Vol. 13


Love at First Sight

1939; Herrin, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Angelina and Pauline had been friends since childhood. One day Angelina, who had moved to Illinois, decided to visit her friend Pauline in St. Louis. Richard, Angelina’s nephew, drove her more than one hundred miles to see her best friend, for she could not drive. Rich saw Pauline’s daughter, Josephine, and fell in love at first sight.

When Rich got home, he decided to send Josephine a gift, without consulting anyone about the proper etiquette. Rich chose a very expensive brush, mirror, and comb set. In St. Louis, Josephine received her gift in the mail and got in huge trouble. Back then, boys did not send gifts to girls, and it was frowned upon.

The following day Pauline, beside herself with confusion, called Angelina to set a date to figure things out. Angelina hastily called Rich to see if he could come over. Unbeknownst to him, he was in for a long, and very loud, lecture over the proper behavior for young men.

Rich and Angelina again drove two hours to St. Louis to see Pauline and her daughter to make things right. Angelina and Pauline interrogated Rich and Josephine with questions of “What did you do?” and “Why did you do it?” filling the air with loud voices. Rich explained that he sent the extravagant gift only because he wanted to show Josephine that he liked her. Angelina and Pauline laughed, thinking how incredible this was, for the two young people had never been alone and had barely talked. Finally, after Josephine and Rich begged them, Pauline and Angelina set the ground rules for the young people’s first date. They decided to go to the movies.

Smushed in the car, shoulder to shoulder, Rich, Josephine, Angelina, Pauline, both of their husbands, Josephine’s grandma, her two sisters, brother, aunt, and uncle all accompanied them as chaperones to the movies. Rich bought popcorn for Josephine and, not wanting to be rude, emptied his wallet and got it for everyone.

Everyone walked into the theater, “politely” asking a few people to leave their seats for the large group, who took up an entire row. Entering the now-empty row, Rich went first, followed by everyone but Josephine, going last. Sitting on opposite ends of the row, they awkwardly leaned back as the movie began.

A few months later my great-grandparents, Rich and Josephine, were married. They had known each other for only a short time, but they knew that they would be together forever. Rich and Josephine were married for fifty-five years, until Josephine passed away in March 1994. They had three children, their two boys being my grandpa and uncle Joe, and their one girl being my aunt Amalia.

Rich’s gift to Josephine continues to travel throughout my family, going from generation to generation. At this time, that brush, mirror, and comb set is sitting on my sister’s dresser. This is a treasured family heirloom that my sister and I look forward to passing along to our children.

Bella Pagano; Missouri, USA



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