In The Spring and Summer Of 1962, Ginger Browning and I Were Very much in love. Very much in love. We agreed on that, we depended on it, we exhibited it. Asked about the future, we answered that we would be together forever, as, plainly, we were very much in love. Beyond that, the future could take care of itself. Meantime, we longed, we suffered. Our youthful bodies burned, thirsted, itched for each other. Seeing those were the years they were, however, the itch was not getting properly scratched. Ginger and I had an answer for that, too: matrimony.
There were difficulties. One was age. I had graduated in June, but Ginger was only a rising junior. She was sixteen. She was the best student in our school, and her mother, who was a teacher in the same school, was bound and determined Ginger should go to college and on into the big world.
My own plans were unformed but did not include college, a path of life no one who knew me would have encouraged me to consider. Mostly what I wanted to do was play ball, but I wasn’t very good, and, anyway, the Red Sox weren’t hiring, so I went to work at the Sand & Gravel Company and waited to be drafted. In those days if you were a young man and your plans were unformed, the Army was there to help.
Another difficulty for Ginger and me—two difficulties, in fact, one we thought manageable, the other, not—were her parents. Mrs. Browning liked me. She found me to be law-abiding, good-natured, and reasonably well-mannered. But she also, according to Ginger, believed I was too much older than her daughter.
“Too much older?” I asked Ginger.
“That’s what she says.”
“Two years?” I said.
“I’m telling you what she says. Listen, she’s crazy,” said Ginger. “I despise her. She also says we’re both too young. ‘Children,’ she says. ‘You are children.’”
“How come if we’re children, I’m too old?”
“She’s crazy,” said Ginger. “I despise her. I really do. She says, ‘What about college?’ And I say, ‘Well, what about it? Maybe I won’t even go to college. Maybe I don’t want to.’ And she says, ‘Well, of course you are going to college. You are not going to stay here and fritter your life away.’”
“Fritter?” I asked Ginger. “She said fritter?”
“Fritter,” said Ginger. “And I say, ‘Well, maybe I don’t think I would be frittering my life away here.’ And she says, ‘Well, yes, you would. Of course you [End Page 13] would. There is a whole big world out there full of everything. But you’ll never know it if you just sit around here making babies with that boy’—”
“Making babies? She said making babies?”
“Not much chance of that, is there?”
“Stop it,” said Ginger. “That’s what she says. And I say to her, ‘Well, that’s what you did.’”
“What does she say then?”
“Nothing,” said Ginger. “She shakes her head. She sighs. I despise it when she sighs.”
Ginger and her mother fought like good lightweight boxers: not a lot of knockouts, but a lot of tactics, and a lot of hits. For all their battling, however, we believed Mrs. Browning could be brought around. In order to marry at sixteen, Ginger needed the consent of her parents. Of course, she wouldn’t get it. So what? We would go ahead on our own. We would elope. Ginger would quit school.
“Quit school?” I asked her. “Why? You don’t have to quit school.”
“I despise school,” said Ginger.
It was simple, it seemed: we were very much in love. We should be together, then. We would be together. We would present Mr. and Mrs. Browning with an accomplished fact. In those circumstances, we hoped, Ginger’s mother would give over.
Ginger’s father was another matter entirely. Mr. Browning was not Mr. Browning. He was Captain Browning, a decorated U. S. Marine veteran of the Second World War, who was known to...