about having really meant it and would she marry me anyway.
In response, Mari told me that she would not give me her decision then—I would have to wait a week until she returned from Fillmore again. That was a long week of which I remember nothing. That next weekend there was some activity up at Aspen Grove to which we were invited. I drove up with Mari and on the way to the camp she informed me of her decision. I don’t think we told anybody at the activity. I think we waited and told her parents and my mother first.
In my defense, the reason I waited a week was that I needed to be sure that he really wanted to marry me after he said “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.” By that time, I knew in my heart that I wanted to marry him.
Marianne Frost and I were married for time and eternity two days after Christmas in the Provo Temple.
I love Mari deeply although sometimes I think I am selfish by saying that. I love Mari because she is a wonderful mother. I love her because she constantly strives to better herself and encourages me by her words and her actions to do the same. Mari has a wonderful sense of propriety—she knows the situation and she acts accordingly, never too serious or too playful. To this day I am ecstatic that she agreed to be my wife.
TLM as always and appropriate has the last word:
I love Kevin, and he is a wonderful husband. I love the conversations we have together, his intelligence, his kindness, his knowledge of the gospel, and his testimony which has been such a strength to me. I love that he will do housework and let me mow the lawn. He has been such a good example of service to our kids, and as he will tell you, he has promised to make me laugh every day! He is the best and I am so grateful that I will be with him for eternity.
The Happy Couple then and now. Who do you think has aged more gracefully?