Meeting Jim First Date

It was on Saturday, March 29, 1969 that I met Jim. Southern California had just gone through one of its wettest years and this day was wonderfully sunny and warm - the temperature was in the 70's. It was such a great day to get out and bask in the sun after the few weeks of rain. I was a senior in high school and with this newfound sunshine, nothing was going to keep me inside. My friend, Debbie and I decided to take a drive south along the Santa Ana Freeway from Downey where we both lived. Her mother wanted to come along and since Ruby was a lot of fun, we thought why not?

We dressed up in dresses - girls did that back then. And our hair and make-up were perfection. Hey, you never knew when you might meet a boy so you had better be prepared to show him your best side first! Ruby sat in the back while Debbie drove.

With the radio blasting, I remember being very happy. It was a glorious day after all that rain and in three months time, we would be graduating. Life was exciting - you never knew what would be around the corner. After about an hour, we were in San Juan Capistrano and it was getting to be lunch time. We had no specific destination and we probably would have driven all the way to San Diego if it were not for two handsome guys who drove up along side of us and Jim waved. I have no idea how long they had followed us or even when they had first saw us. We knew instantly that they were Marines - the hair cut gave them away and only Marines would be around here - Camp Pendleton was probably 20 minutes away. I was shameless, waved back and laughed. After what seemed to be a minute or so, Jim (the passenger) waved a piece of paper to Debbie and tried to pass it to her going 65 mph. Debbie was afraid to reach out and rightfully so. They then pulled behind us and came around to my side and the driver reached out his arm with the paper, and I stretched out the open window and grabbed it - at 65 mph.

I can't believe now that I did that. Ruby was literally beside herself and it sounded like she was having a heart attack. It happened all so fast that I don't remember even thinking about the danger or even hearing her yelling at me not to do it.

The note was charming. Jim had written, Would you lovely ladies like lunch? I motioned yes before I even asked Debbie who instantly agreed once she heard the contents of the note. We didn't even consult Ruby. We were going to lunch. The two guys pulled ahead of us and we followed them to a fast food restaurant.

Apparently Jim and his friend, Bill,   never saw Ruby in the back seat. As I got out of the car, I had eyes only for Jim and the same for him - we just starting walking towards each other. I never even looked at the other guy. Ruby got out of the car and I noticed Jim's face when it first registered just who (or what!) we had with us. It was only a split second flash of incredulity across his face; he instantly recovered and smiled. He was handsome - six feet tall, slender with broad shoulders, sandy or medium blond hair and green eyes.

We all had lunch and it was great, even with Ruby there. She could definitely sense the electricity in the air between Jim and I. She was a real romantic and she enjoyed seeing young people interact. We asked questions about each other - the usual ones - where are you from - what are you doing - just the normal ones that you do. When Ruby asked Jim about his folks and he told us that his mother had died when he was 14, I remember saying to him that mine had also died when I was 15. At the moment, Jim's eyes locked into mine and I "knew" instantly that we had bonded - and not just from the fact that we both had lost mothers. I knew that there was depth to Jim that perfectly matched the depth in me, although all of this was left unsaid at the time.

Ruby was so taken with the two young men that she insisted on treating for lunch - she had fun too. After spending about 5 hours with them, we had to go home. Phone numbers were exchanged and I was literally on cloud nine. Ruby kept saying to me on the way home that Jim couldn't take his eyes off me - it had been that way for me as well. She told me she knew that Jim would call me - not to worry.

The very next day Jim called and asked for a date for the next weekend. I lived with Debbie and her parents and when Jim's friend called her too and asked for a date, Ruby the romantic, told the guys that they could come for the entire weekend and stay with us. Wow! What a wonderful time that would be.

Jim-First Date-1.jpg (9086 bytes)It seemed like Friday night would never arrive. After getting home for school, Debbie and I spent the next couple of hours primping over our hair and clothes - a full closet and nothing to wear. Finally, we made our choices. Finally the guys arrived and Jim looked even better than I had remembered. Ruby was so kind, she had dinner for the four of us - southern style fried chicken. She left the kitchen to just the four of us.

Since the guys knew nothing about Downey, they had asked us to plan the date.Jim-First Date-4.jpg (10547 bytes) Debbie and I knew that Marines didn't have a lot of money - mostly broke. So we decided to go to Knott's Berry Farm - an amusement park with an old Western theme 1/2 hour away. The park charged admission, but they had an area of stores, a green park and other exhibitions, like the Ghost Town that was completely free. And you could spend hours there and not get bored. So that's where we headed.

