Monday, August 30, 2010

Part 16 of "Miracle Boy”

I admit it. This next section borders on the fictional.

I figured if Frank McCourt could tell the story of his own CONCEPTION, in Angela's Ashes--that archetype and epitome of the modern memoir--well, this was fair game.

At least I'm not including the dirty bits!

Read on (even sans dirty bits)!

Chapter 2:
Divorce, bar mitzvahs & preadolescence—
Wasn't my life hard enough?


Over Thanksgiving weekend 1955, my parents meet. It's a blind date set up by Everett's cousin Burt. Everett is twenty-seven, visiting home—Columbus, Ohio—from Los Angeles, where he's been since graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard five years ago. He's earning a master's in English at UCLA and working as a sales clerk at the May Company on Wilshire Boulevard, among other odd jobs. Has considered law school for next year, yet finds the reading list intimidating. In truth, he isn't at all sure what to do with the rest of his life. He's also grown tired of L.A.'s beautiful but intellectually mediocre women.

He ventures to Paula's Cincinnati home—a tidy, cramped one-room apartment—with some trepidation. Paula, just nineteen, is home from Wellesley College, where she's a junior. An only child from a poor family. What could they possibly have in common?

After shaking hands, Paula's father immediately washes his right hand. An odd bird with a kind-eyed but brittle-looking wife, who doesn't want to let Paula go when it's time to leave.

Paula, petite and pretty in an unconventional way—not too pretty, thankfully—seems eager to hightail it. She wears her shoulder-length wavy brown hair in a modern, unfussy way, and owlish black-rimmed glasses.

At the restaurant, chosen on good authority from Cousin Burt, their conversation moves quickly to literature and art and philosophy … his passion for Lionel Trilling ... hers for Joyce ... his chauvinism for Dickens, Thomas Mann and the masterful E.M. Forster ... hers for Graham Greene and Maupassant ... the influence of Benjamin Disraeli and the rise of Jewish secularism ... and the pleasures of European cinema, especially Renoir's La Grande Illusion and De Sica's Bicycle Thief and a rising Swedish director named Ingmar Bergman. He's beguiled by her academic curiosity—her very vocabulary!—and even her enthusiasm for Tom Lehrer. So different from the empty chatter of L.A. girls!

Three weeks later they set a wedding date—

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