The Wannabe Nun: How My Parents Met

It started in Boston on one of those days when the cold seeps into your bones and the ice freezes like glass.

My mom hunched deeper into her shearling collar as she pulled into the parking lot of her apartment complex. Eyes darting around for a spot, she heard the sound of metal crunching fiberglass as she was lurched forward onto the steering wheel.

“Oh my goodness!” She whipped her head around to see that the tail of her red Thunderbird had collided with a newly shattered bumper. She flung the door open and stepped onto the ice, all four feet eleven inches of her frame stretched tall. Covered in dark brown sheepskin with a mop of thick wavy hair, she resembled a small, angry bear.

“I’m sorry about that,” he said with a hint of Slavic lilt and a sly smile, “I’ll take care of it. Let me take you to dinner.”

She squinted up at him nonplussed. He had over a foot on her and at least a hundred pounds. “Just fix my car, please.”

But the Czechs persist. “I will, of course. But you should go out with me.”

She shifted uncomfortably. He couldn’t have known my mother had never dined with a man, that she was thirty-four years old and had never been kissed.

Erlinda had left the country of 7,000 islands to mix chemicals together in an MIT lab. She wanted to make her contribution to science before giving her life to the church. For my mother, a devout Roman Catholic, this meant she hoped to join a convent in her forties and live out her days in a nuns habit. Dating a burly Czech guy that hit her from the back was not part of the plan.

That day they exchanged numbers. The following week as they shared stories of their childhoods and futures hopes over dinner, my father was struck by her gentle kindness and the crinkle of her eyes. As they continued to spend time together, it became clear to him what they should do.

With her tiny hands in his, he described the feeling of kismet during their snow crash. He suggested that they try their hands at baby making and should my mother became pregnant, it would be God’s way of telling them they should be together. She laughed and looked up at him.

That very first time was me.