Things after Alviso’s train passage went as scheduled with one minor change, the wedding’s week delay to avoid it occurring while on my period. The reschedule also provided one last Desoto “girl’s night out”, a bachelor party of sorts. It was uneventful, except the girls made me hide in the trunk when we went to the drive-in movie.
On Saturday, June 15, 1968, a bright summer morning, my fiancée and I were joined in marriage, on the cheap. The groom was a twenty-three-year-old college graduate, with the good job promised. The bride was an eighteen-year-old high school graduate, the virgin the groom ensured. Everyone except us thought the bride too young with the groom kidded about robbing the cradle. I had no qualms of being too young even though I still thought of myself as a girl, not a woman. My fiancé was the responsible ones in our households. I would be the good wife and he the good husband.
We married "In the church", meaning a Catholic wedding and a happy mother. This required my’ non-Catholic fiancé, to take Catholic dogma lessons and sign papers raise our offspring in the faith. The civil paperwork was simple, just birth certificates and signatures.
The parish priest initially was more difficult. He thought of me as a poor, young, Catholic girl taken advantage of by an older protestant. After the priest knew more about us and our families, he became less critical but admonished us in his pre-nuptial consulting not to use birth control. He explained, in detail, how it interfered with God's plan for marriage, the birth of children. He omitted mention of how medicine interfered with God's other plan, death.
I kept my dogma heresies to myself and used the confessional to manipulate him. My confessions, untruthful since the first soapy shower, let me confess lies. The sanctity of confession meant he was gullible to what I said. In the dark confessional booth, I kneeled before his little screen door and turned him, convinced him my fiancé was good.
I concocted whoppers of hating school, jealousy of rich people, confessed truthfully to everyday venial sins and fessed up to kissing longer than three seconds, all to establish veracity. Tossing in the failure to observe the Catholic orthodox arbitrary kissing time limit of three seconds was needed plausibility as a priest is not that naïve. In confessionals, they’ve heard it all. Fessing to it, allowed him to think he was monitoring my sex life, a sex life limited to kissing, excluding "petting" and Vixen's pleasures, lies of omission.
I "befriended" him by seeking his advice. In the confessional, I explained I had confusion over how to be a good wife. He loved providing guidance on being married and being a wife even though he never was either. Summed up, his curator's advice was; obey my husband, sex is good if for procreation, never divorce and ensure the children are raised as good Catholics. He admonished me to control my protestant fiancé’s sex urges until the wedding vows were exchanged. Once they were, I was to submit to them but not use birth control.
With my veracity established, the admonishment was my cue to put my fiancé’ into the priest’s good graces. While I admitted my fiancé liked kissing, I confessed truthfully, it was he, not me who drew the sex limitation line before marriage. With the marriage date confirmed, I was okay with his sexual urges but my fiancé’ insisted I remain a virgin until we met on the altar.
The priest gobbled it up. He was convinced, I was a good Catholic girl; my fiancé did love me and we were “behaving” before marriage. He respected my fiancé, ’even though Protestant by my telling the truth in confession after establishing veracity with lies.
I figured if I didn’t give him a few mortal sins, the questions would start but more importantly I wanted him to authorize my marriage to a non-Catholic. My confessions assisted him to do so, to even approve of my fiancé.
My fiancé put his time in but never changed his agnostic beliefs. His parents, initially upset about his marrying a Catholic and taking Catholic tenet lessons, relaxed when told it was all a charade to keep Mom happy. In the know, they became co-conspirators. Dad didn't care but did tell me to take the rabbit's foot on my trip to the altar. He always liked a backup.
We exchanged vows at the Most Holy Trinity Church, which had been recently built to serve Tropicana Village. Its name was appropriate for my First Communion experience. Just immediate family attended plus a friend each for bridesmaid and best man. My bridesmaid was my sole, true friend, Julie, one who knew more about who I truly was than anyone at the wedding. Dads wore ties, the only time I ever saw my father-in-law do so. I made my gown, white, including veil, reflecting my virginity.
Our parents didn’t socialize, and we worried how they would interact, he over his father's drinking and I if Dad would even show up. When he did, I was relieved and proud when he walked me down the aisle. Mom sobbed through the short ceremony from my walking down the aisle in my father's arm to when I walked out, a married bride holding my husband's hand, my rabbit’s foot talisman in the other.
