“Yes, Goldman. The Goldmans and Lipenskys are about to become machetunim (in-laws) and I want to invite them to dinner on Sunday, so we can meet each other.”
“Great! That’s great, Mom! Marcie’s number is… You have a pencil?”
“Sheldrake 3-4709… And, Mom,” very relieved at her acceptance, “thanks.”
“Thanks for what?”
For accepting this. And for having the Goldmans for dinner.”
“I was young once, too.” Looking at Walter, fleetingly wondering where the years had gone. “Bye, Mitchie.”
July 5, 1955, to August 29, 1955
Chicago/Skokie, Illinois/Staten Island, New York
Waiting at the table, waiting for the phone to ring… Bounding from the chair, grabbing it at the first ring, “Yes, Operator, I’ll accept it… Mitchie!”
“Marcie, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, baby, everything’s fine. How’d your folks take it?”
Stretching the truth, just a little, “They both loved it.”
“Yeah, sure. My mom’s always wanted a daughter, and she’s going to be calling any minute to invite you’n’your folks over for dinner, so everyone can get to know each other… So, how’d yours take it?”
“That’s so nice of her… Mitch, the greatest thing has happened!”
“Yeah, what’s that?”
“Mother and daddy asked if I want a big wedding, and of course, what girl doesn’t want a big wedding, so I said yes, and they’re going to make us a wedding—a real wedding!”
“Uh, Marcie,” His mothers’ words coming back to him, “business hasn’t been so great for my folks for a while, and I don’t think they’ll be able to afford to do something like that.”
Marsha’s heart sinking a bit, thinking, Their own home and business, and a boat, and they can’t afford a wedding for their son? “Don’t worry, Mitchie,” she said, “my mother’ll pay for most of it.”
Most of it? Anticipating a problem with “most of it,” Well, he wisely thought, I’m here and they’re there, so let them work it out.
“When’ll it be, Marcie?” Anxious, very anxious. “How soon can we do it?” “Do it” having more than one connotation.
“There are so many things to do: have a dress made; find a place to have the service and reception; reserve the rooms; get a band and a photographer and a caterer…” Catching her breath, “I think it’ll be sometime in November or December.”
November! he thought. December! he thought. “November! December!” he said. “Marcie, today’s the fifth of…”—almost said, fuckin’—“July!”
“I know, Mitchie, but it’ll be something we’ll remember all of our lives; the movies’ll be something we can show our kids.”
Kids? He’d said it to his mother to soften her up, but, the brief reference aside, the thought of him having a kid, let alone kids, was preposterous.
Looking through the apartment at Rhea, who was still sitting on the sofa, moving into the kitchen, out of sight and the range of her mother’s hearing, “Mitch, we need everything! We don’t have a stick of furniture, or a TV, or a pot or pan or even a towel, or anything!”
Loneliness and sex aside, kids, pots, pans, towels, the practical impact of marriage began to sink in.
“I know I’ll have at least two bridal showers—one from my family and one from my friends—and probably one from your family, too. And between the showers and the wedding we’ll probably get just about everything we’ll need to set up housekeeping. Also, knowing my relatives and some of my mother’s friends, we’ll get money, too, maybe a lot of money, and then we won’t have to go to New York broke and emptyhanded.”
Money! He’s been lonely before and he’d survived and, God knew, he had wanted to have intercourse all of his life, so it seemed, and if he’d been able to wait that long, what was another month or two… or three or four or, Shit! five? So, “Think there may be enough for the down-payment on a used car?”
“I thought the DeSoto was yours.”
“Used to be. But when I enlisted I gave it to my mother and, actually, she ended up making most of the payments on it.”
“Well, I didn’t like the car all that much anyway, and yes, there may well be enough money… When Roger got married, Brenda’s folks couldn’t afford to make a wedding and they had to get married by a judge, and even at that they got over two thousand dollars, and when my cousin got married, they say she got over four.”
“Huh?” Almost choking on this. “Jesus, four thousand dollars!”
