Sunday, May 31, 2015

A College Courtship, Sixties-Style


  Besought, Bespoken, Betrothed

When San Francisco’s Huntington Hotel was still The Huntington, and not a hotel with an interior design infected by scarlet fever, that is, back in 1965, when I was sixteen, I stayed there while vacationing with my family. Why the Huntington? My father chose it. First in his family to achieve middle class security (and beyond), he adored luxury; indeed, “deluxe” was one of his favorite adjectives, and when he dubbed a thing “deluxe,” we were pretty sure to experience it or own it in the near future. My father did not go in for displays of wealth  – with a few exceptions. Every year he would get himself a new Cadillac; as soon as he sealed the deal, he would point out to all and sundry its deluxe features. He also bought my mother two minks, a full-length mink and a mink stole, very deluxe coats indeed, but my mother, already on the quiet path to becoming a stealth liberal, inverted their symbolism by wearing one mink to parties for the faculty at Drake University, where she taught English, and the other while she mowed the lawn. Was she showing off or joking? No matter: the iconic minks had become ironic minks, and could no longer be described as “deluxe.”
            As for The Huntington, its aura of luxury was unimpeachable, for who had stayed there of late, if not Princess Grace of Monaco herself? So the hotel became our San Francisco HQ, our point of departure for adventures in tourism, shopping and cuisine, our oasis for quietly contemplating Scoma’s deluxe shrimp cocktails and deluxe bouillabaise for me, deluxe wine for the parents, and for my brother, who wasn’t really into deluxe, the promise of Southern California and Disneyland. 

The Silver Saxophones Say I
                                                              Refuse You

            So when, in the spring of ’65, I found myself bewitched by the intimate scale of Huntington Park, sitting there with bare feet in the grass, breath becalmed by a plashing fountain, heart warmed by California Sun – not the real Northern California sun, its erratic appearance from microclimate to microclimate barely offset by its hip reputation as a vast storehouse of solar power – but warmed, instead, by the California Sun of Midwestern Myth, beaming down radiant goodwill and personally-targeted benefaction, its majestic rays promising an antidote to the boredom and depression I had been feeling at home, and which I was avidly describing in the letter that was underway; and when I looked outward in all directions from the circumference of the park, to the Mark Hopkins and Huntington Hotels, to Grace Cathedral – to the elegant neighborhood of a City that had utterly enchanted me – I made a silent vow, and recorded it in the letter: I would return, not as a tourist, but as a citizen of this fair City and state. One day I would make San Francisco, CA my permanent address.
            But how to find my way from the Midwest to the ‘Eureka! I just struck gold!’ state? Invited to join my boyfriend in Southern California the summer he worked as a tour guide for Busch Gardens, I found myself stymied by parental opposition. Maybe it was just as well. Thrown out of the guest house by his Uncle Sam, proud owner of a thriving meat packing plant, a blowhard Conservative who abhorred long hair and thought Dr. Spock should be electrocuted, my boyfriend found himself in an unorthodox living arrangement of which my parents would have wholeheartedly disapproved. In the meantime I had dropped out of college and was living at home and working as a contract writer for Blue Shield Insurance (what else, this being Des Moines?) California Dreamin’ seemed ever more remote; it even seemed a long time since I had been enrolled as a student of Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
            I had dropped out of school in February. The call came in April. Over the phone, on his brother’s birthday, my boyfriend proposed marriage, explaining that as he had been accepted as a student at Stanford Law School, we would be starting our new life together by moving to California. At last! My destiny had finally caught up with me. I would be living the life I was born to live. I had been right all along to want California. To imagine myself there while I listened to The Mamas and the Papas or the Beach Boys. To daydream while mindlessly earning a paycheck, while lunching with the nice girls and the quiet girls and the dull girls and the mean girls from the insurance company. I had wanted because I had been wanting; now wanting and waiting were over and I would be requited. I serenaded her now, my promised land:

“The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn,
But it’s not that way, I wasn’t born
 To lose you. . . ” 

Remarkably, my fiancé’s parents had agreed to our marriage, and my parents would too, when I announced it to them as a fait accompli. The three-year battle with our families was over. Youth had triumphed over age, freedom over dependence, tolerance over prejudice. Love was triumphant. We had won. The wedding was set for August.

