In the summer of 1962, I met a girl named Cokie Boggs at a student political meeting in Ohio. She was beautiful and smart and funny, and I was delighted to realize that our dorms in the Boston area—she was at Wellesley, I was at Harvard—were only a few miles apart. Back at school that fall we had several dates, but then I stopped calling. I was a typical guy, petrified of commitment, but there was a deeper problem as well. She was a devout Catholic, I am a loyal Jew, and in that era, interfaith marriage was not exactly encouraged—by parents or pastors or anybody else.
Then, in the spring of 1963, I was coming to Washington, D.C., to cover another political gathering for the Harvard newspaper. I arranged to ride with a group of students who were also attending the meeting, and one of them was Cokie. As I approached their car, parked on a street in Cambridge, I saw her sitting in the back seat and immediately said to myself, You jerk! This is the girl for you. And she was.
Several guys were supposed to stay at Cokie’s home on Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda during the meeting, but the others had decided not to come, leaving me as the only houseguest. On Saturday, we stayed up all night talking, and at some point early on Sunday morning, Cokie cooked us breakfast before we drove back north.
That was my first time in Bethesda. Today, more than 56 years later, I am writing these words in the same house I visited that spring. In fact, I’m sitting in a sunlit room directly above the den where Cokie and I talked and dreamed and ate scrambled eggs. That conversation helped us realize that the values and hopes we shared were far greater than the differences others were trying to impose on us. And after that weekend we were headed for a future together. (I’m sure she had Tabasco sauce with her eggs. I had not yet adapted that habit, but it’s one of many lessons I learned from her over the next half-century.)
Since Cokie’s death in September, I’ve been recalling the ways our lives have intertwined with this home and this community. We were married in her garden in 1966, and I can look out my window and see the exact spot where the ceremony took place. Fifty years later, to the day, we celebrated our anniversary in the same garden.
After the wedding, we left for 11 years, as my career with The New York Times took us to New York, California and Greece. We returned here in the summer of 1977, when I joined the Times’ Washington bureau, and we moved into the old house on Bradley Boulevard with Cokie’s mom, Lindy, thinking we’d stay a month while we looked for another place. We never left.