Before the altar, the priest said Latin prayers, recited the necessary civil code and blessed us. We said "I do's", exchanged small gold bands blessed with sprinkled holy water, my veil was lifted, we kissed, turned, and walked out the aisle as church bells pealed to proclaim us man and wife.
Outside, a younger brother tossed rice and after a few hugs and handshakes, we clambered into three cars and went to my parent's house for the reception. At the house, Mom was no longer crying but smiling and hugging everyone. Dad cooked a combination of Chinese and American fare with prime rib and chow mein, ingredients I purchased.
Our belongings were stashed in a recently rented duplex in Mountain View. Our honeymoon suitcases were packed. We were anxious to depart but did our reception duty. With music from a portable record player on the rear concrete patio, I danced with my father for the first time, amazed to discover he was a good dancer, better than my new husband.
My siblings behaved themselves as did my in-laws. We were presented with wedding gifts. Dad gave two Waterford crystal wine glasses which I still have. My in-laws gave a $500 check as if to pay back some of their prior saving raids which my new husband was afraid would bounce but didn't. My mother gave a little statue of the Virgin Mary which I still pray to. My siblings gave a set of quality dishes as if to say they were sorry for the past bean pole comments.
After a dance with the few who desired, the food eaten, toasts given, clothes changed, my wedding dress stored in a bedroom closet guarded by Mom, it was time to depart. By then, I too was crying. My new husband dabbed away the tears, led me to his car, put in our packed bags and we drove off, the car smeared with "Just Married" rude comments plus two tin cans tied to the bumper by the younger brother who threw rice on the church steps.
I looked back as we drove off. My father in law and Dad were arm in arm waving goodbye. Dad held a bottle of Chinese wine in his free hand and my father in law a bottle of Jim Beam in his. Our Moms were waving with one hand while wiping tears with hankies by the other.
It was as good a wedding as I could have hoped for. I turned back, left them behind and looked out the front window, forward to a new life as a wife.
Disneyland, our honeymoon destination, was a two day, four hundred-mile trip before I-5. We took the US Highway 101 coastal route, it being scenic and more appropriate for our honeymoon versus the more direct US 99. Neither of us had ever ventured so afar, which made it also an exploration of the unknown.
Leaving the reception, sitting next to my new husband, now his wife, his '57 Chevy, now ours, we started off nostalgically, drove to downtown San Jose and turned south on First Street. As we drove past Original Joe’s, I looked about to see if any Notre Dame girls were cruising and flirting with boys. None were seen.
First Street merged into Monterrey Road, aka US 101. We sped past other prior haunts, the El Rancho Drive-In, Trader Lew's, and Frontier Village Amusement Park. Passing them I reminisced about my past.
Highway 101 followed the trail blazed by the Spanish Missionary, Father Junípero Serra who built California’s 21 missions from San Diego to Santa Rosa. Each mission was one day's walking distance apart, so the nuns taught us at Saint Clare’s. It was known differently as it twisted and turned through towns. Locally, it shifted between El Camino Real or The King’s Highway, in Spanish, The Alameda or The Avenue in Arabic and Monterey Road in English as it traveled south from San Jose to Gilroy.
Once on Monterrey Road, as the car’s wheels spun, I imagined each tire rotation equivalent to the good friar’s stride as he established his Missions in the California wilderness. I concluded, however, the story, while beautifully said, was a lie. The road simply followed a preexisting Indian trail.
Back then, Monterey Road between San Jose and Gilroy was a 3-lane highway. The middle lane was a two-directional passing lane, known as the suicide lane. We used it to pass slow vehicles while squinting ahead at headlights to see if another was using it coming from the other direction. I silently threw in a Hail Mary each time we passed, a doubting heretic.
The highway was lined with giant black walnut trees. These were planted by Father Serra to provide travelers shade and nuts to eat according to the nuns. As they whizzed past, I again overrode their version and concluding they were products of Cal-Trans or the WPA. I knew those trees, whose sturdy trunks which often killed when a car veered into them. They triggered my thoughts back to when I first saw them and was introduced to life’s disillusions.
