Twenty-nine Palms 045 (Photo credit: Michael R. Swigart)
The first time I saw California was in 1959. My new husband to be was a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County. After he retrieved me from the train I had taken to cross the US, we drove to Twenty-nine Palms where we were married first by a Justice of the Peace and then by a Catholic Priest a few months later. I was underage so I had papers my Dad had signed to give me permission to wed.
Years later when I was divorcing my second husband, I asked my Dad why he, knowing how ignorant and naïve I was at the time, signed those papers, but he didn’t want to talk about it. His response, before my wicked stepmother broke up our conversation was. “That was a long time ago.”
I was disappointed not to discover first hand from Dad what my parents were thinking at the time they let me go, but perhaps it was for the best. Perhaps I would have been very disappointed in them if I knew their rationale. My parents and I were so out of touch with each other that I suspect they thought I was pregnant (I was not). But perhaps it was something more sinister. I will never know.
Its embarrassing that I have no excuse for making such a dumb decision at an early age, but legally, I tell my self, I was still a child. Sometimes when I feel low, I think about how my life might have transpired had I not married so young and had children when I was still a child.
One friend said, but if you hadn’t married young, you wouldn’t have your children. True, I said, but perhaps I would have married later and had children and never known the difference. She was appalled, but I believe in fate. The children I had, could have had a different experience if they had grown up in a different household.
Carrying this scenario a bit further, I imagine I would have completed high school in the fall following the summer I was first married, and then college. My uncle and god father, an honest-to-goodness Texas oil millionaire, had visited me when I was a sophomore in high school and told me he would pay my way through college. I was ignorant, and did not appreciate at that time what he offered me. My parents had encouraged me to go on to higher education but they had no money, so this was my ticket to college if it was to happen at all.
But I didn’t like my parent’s plan so I quit school and went west to marry my alcoholic boy friend. It seemed so exciting at the time…escaping my overbearing parents, leaving school forever. Traveling on a train to California. I was Gidget and it was the summer of 1959.
But things never quite work out the way you imagine. If I had listened to my parents, gone to a posh girls college and then married some toff, would my life have been any better, any easier? I doubt it. Given my tendency to become involved with alcoholics, what do you think?
By the time I married David, I had been in Al-Anon for three years and David although crazy as a fox was “sort of sober.” Both of us were impulsive, and me liking reckless guys who drove fast cars, and he wanting stability, we married about three months after we met.
Flash forward thirty years, and we are still married. Sometimes things work out well, if you are living your life one day at a time.
When I got my hair cut yesterday, Vivienne, who sometimes cuts it said, “He is so sweet” referring to David. I had my head in the shampoo bowl at the time, but I said Ha!! very loudly so David could hear me. “Haven’t you ever heard the expression, street angel, house devil?” Well, he isn’t really a devil, although I think he likes it if I act like he is still a bad boy. I could kill him at times, but mostly, he is a good person. But we have had our difficulties from time to time. Like now when he refuses to take seriously the health conditions which have plagued him this past year.
He has done his best to turn me into his mother, but I am not the motherly type. Most days, I am not sure I was even a good mother to my own children. Sometimes I think I should have stayed single and not had children. My Mom was like this too. Her movie heroines were Barbara Stanwick and Rosalyn Russell or at least the “independent women” characters they played in movies. Mom used to tell us kids she should have been a nun because then she wouldn’t have to put up with bratty kids.
David won’t travel anymore, so I bought my own first class ticket to visit my son and his family in California the first week in October. My son thought I was going to come sooner, like in May or June so I could see my oldest grandson play baseball. But I am not a fan of ball games, no how, no way, and with my back and propensity for skin cancer, the last thing I need is to sit on bleachers in the sun. I will visit them when the kids are in school. That way I can see them for short bursts of time. Otherwise, I might start looking for the nearest nunnery.