Carnett: Laguna's Cottage a fond memory

Remember when you were young and crazy in love with the most beautiful girl in the world?

Yeah, me too.

That girl has been my wife for 37.5 years, and 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of our friendship.

Hedy and I first started dating in 1973. We met while working at Orange Coast College. I was the institution's public relations director and she worked for the president's secretary.

I was 28; she 22.

Our relationship began as a friendship and later blossomed into a full-fledged romance. For me the romance part came considerably earlier than it did for her. Frustratingly (for me), I was her "good bud" for far too long!

One of our first dates made an indelible impression on me. It occurred during the "friends" phase of our relationship, before we'd begun dating one another exclusively.

The date consisted of a Saturday morning jaunt down the coast to the Cottage Restaurant in Laguna Beach. The Cottage, which closed last week, was a romantic bistro renowned for its delicious breakfasts.

Hedy and I both lived in Costa Mesa. I had an apartment on the north side of town, and she lived with her parents near OCC.

I picked her up at 9 on a sparkling morning and we took our time soaking up the breathtaking scenery as we cruised down Pacific Coast Highway. I felt rapturous. Sitting beside me in my powder blue 1973 MGB GT sports coupe was the girl of my dreams, with hair all the way to her waist.

I'm not worthy!

Upon arriving at the restaurant, we waited for several minutes in front of the historic beach cottage, a Laguna landmark. Finally, we were escorted to a cozy table in a small alcove.

Hedy ordered what I've since come to recognize as her favorite breakfast dish: eggs benedict. I selected two eggs over-easy and buckwheat pancakes.

We spent the meal laughing and chatting. I have no recollection of the details of our discussion, but I do remember I was thoroughly enchanted.

I also recall that when we finished eating — close to noon — and walked to my car, I didn't want to take her home. I was ready to do almost anything to extend our date.

There was nothing I wanted more at that moment than to spend the entire day with her. I couldn't get enough of her!

"Let's go do something else," I quipped impulsively as we drove north on PCH. I was being fairly obvious, I realize, but I was smitten.

"What would we do?" Hedy inquired impishly.

"I know," I said, my fevered brain racing for an appropriate scheme. "Let's turn around and head south — for San Diego. We'll go to … the zoo!"

She laughed.

"I can't go to San Diego," she demurred. "I promised my sister I'd go shopping with her this afternoon."

"And you've got a date tonight, right?" I said, suddenly looking as forlorn as a bluetick coonhound.

"Yes," she said softly, "but this morning was … special."

Hedy knew how to make a guy feel extraordinary while at the same time dousing him with ice water.

Within a few weeks, however, we were dating one another seriously.

During the summer of '74 she visited Hawaii with her sister and I traveled to Europe with mine. We missed one another terribly while apart, and had a wonderful reunion when we both returned home.

We married the following summer.

A few years later we actually did go to San Diego and — with our first-born tucked carefully into a stroller — made our initial trek to the zoo.

Hedy and I have since traveled the world together. She's been my constant companion and closest friend.

I must admit that I feel privileged that I no longer have to drop her off at her parents' home after one of our "dates." She's mine now, and I'm hers — and there's no disputing who got the better end of that deal!

Think I'll take her for eggs benedict tomorrow morning. The topic of our discussion will undoubtedly be our eight grandchildren.

Breakfast with Hedy today is sweeter than ever!

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.

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