Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Rising of the Irish

After high school it appeared for a while that I would never find a job. I was hardly equipped for much, but the other options were not available to me, or at least I had been led to believe by my parents, these being college or the military. My own desire was to be a writer, but the wise counselors of the Pennsylvania Educational System had informed me I didn't have the vocabulary for such a pursuit. They found me suited to running a machine. Nonetheless, I did finally gain full and lawful employment near the end of November 1959; my first day was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so I had my first day working and then my first paid holiday all in a row. The place setting pictured here has nothing to do with Turkey Day, but much to do with the coming and going of my next romance with a girl I met at Atlantic Refining Company in early 1960.

Her name was Pat (Patricia) and she was Irish through-an'-through. She was a wee slip of a lass and cute as a button, as the cliche goes. Like Suzy, another cute girl, she was short, less than five foot tall and at the peak of her head was the loveliest red hair.

We first went together to a party that mutual acquaintances at Atlantic threw and while there made a second date to visit Willow Grove Amusement Park on a double date. This was not with Ronald and Ginny because by then Ronald was in the Army and gone from the area.

By the late spring, several dates together, we were getting very serious about our relationship. It reached that point where the girl invites the boy home to meet the family, and in this case, practically here whole family.

It was quite the shindig, a word her family probably never used, and I even had to wear a suit and tie for the occasion. As if I wasn't nervous enough just meeting ma and pa I was positively petrified when the whole gaggle of us sat down to eat. You see, I come from plain folks, working class people, who often suffered from lack of funds. When we sat down to a meal there was a dish, a knife, a fork and possibly a spoon. I would have a glass of whatever I was drinking and the "adults" would all have a coffee cup behind the plate, not necessarily on a saucer. Except for our more elaborate Sunday dinner, there was often no tablecloth and napkins were of the folded paper variety held in a plastic thing-a-ma-bob on one edge of the table by the salt, pepper and ketchup.

Now I sat down facing a bowl upon a platter and a saucer and cup and another tiny bow-like dish, a glass on a tall pedestal (crystal stemware) and a platoon of silver. There were knives and forks of varied sizes flanking the plate and bowl as well as a couple of spoons and then another spoon and smaller fork parallel behind the plate. The napkin was cloth and in a ring. There was most certainly a tablecloth and to protect the brocade of this cloth, placemats. This was confusing enough, but what worried me most was a small bowl beside each setting filled with a clear liquid. I had heard about finger bowls in my readings or in the films, but was that what this was? I certainly didn't want to dip my fingers into some fancy broth or something. And of course I also wasn't certain what utensil to pick up first, so I didn't make a move until I saw what the other diners did. I actually don't think I ever did learn what that mysterious little bowl of liquid was.

I survived that night, but I didn't survive something else, which had never even crossed my mind as a potential problem. Her parents did realize that we were very serious about each other. One morning that summer I came to work to find Pat waiting in the hallway for me.

"I have to talk to you," she said very solemnly, as if their had been a death, which there was about to be.

We went around the corner to a bit more private section and she said, "I can't go out with you anymore."

"Why," I asked, "what'd I do?"

" My parents have forbidden me to date you," she said in almost a whisper. "You're not Catholic…"

"I don't care," and I was getting angry. "That's not your parents' business…"

But she was crying now and we men don't handle women's tear well. She turned and ran into the ladies room that was only a few feet away from where we stood.

I stood there in shock, when this tall Irish lass came out of the restroom and up to me. She worked

on the same floor in the same department as Pat. I worked in a different section. We often passed in the hall and she always said hello to me and I always answered her back, but in my shyness toward strangers and my low way of talking prevented her hearing my response. Despite the fact she thought I was rudest guy around because she never heard me, she continued to say her hellos.

This time she didn't say hello, she said instead, "What's wrong with Pat. She's in there crying her eyes out."

I told her and she tried to comfort me and gave me a smile and then we went to our separate work areas.

I don't know if it was that night or the next, but we did happen to ride down the elevator together and when we reached the front door we walked along next to each. We started a conversation about something or other and I accompanied her to her subway stop. I rode the train and had a few more blocks to the rail station. As she started through the turnstile I asked her out the coming Saturday. I waited to the last minute figuring if she said no then she'd go through the gate and I'd go my way without any awkward moments. She said yes.

We had that date and we went to a mvid, then to a diner and ate and back to her place where we sat in the kitchen and talked to daybreak. (Why her dad didn't throw me out somewhere about midnight I do not know.) I do know that we not only began dating regularly, we also began seeing each other everyday, walking between that subway stop and work, and having lunch at Lew Tender's on Broad Street.

Three weeks after that first date I looked across my Blue Plate Special there at Lew Tender's one lunchtime and said, "You know I'm going to marry you someday."

That wasn't a proposal, just a statement. We continued through the summer constantly seeing or wishing to see each other, when who should appear one day from nowhere but the Russian.

Yes, Sonja who had somewhat flippantly tossed me aside when
she drew attention from the big city boys the year before came around with flirty eyes. Apparently the bog city boys had lost their desire for the pretty country girl somewhere along the line and she was back looking for the local talent.  Lois, that tall Irish lass who had soothed my hurts when Pat delivered her bombshell, did not take kindly to Sonja's reappearance, especially when she kept popping up. It was too late for Sonja. Sonja had been infatuation, a dazzling display that played into the teenage boys fantasies, but Lois was the real deal and as beautiful as any.

I did that fall propose to Lois in Valley Forge Park and a year later we married and that was nearly 53 years ago as this is written and that one is still here beside me. As to the others I do not know where they all went. Helen and Joan were early dates and more just passing diversions. Jeannette and I drifted apart after a year of correspondence as distance will do to summer romances and she found a steady boyfriend near home.  Peggy became a stunning beauty as an adult, became a teacher, married with three children and seemly has lived happily ever after. I haven't a clue about Carmella or of Pamela. Suzy, the pilot, ever the adventuress suffered a very bad motorcycle accident in her twenties which left some mental and physical scars, but she is married with four children and four grandchildren to date. Louise married and has three children. Pat also married, but I've lost track of her. Sonja never married. She lived at her parents home for a long time.

Just a final note: Lois is partly Irish, but twice as much German on her material side, while a quarter Native American (her paternal grandmother. She began a new chapter, in fact several, in my life, fodder for future essays.








1 comment:

Ron said...

Lar,
A lovely story. Thanks for sharing. There were some details that I was not aware of. Of course you left out the more purient details but then this is a family blog. I'm happy for you that you found your perfect match in Lois.
Ron