Friday, May 25, 2012

A Memorial Day Story

Back in the 1930s, the little town of Elkton, Maryland, Maryland was a happening place if you needed to get hitched in a hurry. Maryland did not have the waiting period that other states had imposed, and Elkton  is conveniently located near the Pennsylvania line, not too far from New York, New Jersey and Delaware. Wedding chapels and hotels stood at the ready on main street just waiting for fresh business. Both Debbie Reynolds and Joan Fontaine got married here as did Cornell Wilde.

And my parents, George and Bebe Cokinos. As it turns out, unlike the celebrities, their marriage actually did stand the test of time, despite the odds. My father was Greek American, and he was not supposed to marry outside the Hellenic community, but at 17 George fell in love with my very pretty, very white mother.

My Greek grandparents were not happy campers. My other grandmother sent Bebe off to live with Aunt Mary in Ohio for a while, but my mother wrote my father every day.  Finally, still teenagers, they took their best man, Fred Brown and snuck off to Elkton to be married on Memorial Day 1935. (Back then the holiday happened on May 30th, and was not the weekend event it is now.)

The newlyweds did not have enough money to spend the night, but Fred sprung for a celebratory fried chicken dinner before driving the happy couple back down to D.C. where they had absolutely no plan. None. Neither George nor Bebe felt brave enough to tell their parents what they had done, so they went back to their own homes and hunkered down until they could figure out how to break the news. They might have been less nervous if they had had a crystal ball.  Their marriage, based solely on the passion and recklessness of young love, would last truly and exactly 'til death did they part- a mere 72 years later.