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Jon's Memorial

by Nancy Levine.........................................

March 29, 1974
It was a dark and stormy night. I had given up hope of ever meeting Mr. Right. I had been going to Hillel House at the University of Cincinnati since I started my freshman year of college in August 1973. Because I went to a smaller college where there weren't any Jewish students, I'd been advised to go there. One guy I met, Mike from Cleveland, did not even know I was alive. So the mood when I sent to Friday night services was not good. The only thing I was happy about was that I had written a poem about my best friend, and she had agreed to set it to music.
When I came in, I heard Mike talking to some friend of his.
"Who's the yenta with the shopping bag that was in our American history class?" his friend asked.
"That's Jonathan," Mike said, with a few other unflattering comments.
I started to wonder why I'd ever had anything to do with this guy. He made fun of people, which was my all-time biggest pet peeve. He had crooked teeth and greasy hair.
I forgot about Mike, and read the poem during the service. Afterward, the man who would later become Mr. Right came up and introduced himself. I don't remember what I was wearing, but he had on navy blue and white checked pants and a navy shirt (it was the seventies, remember. Checked pants on men were very in). He had wavy black hair and beautiful brown eyes. He was tall and slim and talkative. I liked him. And all of the sudden, Mike from Cleveland decided he wanted to talk to me, too.
"Yeah, that was a great poem," he said.
I gave him my best withering stare, but I'd come to find out that Jon was the king of withering stares. I tried to pretend I was a princess and Mike was a servant who actually had the audacity to try and talk to me.
. Suddenly, the little blue and white house on Straight Street looked brighter. My mood lightened. It stopped raining. I don't know if I had that crazy feeling in the pit of my stomach that night, or if it came later, but I knew something special was about to happen. And I couldn't wait.
I was right. We made a date for tomorrow night. I gave Jon directions and I know now that they were the wrong directions. But what did you expect? I was eighteen, and had met the love of my life, though I didn't know it then. What did I know from directions?
* * *
The weather was much better the next night. It was nice enough for me to wear a blue and white dress. It wasn't too cold, and it wasn't too hot. I was ready at the agreed-upon time. But the agreed-upon time came and went. I started to have doubts about the story my mom had told me that when he came out of Hillel House last night, he was whistling.
Then the phone rang. He was at the wrong end of my street, where all the industry was. Pepsi-Cola. Steinberg's. Frisch's.
I walked down the street and met him. He was dressed up, too, although I can't even remember what he was wearing. We walked back down the street, and he met my parents. All the time I was thinking that finally, I wouldn't have to worry about my aunt fixing me up with my cousin's rejects. I could find my own guy, thank you very much.
He told my father that one of his friends back in New York (oh, did I mention the accent? I loved Jon's accent. Maybe that's when I fell in love). was
named Charles Goldberg. Was that a sign? Who knows?
We went to the Valley Theater in Roselawn (which is now a nightclub with fake florescent palm trees outside) (and the home of several shootings). We saw "The Three Musketeers" starring Raquel Welch. He'd seen it before, but he took me to see it again anyway. Before the movie, we ate dinner at Berconi's (named after the owner, Bert Cohen). I think now they tell first-time daters not to ear spaghetti, but that's what I ordered. That was my favorite (it still is). I had a fork in my white clutch bag in case Jon tried anything. Looking back, I not only wondered how a fork was going to help me (I didn't take a knife because that could hurt) but how I could look into those deep brown eyes and think he would try anything. The guy lived in Wyoming, after all. Good breeding, right?
He didn't try anything. It was nice to go to a movie with a handsome college boy and just talk and laugh over the movie. Afterward, we went to Old Town Ice Cream Parlor, and met Henry Aaron (not the ballplayer, just a the owner, who had the same name).
When he dropped me off, I was floating on air. He promised to call me later in the week.
* * *
He didn't call. I wanted him to meet my best friend, Karla, but I wasn't about to call him. I knew I'd see him at services Friday night, and in the meantime, something else happened that threw the whole world off-kilter.
A tornado (actually, a bunch of tornados) hit Cincinnati. To this day, I'm scared of thunder, lightning, and anything resembling tornadic activity. The beautiful condo Jon and I bought six years after we were married was destroyed by lightning and water damage and when I was in high school, my hair caught on fire. It had nothing to do with lightning, but anything like that still spooks me. I was wondering why he hadn't called when I heard on the radio (while my parents, cats and I were huddled in the basement waiting for the warnings to pass) that one had hit Wyoming and Hartwell.
Maybe he'd been in the middle of the storm. I was sure there was no power at his house, so how could he make a call? What if his house had been leveled, and he and his family were holed up in a motel somewhere until they could rebuild? (I'm a writer. We have very active imaginations).
I saw him at services on Friday night, and found out that, yes, their power had been out for a few days, which was why he hadn't called. Not one to wait around, I quickly asked him on a date for the next night. We would go to the nightclub, Reflections, and meet my best friend, Karla.
When we arrived at the club, I found out some things I didn't know. When I first met Jon, I thought he was a senior in college because he acted so mature, yet funny and charming. He was not twenty-one, but nineteen. A mature nineteen. I found out that despite the fact that an ex-friend of mine thought he couldn't handle being around two or three women at the same time, he could. My best friend liked him, and so did the other people who met us at the club.
So we made plans for another date the following weekend. Then I'd have to meet the parents. And the rest is...well, you can read the next chapter and find out.
I should have called this "Get Me to the Wigwam on Time," but that wouldn't have made any sense. We tried to have the wedding at our synagogue, but our synagogue was housed in the Jewish Community Center building, and on June 15th, they were having their big fund-raiser, The Day of Fun. We went to other places to check them out, including the Quality Inn in Norwood because our next door neighbor was the catering director, the Carousel Inn right down the street from my parents' house because my friend, Gretchen's, father owned it, and Northern Hills Synagogue because the women who catered the food were supposed to be legendary. We ended up having the wedding at Shuller's Wigwam. When my parents and I arrived with Denise, my maid of honor, we saw a huge sign outside that did not read "Congratulations, Nancy and Jon," but "Live Lobster, $7.95."
I was so nervous that I still don't remember much of what happened that day. I do remember Jon's father telling me that they'd taken the car we'd be using to drive to Carrolton, Kentucky and Louisville in to have it checked out and that everything was fine. I remember that the tape Jon's friends from the Science Fiction Book Club at U.C. had all our favorite songs on it, but we had to listen to it on a tape recorder because the sound system didn't work, and there were no boom boxes or Ipods back then. I remember that my Uncle Phil and Aunt Mary tried to get in with my in-laws because they had money, and I don't think my in-laws were too thrilled since we'd already told them my relatives would be doing this. And my cousin, Judy's, daughter wore a white dress to the wedding. How's that for trying to upstage the bride? Okay, she was four, but still...
And I think we had a good time. Afterward, Jon and I went to Butler State Park for the first leg of our honeymoon trip. We planned to look around town the next day (I'm skipping the love scene here -- this book is rated G, so use your imagination). (Think sweet contemporary, although I guess since this took place in the 20th century, it would now be sweet historical). When we got up the next morning, the car would not move. It turned out that the transmission was shot. So much for having it checked out to see if it was road worthy. Greased Lightning? I don't think so.
So the workers at the garage and at the park drove us around for the next three days until the car was fixed. Then it was off to Louisville for the rest of the trip.
And we lived happily ever after until...

Comments would be appreciated by the author, Nancy Levine

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