Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Nuclear Family

I am constantly amazed how my life has intersected with national and world events. (I suspect many of you could say the same thing, but this is my blog so you’re stuck with my amazements, unless you care to share yours by hitting the “comment” button at the bottom of this post.)

Let me illustrate. As I slowly made my way through the Peter, Paul and Mary retrospective I wrote about the other day (, one segment of the PBS documentary recounted how the trio had gone their separate ways for almost eight years in the 1970s until Peter Yarrow called them back together in 1978 to appear at a giant anti-nuclear reactor plant rally he was helping organize in California.

That rally, in San Luis Obispo, provided Gilda and me one of the most enduring memories of our first trip to California.

Gilda was seven months pregnant with Dan. We had visited my sister in Los Angeles and ventured north along the Pacific Coast Highway on our way to San Francisco. We didn’t have any reservations. We’d sightsee and drive until Gilda was too uncomfortable to go further, then find a local motel.

We reached San Luis Obispo late in the afternoon. It was hot, temperature in the 90s. We started stopping at motels. Each, in turn, had no vacancy. We couldn’t imagine why, until one friendly innkeeper advised there were no rooms for 50 miles in every direction because of a huge anti-nuke rally.

Gilda was in no mood to ride 50 more miles on the hope of finding a room. Start dialing hotels and motels, she demanded. I called and called. No luck. Desperate, I appealed to the benevolence of the woman who answered my next call. My wife was seven months pregnant, I pleaded. Don’t you have any room, even a closet, we could use for the night?

She had been a war bride (WWII vintage) in New York City, she recalled, when she, too, couldn’t secure a room. She, too, had been pregnant. The kindness of a stranger provided her a room that night, and now she was serendipitously going to return the favor by converting an attic storeroom into a bedroom for us. It would be hot, no air conditioning or fan, but it would be an indoor bed.

We took it, thankful that fortune had smiled upon our nuclear family-in-the-making by appealing to the right woman at our most desperate hour.