He hitchhiked into town with a buddy on a Sunday afternoon in June. They were killing time when he saw the two dark-haired girls window-shopping on the main street of the small Washington town.His pickup line was clever: "Oh, that dress wouldn't look good on you." He was a Utah boy, 1,000 miles and two states northwest of home, and it was wartime.
The girls, it seemed, had plans to see a matinee, "Romeo and Juliet," which he had already seen. So he and his buddy went grocery shopping. Arms loaded, they waited for the movie to let out and then charmed the girls into joining them for a picnic.
At first, he chatted with her friend but then started courting her.
She had soft skin, short dark hair and ruby lips. She was a farm girl, in town working two jobs to finance an adventure: a move to California.
He was a lean city boy with a corny wit. He had blue, blue eyes, sandy hair and ears big enough to balance his pilot's hat.
He was good-looking, nice as a Sunday morning spent fishing, but not quite handsome, she thought. "I like everything about her," is how he put it when he wrote home.
They arranged to meet at a USO dance on base. They danced some and she was eager, ready for another twirl. She admired the way his buddy did a new crossover dance step. "Then why don't you dance with him?" started the fight, which ended when he stomped off.
She was tired of meeting wild boys too far away from home, tired of the pickup lines, tired of acting nice.
But he was nice.
They laughed a lot. She thought he looked "neat" in his uniform. Something clicked with this flyboy, who became more than just another in a summer of military beaus.
He started coming to town every weekend to see her. He'd meet her at the drugstore where she worked nights, and he walked her home. They'd stay out late Sunday nights, and he would hustle to catch the 3 a.m. milk train back to base. By 6:30 a.m., he'd be climbing into the cockpit for training flights. But they were young; they didn't need sleep.
They jabbered for hours in the double talk popular at the time, a crazy way of talking at each other without making any sense at all. They called each other by their last names.
In the fall, he got transferred to California and found an apartment for her. She and her roommates followed. Just after Christmas, she found herself writing letters to the Philippines, receiving funny letters in quirky handwriting from a P-38 pilot a world away from home.
She doesn't remember when, or if, he formally proposed. It wasn't flashy if he did. They just started planning their lives together, looking ahead to a time when they could settle down, plant a garden and start a family.
She moved home to the Washington farm when the war ended. The letters kept coming, now postmarked from Utah. Her family didn't have a telephone, so she went to town to her uncle's grocery store to talk to him, to make plans, to give him directions to her house.
On the strength of a year's worth of letters and that one phone call, he brought her a wedding ring when he drove across two states to see her. Three days later, in November 1945, they got married in the basement of a Portland, Ore., church, in a room with a wood-parquet floor.
She looked in shops all over the city for a store-bought suit to wear. She settled on a simple, beige dress with bows at the waist, elbow-length gloves and a puff of a veil. He wore his Air Force dress uniform. Her parents were there, her younger sister, lots of her family.
For their honeymoon, they drove across the West, meeting his brothers and sisters along the way, spending Christmas in Salt Lake City at the home of his parents, the in-laws she had never met.
They were like thousands of couples brought together by the war: young, poor, living on love. They settled down in Salt Lake City for a while, where he went to pharmacy school on the GI bill, and she helped him memorize the Latin names of drugs.
He was in the Utah National Guard, still flying on weekends. She worked as a secretary. They'd go on cheap Friday night dates and, once in a while, splurge on ice cream sundaes, served with the hot fudge in a pewter pitcher on the side. She sewed them matching shirts. She remembers the Christmas when she sewed doll clothes to scrape together enough money to buy his present.
They worked and grew old together. Eventually, they moved to an Oregon farm to raise six alphabet kids. I'm the "E."
Forty-three years later, while living in the same town of that weekend wedding, she brought hot fudge sundaes to his sick bed. They jabbered double talk at each other again because of the cancer that gnawed at his brain.
And the night he died, my mother slipped the gold band from her flyboy's finger and laced it on a chain around her neck.