So, Central Casting has instructed the extras to show up dressed for the harsh winter scene in next day’s shoot. Everybody arrives wearing fur hats, heavy coats, and boots, except for one fellow who insists he is just fine without. “You see, I’m wearing thermal underwear,” he brags. Exactly 3 months into my stay with the doctors, I astonished them and me by literally switching mid joke (this one) from French to English, and that for good. My love affair with the English language had just kicked in with a vengeance.
By this time, we had moved from West LA to Hollywood, so Dr. Miriam could begin her obstetrical residency at Kaiser. Dr. Ernest trained in pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center. When she was on night rotation, I occasionally stopped by for a brief bedtime visit with the children. To colleagues I was introduced as the “third parent” of Anne, Bibi, and Sally, ages two to seven. The doctors loved me for my sense of humor, and the tight ship I ran at home by playing cook, housekeeper, chauffeur, and best yet, loving nanny. In turn, I loved eating Cheerios with Half & Half, meeting with buddies at night school, dressing up for theater and concerts, and being valued as “myself,” warts and all.
Not surprisingly then, my planned stay of 12 months turned into 28, having even more fun after Ruth, my best friend, arrived in 1957. In the summer of 1958, I suddenly felt strongly compelled to return home. My social-worker-career plans were at stake and my parents faced a crisis that would force their relocation to Zurich. My mother happened to relate my news to someone in a shop and a customer overheard her and said she had a son who also lived in Hollywood. Both moms agreed to write to their kids, asking them to touch base. While I was packing, the Heimlichs went on vacation and Ruth took hers to keep me company. Right after I got my letter, one week before my leaving, I phoned Fred Schiess to come and have dinner with us. Raised in the city by his grandparents and disdainful of drab village girls, he ignored his mom’s nudge, but was a good enough sport to show up for a meal with two of them. We had an absolute ball and I happily pictured Fred as Ruth’s boyfriend. Three days later he dropped off gifts; earrings for his mom and for me a silver bracelet with tiny mail box and envelope charms. No sparks had flown, but when I took my seat in the airplane on September 3, 1958, I knew beyond a shadow of doubt that I had met the man I would marry.
I said so when I got home. Mom worried I would get hurt. Dad thought a courtship by airmail was a good thing. In October a miffed Ruth wrote that Fred had stopped calling. “That’s because he is writing love letters to me,” I confessed. In early December he mentioned a service call in Ontario, where he felt like checking out homes and schools. “It appears,” I wrote back, “that you think of having a family. Would you like to ask me to marry you?” Classy guy that he was, he ran it by my father. Then he asked me to become his bride. We still have the Western Union telegram dated January 8, 1959, with my one-word answer “Yes.” Ten months after our first meeting, we were married at Hollywood Pres on July 11. A few gaps in the story may require an epilogue…