Hearing from the nuns the potential of free nuts, I checked at the local market and saw the little packages of black walnuts were more expensive than the English ones. My dream to buy a portable electric Singer sewing machine for seventy dollars was beyond my babysitting earnings of fifty-cents an hour. Suddenly, it appeared possible to be able to afford one selling nuts. While I loved Mom’s foot pedal sewing machine, I wanted my own, one in my room which could do zig-zags and buttonholes. Collecting, shucking and selling black walnuts would be better than pushing firecrackers.
I reported this potential treasure trove to the family. All became interested in my proposed enterprise, each with their own desired monetary windfall agenda. On an October Sunday morning, we piled in the Buick with empty onion sacks, baskets and paper bags to scoop up nuts and get rich. The trees stretched for miles on both sides of Monterey Road. Black walnuts perched by the thousands in the trees, exposed naked as the leaves fell. Even more laid strewn on the roadsides, hidden within large gold, green and black rotting husks. As if plump eggs, they lay awaiting our harvest except for unlucky ones that had fallen on the road. Those were squished flat by speeding cars.
Dad steered off the road, down a little embankment and parked as I heard the crunch of walnuts trod over by the Buick’s wheels. I rushed out of my cramped back seat quarters between brothers with my sack and exclaimed.
“It’s an Easter egg hunt!”
I rushed about to get rich while cars zoomed past. Mom took the two youngest brothers to gather nuts along the road ditch, away from traffic. Dad, I and the 2 older siblings scooped up the easy pickings among the golden fall leaves near the road.
Picking them up, however, we discovered their thick husks were messy and fell apart in our hands. True to the tree’s name, they stained our hands black. Our paper sacks fell apart in soggy husks and the onion sacks oozed black juice. Dad got upset about the mess on the Buick's floor and in its trunk. After a couple of hours, we all clambered back in the car and returned home to reap our surfeit harvest with blackened hands.
Back home, the rotten husks further blackened us as we attempted to remove the messy husks and whack open the tough shells with hammers. Soon dreams of a Singer sewing machine and the purchase agendas of the others began to dissipate. Expectation of a wealth windfall turned to disappointment, disillusion, and anger, anger at the guilty one for the family disaster of black paws.
Mom, with black hands, apron and dress, exasperated after pounding on nuts to crack their hard shells, meticulously digging out the small amount of meat within a nut, took her desperation out on me. Squatting before a pile of big husked nuts and the little bowl of extracted meat, she muttered, "toink", Tagalog for "silly girl", then worked her way up to "gaga ka", "stupid girl".
Fully worked up, she arose, stood before me, lack hands waving, shouted and belittled me for my nutty idea. My siblings egged her on. It was the first time she yelled at me, me, her always obedient helper.
Crying, I ran to the bathroom, ashamed. It was Dad who rescued me. He got up from his nut shucking, laughed about the family effort of sudden wealth, and dumped the nuts in a backyard into a causality heap, and came to coax me out of the bathroom. As I sobbed behind the locked door, he whispered.
“Shu, my little virtuous swan. It’s okay. Please don’t cry. I have your rabbit’s foot. It needs petting. Please open the door. It’s all going to turn out okay.”
It was the first time Dad ever pleaded with me. I stopped my lamenting and meekly opened the door. Standing before him, I took the rabbet's foot. He smiled and hugged me and again reminded me I was his little swan.
It was the only time until my wedding day he hugged me. He had me wash my blackened hands then drove me to the San Carlos Street, Sear’s store, my paws still blackened despite scrubbing. On the way, he sang songs and got me laughing with his Yankee Doodle Dandy ditty.
At the store's entrance, he stopped and said, “Shu, life’s full of black walnuts. Success is how you move on with hands dirty.”
There, he bought me the portable Singer sewing machine which had launched my Monterey Road quest. He said it was for my next birthday, a beautiful lie. The truth was, it’s the only birthday present he ever bought me. His store entrance advice about life, I try to abide by.
I shifted thoughts to him puffing his Lucky Strike cigarettes, his love of cards.
I love Dad. He's irresponsible but he loves me.
I made my wedding dress with the little portable sewing machine and still have and use it. It and its memories became the true treasure gleaned from the walnut trees.