        Is She. . . ?

            Three years earlier Jeff had called home to tell his parents he was going out with a girl named Linda White. The first question was “Is she?” to which the answer was “Yes.” The second question was: “Is she . . .?” to which the answer was “No.” I was not Jewish.
            When, in 1970, we married, a Jewish man did not have to go to the trouble of marrying a Chinese woman to annoy his parents. It was then sufficient to marry a Catholic girl or a WASP, preferably one whose physical appearance made it obvious that she was a gentile. But in this Milwaukee family that had Anglicized its surname in the 1930s in the hope of baffling anti-Semitism, there had already been one gentile wife: worryingly, perhaps, the beginning of a pattern.

            Jeff’s uncle – a kindly uncle this time, on his father’s side, had married a beautiful blonde named Betty. Betty had the erect posture of a model and the shapely legs, and wore her hair in a perfect French twist. Less well-educated but financially more successful than his lawyer brother, the exogamous uncle had sold aluminum siding for a living, suffered numerous dramatic business reversals, and died young of a heart attack.  Alas, poor Betty had gone off her head; the night her husband died, she had to be retrieved from jail.  Her offense? Drunk and disorderly was the least of it. She had been arrested for fucking on a public beach (with a stranger). Freshly grieving the loss of his brother, Fred had the additional task of retrieving the wayward shicksa from custody. Bringing all of his lawerly skills to bear, Fred managed to have the widow sprung just in time for the funeral.

