My Son Lee

We are commencing Labor Day Weekend, 2002. Mariposa is celebrating, as usual, by hosting the County Fair. For the occasion my son Lee is driving north from Canyon Country, California, to visit, and is bringing his beautiful wife, Lucille. I’m excited and thrilled that they are coming. We are all into our mature years now, but I’m remembering what was happening in the 1960’s.

Bob and I were married, he was in construction and I was teaching full time. We had six kids between us, all teenagers. Life was busy. We balanced hard work with hard play. We were avid folk dancers, and spent all our spare time at classes, club sessions, festivals, parties, after parties, and after-after parties. We got lots of exercise, learned a lot about international music, dance, costumes, and cultures. During the summers we would spend a week at the University of California, Santa Barbara for a week-long dance conference, as well as another week at the Idyllwild School of Music and Arts in the mountains.

One welcome aspect of this folk dancing sub-culture was that everyone in the family was welcome, and participants were always welcome whether they were newborn or in their nineties.

In 1962 Lee was sixteen, and we took him to the Santa Barbara Conference with us. He immediately disappeared with the professor of dance from UCLA who rounded up all the teenagers and saw that they were each guided into his or her own special interests. We scarcely saw Lee until Tuesday after lunch, which was designated photo-op day, when we all arrived wearing international ethnic costumes and carrying our cameras.

D4-Lee1To my surprise Lee showed up in complete authentic Native American Eagle dress—headdress, eagle wing feathers along his arms, leggings, ankle bells, the works. From his Boy Scout experiences he managed to demonstrate some dance steps, and when he balanced himself on one foot, holding the other behind him high in the air, arms outstretched, and leaned over and picked up a tiny white feather off the grass with his mouth, Bob snapped a great photo at the right time.

A few weeks later, Bob and I were in Idyllwild for a similar conference. This particular week one of the dance teachers brought up her performing high school-aged youngsters. Being the eternal parents we spent a lot of time with them—ate with them, drove them to town, partied with them, danced with them, and felt that was nothing out of the ordinary. We did notice that one girl, Cozette, seemed to pay special attention to us.

Lee, age 16, picking up a feather with his mouth
Lee, age 16, picking up a feather with his mouth

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The following February, the San Diego Federation hosted the three day Statewide Festival. About 2000 dancers, all ages, abilities, interests, and backgrounds showed up to dance and to party the clock around. Bob and I took a room in the historic downtown hotel, the El Cortez. It was elegant, and the rooms were large. For Sunday at dinner time we invited all our friends from our local clubs, from the summer conferences, from all over the state and served pot luck food and showed our slide show from the previous summer.

After most people had gone, my close friend Liesl took me aside and told me that one of the San Diego girls, Cozette, had been sitting beside her during the slide show, and when Bob flashed the picture of Lee in his Eagle pose, Cozette jostled Liesl with her elbow and said, “See that boy? I’m going to marry him.” She had never seen him in person.

The next year we carried on with our complex and busy lives. Cozette seemed to show up at most of the festivals and parties, but I didn’t think much about it. Lee had a regular dance partner whom he was dating while she was getting ready to go to Israel, and she was a fixture in our family. The next summer came and, with all the other high school graduates, Lee was out looking for a job. I also heard through the grapevine that Cozette was coming to Los Angeles to find a job.

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Late in the summer I was sitting in our living room and happened to look out the front window. To my amazement there was Cozette going from house to house across the street. I learned from the neighbors that she was asking everyone to rent her a room, and she had persuaded the elderly, deaf widow directly across from our home to do so. Now I felt Cozette’s eyes constantly watching Lee as he came and went out the front door, seven days a week.

Late in the summer Cozette got a job at the MGM Studios and joined the technician’s union. As soon as she was hired she signed up Lee as a member of her family, and she told us that when there was an appropriate opening he would be called. Sure enough, in January he was offered a well paying job in the film developing lab.

Lee took the job at MGM and since the editing lab was part of the film processing lab, he and Cozette saw each other daily. Meanwhile, Cozette was always around the edges of our lives—dance activities, festivals, club meetings, parties.

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One of Lee's teen birthdays
One of Lee’s teen birthdays

It was more than a year that things went on, but finally they told us they had set a date for the wedding. She told me with great fervor that she had been planning her wedding since she was six years old. She had played out all the details, and had even made her wedding gown already. They, of course, were going to be married in our church with our minister.

The next day Lee came to me privately. Their problem was that they had set the date for February, and that was three months short of Lee’s twenty-first birthday. At that time he was still a minor, and he was asking me to sign the form permitting him to get married legally.

I sat at my desk, pen in hand, the legal form in front of me with Lee sitting beside me, his eyes focused on my face. I was uncomfortable with Lee marrying a woman who had, for four years, shown that much determination for getting what she decided she wanted, just because she had seen his photo in a slide show. I also knew that if I didn’t sign the paper they would be married in three months, anyway.

I asked him, “Lee, are you sure that this is the woman you want to be married to for the rest of your life?” His answer was “She thinks of me as her sun, moon, and stars, and the center of her universe.”

I signed the paper.

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