Years later I learned the trees were planted by a good Samaritan and his son, Horace Keesling, entirely on their initiative, to provide the thirty-mile stretch between San Jose and Gilroy with shade for those traveling by horse and wagon. It’s a better story than the one told by the nuns.
I returned to the present. The throaty muffler of the Chevy's V-8 manifold echoed against the tree trunks. Car light beams commingled with their leafy canopy. The effect was flickering, eerie shadows mixed with the steady throaty hum of the engine, an appropriate backdrop for the uncertainty of our beginning new lives as man and wife. My thoughts switched from the past to the future to be.
Will my husband hug me and make things all right like Dad when I do something stupid? Does he really love me? Will he grow tired of me, find another, divorce me? Will he drive away in the evening to meet others? Will we have kids, grow old together? Who will outlive the other? Will my honeymoon be wondrous or turn into disillusionment?
I ran down the possibilities without answers and concluded humming the lyrics from Mary Poppins:
"Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be."
He heard me humming, Whatever will be, will be, smiled and we sang the words together, he out of tune. With the last repeated stanza, I switched to praying the car wouldn’t break down. It never occurred to me I would betray him but I did, over and over.
Past Gilroy, the furthermost of our combined prior travels, I settled down to a travel's blank reflection as we passed the dark countryside, interrupted by the small agricultural towns of Salinas, Soledad, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Maria.
Santa Barbara was our first night's destination, out first night married. The place of the night's big action.
Past Santa Maria, the next town was Santa Barbara, our wedding night’s destination. Approaching it, my mind awoke to the unmentioned, "big event”, the scheduled end of my virginity.
My mind raced through questions.
Will I prove my virginity and bleed? Will it hurt? What will his penis feel like inside? Will I feel his ejaculation?
And over and over the lyrics from the song,
Will, You Love Me Tomorrow by the Shirelles,
"Tonight with words unspoken
You say that I'm the only one
But will my heart be broken
When the night meets the morning sun?
I'd like to know that your love
Is love I can be sure of
So tell me now, and I won't ask again
Will you still love me tomorrow?"
Finally, after seven hours of driving, we pulled into the Santa Barbara, Motel 6 parking lot, parked. He turned the key. The rumbling drone of the Chevy engine manifold ceased. The kiss upon lifting my veil in church was only a symbol for the real thing. Now it was time for the real thing, marriage’s consummation, the event which cemented church vows.
Back then, Motel 6 meant a six-dollar night’s stay, nationwide, a great deal for a motel near the California coast. Booking required a long in advance reservation. As the wedding planner, this chore was mine. It cost fifty cents to call directory assistance to get the motel’s phone number and another fifty cents for the long-distance call to make the reservation a Motel 7 to me.
Stiffly we stumbled out of our "Just Married" smeared car, tin cans long gone, stretched and then remembered to hug. It was a warm Southern California, late evening, the sky clear with a luminescent moon. The faint rolling noise of coastal surf and the smell of the nearby ocean made for a romantic first-night backdrop, so far so good. We sorted and carried luggage to the front desk where he signed us in, our first proclamation of Mr. and Mrs., a cause for a kiss.
Dragging our luggage up the open concrete steps to a 2nd-floor room, we fronted our honeymoon suite. After fumbling with the key and its green plastic room number tag, he unlocked the door and swung it open. Beyond the threshold was a sparse room, devoid of charm. A double-sized bed took up most of the space. He entered and drew the shabby curtains closed. I waited outside. He remembered, came back, picked me up and carried me across the threshold. We kissed, broke apart, went back out, picked up our luggage and re-entered. I took my bag to the small bathroom, shut and locked the door, stripped, showered, towelled, dried and brushed my teeth.
Naked, apprehensive, I opened my bag. Inside was a white 3-piece bridal peignoir set from Macy's Department Store, the most expensive attire I’d ever purchased up to then. I slid on the sheer nylon negligee and the chiffon jacket but skipped the panty as an unnecessary hindrance for the night’s big event. I dabbed on Channel 5 perfume purchased also for my taking, reapplied lipstick and checked the mirror.