     New Life, New World

I met Betty only once, in the summer of 1972. That year Jeff’s cousin David, Betty’s son, had been planning to leave Milwaukee to start a new life in another state. In fact, he was thought to have left three weeks earlier, at the beginning of summer, until someone had stumbled on a dead body in the park. Could it be David?  David, a mathematics prodigy, a troubled soul whose mental health had worsened drastically at the time of his father’s death, had recently suffered a broken heart. But there was a new woman, new life on the horizon. Not to worry. The psychiatrist prescribed Lithium and gave his patient a clean bill of health. Now we sat in Betty’s tastefully decorated Milwaukee parlor, chairs in a circle, while Betty, her hair drawn back impeccably in a French twist, hips clad in a Madras golfing ‘skort ‘/ (haf skirt, half shorts), helped by her rather tall, conspicuously WASP-y boyfriend, dressed in golf shirt and plaid pants, served freshly made canapés and hors d’oeuvres. We were waiting for the dental report that would confirm David’s suicide, or exculpate the corpse.
            Conversation flagged. Springing lightly into the room on some precursor of Michael Jordon tennis shoes, bearing a small, black box, she said, “I have something to show you.”  As she passed the box around the circle, Betty said, “I don’t know if this is appropriate.” (“Really? You don’t?”)  By now the box had reached me, and, peering in, half expecting to find a bloody tooth, I saw instead a huge diamond ring. “…Danny and I are engaged….We thought you would want to know.”  An hour later the dental report was in: the suicide was indeed Betty’s son.
          Jeff’s parents were understandably skeptical about intermarriage. But to no good or lasting effect. For Jeff had closed on the shrewdest of contracts with his parents. He was now in the catbird seat. Jeff was in the enviable position of being able to make his own choices about the shape his future would take, and this was so because he had wrested his independence from the child-shaping forces of family.
          For the past three years he had beseeched his mother and father to accept me as a member of their family. He had beseeched them to love me. He had cajoled me into loving them. Preemptively, he besought me to love him as his parents’ son.  Most passionately, he besought me to love him and him alone. And then suddenly he was done with beseeching. Our romance at an impasse, unsure of my reason for getting up in the morning, I left school. And him.
       As soon as he made his career choice, he informed his parents that he was going to propose to me. They could take it or leave it They took it.
 How he had pulled this off I am not sure, but it had something to do with the terribly divisive times he and his parents had lived through, as well as his mother’s resilience and humor, and his father’s courage and commitment to social justice.
       First, a word about Jeff’s mother. One of six sisters and a twin, she knew how to get along with all kinds of people. As a member of the junior set of twins, she knew how to scramble and negotiate for whatever she wanted. However displeased she may have been that her son’s first serious girlfriend was a studious type who apparently knew nothing about housekeeping (and it went without saying, wasn’t Jewish), and she was as displeased as could be, she did her best to put a cheerful face on it, and look for the humor of the situation. It was always possible that he could get this sort of thing out of hi system, and then settle down with a nice Jewish girl.
       Undoubtedly my most serious rival, Jeff’s Mom always played by the rules. She was fair if not generous in her assessment of me. Like so many American parents in the late Sixties, she watched her close-knit, loving family torn asunder as Jeff, her eldest, and then his younger brother Greg awaited their lottery numbers, protested the war, and in Greg’s case, made frequent use of marijuana. A gentile daughter-in-law was unthinkable, but she tolerated me as a girlfriend. Surprisingly, we formed a sort of alliance when she realized that I had influenced Jeff to take his studies more seriously.
       When we started going out I was a straight A student, Jeff a B student. He had been drifting, not knowing what he wanted to be or do, but defining himself according to what he was not. He had pledged a fraternity, but quit during an initiation rite when pledges were told to play a game of naked checkers on the frat house’s checkered linoleum floor. When it became clear what this entailed: naked men leap-frogging over one another’s backs and, in the event of a checker reaching the other side and being kinged, a naked man riding piggy-back on another – around ten pledges quit rather than play the game.
       Polite, comfortable with older adults, and socially conservative, Jeffrey was the only student I knew in the Sixties who shunned Bell Bottom blue jeans, wearing instead an Abercrombie-type golf shirt in the Summer and early Fall, a V-necked sweater from Winter into Spring, and year-round, khaki pants – with a crisp crease running down the center of each leg. He did not grow a beard or a mustache. His black hair was short.
       The year we met his summer job had consisted of sitting by a stream that ran downriver of a golf course, and from time to time removing the grass that got stuck in a little mesh fence placed across the stream. This job enabled him to cultivate a beautiful tan, and by the end of summer, his striking green eyes stood out – dazzling and electric in his dark olive face.
       My new boyfriend envied my seriousness of purpose, my commitment, and my single-minded ability to sit still and read literally for hours on end without once looking up or shifting position. He saw how I had gotten my love of literature from my mother, and wished he had something like that: something to feel passionate about. And soon he discovered that he had.      
       And here a word about Jeff’s father. Fred, as already mentioned, was a lawyer who had obtained his degree from Marquette University, “hung up his shingle,”as he put it, and begun the practice of law; and though most of the cases he handled were torts or probate, he cared deeply about the social justice aspect of the law, and in particular he cared about the inherent promise that he believed resided in the Constitution, to rectify the myriad injustices done to African-Americans. He truly felt for black people, and many summers en route to some vacation oasis, he would detour through the impoverished sharecropper lands of the Deep South because he wanted his children to see that people in America lived like that.

