Woodrow Street, Arlington, Virginia 1966
The apartment Richard rented on Woodrow Street in Arlington, Virginia was minimally furnished. Our dining room furniture was a card table and chairs brought from California. We slept on mattresses on the floor and we had an old couch donated by one of the friends my husband had made in the few months we were apart. The Arlington Ward was nearby on Sixteenth Street and we could walk to the grocery store.
The rent was far less than the per diem my husband was receiving and I had rented out our house in Oxnard. Richard couldn't object too strenuously because we were actually saving more money on the arrangement than if I had stayed in California.
I made curtains for the front windows from burlap from a hardware store with a design of dogwood blossoms worked in yarn, and received compliments from those few visitors who came inside our sparse living quarters. I had never been east before, and I didn't know if I would have another opportunity to explore the museums and parks of the Capitol.
In those days, although the Viet Nam war was in full spate, part of the reason for my husband's assignment, Washington D.C. was still a sleepy southern city. The national mall and the Smithsonian museums surrounding it were almost empty. When I took my children to the various museums we would play in the fountains undisturbed. We spent many hours sightseeing. Richard, glad to have a wife again, gave me an enthusiastic welcome once my father left for Utah.
For a while it was like a honeymoon, but Richard soon realized I had a new wardrobe and
was sharply critical of my extravagance. I found his attitude oppressive and grew to dread the time
that he would come home. We were attending Arlington Ward where I quickly developed
friendships with several people, both old and young.
Richard seemed to resent my friendships. He felt a lot of pressure in his work environment and said he was not getting the recognition he deserved because he was Chinese. The work he did on the 'Amerikian Dock', a structure that could be floated like a raft to the area where it was needed, then quickly erected to become a dock, earned his mentor a prize, but Richard received a significant raise in pay and was cited as co-designer.
One Sunday morning I got up and dressed the children for church. Richard slept in, but he
finally woke up a few minutes before it was time to go and started yelling at me. If I really loved
him, he maintained, I would love him more than I loved God. He refused to go to church with me
and threatened to hit me when I tried to reason with him.
I put the children in the car and headed off, but I wasn't taking the road to church. I had
practiced living cheap for most of my life and although Richard made an excellent salary, he kept
me on a strict budget. I thought it shouldn't be hard to find a way to support myself and two young
children. He had demonstrated jealousy and violence enough to convince me that I would have to
conceal my whereabouts if I left him.
I had no idea of making a claim for any support which would require dealing with him regularly, but I
planned to take out a large sum of money the next morning when the banks opened and make further plans as opportunity presented. There were no women's shelters in those days and my mother had told me that her home would be closed to me if I ever left my husband.
Even if I had to wait on tables, I would get by and live a happier life. My mind was busy planning my future as a single mother well before we left the limits of Arlington County. I knew that I would always be able to find community in the church, even if I had to cut ties with my family to maintain my anonymity from my husband. Perhaps my seeming resolve was ultimately rather hollow because at the first opportunity to retreat, I crumbled.
Meg, then three, noticed that we were driving on the wrong road to get to church. She asked
me where we were going. "I'm going to take you on a trip."
"I don't want to go on a trip. I want to go back to Daddy and then go to church," she said.
Perhaps I should have ignored her. It was my first attempt to free myself from the misery of
living with a person determined to be miserable. I turned the car around and went back to the
apartment. Richard was dressed and waiting for us. With no further words, he accompanied us to
Overall, aside from the continued conflict in my marriage, the months in the Washington D.C. area were wonderful. Playing in the fountains of the National Gallery, exploring the National Zoo and the Smithsonian museums, touring the White House and other landmarks, watching a Fourth of July parade in Alexandria, were a few of the many activities that kept us busy. The sparse apartment offered no TV or other entertainment and the lack of air-conditioning made it more likely that we would fill our days with outside activities. Transportation to DC was easy with a bus-stop at the corner. Living with someone who was often angry and usually critical was ingrained in me and I didn't brood on it when there was so much opportunity to enjoy my children and the city I might never have the opportunity to visit again.
When Richard's assignment in Washington ended we returned to California, but our house was still under lease and we rented an apartment in Pt. Hueneme not far from where we had lived when we first moved to California.