“Yeah. And knowing some of my mother’s friends, maybe we’ll even get more.”
Four thousand bucks—maybe even more! “Marcie, you really do want this wedding, don’t you?”
“Yes, Mitchie, I really do.”
“Okay, baby. I hate having to wait any longer than necessary, but,”—four thousand bucks, maybe even more—“I won’t be selfish. If that’s what you want, then a big wedding’s just fine with me.”
The Machetunim, They Meet
Rhea: Self-centered. Narcissistic. Beautiful. Dainty. Sure of herself and her hold over the men in her life. A highly manipulative woman, Rhea was wholly content with the power her sexuality afforded her.
Rhea’s children: Selfish of her love and attention, Rhea had lavished what there was of her love and attention on her son, denying, up until the announcement of Marsha’s engagement, the smallest iota of her mental or physical self to her daughter.
Myra: Big-boned. Attractive. Lacking in confidence. Myra never wore makeup, fingernail polish, stylish clothing, or attempted in any way to take advantage of the multitude of products invented and designed to help women appear more alluring and feminine.
Myra had always been an attentive, loving mother.
The relationship between the mothers was perfect!
Taking advantage of her helpless, china-doll demeanor, Rhea was the eternal exploiter, one of those people who somehow was always able to find another person who was only too happy to do her bidding.
Myra often felt beneath the people she knew, so thought she must work to earn and retain their friendship.
With Rhea, the exploiter, Myra happily became the exploited.
Eli: Intelligent. Soft spoken. Modest. Always immaculate—other than at the grill—Eli wore well-pressed, stylish clothing.
Walter: Tall. Paunchy. Extremely vocal when putting forth an opinion. Proud of his “working skipper” image, Walter tended to be sloppy about his leisurely appearance, and avoided shaving on weekends, and whenever else possible.
Eli considered Walter gruff and highly opinionated.
Walter considered Eli prissy with a milquetoast personality.
July 12, 1955
“Mitchie! Hi, baby.”
“Hi, Marcie. Boy, it sounds good to hear your voice again. I miss you so much.”
Each Tuesday, at approximately eight o’clock Chicago time, he was to call collect, one week at her home and—Marsha would be picked up, brought to the Lipensky home for dinner—the next week at his.
“Me, too, Mitchie… Mitch, I’ve got some good and some bad news.”
“Uh-oh! Give me the bad first.”
“We found out that after the blood tests there’s a three-day cooling off period before we can get married, and if there’s a screw up someplace it’ll really screw things up!”
“Three days, Marcie? I’m only going to be able to stretch it for twelve days, and that won’t give us hardly any time at all.”
“Yeah, that’s the bad news. Want to hear what we figured?”
“This is the good news?”
“Yeah. So to be on the safe side, we’re going to be married twice.”
“Twice? What in the hell are you talking about?”
“I’ll tell you in a minute, but first, do you think, under certain circumstances, that you might be able to get a three-day liberty and take a two-day leave at the same time, maybe right after your next patrol?”
“A seventy-two-hour pass and a two-day leave? The XO’s a pretty good guy, so maybe. I can try. Why?”
“If you can do that, it’ll still give us ten days leave for the real wedding, and time for us to get to back to New York and, uh, get acquainted.”
Marsha was looking forward to the “get acquainted” part almost as much as Mitchell.
“Marcie, please tell me what you’re talking about!”
“Okay, look. When you get back from patrol, on your first liberty weekend, see if you can get that Friday off, also, with Monday and Tuesday leave. Leave the ship sometime early Friday morning and fly here. We’ll pick you up at the airport and go directly to get our blood tests and then we’ll be married on Monday, by a judge or a justice of the peace. We’ll arrange that, and that’ll give us all day Monday, and Monday night, for us to be together before you have to go back on Tuesday…”
The “and Monday night” was not lost on Mitchell.
“…And that way, when we do have the real wedding, we’ll still have ten days before you have to report back.”