It was one incredible night that I will never forget. The night air was cold and we all Jim-First Date-3.jpg (14657 bytes)had coats and jackets on. Jim brought his camera and they guys were kept busy taking pictures of us in the different locales - in a covered wagon, a barn, etc. Debbie and Bill dared Jim and I to kiss for one of the photographs and we did.

I found Jim to be extremely sensitive and deeply caring person that night. He was not at all like the other guys I had dated. He told me of his home life - how he came to be in the Marines at such a young age. His mother had died when he was 14 and his father turned to drinking to ease the pain and became an alcoholic. His father remarried a woman who was five years older than Jim and they both wanted him and Jim's two younger sisters out of the house. Jim's maternal grandmother stepped in and took the kids in; but Jim felt that she had her hands full with the girls. He decided to join the Marines at age 16. With full, written consent of his father, during the height of the Viet Nam war in the background, Jim was inducted on his 17th birthday. His grandmother begged him not to do this, but he felt that he had no real choice.

This was very similar to my own situation - some things were like a mirror reversal - I didn't have two younger sisters, I had two older brothers. But as I grew to know Jim more and more, the more I realized that we really understood each other's psyche.

We had a midnight curfew and had to get back. I challenged Jim to a foot race back to the car - why I did this, I'll never know. There was no way that I could beat him - at his height he had an overwhelming 11 inch advantage over me. Nonetheless, we both took off and of course, he arrived at the car first. When I ran up, out of breath, it just seemed so natural to fall into his waiting arms and kiss him - a real kiss - not like the kiss for the photo. I was in love and for the first and only time.

We rode in the back seat - my head on his shoulder and listened to the radio, back to Downey. It was just so peaceful like that - I could have spent eternity like that and been happy. I was to spend many a night like riding back to Camp Pendleton after a long weekend.

When we got back, we were all so charged up and so we stayed up playing cards - a pastime that I think every Marine must learn. We especially liked Canasta. I think we finally got to bed around 4:00 am.

The next morning we all had to get up early. Debbie's parents, Debbie and I were all dedicated church-goers and it was our motto that if the guys wanted a date, they could also take us to church. So we all had to get up dragging and get ready for church. None of us could make it for Sunday School that morning (including Ruby - who was probably awake in her bedroom until we had packed it in). We did make it to church, but we were all so tired.

Somehow after church, we all become alive again, and the four of us headed out to a picnic at Legg Lake in Whittier. Bill and Debbie wanted to be alone, and frankly so did Jim and I. After we ate our lunch, we parted company. Legg Lake at that time, or is it faded memory, was a really nice park with lots of trees and a lake. In the sunshine, it was warm that day, but there was a chilly breeze.

The more Jim and I shared with each other, the more I was impressed with him - how easy it was for him to express his feelings and emotions. Not like with the others I had dated. I remember Jim kissing me several times. I wasn't at all myself - I would never let someone kiss me passionately in public before. Even though we were off by ourselves, I am sure that someone could have seen us - and I didn't even care.

It was about this time that Jim started saying, "I don't want to get serious." He let me know from the first day that we had met that he was probably headed for Viet Nam. His orders had not officially come in yet, but he was in the infantry and it didn't take any imagination to his ultimate destination.

On one level, I understood what he meant and decided to keep things nice and light. On the other level, I was confused why he wouldn't want to get serious. He said it several times that Sunday. So I just took a big breath and was determined to let him lead the relationship to where it would go.

Ruby went back with us girls to take the guys back to Camp Pendleton (they had taken the bus - the car was a borrowed car from the week before). They had a 1:00 am curfew I believe and we didn't drop them off a moment sooner. I think that I had a total of four hours sleep that entire weekend.

Jim had previously scheduled to go home to Texas for two weeks leave in the middle of the week. I ditched school and drove down to Camp Pendleton by myself and picked him up and we went to LAX. It was a really sad time. I knew that he should have time with his family, but I wanted him all to myself. I already knew that I loved him and I would miss him terribly. He looked so torn at the airport - he said something to the effect that he wished we had met earlier - that he needed more time with me. I do believe that if I had asked him to cancel his plans and stay with me, he would have done so. We kissed and then he boarded the plane. I stayed at the airport until his plane left and then with tears filling my eyes, I left.

A Beautiful Gift from my friend Harriet!

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My heartfelt thanks to Nancy at Winged Web Graphics
for this beautiful award! Nancy designed this pageset and
I am grateful to her for the beautiful way it allows me
to present my story of grief and transformation.

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