MEMOIR: How I became enmeshed in a friend's marriage
I don't normally get involved in other families' tangled affairs. But when I graduated from college in 1948 and moved from New York to Washington, D.C., I became enmeshed in a problem besetting a close friend's recent marriage. It dealt with the issue of social class and religious prejudice, matters that I would like to believe are no longer of as much concern as they were a half-century ago.
My friend, Dan B., and I were both World War II veterans who met in college. We both became journalists, and we remained close friends after college graduation. Dan came from a working-class Irish Catholic family in Brooklyn. Shortly before my move to Washington, he married June P., a girl he had been dating since his Army discharge two years earlier. They were married in a civil ceremony without informing June's parents.
June's family background differed markedly from Dan's. Her parents were wealthy residents of an exclusive Long Island community. As quintessential WASP patricians, they disapproved of June's relationship with Dan. They evidently regarded Dan's humble background as unsuitable for June, and they would have been appalled to know of their marriage.
When June learned that I was moving to Washington, she devised a plan that might enable her to maintain contact with her parents while keeping her marriage to Dan a secret from them. She asked me whether she could tell her parents that she was moving to Washington for a new job and that she would be renting a room there in the home of a "Mrs. Reichek." That, of course, would be me.
She intended to stay in touch with her family by mail. This was an era when people were still writing letters to communicate, and long-distance phone calls were usually limited to emergencies. Under her plan, June would mail me the letters written to her parents and I would forward the letters, now bearing a Washington postmark, to their Long Island home. In turn, her parents would write to her via my Washington address.
I questioned how long this scheme could be maintained, but I readily agreed to cooperate. When I arrived in Washington, I began sharing an apartment with two other guys. I explained my arrangement with June to them so that they would know why letters addressed to a "Mrs. Reichek" would be appearing in our mail box.
Things went smoothly for several months. I served successfully as the Washington conduit for the letters June wrote in her Manhattan apartment for delivery to her parents in Long Island. But the scheme eventually collapsed. One of my room mates moved out and a new guy moved in. Unfortunately, my replacement room mate forgot the details of my arrangement with June and was thus unprepared when June's mother suddenly decided to phone her daughter.
"I'd like to speak to June," her mother told my new room mate, who was home alone when he answered the phone. When she was told that no one named June lived in the apartment, her mother quickly asked to speak to "Mrs. Reichek." June's mother was shocked to learn that there was a "Mr. Reichek" in the apartment but no missus.
I don't recall the outcome of June's confession that she was still living in Manhattan and was married to Dan. I can report, however, that they enjoyed a long and happy marriage together. And I decided that if I was ever to become involved again in a family entanglement, it would have to be my own.