As I studied my reflection, I thought of Dad. He could wrap a small gift so artistically the present took on greater value. I hoped I was wrapped to present greater value. Reminiscing of Dad, I went back to his old tweed striped suitcase he’d lent me for my honeymoon, opened it and took out my lucky rabbit’s foot from its satin pocket. I gave it a little stroke for luck, returned it to its hiding place and was ready.
Opening the bathroom door, seeing the worn carpet I went back and put on my white wedding pumps and came out to surrender to his unwrapping.
He sat on the bed in his T-shirt and Jockey underpants. He wore socks to also avoid touching the carpet. Jumping upon seeing me, he stood before me. I smiled a demur consensus in my white gown and pumps. He bent forward and kissed my lips, lips he assumed incorrectly touched only by his. He was ready for action if not dressed for it. He turned and led me to the bed, sat me down, untied my chiffon jacket and slid it past my shoulders. His look was a bit uncertain if I was ready. I was.
He laid me down on the bed, stripped except for his socks, his penis straight out, ready to claim me as his wife. This time there would be no hand stroked finish on a towel. He climbed on the bed with the light on, spread my legs with pump adorned feet, knelt before me and raised my negligee with my arched assistance. He stared down, admired my breasts, then my sparse, straight, black pubic hair, assumed incorrectly again as only his, untouched by another.
He reached to the nightstand and opened a tube of Vaseline he had set there. Confident, he spread Vaseline on his penis. Then in a rush, presented it lubed to my virgin vagina. Confronted, it resisted. He kissed me, forcibly thrust forward, with a sharp pang of pain, it gave way. He was inside me.
On the squeaky Motel 6 bed, twelve hours after the wedding bells peal my cherry vagina cork popped open to his thirst.
I felt his sperm rush in. Finished, he looked down at me almost as if guilty. I smiled assurance it was okay. He pulled out, rolled over and went to sleep. Left to sleep on the wet spot of his signature taking, I rolled into a fetal position and slept too, truly married.
I awoke to the early morning as I’m wont to do. The sun’s light filtered through the window’s dreary drapes. It was the first time I awoke next to a man. It felt good. He faced the other side of the small bed, curled in a fetal position. I looked about the room, creeped out of the bed, walked barefoot to the bathroom and sat on the toilet to pee. Relieved, I reflected on what had happened.
The wedding night was a disappointment. Even though with foresight he’d brought lubrication, his penetration hurt. The room was unromantic. The small black and white TV, hung on a wall mount, required a quarter. There were no soap bars, only a liquid soap dispenser. You could hear and feel the vibrations whenever someone passed the room on the concrete balcony. The El Rancho drive-in would have been more romantic.
I crept back to bed and spooned behind him. He awoke, rolled me on my back and took me again with grunts, without words, as I stared at the ceiling. I thought of the priest’s admonishment of heeding to a husband’s urges.
After he finished, I arose and got out of bed and traipsed back to the bathroom to shower. I looked back at the blood spot which had dripped through my negligee on to the sheet during the night, my warranty of virginity. I wondered what the maid would think when she saw it.
Showered, caked blood commingled with semen, washed away, no longer the virgin, a legally inseminated wife, I dried off on a towel that could compete for flimsiness with Mom’s hotel discards. I looked up to the small bathroom cabinet’s mirror. My lips were lips recently kissed in passion by another. My breasts and pelvis were sullied too. I was the virgin he wanted but not as he assumed. What would he have thought if he knew of Gary? When I set the phone down, walked to him and hugged him, he knew something had happened. He never asked but now was assured I was the virgin he wanted.
Although the surroundings of our wedding night were dingy, I was pleased, pleased we finally did it, pleased I gave him my virginity, pleased he was the one who took it, pleased I was officially married and most pleased when the night met the morning sun, he still loved me.
I lacked guilt as I dressed. Instead, I wondered about his experience. How did he know to bring Vaseline? What women could also lay claim to his penis? As I opened the bathroom door, I knew it best to forget all. Why question the past, why think of what alternate worlds could have been, why dwell on what ifs? What would have happened if Gary said he was ready to make a commitment? I pulled open the window curtain. Light flooded in. I was ready for the present and its future to be. Gary was history.
