Our daughter, Anna’s, birthday falls on March the 20th, which happens to be the day before M. (for privacy) and my wedding anniversary. Anna was born on the day before our first anniversary. Over the years, Anna got a party and a cake, and the next day, worn out from the day before, we got… quite often nothing. It’s just the way it is, akin to your birthday falling on the day after Christmas.
So, today’s our anniversary. March the 21st, the first day of Spring. We chose that day deliberately. For people who were raised in cold places – me, Toronto, and M., Chicago – the first day of Spring is the happiest day of the year. No more winter. We wanted to be married on that very special day.
The most amazing thing I can say about M. is that she freely consented to become my wife. I haven’t quite gotten over that. M’s out of town right now, and she hasn’t given me permission to talk about her, so I’ll leave it at that. Also, I’m not a big fan of gushing in public. It seems like showing off.
“Ooh, look how romantic and sensitive I am.”
I choose to deliver my “I love you’s” in private. Though, occasionally, I forget.
Rather than gushing over how fortunate I am, I’ll tell you the story of how we met. It’s a story in which luck plays an enormous role, and action, at least on my part, plays virtually none. Looking back, that’s pretty much how the best things in my life have happened for me.
Okay, here we go.
Outside the Century City Hospital. A big outdoor patio. I’m waiting for my chest x-rays to be developed; I need the x-rays as part of the package I’m required to produce to obtain my Green Card. Apparently, America needs its Resident Aliens to have healthy lungs.
The only other person on the patio was M., waiting out the results of a glucose tolerance test. I was getting impatient. I don’t wear a watch, so I asked her the time, and she told me. The wait, in turned out, for both of us, would be a quite a while longer.
I asked her if she wanted to take a walk. She said okay. She told me she was a single mother with a four year-old daughter, and that she was getting her Masters Degree in Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University. I told her I wrote for television. I also decided to brag. It’s a little pathetic, bragging to a stranger, but there you have it.
I told her that I’d just won the Humanitas Prize for an episode I had written for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The walk ended. I didn’t ask for her name or her number, and I didn’t give her mine. I figured I was ahead of the game just having a friendly walk.
Six weeks later…
I get a call. It’s M.
“Do you remember me?”
“Yes, I do.”
How did she get my number? It turns out that the faculty at Loyola Marymount University voted for the Humanitas Prize; it took little effort to find out my name. My number was in the phone book. She told me she had called for a reason, actually to ask for a favor.
As part of her studies in film and television, M’s class had been given the assignment of contacting someone who worked in the entertainment business, and to interview them concerning their on-the-job experiences. In that way, students would have a better understanding of the business they were planning to go into. Myra asked if could take me to breakfast and talk to me about my work. I said okay.
We met at a breakfast place in Venice. M. asked me some written-down questions, and I answered them. Then, once again, we went for a walk. As we parted, acting way bolder than is my habit, I asked for her phone number. I recorded the number on the filthy windshield of my ’72 Mazda. Then, I went home.
I never called her. Hey, I was two walks and a breakfast ahead. No point in being greedy.
Six weeks later...
Myra calls again. It’s now October.
“Do you remember me?”
“Yes, I do.”
M. has called to invite me to her birthday party. She gives me her address. It’s on a “walking street” in Venice, the kind of street you can walk on but not drive along, meaning it’s hard to find, especially at night. Especially for me. I said I would be there.
On the night of the party, I got in my car and drove to Venice. And I couldn’t find her street. What a surprise. (That was sarcasm.) At that point, there were only two choices – I could keep looking, or I could give up. I decided to keep looking.
I still couldn’t find the street. There was supposed to be a street that led to another street, on the left of which was the walking street. I couldn’t find the first street.
It seemed like time to give up. When the going gets tough, I, traditionally, go home. This time, I didn’t.
Instead, I stopped at a nearby house, got out of my car – in Venice, at night, not the safest proposition back then – I walked up to a stranger’s front door, and I rang the bell. To me, this was brave leaning towards foolhardy. I was still new to this country and retained the impression that all Americans owned guns! And dogs with enormous, pointy teeth.
The stranger who lived there opened the door. I apologized for the intrusion, and in an “I’m really quite harmless” kind of a voice, I asked for directions to M’s street. The stranger gave them to me. I thanked them and returned to my car. Not much of a story there, but better a boring story than getting shot to pieces for trespassing. Don’t you think? And if you don’t…hey!
Getting out of the car taught me a lesson about my feelings for M. Apparently, I liked her.
I made it to the party. M. seemed happy to see me. A second reflection of my feelings for her was that I didn’t make a big deal about how hard it had been for me to get there. That’s probably not true, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t overdo it. At least, not by my usual amount.
Even the inept and the inert make a move at some point. A few days after the birthday party, I asked M. out on a date. Our relationship moved forward – blah – you know, this and that – and five years later, we were married. And we’ve remained married for, as of today, twenty-six years.
It was only years later that one of M’s friends spilled the beans that there had been no classroom assignment to find out what it was like to work in the entertainment business. M. had made it all up, as a pretext to reconnect, and to sleuthfully learn more about me. I could have been angry at having been hoodwinked. Instead, I felt flattered and appreciative, of her interest and her attention.
I still am.