You Opened My Letter
By An Unsigned Source
I was nineteen and in love. The girl of my dreams and high school sweetheart was sent away to school in Los Angeles to keep her away from me. Her mid-western reared parent’s hope was that she would find a nice wealthy Anglo boy. Her parents born and raised in South Dakota came from humble origins and had achieved some financial success in Southern California. In their new social group they became class conscious. They were in awe of those they deemed more successful than them and dismissive of those they saw as beneath them.
Two years before at my all-boys Catholic High School dance I asked her onto the dance floor. She was homecoming queen pretty, I found her easy smile and her quick laugh appealing; she attended an all-girls Catholic high school.
I was a first generation American of Mexican descent who lived on the wrong side of the tracks in San Diego. They lived in an upper middle class suburb. My father drove a delivery truck for a local freight company; her father was a district manager for a national moving company. Her parents sent her to Mary Mount College in the Westchester area; a stones throw from the Los Angeles Airport. I went to lowly San Diego City Junior College.
If I wanted to take her on a date I would recruit one of my Anglo school mates to pick her up. Her father warned her that if we should wind up together we would produce “half-breed children” this would bring shame on their family.
“Mexicans are lazy; shifty,” he warned her.
“They are clannish, they don’t accept outsiders,” constant comments like these brought her to tears; her father’s judgments didn’t jive with her encounters with my family. My parents and siblings adored her; she was accepted as one of our own.
I decided not to see her for the first month that she was away. It would be better to allow her to settle into her new life. We both needed time to organize our school schedules. Besides having school to contend with I was working two jobs. I felt the need to do well in school, hoping that good grades might open a door with her parents.
I wrote her letters several times a week; hand written letters in an addressed envelope with a postage stamp; delivery took two week days from mail box to mail box. I didn’t know until years later how much she looked forward to receiving them, tearing them open as soon as they reached her hand. My letters spoke of my activities, the never ending antics my friends and I got involved in, and my love for her.
Four weeks seemed like an eternity, I began making the two hour road trip up the interstate freeway to spend week-ends with her. Scarborough Fair playing constantly in my mind. We like Ben and Elaine in the Simon and Garfunkel song shared an illicit love. My fondest memories are of being with my forbidden love in this exotic city. Saturday afternoons would find us under a shade tree on the lawn in the school’s quad, my head on her lap, she combing my hair with her fingers.
We were hopeful and fearful of what the future might bring. After dinner in the school’s cafeteria, we drove the hustling exciting streets of Los Angeles. She arranged with some of her new friends to allow me to sleep in the men’s dorms. Heavy heartfelt good byes were said Sunday afternoons.
Desperate to be with her I made an appointment with the dean of admissions at Loyola University; Mary Mount College shared the campus. Her parents highly valued higher education, as did mine. I talked the dean into allowing me to transfer in. Three years later I graduated; this was a game changer. Her parents finally relented and agreed to meet my family.
Her parents instantly fell in love with my humble and respectful people. My girlfriend’s mother was quite taken with my tall muscular handsome father, his dark striking features and his easy charming manner. My father emigrated as a child; he was educated in the American school system and was completely bi-lingual. My shy Mexican mother enamored them with her humility, her endearing Mexican accent and her deep faith in the religion we all shared. My six siblings addressed them with a Mr. and Mrs. as we had been taught.
Two years later we walked down the church’s aisle and committed our lives to each other. It is ironic that none of my wife’s four sibling’s marriages survived. It is also ironic that of my in-laws’ 11 grandchildren our four children were the only ones to earn university degrees. It is also ironic that it was not my family that was clannish, but the greatest irony is that my in-laws marriage did not survive, tragically they divorced.
Forty-six years later my wife still looks forward to my writings, and I still see the lovely homecoming queen, I love you honey.