       Sometimes let a Back Road Take You

The childhood experience of these trips revived in Jeff’s memory when, as a history major, he became one of the earliest students of a new discipline: Black History. He was passionate about Black History: the need for it as an area of serious scholarship, the importance of research in the field, and the use of primary sources by scholars engaged in creating the new discipline. His history teacher, Professor Robert Starobin, white and Jewish, inspired him intellectually and taught him to conduct his research according to a rigorous methodology as it was crucial that this fledgling discipline be respected academically.
Jeff decided that he wanted to be a Professor of Black History. Having made that decision, he grew closer to the charismatic Robert Starobin, eight years his senior, whose upbringing as a “Red Diaper Baby” (i.e. his parents were Communists) in he Bronx contrasted sharply with Jeff’s comfortable middle-class childhood in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. The two men went drinking together and held intimate conversations. Jeff’s  professor confided in him about relations with women,  telling him what it was like to have sex with a woman and fall asleep inside her. In his senior year, Jeff applied to two graduate programs in History with the intent of specializing in Black History.
But during the next semester Jeff experienced unfair competition when two graduate students with whom he had formed a study group stole some of his original ideas for research. In addition, he began to be aware of the growing feeling among blacks on the left, and elsewhere, that Black History should be taught exclusively by African-Americans. Disillusioned by the cheating, Jeff followed the intuition that his contribution as a white man might be unwelcome, More and more now, he began to gravitate toward the study of the law. In retrospect he felt that the Law was the better choice for him. This choice was confirmed for him when Robert Starobin, who had founded the first Black Studies Course at the University of Wisconsin in the Sixties, but by the end of the decade felt increasingly marginalized and unaccepted by the Black Panthers and by black academics, picked up a gun and shot himself.

             Tom Sawyer Whitewashes a Fence                                                                                       

Though he often argued with his father during the college years, considering him old-fashioned and too conservative for a Democrat, Jeff was deeply grateful for the way his father had given him his freedom in early adulthood, agreeing to support him through law school, and buying him a serviceable car (a Dodge Dart) to drive to California – with his bride. In fact Jeff knew as a child that he could count on his father to protect him when necessary. And that meant protecting the boy’s dignity and pride as well as providing physical protection. There was the time, for example, when Jeff had been chosen to play the part of Tom Sawyer in a school play. A fifth grader with a Reform Jewish up-bringing, Jeff had ad-libbed during the fence painting scene, using language that, unknown to him, was offensive to some of his Christian classmates. The scene went something like  this:

            “Jesus, H. Christ, it sure is hot,” said Tom, wiping his brow as he began to whitewash the fence. “Christ A’mighty, it surely is a warm day. But this whitewashing sure is fun.”
Jeff hadn’t known that Jesus was a historical figure, let alone one who was worshiped as the Son of God. After taking bow after bow to the hand-clapping of a  wildly enthusiastic audience, he was therefore surprised to find himself sitting in the Principal’s office shortly thereafter. Did he admit to having said, “Jesus Christ” during the play? The Principal wanted to know Yes, he admitted it. In that case, the Principal told him, he would have to apologize to the entire student body in assembly the next day.
            Oh no he would not! When Jeff told his father about the plan for him to make a public apology, Fred went straight to the school administration,  and explained that his son had no idea that he was being disrespectful, let alone blasphemous. Jeff’s father stated in no uncertain terms that under no circumstances would his son apologize: not to a single student, and most emphatically not to the entire student body. Usually mild-mannered and non-confrontational, Fred was adamant where his son’s dignity was concerned. The Principal and his backers caved, and the public apology was cancelled.

 Did    You    See    Me   Coming?   


The Purple  Dress

Jeff and I met because an older student in Jeff’s building – I think his name was Harvey Salgo – was tutoring me in Economics. Jeff saw me coming and going, and got interested.
  On our first date, for some reason all of the girls on my floor got involved in helping me to get ready. I borrowed a beautiful purple dress with a short skirt – skirts were quite short in those days – and a white under-blouse and underskirt. It felt more like a costume for a play than something I would wear. The girl who lent me the dress at her roommate Pam’s suggestion, was called Lila, and she and I were among the very few girls in among the 300 plus girl residents at Allen Hall who were not Jewish. Two of the livelier and worldlier girls on our above street-level floor – Emily Cohen and Susie Motel – arranged the grooming session; they took apparent pleasure in the dating lives of me and my roommate from Des Moines, Lea Small, who had been the Homecoming Queen at my high school, and was without a doubt one of the sweetest people I ever met.
       My love life was perhaps of particular interest because of my singular non-Jewish status. It was considered hilarious by everyone who knew me, that I had not noticed that I was living in an “all” Jewish dorm until I had been living there for six weeks, and only then because one morning when I had gone down to breakfast, there was none. A few of the waiters were cleaning up in the kitchen, so I asked why there wasn’t any breakfast.

