When I was a senior in high school, many monumental and not-so-monumental moments were taking place around me.
The Fordham Baldies made it clear to the Fordham Baldettes that the cheerleaders, including the captain of the squad, me, were not to be bothered — the code word for messed with, cut up, beat up and, most important, having ponytails cut off.
The reason for our dispensation centered on a winning basketball team. G-d, or perhaps the priests at Fordham University directly across from my high school, only knew what great injuries would have befallen us had we not had a winning season.
About the middle of my senior year, these same Baldies attempted to force their way into the school with zip guns, brass knuckles and tire irons in what could have been a major gang war. We were saved because someone ratted them out, and the school went into lockdown.
Girls were flashing diamond rings. Yes, many of my schoolmates were getting engaged to be married at the end of senior year or were tied to one guy for college. As I recall, a couple of these girls were already with child.
My BFFs were college-bound sans diamonds. We all graduated without a sparkle among us.
I admit that diamonds are beautiful and sparkly and boast to be a girl’s best friend. For me, not so much.
I met the man of my dreams. We talked the future, very romantic. The end of summer arrived, time to go back to school. My beloved and I had our Saturday night date. A movie at the Loews Paradise, a walk on the Grand Concourse, but wait — why do I remember us arguing on this lovely occasion? Because we were discussing engagement rings.
I longed for a pearl ring surrounded by small diamond baguettes. He insisted on a diamond. Had we not gone into Jahns Ice Cream Parlor, I fear we could have come to blows.
I did, however, say yes when he asked me to marry him between spoonfuls of the ice cream sundae we were sharing. Of course I also sipped on my beloved cup of coffee, always black, no milk, no sugar.
When we arrived home, my sisters looked at me in a strange way, which I did not acknowledge. They were home alone, up to who knows what devilish things. At what surly seemed like the perfect moment, my new fiancé handed me a beautifully wrapped box celebrating my returning to school. I opened the gift, a school box with two drawers.
Included in the school box were most of the items a college girl would need: pencils, protractor, ruler, pens and other items I cannot recall. Please note the absence of a cellphone or iPad.
When I did not check both drawers, my sisters cried out for me to open all of it and check everything. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the bottom drawer was a small eraser. On the eraser was a pear-shaped diamond ring with two diamond baguettes. It was extraordinary. I had never seen a pear-shaped ring. It looked huge. How was I to know he had purchased the ring at the time we were arguing on the Grand Concourse?
When my parents arrived home a few minutes later — hmmm, was it a planned late entrance? — my sisters and I did something I still find hard to believe. We sat on the floor like hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys, legs crossed, arms crossed, left arm in an upright position, and sang as my parents walked in, “See anything new?”
We were singing and jumping up and down. Much joy was shared that night.
Gene lived in the farthest end of Brooklyn, the last stop on the subway. My family had recently moved to the farthest end of the Bronx, on the Yonkers line.
After switching trains in Manhattan, he traveled to the last stop on the Bronx line, then boarded the bus to my stop. After departing the bus, he had to walk a few blocks to my apartment building. A trip that lasted 2½ hours each way. When it snowed — well, that’s a story for another time.