Once upon a time there was a young girl with a big love for her Navy man...but so many obstacles stood in her way. Once upon a time stories, are usually fairy tales, but not this time. That young, pretty girl, found her courage and stood her ground against all the forces that were against her, all the people that would have tried to persuade her not to go...but instead she followed her heart, across this country, at what expense I do not know. Not only did she go and find her man, she married him. That brave girl was my Mom and if you read the original blog post of the Kiss, you will be familiar with why part 2 in necessary.
I came across the beginning of the story after finding the above photo in my Father's belongings after he died. A few years after that I had taken a trip to San Diego and saw the statue of the Kiss. I read the placque and saw the dates and at that moment I knew that those were the times my Mom and Dad would have been involved with each other but I didn't know the story of their marriage, although I did know it was in Seattle..so when the photo's emerged I started my journey to follow my Mom and try to recreate, as best I could, her journey to reach her man. All I had was a photo, my aunt who filled me in a bit and the internet to get me started. Without these photo's I would still not know of my Mother's journey both figuratively and personally.
The very first thing I did was look up St. Benedict's church, Seattle Washington. Amazingly it was there. I made a phone call to be sure that it was still a parish church, it was and I wrote down the address...and then I added Seattle Washington to my bucket list. Two weeks ago, with that photo in hand and my Father's date of March 1945 on the back, a phone number for the church...Jim and I were on our way. It was a surreal experience for me..because my Mom never shared this part of her journey with any of us kids...and I was feeling sad about that...but off I went.
We arrived in Seattle Washington after two long years of waiting and it couldn't have been more beautiful..after checking into our hotel..I was eager to get off to finish this journey both for me and for my Mom. On a tree lined, neighborhood street, with the color of fall and sunlight all around me , we found our destination, St. Benedict's church. I was both nervous and excited to see what I would discover. The first thing was that the church looked nothing like the church in my photo and my heart skipped a beat thinking I was to late. I'm not sure I would have handled that very well. Instead what I found was the school...that school matched my photo. Well, I was happy for that bit. Next we were shown to the office of the Administrative Assistant and I do believe God had a hand in my finding her, and this is where I learned of my parents marriage...when Becky pulled out the old, very large, record book I was holding my breath that their names would not be in there. They were, but surprisingly enough..they were married on February 2, 1945, not in March as my Father had dated the photo..we were able to find out about their baptism's and also who stood up for them. It turns out they were friends of my Dad's.. I felt like I had come home in some small way. Their presence was very strong that day and at the that time in particular...Becky,and another lovely lady and I talked of what that journey would have been like and how my Mom could even have gotten married there because she was not Catholic. I had always thought she was married in that church but they were most likely married in the Pastor's office or another room..she would not have been allowed to marry in the church santuary at that time...and one last surprise..my grandfather, whom we always knew as Alfred was not Alfred at all but William...but I'm not going to chase that mystery.
I came a long way to find the roots of my Mother and Father...and I felt good about knowing that some stories I heard were not true and that they really just wanted to be together...so with photo in hand Jim and I went and stood where they stood, the same way that they stood because they wanted to show those naysayers that yes, indeed they were married. So their rings were the focus of that original photograph. The building was the same..but a bench was added and the Mass sign was removed when the new church was built...but we stand in their spot...finally.
I sat for awhile on that bench and I thought of my Mother's journey...and I felt so sad for her...she had no one to support her, to be with her as she wed the love of her life...and although my parents did divorce much later, I do believe they had that one love that we are all hoping for. She traveled during war time, most likey on a train for many days..a young, beautiful woman alone. It was a bittersweet moment for me, in the coming to be in her spot...almost like I was telling her I wish I could have been there for her..cheering her on for her bravery and knowing her own mind...making her own dreams come true...I even wish that many years later she could have shared this with me, trusting that I would have understood her need to go. I do believe that back in those days...so many things were so private...but I'm thinking that if she were to see this post it would set her free, just as it sets me free now. It also gives me a much better understanding of those time and a what a truly strong woman she was...as Becky and I were pondering this journey and I was questioning my Mom's coming and then the eventual divorce...Becky said to me..."she came because she loved your Dad...that's all you really need to know...she loved him".. And that is my take away from this trip...Once upon a time...a young girl headed west...and many years later her daughter found her.
Two months after retirement
my father is here, to get away
from 6 A.M. and his cup
of empty destination.
At a football game we huddle
under his umbrella
talking about the obvious.
He brings me coffee
to hold warm between my hands,
a gift of no occasion.
When we rise for the anthem
I hear the rusty crack of his voice
for the first time maybe ever.
Thirty-three years of coughing
thick factory air, of drifting to sleep
through the heavy ring of machinery,
of twelve-hour days. In my sleep
I felt the cold bump of his late-night kiss.
I shiver in the rain
as my father sings me
what now I hear as
a children's song. I lean into him,
the umbrella and rain my excuse,
my shoulder against his,
and I imagine my mother
falling in love.
"A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it." Virginia Woolf.
Two notes...a special thank you to Becky Ortiz from St. Benedict's for her help in researching this marriage and also a thank you to the other girl who took us around and told of stories of those days and how it might have been...I am so sorry I didn't get her name...
Finally...check out my Mom's shoes...how cool are they...so glad she had them. Probably why I'm like I am...