Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they met the person they would eventually marry. I imagine my story is pretty typical, but I will share it for those that might have an interest.
My best bud, Susan, and I heard there was to be a party in the Bronx. It was a summer, Saturday night, we were fifteen and raring to go. Just like drums in the jungle, news of a party traveled from Throggsneck to East Harlem with lightening speed. We were going up to Edison Avenue without a care that we weren’t personally invited, nor did we know whose party it was. It didn’t matter. We hooked up with some guys, hopped on the IRT Lexington Avenue subway, then rode a bus to our destination. The group of us, four or five people, were party bound. The guy who was to be my date bought me a six-pack of beer, which I carried with me like a trophy. How romantic. I must say he was a sport. He and I had just met. I remember he was very tall.
When we arrived the party could be heard half a block away. It was in full swing. Some of the guys were surrounding what turned out to be our host, drilling him for information about his orders, and where he was being deployed to. It turned out the reason for this chaos was a farewell party for a young soldier. He was telling his friends that he had just been ordered to carry a side arm. He was going to a place called Saigon. Our host was eighteen and being ordered to carry a gun for this mysterious mission. No one knew where or what Saigon was or how it would turn into a tragic war. It was the summer of 1961. We were all really young.
I was feeling pretty cute in my black bandstand skirt (short a line shirt with four big buttons on it. Made popular by the Dick Clark show.) and my hair in a long ponytail. It had been tortured straight with beer can sized rollers. Apparently, a lot of the guys there thought I was cute as well. I was dark (remember this was the end of summer and I had been tanning for three months) while most of the girls there were fair with Irish blue-eyed appeal. To the Bronx boys who were mostly Irish descent, blue eyes were same ole same ole. I was decidedly different.
We were packed into a small one family house and it was rocking. I quickly lost the people I had come with. Being who I am and always was this just gave me an opportunity to wander around and meet someone new. I inched into the kitchen area and put my trophy beer down on a counter. It was not two minutes before an arm came around me and put his hand on my beer. With the speed of a cobra I put a death grip on his wrist and turned only to look into a pair of the most beautiful blue eyes I had ever seen. Now those eyes were decidedly different to me.
He smiled really big and charmed me out of a couple of beers. How could I refuse even knowing that he was in fact stealing my beer. He was so cute and his name was Jimmy. After sharing one or two Budweisers we got separated and the guy I came with found me. We hung out but I am sure we both knew there was really no attraction. It wasn’t long that Jimmy found me once again and we slipped out to the side yard.
The music could be heard out there, and there were couple after couple standing against the wall making out. Standing to make out was how it was done in those days. This way besides kissing you got to rub against each other too. Well, since that is what we were there for we began making out as well. I really liked him instantly except for the fact that he kept trying to pull up my band stand skirt and I had to keep smacking his hands down. Finally it was time to go. He was pretty drunk by this time. Jimmy insisted on escorting Susan and I back to Harlem. On the train he proclaimed loudly to everyone that we were on our way to Maryland to elope. He was very cute. Certainly, I gave him my phone number and we got him back on the train to the Bronx right after we arrived at 116th Street.
Susan and I talked and walked down the Avenues to home. I told her right then, I’m gonna marry that guy. She laughed and reminded me, he’s not your type, and she was right. That was fifty years ago.
My Jimmy is sitting in the next room!