“Honey, get showered, get dressed. Let’s go to the Uncle John’s pancake house we passed last night. I’m starved.”
As he showered and dressed, I packed up. I stuffed our dirty laundry in a bag but carefully folded my peignoir set with its soiled negligee in Dad’s suitcase. It’s kept a faded spot after many washings, proof of my wedding night’s virginity. As I sip wine and write, it pleases me seeing it now.
Packed, he checked out while I carried our bags to the car. Back in the Chevy, we drove to Uncle John's Pancake House and ate breakfast, the beginning of our marriage routine.
Sated, we preceded along the coast on Highway 101, past Ventura, through Thousand Oaks, then up, over, and down the oak clad hills to the vast sprawl of the Los Angeles basin with its rug of smog. We entered the big city often talked about but never seen other than on TV’s Dragnet. Our Chevy became another ant among millions spewing smog on its freeway spider web.
US Highway 101 became the Ventura Freeway and connected to downtown LA, mostly low-rise buildings back then. From there, directed by me as navigator with maps strewn on the front seat, we took the Santa Ana Freeway until we reached Anaheim. We were more amazed seeing remnant orange groves and strawberry fields than the never-ending subdivisions and shopping centers as we drove. Los Angeles was not a real city like San Francisco. It was endless San Jose's connected by freeways. Off the freeway in Anaheim, we pulled into a motel called Cinderella near Disneyland.
Mornings and evenings, he took me with his pent-up sex drive. Soreness ebbed and on the fourth night, I experienced an orgasm during his huffing and puffing. It came as a surprise like the first ones in a soapy shower and "petting" but was different. It was more intense, he atop, his penis inside, my arms around him, my vagina stretched and clasped to his penis, my clitoris humming with his thumps. I returned upward thrust to his downward strokes. We climaxed together. I liked it. I wanted more.
The next morn I woke him, fondled his penis erect, climbed atop, slid it in with the last of the Vaseline. I rode my merry-go-round horse to an orgasm controlled by me; our heads pressed together. Surprised by Vixen's ardor, he flipped me over once I finished, and thumped hard until he spewed inside me. For the rest of the honeymoon, we got our money's worth out of the motel's bed.
Disneyland then was divided into four themed lands, Adventure, Frontier, Tomorrow and Fantasy with the later my favorite. I enjoyed Disneyland like a kid. I rode the merry-go-round, "The Mad Hatter's" teacups and "It's A Small-Small World" over and over reflecting my maturity.
"It's a Small World After All" echoed in my ears from the many times I waited through the throng line to ride again and again. It summed up my mindset.
It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hope and a world of fears
There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all.
Food was expensive in the park. We ate breakfast at a Sambo's restaurant with its 5-cent cup of coffee and today’s totally incorrect logo theme of Little Black Sambo and the tigers.
We discovered Ralph's grocery store chain where we purchased takeout food for dinner. We also visited Knott's Berry Farm and spent a day at the Long Beach Pike boardwalk, now gone.
The ship Queen Mary had recently arrived and sat berthed at the Long Beach pier. It was being prepared as a tourist attraction, not yet open to the public. We walked out on the pier to see it up close. It looked like the Titanic. From the wharf, I peered down at the lowest level of portholes, just above the waterline.
A wave of terror swept me. I shuddered thinking how my family would be in steerage if on the Titanic. As it went down, we would be trapped below deck, pleading behind locked steel grates. Depressed, my new hubby hugged and comforted me but he thought me a silly girl. We went back to the beach. Wading in the warm surf offset the gloom of seeing the Queen Mary.
LA freeways meant either creeping bumper to bumper or speeding over 60 miles an hour, bumper to bumper. The smog was real, the sprawl endless. Everything was expensive. Our honeymoon money exhausted, our time up, we headed home but on US 99, from a wondrous honeymoon.
We switched turns driving, kept our fingers crossed the wheels would continue to spin and drove nonstop. Late at night, we arrived at our new home, one half of a duplex. Exhausted but elated to have avoided car trouble, he carried me across the threshold to the bedroom. On the box spring and mattress on the floor, sans bed frame, we fell asleep, too tired for sex and me pregnant.
Author Notes: Starting a new life while remembering the old
Starting s new life while remembering the past