I am a true believer in love at first sight. It happened to me at on March 18, 1973.
The Jewish Singles group in Albany was having a Purim party at Herbie’s Restaurant in Albany. A group of my girlfriends was going, and it seemed like a fun way to spend a Sunday evening. The notice recommended costumes, and I dragged along a long flowered dress I had purchased in New York City eight months before.
The event was taking place on the banquet room on the second floor of the restaurant. When I got to the top of the stairs, one of the organizers handed me a pink slip of paper. “It’s for skits we’re doing,” he explained. “You’re assigned to the pink group.” I thanked him and scanned the room for my friends, who had arrived separately.
As I looked for them, I noticed a man standing across the room. I don’t know what it was about him, but I immediately felt an attraction. Like the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from South Pacific, I felt as if that stranger across that crowded room was destined to be in my future. I noticed that he was holding a blue strip of paper.
When I located my friends, I noticed that Debbie had a blue strip. “Debbie, change colors with me.”
“Why?” she said.
“I don’t have time to explain,” I said. “Just trade with me.” She complied, and I changed into my “costume” and waited for instructions.
Steve, the party organizer, soon told us to find our groups by color and to plan a short skit with a Purim theme. The ‘blue slip’ group got together. We made quick introductions, and I formally met Larry Shapiro. The five of us decided to do a dating game, with the three women playing Queen Vashti, a gum snapping trollop, and Queen Esther. Larry was chosen to play King Ahasuerus, and the remaining member of our group played the host. The other groups also quickly arranged their skits, and each one performed. I had been taking pictures of the groups. Just before our group was “on,” I asked Debbie to take a couple of pictures. The skit— as corny and as silly as the rest of the ones performed —went well. The king, played by Larry, chose the lovely Esther, played by me.
Forty years later, I am not sure if what followed was part chance, but I am sure that I had a hand in making sure of the outcome. After the last of the groups performed, Larry said, “Well, since I ‘won’ you in the Dating Game, would you like to share a hamantashen with me?”
That probably was one of the corniest pick-up lines in history, but it worked. Of course, by that point, I was willing to fall for anything he was going to offer. Over an apricot hamantashen and some punch, Larry and I got to know a little about each other. He had never been to a Jewish singles event before. He and a friend were playing chess that afternoon and decided on a whim to head down from Saratoga Springs to Albany for the night. I learned about his background: he had gone to undergraduate college in Boston and had just completed his master’s degree at Syracuse University. While looking for a job, he was working at his parents’ store in Schuylerville and living with them in Saratoga Springs.
What impressed me was how much we had in common. Both of us had grown up in fairly small towns and belonged to small synagogues. Both of our parents operated small, family run department stores in upstate New York. Both of us were one of four children, with the same birth order: a girl, a boy, a girl (coincidentally both named Marilyn), and an unexpected girl a few years later. The more we talked, the more I was smitten with his warm smile, his intelligence, and his pleasant demeanor. My first impression was correct: I knew I wanted to see him again. However, he didn’t seem to be getting any closer to asking for my phone number. My devious mind started working again. I had noticed that there was a sign-up sheet for a Jewish Singles event at the beginning of May. Although I knew that I would be visiting my parents in upstate New York that weekend, I put down my contact information in bold letters. Hopefully, he would take the bait.
As the evening drew to a close, Larry and I said our goodbyes, and I reconnected with my friends. Debbie gave me back my camera, and I was surprised to see that she had taken ten pictures of our Dating Game skit. “Why did you take so many?” I asked. “I don’t know. I just kept snapping away,” she explained.
The next night, I called my mother. “Last night I met the man I am going to marry,” I announced.
I filled her in on the Purim party, and she asked, “Did this man ask you out?”
“Not yet,” I said.
“So he asked for your number?”
“No, not exactly,” I said. “But I put it on a sign-up sheet for another event, and he will call.”
My mother was not as confident as I was. But,sure enough, the next night, Larry called to ask me out to a movie for the following weekend. The sign-up ruse had worked! We saw Man of La Mancha at the Hellman, and then we went to Friendly’s restaurant for a chocolate Fribble for Larry and a hot fudge sundae with vanilla ice cream for me.
The rest, as it is said, was history. We dated over the next few months, Larry proposed to me on our walk home from Rosh Hashanah services on September 28, and we announced it to our families after Yom Kippur was over on October 6. The road to the wedding was not as smooth as the first six months of our relationship, but that is another story.
And those pictures Debbie had snapped? When I developed the Kodak roll a month later, I realized she had captured the hour Larry and I first met. In my favorite, I am sitting in a chair with the other potential wives of Ahasuerus looking up at my future husband with stars in my eyes.
In this day of dating websites, social networking, and speed dating, it is a little embarrassing to relate our own meet-up. Larry’s reaction is always the same. “You’re not telling that story again! It’s too dorky!”
He’s right. But I know that ‘dorky’ meeting, with its blue slips of paper, the long flowered dress (which I kept in my closet for thirty-six years), and apricot hamantashen was B’Shert, meant to be. And as Larry and I work our way through our fifth decade of marriage, that tale of that enchanted evening will always be one of my favorite love stories.