For the past six weeks, I have been able to think of nothing other than the Presidential election in the USA. After retiring from the navy, I’d spent the last 13 years pretty much letting the world go by until the most bizarre US election of all time dragged me back into intensely following world events because I believe the person that half the American people voted for will very likely make the world an even more dangerous place than it presently is.
However, this post has nothing to do with The Donald.
A few weeks ago, during my immersion in the Election, I received a message from Marron, a niece of my ex-husband, David Wilson (I kept the Wilson name to minimize confusion for my daughter. Back in 1975, divorce wasn’t as prevalent as it is today and having a name different from your mother’s often marked a child as “coming from a broken home”). Marron had just read some of my stories on this blog and commented how much she enjoyed them. She also said she often reminisced about the times she spent visiting with me and her uncle David when we lived on a lake in New Hampshire. She went on to say how much she admired me, and that she has always considered me to be part of her family. She still calls me Auntie Mary. I was very touched by this, especially since Marron must have been quite young when I was married to David.
Anyway, her letter got me to thinking about how I met David Wilson.
I began this blog with a story entitled “I Believe This is My 7th Life.” This story took place in my 2nd life.
It was May 1961. I was 17 ½ years old. Half way through my 11th year of parochial school education. An incident the year before (which may become the subject of a further blog), had abruptly ended my dream of winning a scholarship to a good college. What also went out the window was my interest in continuing my education and so I was only sporadically attending the public high school while working nights at an Ice Cream factory. You might say I was a troubled child. I began hanging out with some of my co-workers at the Ice Cream factory. My mother would have called them the “wrong crowd”, although there wasn’t much of a crowd as there were really only 2 of them, Millie and her sister, Dotty. They introduced me to Markey’s Bar, which was located near where a friend of theirs lived. At 17, I was the youngest of the group and I believe that Millie was probably 18 or 19 and Dottie may have been the only one of legal drinking age. However, no one ever asked any of us for an ID. I wasn’t much of a drinker, so I would nurse a whiskey-sour while listening to the band and occasionally dancing with some guy. It was just something to do since I’d given up on my studies.
I don’t remember the date in May, but I remember it was a weekday around noon. I had been visiting a friend and while driving home in my newly-purchased 1955 Ford, a bee entered through my open window. I recalled someone saying that the way to guide a bee out of your car was to take a piece of paper and just gently nudge the bee toward the window. Presumably, they were talking about a car that was not moving, or that had a person other than the driver to perform the operation. HOWEVER, I must have skipped over that part of the lesson. So, with my right hand, I searched for something on the seat to guide the bee out. I don’t remember what exactly I found. Perhaps it was a candy wrapper or something similar. I commenced the operation while keeping one eye on the road. But somehow, the need to get that bee out of my car took priority over the need to see where I was going and I spaced out on driving , concentrating only on that damn bee.
I don’t remember the actual crash. I woke up staring into the open trunk of a car, which I had somehow pushed up onto someone’s lawn. Our forward progress was stopped by a tree, also on the lawn.
There was a man talking to me, telling me I would be OK. He had a wet wash cloth in his hand and he was wiping blood off my face. He had been sitting on his porch across the street and had seen the accident He told me that he had called an ambulance. I heard the siren of the ambulance in the distance when two policemen came by the car, sending the Good Samaritan away with his wash cloth. Instead of addressing me at all, even asking me if I was alright, one policeman turned to the other and said, “Another God damn teenager. Probably drunk. Probably doesn’t even have a license”. This didn’t sit well with me and when he did finally speak to me, I refused to give him any information, even my name. He rode in the ambulance with me and continued to ask for my name. I suppose I was (and am) more than a bit stubborn, but I was hurt and I didn’t think I should have been treated like a criminal simply for having a stupid accident. Fortunately, my family doctor happened to be in the emergency room when we arrived and he intervened with the policeman and told him he would give him my information. Then my doctor asked me for my license. I gave it to him and he handed to the policeman before he stitched up my face, which had been imprinted by the steering wheel. In those days, the steering wheel was quite a bit larger than today’s models. So I suppose the steering wheel prevented me from going through the windshield.
The car I hit definitely got the worst of it, being sandwiched between me and the tree. And so it was totaled. I’m sure I didn’t understand what coverage I had for insurance, but whatever it was, it was not enough to cover the damage to the other car, and so my mother cashed in my life insurance policy and paid the difference. After I had gotten my face and hand patched up, my thoughts turned to getting my 1955 Ford back and seeing if it could be repaired. And that’s when I met David Wilson.
The day after the accident, I had my car towed to the house next to my aunt’s house where I was living. The neighbor generously let me park the car in his yard until I got it fixed. That night, I met my friends at Markey’s Bar. My face was bandaged and my hand, which I had sprained, was wrapped in an ace bandage. I must have looked a sight! But as I was sipping my whiskey-sour, a man with beautiful sky-blue eyes came up to me and used the age-old line: “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” And then he asked what happened to me. I told him I’d had an accident and I wasn’t too hurt, but I was really worrying about getting my car fixed and back on the road. He said, “I’ll fix it for you”. “Really?” I asked. Then he told me he was a mechanic and he was serious. He would fix my car. Then he brought me over to the booth where he had been sitting and introduced me to his mother.
We sat and chatted for a while and David told me that he thought I was too young to be drinking in a bar. He said he recognized me from a couple of years ago when he used to see me at the corner of the street where he lived with his mother. He remembered me wearing my Saint Mary’s uniform, standing on the corner smoking a cigarette and waiting for my friend so we could walk together to the bus stop and go to school. David told me that he used to watch me from his window and wonder about me. Small world, huh? I told him I no longer wore the uniform because I didn’t go to that school any more. I didn’t mention that I was still officially a school-girl. He said even with my face bandaged up I was still the prettiest girl in the bar.
That night, David offered to drive me home and to take look at my car. On the way, he asked me to marry him!
What??? I told him to ask me in another year if he was still around, which he did. I was no longer a school-girl and we married in August 1962.
PS. He never did fix my car but that’s another story.