                        A Day of Fasting and Prayer

“It’s Yom Kippur,” they told me. “The holiest of the High Holy Days. It’s a day of fasting and prayer.”
“But what about the girls who aren’t Jewish?” I wanted to know.
“Didn’t you realize that this is a Jewish dorm?’ they laughed. “Everyone here is Jewish. Almost everyone.”
I hadn’t realized that, I admitted.
But how could I have failed to realize it? Didn’t I cotton onto the fact that I was surrounded by Jewish girls?  …Couldn’t I tell? By the way they talked and dressed? By their names?
What about their names? I wanted to know.
“Well Cohen, Levy, Rubin, the girls you sit with, your friends Elaine Schusterman and Randy Berlin – those are all Jewish names.”
“Well we talk about boys and clothes and our classes, but not really about religion,” I explained. “But when is the next meal going to be? Shall I come back for lunch? For dinner?”
Not for lunch. Not for dinner. It was an all-day fast.
“Why are you living here?” the waiters wanted to know.
“ Well my roommate is my best friend’s cousin, from home,” I explained. “Her mom found the dorm. My parents really liked the idea of a private dorm with a dining room.”
“Do your parents know you’re living in a Jewish dorm?”
I didn’t think so. “They’re not religious,” I added.
“Well you could always move into Anne Emery,” suggested one of t he waiters.
“Oh I really don’t want to do that!” I exclaimed. “I’ve heard about it – the only dorm on campus that has hours, and the girls have to wear skirts to lunch and dinner.”
“Yeah. That’s right,” said a waiter, laughing. “Anne Emery is the private dorm for WASPs. It’s a little like finishing school.”
“Weird,” I said.
“Yeah, the girls at Allen Hall would never put up with that crap,” said the Head Waiter. “They’d start a Revolution. This dorm is full of New York Jews.”
“Cool,” I said. “Maybe I’ll get invited to visit someone in New York. My senior class at high school took a bus trip to Washington D.C. and New York.”
“That’s a long ride from…”
“Iowa,” I inserted.
“Then you can invite them to visit you in…what do you call it? Des Plaines?”
“Des Moines,” I said. “It’s the capital of Iowa.”
More laughter. “Most of us are from Chicago,” a waiter explained.
“But not all of us are from a big city,” said the waiter whose name tag said ‘Scott.’ “I’m from Fonjelack”. That’s French.” And he wrote out ‘Fond du Lac’ on a paper napkin.
“Oh, Fond du Lac,” I interpreted. “That means at the bottom of the lake.”
“No, it’s pronounced  “Fonjelack,” said the waiter.
“So you don’t have any food down here? I’d better go get some breakfast.”
“Try the Brat Cellar. They have Bratwurst.”
“For breakfast?” I sighed. “I just want cereal.”
“Try Dunkin’ Donuts,” said the Head Waiter. “And be sure and tell me what your parents say when they find out you’re living in a Jewish dorm.”
“Oh they won’t care,” I said.
"It’s not that we have anything against the Jews.”

