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True Love in a World Gone Nutty

October 28, 2015

The world was at war. My father was in Civilian Public Service working as an orderly at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Michigan where patients with mental difficulties were treated.

And he was a young man in love.


My father Vernon U. Miller on his wedding day. I have his eyebrows, and maybe the square jaw.

On a recent spin through White Pigeon, Michigan, I knew I would have to stop again at a store where Dad used to buy gifts as he was courting my mother, just to pay tribute to their long lives and enduring love.

As I entered the Tasty Nut Shop in White Pigeon, Michigan, I tried to imagine my Dad, young and dapper, unhitched and childless, long before any of us came on the scene.


Tasty Nut Shop in White Pigeon, Michigan.

The store still has its creaky wooden floors and a working old-fashioned soda and ice cream counter at the back of the store. This old timey nugget of a store has survived since 1921, even through the Depression and depressing urban sprawl and malls.

Up front, a glass display case still offers nuts “from all over the world” at decent prices. Containers tempt children with a huge selection of penny candy. An article I wrote at the time of my original visit reminds me that my daughters enjoyed watching a woman make fresh peanut clusters.


Store owner Marjorie Hamminga measuring out my cashew nuts.

When I first stood in this store with my Dad and Mom (married 47 years when I went there with my three daughters), I tried to imagine the dreams and fantasies he, in his late twenties, held of my mother, of what life would bring. His father lost their farm in the Depression and they were all enduring the long and uncertain years of World War II. They did not know yet about Hiroshima and all that was to follow. Working in a mental hospital in those days was not war, but was still a certain kind of hell.

On my first visit, I had gone to Indiana for a business meeting during late summer with my three daughters in tow (at the time ages 12, 10, and 7); of course I had to buy some nuts from the store to take home to my husband who was waiting for us to return. Maybe it would buy some luck or some love.

On this visit 22 years later—our daughters long sprung from the nest—I had to pick up a treat for my husband, who once again was home waiting for my return.


Stuart’s cashews.

My husband enjoyed his small bag of cashews, from which I sneaked only a few on the long train trip back home.

If the store still stands, maybe some day our grandchildren too will have the chance to step back in time and hear the story of how their great-grandfather—in a world gone nutty—used to stop here to buy nuts for his sweetheart.


Daddy carved the initials VM + BM in a heart on a tree in the woods on their farm. In 1977, one year after we were married, my husband also carved our own initials on the same tree.


What stories of love–for nuts, your parents romance, your own love story, OR for great old-timey stores still around–does this bring to mind?


Parts of this post were previously published in Purpose magazine (how do you like that alliteration?), available by subscription from MennoMedia.The editor there is also always looking for great inspirational stories and writers. Check the writer guidelines here. (A paying gig!)


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. What a meaningful journey – placing your footprints upon those of your dad in love. My favorite part: the heard-shaped carvings on the tree, a tribute to ongoing true love. It’s something Cliff would do. Instead, he makes shapes with hangers on the bed. Hey – you inspired another blog post, Melodie.

    Obviously, you bear your father’s imprint in facial features – and fine, strong character traits.

  2. I added those heart-shaped carvings at the last minute (and considerable loading-photos-hassle) because they just seemed to work there–something I’d been wanting to use for awhile. Glad you liked that part in particular! I can’t wait to see your heart shapes from hangers on the bed ….!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. When my father threw away his cane | findingharmonyblog
  2. When Senior Year Ends Suddenly – by Stone Kemp | findingharmonyblog

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