The Not-Perfect Marriage That Makes Us Believe in Love
First dinner date. Charles drops knife (down his sleeve) and cigarette (into Paula's coffee). Paula charmed. "He was terrific company, and the best kisser." Second date booked.
Parents horrified. Charles: "My parents were New York intellectuals who contributed to the United Negro College Fund. They were liberals—until they were faced with this." Paula: "My mother was so miserable, so mean, I didn't recognize her."
Charles moves to San Francisco to finish residency. He and Paula break up...until he proposes. "I knew my mother was going to kill me, but I couldn't stand being without him." Family pressures them to call off engagement. Ha.
November 23, 1964
Wedding day: Paula nervous, Charles calm. "He never wavered; he was certain this was the right thing. It meant everything to us to be married."
Interracial marriage still illegal in 19 states. Fears of social climate convince couple not to have children. Unplanned pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage change their minds. Paula: "When we imagined ourselves with a child, it felt so right. We started asking who were we protecting—the child or us?"
First dinner party. Charles: "We didn't know how to use the stove, so we baked the steaks." Months later Paula realizes she forgot to cook the fruit tarts.
Paula pregnant again. Parents thrilled, hatchet buried. Paula leaves nursing job. On trip to Hawaii, Charles severely sun-poisoned: first in lifelong series of vacation misadventures.
David born. Charles deploys to Vietnam. On last night home, holds infant son until morning.
Weeklong rendezvous in Japan. Paula wants to bring David; Charles asks her to come alone. Paula worries their lives are drifting apart.
Charles hates war, loves being army doctor. Receives Bronze Star, is offered chance to extend tour. Considers offer; Paula livid. Charles returns home.
Paula gets pregnant again, and Charles brings the family to Pennsylvania