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An '80s romance

WHO says you can't meet anyone on the bus? My brother did, and he didn't do too badly either. I call it an example of an '80s romance. Here's how it happened.

Jeff, my brother, is a city bus driver in Los Angeles. As Rosie tells it (she does most of the talking), she had noticed him before while riding the bus. The last couple of times she'd been on, she hadn't seen him and thought he had gone off that shift. When she did see him again, she thought she'd better Do Something Quick.

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The sideways seats at the front of the bus are famous in the bus driver's tradition as the ones that women sit in when they want to talk to the driver. Rosie, not knowing that, of course, sat there. What could she do to get his attention? She started to pick up the trash around her.

``What are you doing that for? You don't have to do that,'' the bus driver growled.

``Sorry,'' said the startled dark-haired traveler. Silence. Now what?

``What are you reading?'' he asked her, slightly less growly.

She lifted up the book, one of those self-help books.

``Would you like it?'' she asked. ``I've finished it.''

``Nah, I'd just like to borrow it,'' he said.

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``No, really, it's yours,'' she said, wanting to be generous. ``No, I'd really rather borrow it,'' he insisted. Sigh. She wasn't getting it.

He tried again. ``Why don't you put your name and phone number in it so I can return it to you?'' he said more quietly.

Ah! she thought, he was interested!

So she scribbled. He called. And they started Getting to Know Each Other. It was quite a process. All I heard for months was how quickly the family took to her. And how much the couple fought.

Rosie was from El Salvador, had been in the United States for four years, spoke English well, and was working as a secretary at a publishing company. Jeff had been raised in Pasadena, was laid back, and played video games. She liked his fast sports car, he liked her arroz con pollo. She livens him up, he keeps her steady. They're doing OK.

After a couple of false starts, they called me with The News. I flew out to be in the wedding, studying Spanish for three months in order to help Rosie's mother, Celia, feel more at home. Celia came up by bus from El Salvador, and her sister who lives in Los Angeles joined her.

The story gets complicated here: Rosie's father couldn't come for the wedding because he was starting a bus company in El Salvador and the buses were supposed to arrive that day from Miami. Rosie's sister couldn't come either; we found out later that it was because she was secretly getting married herself at the exact same time as Rosie, while her mother, who didn't approve, was out of the country. (One of the wonderful things we sedate Fosters have gotten from this alliance is a

very intriguing other family.)

At the wedding rehearsal, a friend of Rosie's translated the service in honor of her Spanish-speaking relatives. Rosie couldn't decide whether she wanted to say her responses in English or Spanish. First she decided on Spanish, but then, in her nervousness, English popped out. She tried English; Spanish popped out. We all giggled, she marshaled her languages and proceeded with English.

The service was held on a hot April day in the cool Scandinavian Unitarian chapel where we were raised. The minister was a family friend. The bridesmaids, two mothers, a stepmother, and an aunt all sat sweltering around the dressing room. Jocelyn, the maid of honor, is from Montreal and was Rosie's first roommate way back when the two girls, one who spoke only French, the other mostly Spanish, came to the land of opportunity to make their fortunes. My faltering attempts at speaking Spanish were met wit h gratitude by Celia and astonishment by my family, who quickly dusted off their own and found they could falter pretty well, too.

The wedding went off without a hitch. We all gathered at the house of one of my mother's friends in Sierra Madre. We sat around 10-person tables, some filled with Spanish-speaking relatives, some with Jeff's bus-driving friends, some with Rosie's book-publishing friends, and some with the kindly adults we kids had grown up with. Everyone was bemused by the whole thing.

Disc jockey Stu D. Baker started the music and we all danced. Jeff was bowled over with tenderness and gladness at new responsibility -- he seemed to grow taller. Rosie just glowed.

Then Rosie's older sister tentatively told me of a Latin wedding custom: to ``sell'' off dances with the bride and groom for dollar bills, which would be safety-pinned to their clothes. With my liberal southern California manners, I pooh-poohed the idea. ``They'll think we're greedy.'' But then I thought about it. If there was a way that someone else could announce it (instead of the family), the crowd guests might take it pretty well, and besides, it wo uld make our Salvadorean guests feel more at home.

So I approached Stu D. Baker. ``No problem,'' he said.

``OK, folks,'' he said in a break in the music. ``Now we're going to do a Spanish wedding custom. First the ladies line up. . . .'' Phew, I thought.

Just the right touch. Everybody loved it. The men lined up in front of Rosie, the women in front of Jeff. Pretty soon, her white gown was fluttering with green bills, including a $20, worn proudly on her shoulder.

After a quick honeymoon, at the pink Madonna Inn up north, they returned to take Rosie's mother sight-seeing. Rosie spent much of the trip a lot of time patiently translating. Celia looked good-natured most of the time, delighted whenever I said, ``Me gusto arroz con pollo.'' ``Gusta!'' everyone hollered. at me. in unison, after awhile.

As I said, Jeff and Rosie are doing all right. Why is this a marriage of the '80s? Because a woman may be less willing to let a shy but worthy man get away for mere want of assertiveness on his part. women are less willing to let shy but worthwhile men get away for mere want of manly assertion. And because the US is becoming a melting pot again for so many nationalities, and people being people are bound to fall in love. I know their differences may cause them troubles; and I kn ow they cause them great delight. All of it can only help them -- and us -- toward a more perfect union.

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