Robert and Mary first met when they were 18 and 15 years old respectively in Brooklyn, New York.
When my mom was 15 years old, she used to hang out a luncheonette called Martin’s on Nostrand Avenue and Avenue W in Sheepshead Bay, where she was born. At the time she was dating a guy by the name of Glenn, but at the same time, “there was this cute waiter who had the most incredible smile, and he used to give me free French fries with ketchup and gravy on them.”
My mother remembers how one day this young waiter approached her and asked if she wanted to go out with him when she got back from vacation with her parents in Washington D.C.
“The first time we went out we took the bus to Flatbush Avenue to see ‘To Sir with Love,’ after which Robert bought her the 45.
When my mother turned 16 years old, in March, she invited Robert to her sweet 16 party, and he gave her a bangle bracelet. They started dating exclusively from that point on, spending time with another couple by the name of Linda and Bernie. Bernie was 16 at the time and Linda was 14, and the two couples did really cool things together like camping, attending shows and watching movies.
In fact, this past summer, in August of 2008, Linda and Bernie, happily married for over 40 years, visited my parents in New Jersey where they sat around telling stories, just like old times.
One constant in my Dad’s early life is that he always had a job. From the time he was 9 years old, he began working at Marty and Lloyd’s Delicatesson in the catering service. One of his many jobs included working as a waiter at Martin’s delicatessen.
“I wasn’t what you’d call a lady’s man because I had pimples and glasses.”
Mary came into Martin’s restaurant one day, where Robert “used to treat a lot of the pretty girls to French fries.” He first noticed that “she had a great ass, nice legs and was very pretty. She walked in with Glen,” and my father remembers talking to her outside of Martin’s. She said she was going away for a couple weeks to Washington D.C., and he asked if she would go out with him when she came back. My mom enthusiastically responded with a yes!
Robert – “The first date we really ever went on was to the movies. We went to see ‘To Sir With Love’ and took the bus there. The First night I tried to kiss her was in Marine Park in Brooklyn. Your mother was very pretty, but she wasn’t easy to get to know that way. So it took a lot of effort, but I was attracted to her, so I took it slowly. I would go to her parent’s house after work still smelling of French fries, and we would hang out and watch T.V.”
They continued dating throughout college. When my Dad was 21 and my mother was 18, she went to Israel during the summer of 1970. That whole summer, my dad worked and saved his nickels and dimes to buy her a ring. When she came home it was still summer time, and it was while they were out driving that my father stopped the car and proposed.
And of course, she said yes! They told her parents and his parents, and they were all pretty excited, although my mother adds now, “we didn’t know what we were doing!” All of this took place right before my father started law school. They married on December 18, 1971, but couldn’t go away for a honeymoon because my father had his final exams.
They got an apartment in the same building as my Dad’s parents on Haring street in Sheepshead Bay, where they lived for the next 5 years. They paid $2000 for the co-op and rent was $92 dollars a month.
After my father graduated from St. Johns Law School he began working at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. They soon moved to Brooklyn Heights, where they enjoyed good friends and getting involved in theatre with the Brooklyn Heights Players. They lived there when my mother gave birth to their first child, my sister Jennifer, on March 24th 1979.
In 1981, my father opened up his own law practice, but money was tight, so my mother offered, without much cajoling from my father, to sell her engagement ring so that my Dad could open his first practice. During that time, my mother had a second child, my brother Andrew who was born on November 22, 1984.
A couple of years later, the family moved to Glen Rock, New Jersey, and on August 28, 1986 I was born in Ridgewood, NJ, the third and final child. It’s a dubious distinction, but I’m quite proud to be the only member of my family born in New Jersey.
And so the story continues. Over the years, there have been plenty of ups and downs, but if there’s anything that I’ve learned from my parents’ marriage, it’s that true love withstands the test of time, and that these two old souls were simply meant for one another…