My world consisted of four square miles, living and breathing in a beautiful part of Los Angeles where classy businesses and residences had the latest and most beautiful things in the world: Wilshire Boulevard's Miracle Mile.
To the south, the world changed. The school I taught in was on Pico, a dividing line between the have and the have not. To the north, Immaculate Heart College on Los Feliz Boulevard, where I was finishing up my graduate work, adjacent to Griffith Park and the Observatory was the school for privileged ladies from rich families; to the west, beaches and the communities of Santa Monica, Westwood, Palisades.
It was a world of home and school almost exclusively.
With Neil's arrival, my world expanded, with each drive we took, each neighborhood, he spoke of his dreams becoming a scientist at Cal Tech and JPL, living up in the hills, raising a family. His work at IBM was temporary, he said.
We took long rides exploring the city and our past, with each mile going further and further out of Los Angeles. I learned that America was diverse, enormously beautiful in its natural state.
He spoke of trees, rivers, unspoiled mountains and lakes of the Northwest. I told him of churches, statues, fountains, piazzas and long history of Italy.
He missed forests and mountain trails, solitude and sounds of streams.
I missed walks on the piazzas, eating great food, laughter and chatter with family and friends.
We read poetry to each other. We danced, till the wee hours of the morning as our fingertips found each other.
Neal was resolved to get me to pass the driving test and had a foolproof method. His instructions went something like this: “Drive up to the car parked in front and line up; back into your spot by turning sharply with a ¼ turn; begin to straighten up as your front is close to the back of the car in front of you. Voila’ you are now parked!” Every evening after dinner, we jumped in the car and went for a ride starting on Wilshire’s Miracle Mile.
Driving was becoming a testing ground for our new relationship. The only way I could pass that test was to exchange cars with someone, I thought. A big car like my Olds didn’t like being squeezed between two other cars.
On an weekend visit to the Observatory, at the end of March, we parked down at the foot of the place, and hiked up. Half-way, sitting for a break, he looked into my eyes and said: “I want you to have this.” He slipped a ring on my finger, a diamond ring that must have cost him a couple of months’ salary.
We never made it to the Observatory.
By the end of March, I had a driving license and an engagement ring.
The Immaculate Heart College’s brochure was right: Most girls marry within two years of graduation. Those nuns knew something I didn’t.
We married in July, after four long months of engagement and a series of lectures by Father Peachea. At the ceremony, a High Mass courtesy of the priests that taught at Conaty and a full chorus courtesy of the nuns at the same school, all my friends occupied one side of the church. On the other side, just his father, step mother and half sister who received an oral invitation a few weeks before the event and managed to drive down from Washington State in time for the ceremony.
Uncle Ted and his family did not attend. Aunt Adelina, her family, friends and in-laws all attended. Uncle Nick, Adelina’s husband, gave me away. Theresa and her cousin Brahim were our Maid of honor and Best Man. She had arranged for my dress and for a photographer to show up and take pictures of the event. I was dazed and in a dream through the entire ceremony.
We had the reception at the apartment. Simple fare, sandwiches and cake from Sarno.
Many people had contributed to our day, flowers, transportation. Michelle and Pilar had moved back to their families at the end of June, but had returned for the wedding. Everyone blessed the union.
The non-refundable ticket was never used.
End of Part One