We returned from our two-night honeymoon on Sunday morning for my graduation. We stayed in Lou’s dorm at the fraternity house for the week until Union’s graduation because we couldn’t afford any more nights in a hotel, and my parents outright said they were not ready for us to sleep together in their house.
Immediately after Lou’s graduation ceremony, we took off for Durham, North Carolina in a small, rented U-Haul truck loaded with used furniture from his dorm, and some new-to-us items we purchased at the Thrift store. Lou’s mom had offered some old furniture she wasn’t using, so we diverted to her house on Long Island to get a bed and a few other pieces. As we pulled into the driveway, I was first struck by the Virgin Mary statue on the small square front lawn; I had nothing to prepare me for the visit, since Lou had never described his family home to me, with the exception of some mental snapshot images of a very young Louis following his maternal grandfather around weeding the backyard garden, his mother endlessly smoking while cooking in the kitchen or watching tv alone in the living room, and his father sitting in the yard for hours by himself with a portable television, a case of beer, and his no-filter Camel cigarettes. Not too long ago, his mom had found a huge stash of hotel receipts and other extra-marital affair documentation in his dad’s car trunk, so his father was now living in the apartment on the second floor, but I didn’t see him; he works a lot of hours as an Air Traffic Controller.
We also stopped off to see Lou’s relatives from his father’s side in New Jersey, because they planned a post-wedding party for us at his uncle’s house. I had no idea that he had such a big extended Jersey Italian family. I even met his grandfather, the original Louis William Joy. Lou’s father, Louis William Joy, Jr., is apparently not currently on speaking terms with anyone. They were over the top nice to Lou and me and gave us a giant white Catholic Bible with gilded pages. If we had a coffee table, I guess we could put it on that. I’m not sure if they know that we were not married in a Catholic church. I am sure they do not know I have never even been baptized, never mind that I am not Catholic. Lou’s mom was not happy about that fact, nor the outdoor wedding with the family friend minister instead of a priest, but could only bellow a mournful, “Oh, Louis….” when he told her our wedding plans. Debra actually wore black to our daytime garden nuptials, a statement of sorts that I was unsure how to interpret. Although I am eighteen and she and I are just a couple years apart, she is very much Lou’s little sister. Her birth when Lou was seven seems to have marked the end of their parents’ marriage, regardless of the fact that they have yet to legally divorce.
After the party, we drove straight through to our new life in Durham, NC. Lou couldn’t drive all night, and we couldn’t swing a hotel room, so despite the fact that I had no driver’s license and no clue how to operate its standard transmission, I drove the U-Haul anyway. Lou explained that getting the car up to full speed is the hard part, so when it was my turn to drive, we didn’t pull over. Instead, I climbed over him to get on his left side, he scooted over, took his foot off the gas pedal, and I put mine on. At rest stops, I slowed, learned how to shift into neutral, and then coasted and braked into a parking area in the back of the lot. We repeated this routine several times throughout the night.
We arrived in Durham the next day, checked into the Duke University campus housing office to get the keys, and moved right into our second-floor apartment at 220 Alexander Avenue in the section designated for married students. It’s small, but complete with a bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom. My parents let me take the 15” black and white television from my bedroom that I have to smack on both sides to get the picture to come on.
While we still had the U-Haul, we went to the grocery store to stock up, and drove around so I could apply for jobs at local hotels, including two Ramada Inns. I only applied to places within biking distance from campus since that is still my only ride.
It’s hard to believe that just hours ago, in that same U-Haul, I crossed the Western Gateway Bridge for the last time, leaving my childhood home and family in Scotia for this new life as Mrs. Louis William Joy, III.