But I was wrong. They wanted me to move out. And they were not amused when I suggested moving into the towers of Lowell Hall, a posh Jewish dorm with a swimming pool.. For by the time of my phone call home, I had become educated in the matter of private dorms, and I knew all about Jewish last names and New York Jews. Disastrously, my mother had found out about Anne Emery. I refused to move there. “It’s really anti-intellectual,” I explained.
My mother admitted that that was not a good thing. She would reconsider the state dormitories, she said. “Not that we have anything against Jews,” said my mother.
“But they are clannish, and the thing is, Linda, you will make all of your friends in the first year. And if all of your girlfriends are Jewish…”
            “Then all of the boys you meet are likely to be Jewish,” my father added. “And it will be harder for you to find a husband.”
            “Uh huh…” I said. I was already thinking of my date that night for a party at Pi Lambda Phi. They were going to have a live band, and a lot of the guys were really cute.
Foolishly, I blurted out: “I think it’s too late. All of the guys I go out with are Jewish.”
            “ But no worries,” I added. “I may not want to find a husband. Since marriage is kind of a bourgeois institution.”
            “Well if you’re going to rebel you can always come back to Iowa and live at home and attend Drake University for free,” my mother reminded me. “Since I’m on the faculty, the tuition would be free.”
            “I don’t want to rebel,” I exclaimed. “And actually I meet a lot of guys at – the French House –“
            “Are they French?” My father wanted to know.
            “ – and in student government! Did I tell you I’m running for NSA?”
            And so it went. My parents were fit to be tied, but fortunately for me, the housing contracts ran for one year, and by six weeks into the year, it was too late to change anything. What a relief! As long as I was a Freshmen, I would be safe – safe to stay with the friends I had already made, safe to date whomever I pleased.
            Indeed, by the time my parents began seriously to worry about the Jewish dormitory and one thing leading to another, it was already too late. In the second semester of my Freshmen year, having turned eighteen, I was old enough to – vote? No. Drink alcohol? No. But according to the Gynaecologist I consulted, I was certainly old enough to make my own decisions about birth control. And he offered to prescribe the pill.
Really? Did I really not have to worry about getting pregnant? It was hard to believe. But there was this new form of birth control, and it was something like 98% effective. So when Jeff and I, along with our friends Bob Fireman and Laurie Wolf and David Scott ad Elaine Meshes, spent the week-end in Chicago and saw a musical called Hair, and then the two of us arrived back at Jeff’s apartment and put a wonderful recording of The New World Symphony on the Hi Fi, it seemed like the best time possible to lose my virginity. Jeff had already lost his, but I didn’t hold it against him; someone had to know what they were doing.
            Flash forward three years and we were getting married. Though we had broken up and gotten back together a couple of times, I had only dated a few other guys, and he had only dated a few other women. Both sets of parents had opposed our relationship from the beginning – from the very first date to our engagement. But now their opposition mysteriously melted away. We began to plan the wedding for late summer: we would get married on August 1, 1970, and drive from Iowa to Palo Alto, California, camping along the way in our new zip-and un-zip-able tent.
Issues of religious sensitivity would be handled with foresight and care. We were going to have a spiritual wedding but a non-religious one. We would not marry in a church or synagogue (nor would we marry in a field or in a tree, though both of these options were becoming fashionable). There was in Des Moines a mysterious women’s philanthropic society called the P.E.O., and we arranged to be wed in their non-denominational chapel. All of Jeff’s relatives were coming, and it was important not to offend any of them, and specifically Jeff’s aunt on his father’s side, Aunt Rose, by including any references to Christianity. The Reverend Dr. William K. Weber of the Westminster United Presbyterian Church agreed to marry us; he agreed to our writing our own ceremony, as couples were doing at that time as long as one of the three selections for the service came from the New Testament. We chose Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (“…But the greatest of these is Love….”) and added a story from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Matthew Arnold’s poem Dover Beach. Perhaps the most pessimistic and at the same time romantic poem ever written, Dover Beach describes the refuge that awaits two souls adrift in a world in which it is impossible to have faith in God or man, or in any thing on Earth, at a time in history when man’s ideals have been destroyed, trust seems forever broken, and the only possible survival is Romantic Love:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

There was one further stipulation by the Reverend William Weber. We would agree to meet with him no less than six times prior to the ceremony, for an hour each time, in his office at the church. Since Jeff was living at home in Whitefish Bay, suburb of Milwaukee, this presented something of a hardship, but Dr. Weber insisted. We needed to continue to work on the ceremony until we all felt it to be completely our own. 

