Love and Marriage

ShipOfFools_web_07292016“Let the young woman to whom I shall say,
‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’
and who shall say,
‘Drink, and I will water your camels’
…let her be the one whom you have
appointed for your servant Isaac.”
(Gen 24:14)

Love and Marriage

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

After Iranian New Years in 1982 and after I was able to buy a car later that spring, Maryam and I got together weekly on Sunday afternoons. Although we had initially doubled dated before I was able to buy a car, we later got together on our own primarily just to spend time. At first, I took her to various restaurants around Detroit, as in Greek Town or the revolving restaurant in the Renaissance Center[1]. Later, however, Maryam learned that I was running up my credit card account treating her to dinner and she refused to eat anywhere other than Denny’s restaurant. While Denny’s was certainly not my favorite restaurant, I took Maryam’s concern about expenses as a sign that she was serious about our relationship. I also noticed also that she lost weight after we started going out, although she still denies that was true.

Later in August of that summer, my parents and I traveled to meetings of the American Agricultural Economics Association in Logan, Utah. On the way back, we stopped at Dinosaur National Park[2] and later visited the Denver Art Museum[3], where my dad bought my mother a necklace. Taking a page from my father’s playbook, I bought Maryam a necklace with alternating gold-plated brass and black stone pieces strung together. It was the first jewelry that I had ever purchased for her (or anyone else).

In the fall of that year, I was on the road almost constantly on the road visiting cattle slaughtering plants, meat processors, and innovative retailers—first in Detroit’s Eastern Market, then elsewhere in Michigan, and finally across the Midwest, traveling as far as Colorado. Managers were surprisingly open to have graduate students, like myself, visit and take plant tours. Union representatives for the plants were also eager to share their stories. It was a troubling time for cattle slaughters because vacuum packaged beef coming from huge firms on the high plains had recently started competing with locally slaughtered cattle which drove many smaller operations out of business. These interviews formed the core of my dissertation work which was eventually entitled: Labor Relations, Technological and Structural Change in U.S. Beef Packing and Retailing (May 1985).

Being on the road so much meant that Maryam and I had less time together. At one point, she traveled to East Lansing to attend one of my soccer games and to meet my friends in a gathering afterwards. I also remember visiting her after Thanksgiving and presenting her with a ceramic pheasant stuffed with dried flowers for her birthday.[4] The Internationals took the gold cup that season, but I was frequently unable to play and received my gold cup as manager in absentia.

With my survey work completed by December, the financial support from my department came to an end and I returned home to start the New Year (1983) in Virginia without my degree, without a job, and without much savings. Maryam was still living in Detroit with her brother and sister so it was difficult finding time and money to travel for visits. So when I needed to return to Michigan State University periodically to visit with my doctoral committee, I would also stop in Detroit for a visit.

This was a lean year, in part, because the federal government had a hiring freeze and, in part, because my parents moved in August to West Lafayette, Indiana where my dad joined the faculty of Purdue University. From August on that year, I continued to live my parents’ home in Falls Church with my sister, Karen, but I later rented an apartment in Shirlington.

My old office in the Economic Research Service, USDA was eager in 1983 to bring me on board, but the hiring freeze did let up until late in the year. My official start date was the first day of the last pay period in 1983 which meant that I was eligible to remain in the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) which was eliminated on January 1, 1984 with the inauguration of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). It was a gift to be able to work; because of my eligibility for the old retirement system, I later learned that the gift was much larger than initially aware.

In the spring of 1984, Maryam came to visit. Towards the end of her visit, we stopped by Bailey, Banks, and Biddle, an upscale jeweler in Tyson Corner shopping center, and picked out an engagement ring on credit. I bought a much better ring than I could afford to let her—and all her friends and family—know that I was serious about our relationship. My investment paid off. After she returned home, her brother, Ghasem, announced that he was getting married in June in Detroit. Maryam and I later set our wedding date for November 24, back in Virginia.




[4] Her official birthday is in December on the same day as mine, but we only learned that years later when she had to get an official translation of her birth certificate when she became naturalized.

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