July 5, 1955, to August 29, 1955
Chicago, Illinois/Staten Island, New York
Tuesday being the Fourth of July there was no mail.
On Wednesday, Marsha Goldman came home from work, as usual, at 5:45. Her father, as usual, was still at work, and her mother, as usual, was…? It had been a long, hot day and she missed Mitchell terribly. Highly depressed since he’d left only three days ago, Marsha had no idea how she was going to exist until she saw him again.
On her way to the kitchen, passing the dining room table, she stopped, turned around and, barely able to contain herself, ripped off the roughly wrapped brown bag paper and opened the cardboard box. Her first reaction was to laugh, then, suddenly realizing what it really meant, holding Mitchell’s note in one hand and the garish, novelty store diamond ring in the other, she began to cry.
When we said goodbye and I got on the plane and left you today, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life.
I cannot imagine life without you in the future. God knows I’ve been lonely before, but never like this. I know this ring isn’t much, but I’ve spent my entire life’s savings buying it. So until I can afford another one, maybe even a real one, please consider it as an engagement ring (but you don’t really have to wear it). And please, please say that you will marry me.
I love you more than life itself.
Reading the note again, “Oh, my God!” she said to empty apartment. “Yes! Yes, Mitchell! Thank you, God! Thank you!” Elated, confused, Marsha did not know what to do or who to call first.
“Rosalie!” she shouted into the phone as soon as it was picked up.
“Marsha?” She never called her Rosalie unless there was something wrong. “What’s wrong, Marsha?”
“Rose! Mitchie… He sent me a ring and a letter and asked if I’d marry him!”
“Really, Marsha? Really!?”
“And he sent you a diamond ring?”
“Yeah,” she laughed, “from the ten-cent store. But it’s the most beautiful ring I’ve ever seen. I can’t believe it!”
“So, what are you going to tell him?”
Knowing she knew that Rosalie knew she was going to accept, “Are you nuts? I’d walk to New York and marry him right now if I could!”
“Your folks know yet?”
“No! You know no one’s home. I called you first.”
“Think your mother’ll have any objections?”
“She never wanted me in the first place, and now’s her chance to get rid of me. And, to be honest, I don’t give a damn what she thinks.”
Reflecting a moment, “You’re the first of us to go,” Rosalie said. “Good luck, Marcie. I hope you have lots’a kids.”
“Yeah, thanks, Rose. Me, too. Look, I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”\
Six o’clock here, she thought, New York’s an hour later. Wonder if he’s on the ship. She’d put the scrap of paper in her wallet when he gave it to her…
“Coast Guard Cutter Halfmoon!” Electricians Mate Second Class Raymond Carson, the Officer of the Deck, answered the telephone in the watch shack alongside the aft gangway.
“This is the Chicago operator. I have a person-to-person call to Seaman First Class Mitchell Lipensky.”
“Hold on a minute, operator, let’s see if he’s aboard tonight.” Checking the duty roster, Mitchell’s section did have liberty, but he hadn’t gone ashore. “He’s here, operator. Hang on, will you?”
“Lipensky, lay to the quarterdeck, on the double!” The call coming through the loudspeakers reverberating throughout the ship, “Lipensky! To the quarterdeck, on the double!”
“Christ!” Writing a letter to Marsha, he was lying on his bunk in his underwear with a note pad propped on his knees. Thinking, What the hell do they want now? swinging off the bunk, he shoved his cap on his head and his legs back into the denims he’d taken off no more than ten minutes earlier.
“Carson, I’m on liberty! Why the hell you callin’ me?”
“Keep your shirt on, Lippy, you got a call.”
Unless an emergency, local calls were not accepted; long distance calls were accepted only for the time needed to ascertain who was calling so the information could be passed onto the man called, but Carson had taken his share of Mitchell’s pennies and nickels at their penny-ante poker games.
“Oh,” sheepishly, “sorry, Ray.” His first thought was that something was wrong at home. Picking the phone up with apprehension, “Hello.”
“Yes, operator, I’m Mitchell Lipensky.”
“One moment, please.”
Still excited, “Mitchie!” her voice boomed over the phone.
“Marcie!” Overjoyed at hearing her voice again, “Hi, baby!”
“Mitchie, I got it! Yes! Yes! I will!”
“My God,” he said softly. “Thank you, baby. Thank you!”
“I miss you! I love you!”
Looking at Carson, “Me, too, Marcie!”
“You know,” Carson whispered, “you ain’t supposed to get calls here. Okay, just for a minute.” Giving Mitchell some privacy, Carson walked to the fantail.
“I can’t wait to do it! When do you want to?”
“The sooner the better,” she answered. “I can’t wait either.”
“Your folks know yet?”
“No, I haven’t even seen them yet. Do yours?”
“How could they?” Laughing, “You just told me you would.”
“Yeah, you’re right, I’m so nervous… Mitchie, how’ll we be able to afford it? I mean, my living away from home and us having to pay rent and our own bills and things.”
“You’re working now, aren’t you? And when you get to New York you’ll be able to say you have experience as a… uh?”
“Yeah. And as a, uh, corsetiere you’ve got to make pretty good money, right? And I checked with my pal Don, he’s the yeoman aboard, and he told me you’ll get an allotment check of $91.30 a month, and I get paid, too, don’t forget, with a wife, about twenty-two bucks a month. I know it’s not much, but it’s enough to buy groceries with, which, by the way, we can buy at a PX, and with that and what you’ll be making we should be able to get by pretty good. I don’t know if I told you, but I’ve been taking a yeoman’s correspondence course that…” he admitted, “I’ve been ‘schluffing off’ on. But now that I’ve got a reason, I’ll get back to it, and if I make a higher grade, we’ll get more money.”
“I know you can do it, Mitchie. And now that you’ve told me, I’m sure”—she hoped—“that we’ll manage just fine… When do you think you can take leave again, so you can come home and we can, uh…” still unbelievable, finding it hard to say… “get married?”
“I checked on that, too. Right now I still have a week coming, but I’ve just had leave, and there’s other guys here that want it before our next patrol. Probably when we get back, in October.”
“October! My birthday’s in October. That’s just fine, sweetheart.”
Sweetheart! No one had ever called him sweetheart before. The familiar lump coming to his throat, “Marcie, honey, I love you!”
“Please, Mitchie, don’t ever stop saying that.” Laughing, “I must really love you. You realize that I’ll be giving up a beautiful name like Goldman for Lipensky.” Immediately realizing that what she’d said might have hurt his feelings, “Mrs. Mitchell Lipensky. God, that sounds great!”
He’d never thought of his name as being particularly ugly, and did feel a slight flush of… but, instantly placated by “Mrs. Mitchell Lipensky,” “Yeah,” he said, “the things we do for love.”
“Hi!… Mother and daddy came in, and I want to tell them.”
“Tell them what?” Rhea asked from the living room.
“I’ll tell you in a minute, Mother…” Turning her back to her, speaking softly, “Mitchie, why don’t you call your folks and let them know. Then reverse the charges and call me back, and let me know what they said.”
“Sure, honey. I’ll call back in a little while. Bye-bye.”
“Hey, Ray,” he called. “Thanks! I’m getting married!”
“No shit?” Flipping his cigarette over the side, “Congratulations!”
“Yeah, thanks.” Going below to his locker, he took a couple of nickels from his wallet. Back topside, saluting the flag, starting down the gangway, “Got a couple’a calls I gotta make, Ray.”
“Sure, Mitchie, go ahead.”
Leaving the ship, walking to the row of telephone booths by the facility’s entrance, fishing a nickel from his pocket, Mitchell dialed “O.”