Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What do you get for Anniversary #72?

My parents have been married 71 years. SEVENTY ONE YEARS. They met when a group of Western  kids came over to my mother's apartment at the Broadmoor on Connecticut Avenue. Carl Langmark brought his buddy and neighbor, George Cokinos. They were both juniors. My mother, Bebe Calvert remembers the exact day- April 8, 1932. She was just fifteen, but it was that old cliche- love at first sight.  Soon they longed to ditch their friends for a few hours, and Bebe accomplished this with her free passes to the movies at the Avalon.  Bebe and George soon became inseparable at school and home. Sometimes they even skipped school- especially around lunch time. My father had saved all his money and bought a Model T which made the perfect get away car for picnics. My Yiya always packed her Georgie a big lunch, and little did she know it was being shared. At one point my grandmother shipped Bebe off to her sister in Ohio, hoping to cool off the relationship, but this didn't work. My mother came back still very much in love.

My parents eloped on Memorial Day in 1935 to Elkton, Maryland. Dad’s buddy, Fred came along as a witness, and they drove in a 1932 Desoto convertible. My mother was 17, and dad was 18. They shouldn't have done it. She was not a Greek, and this was a big no-no back then. As a wedding present, Fred took them out for a fried chicken dinner which set him back $1.25 per person. Then the newlyweds snuck back each to their own homes and tried to figure out what to do next. About a week later a fellow in Havre de Grace saw their wedding announcement in the paper, and called his friend, Pete Cokinos- my Papou. The cat was out of the bag, and my father was thrown out of the house. My grandfather asked the Greek community not to hire or help him in hopes that he would give up my mother and come to his senses. My dad did not give up. He got a job; he found them a place to stay.

When my older brother, Peter was born, they named him after Papou which was the tradition in Greek families. (yes, that’s the deal with all the same names) My father took the baby to see his parents, but my mother wasn’t included.
It wasn’t until after my sister was born that my Papou even met my mother. He would come to the Hollywood Inn, and help my dad make hamburgers for the weekend customers. And it wasn’t until my brother, Roger was born that Yiya finally came to see Bebe and the new grandson, Roger in the hospital. I guess even Yiya had to throw in the towel after 6 years and 3 kids.

My mother took it all in stride. She was and is the peacemaker. She did whatever it took to help everyone get along, or to make my Dad’s life easier, and that must be part of their secret. I know it has not been easy all these years by any means, but they are still together. After 70 years, I remember commenting to my father on the longevity of their relationship. He was standing on the front porch at the time, and looking off into the distance and he wistfully said "You know, your mother is my best friend." He paused to let that sink in as he rarely says anything so sentimental. I was a bit stunned myself. "Well, that's so nice, Dad," I managed to get out, feeling a little choked up.

Then, putting things into perspective with his irrepressible sense of humor, he said " Of course, most of my other friends are dead."

Sadly true, but we both had a good laugh.

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