The place is Wilson High School in El Sereno back in the early ’90s. I told a friend that I liked this football player dude in our AP U.S. government class, and she told football player dude's best friend.
Football player dude and I started hanging out, skipping class (don't tell my kids!), eating pizza at Shakey's in Alhambra, riding in his brown Pinto (that would shake almost uncontrollably over 45 mph) or simply sitting on my porch after school. Fun teen activities.
Other fun teen activities on prom night resulted in, nine months later, the birth of a beautiful baby girl. What were we to do? We were young, in college and living with our parents.
Well, the smart thing would have been to finish school, raise this baby as best we could and decide at a later time if we were going to make the commitment to be with each other.
But, of course, that's not what we did. We got married in the summer of 1992. We didn't really plan to wed on the day that we did, we were just filling out the paperwork to get the license. The clerk asked if we were getting married too, and without much thought, we said yes.
So within minutes, with our baby girl as our witness, we got married. I'm curious to know what was going through the clerk's mind when she saw us, just two young (dumb) people with a baby in a stroller, to even ask this life-changing question. Did she sense that somehow we were going to figure it out and make it work? Or was she a tad cynical and thought "What do they have to lose?"
So here I was, not only a young mother, but now also a wife. I had prepared throughout my pregnancy to be a mother. I read so many baby books, attended birthing class, subscribed to family magazines and planned for what I would do when my baby arrived.
I felt confident and excited to take on my new role as a mother. I felt I had excellent examples in my immediate and extended family of what it meant to be a mother.
But to be a wife? Yikes! I was underprepared. I had not done any of the things I did to get ready to be a mother. The relationships I witnessed were strained and not something I would think to use as a model in my role as a wife.
My own background would almost certainly point to having an unfavorable outcome to these circumstances. I was born out of wedlock at a time when this was a terrible taboo. There were stories of children like me being sent to faraway relatives to avoid shame coming to the family.
My mother somehow managed to convince my grandparents that things would be OK and married my father. Unfortunately, things were not always OK once my parents married. We were shuttled back and forth between Mexico and Los Angeles for the better part of my childhood.
During one of our stints in Los Angeles, we were living in El Sereno, on a quiet hillside street. I remember being 8 or 9 at the time, playing in the little patio in the back of the duplex where we lived and hearing kids playing and running up and down the hillside.
Out of the corner of my eye, I would see these kids carrying on with their games. Then, I would hear our landlady yelling at the kids to stop. These kids were so loud! But it sounded like they were having fun. I remember thinking, "I want to have fun too and run on the hillside!" But no, we were only allowed to play on our patio, with my mother watching closely from the kitchen window as she washed dishes.
Fast forward to a few years into our marriage, and my husband and I happened to drive by this quiet street, and I mentioned to him that my family and I used to live there. He said, "Wait, did you live in a duplex by the hillside, with the landlady who would always yell at some kids playing on the hillside?" I said, "Yes! I remember she used to yell at those kids all the time." My husband said, "We were those kids! My brother and I would run up and down the hillside."
Unknowingly, we had been in each other's lives before we even attended that AP government class.
Fast forward even more years, and we'll be celebrating our 26th wedding anniversary this summer. I wouldn't be the first or last person to say marriage is work. A lot of work. We did things out of order, so to speak, since we had a baby first, then got married, then had two more beautiful baby girls, then finished school (well, I didn't quite finish school, but football player dude did). Then, finally, a handsome baby boy came along.
Over the years, the two constants in our lives have been love and work. Work and love.
Throughout our lives together, as we've celebrated many birthdays, Christmases, milestones, achievements and setbacks, we've looked back and said, "What were we thinking?" Seriously, what made us so sure that day to make that commitment? Love and work, I think.
Oh, and laughter. Love, work and laughter.
The author and football player dude are still residents of El Sereno.
L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com.
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