Camouflage and other Diversionary Tactics

Six meetings and countless showers and rehearsals and recitals later it was time. A vast number of Jeff’s relatives were staying in hotels all around Des Moines. It was July 31st, and the wedding was the next day.  We went from the country club where the rehearsal dinner had taken place to the P.E.O. chapel, where we planned to do a little rehearsing.
When we arrived, Jeff noticed a gigantic cross hanging above an altar. This was nothing short of disaster in the making. Aunt Rose, who would be sitting in the front row on the right side of the aisle, would walk out if she saw so flagrant a symbol of Christianity. Could the Cross be removed? Alas, no. It was welded to the wall. My father quickly scoped the situation and came up with a solution. The next morning when we arrived, the Cross had been covered by a very large floral arrangement. Once the fiercest opponent of the match, he now wanted everyone to enjoy the ceremony, and to feel comfortable throughout. When one of the women directors of the P.E.O. objected vociferously to the camouflaging of the Cross, my father pointed out that the Cross was in no way being damaged by the flowers. Being my father, he also pointed out in rather blunt terms that he was paying for this wedding, and therefore it should be to his specifications.
And that was not all. The Reverend William K. Weber had a little surprise for us. He had been thinking. He understood why, at each of the six planning sessions that bride and groom had been required to attend, Jeff had repeatedly requested that the minister not make any reference to Jesus Christ. For if he did, Aunt Rose would surely walk out. And that is why he had agreed to keep his references to the Supreme Power vague and abstract. He understood that  this was our wedding, and we should have it the way we wanted it.
On careful reconsideration, the Reverend had       decided that it was  his wedding, too.

       But on careful reconsideration, the Reverend decided that it was his wedding too. In order to be able to marry us with the proper Blessing, he needed to feel free to refer to God the Father, God the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, indeed to the Triune God, the Holy Trinity. There ensued a theological discussion in which Dr. Weber, Ph.D. Princeton Divinity, endeavored to explain the immanence of the Trinity while Jeff repeated that if he so much as whispered the name Jesus, Aunt Rose would march out right in the middle of the ceremony.
            And there was something else. That robe he was wearing, what was it for? And might he possibly have a simpler robe. Well no; this was the robe he always wore as a Doctor of Divinity.
            “Because that robe has two large, unmistakable crosses on it, one hanging from each shoulder.  
            “What do you want me to do, rip them off?”
            No sooner were these words spoken than Jeff, unfamiliar with the nuances of Iowa sarcasm, obliged our minister by yanking the cloth crosses off himself.

    All Together Now

In fact I didn’t see the ripping off of the cloth crosses, because I was backstage, so to speak, waiting with my father for the ceremony to begin. Feeling a little faint, I was happily diverted when an unexpected friend turned up and helped me get through the next five minutes with laughter and tears. At last the melodic cues could be heard. Mrs. Morrison’s musically gifted children were providing the introit: one on flute, the other on the guitar. It was time, time to start a new life. A sacred symbol camouflaged, a rebellious man of the cloth cautioned and disarmed, and families seated amicably on each side of the aisle, it was as though a truce had been declared. Now our new life could begin without conflict.          

It was a beautiful service. Everybody said so. Aunt Rose cried softly into her embroidered hanky. Jeff’s mom wore a turquoise dress that became her; all six sisters were there, and at the party after the ceremony, she was in her element. My mother glowed in an emerald dress the color of her eyes; her dear friend Ruth, personification of wisdom and grace, also had a Jewish son-in-law, Andrew, whose wedding in an Iowa cornfield I had attended, badly hung-over, the summer before. Ten years hence, when Lucia and Andrew would have divorced, I would visit Ruth’s daughter in her apartment on Central Park West. A few years later Lucia and I, both single, would stand in her parents’ backyard at the wedding of Nancy, Ruth’s youngest, to yet another Jewish son-in-law, Joe Jeff Goldblatt. That marriage would last. But for now we were all optimists, all idealists and romantics. believing in the surpassing power of love. For a little while differences were forgotten, everybody celebrated together, male and female, young and old, Christian and Jew, and parent and child.   


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