Today, December 1, my parents would celebrate their wedding anniversary. This is the story of their first encounter.
They say Mercedes’s eyes changed from golden to jade or forest green
depending on the light surrounding her. I believe her mood had more to do with it. Like the time she had an adrenaline rush, and they turned orange-chartreuse. A five-foot-four-inch young man had insisted on flirting with her in the middle of a classroom lesson. She, a hardly 5 foot tall teacher, had dragged the offender to the window and threatened to push him out of the premises for disrespecting her. The culprit begged for her forgiveness and she allowed him to go back to his desk among the loud silence of his classmates. In those days, classroom discipline was mandatory and teachers were the law. Thereafter, the name whispered in the hallways was not Miss Mercedes but Miss Cat-Eyes-Sprinter (ojos de gata veloz).
Besides her small size, she was really young for a high-school teacher. She had started college at 16 and by 18 years of age, she had her teaching degree under the special program “escuela normal.”
One day the school where Mercedes taught was expecting the new area
Superintendent to visit and meet the staff.
Mercedes had tied her dark unruly hair into a bun surrounding her neck and ears, in what we consider nowadays a vintage look, so of course the curls kept threatening to escape. Her students sat quietly at their desks awaiting the inspection. The girls were more excited than the boys because they had heard the Superintendente was handsome and looked like a gringo, blond and blue-eyed.
An entourage of men and the Lady Principal walked into the classroom. They made introductions. He, the Superintendent, did stand out, he did look like a gringo. They addressed him as Mister Cruz-Gonzalez. She could tell his blue eyes shined when he looked at her. Did he have a mustache? She couldn’t tell, since he was so blond, it was hard to see it. She did like a nicely trim mustache on a man, it was the style. He was also sooo tall. Well, to her, five feet and eight inches seemed tall!
Anyway, those were the first impressions my mother had of her future husband. I learned of my father’s impressions of her when he gave a speech at their 60th wedding anniversary. Before he met my mother, he had already heard about her intelligence, teaching dedication and fiery temper, so he was intrigued. What caught his eye that day was her proud stance and youthful innocence, after all, he was eight years her senior. One minor detail held a forever endearing image in his mind: the knee-high-silk-stocking was slowly sliding down her left leg and folding at the ankle. At that moment, he knew he would marry her. Her gaze did not seem at all feline to him, but rather sweet like Bambi’s.