In 1979, Herman was due for a sabbatical leave. My friend, Alice Sargeant, Dean of a Catholic college in Washington, D.C., where I taught on weekends, told us about her house in La Jolla, a village in Southern California. She did not have any renters that winter and would let us have it at a reasonable price. We accepted the offer having no idea what was in store for us, but we were ready for a warmer winter. It turned out to be a lovely house right on the beach. Herman swam in the ocean all winter long saying that the Pacific Ocean was warmer in the winter than the Atlantic Ocean was in the summer. Alice had written to some of her friends asking them to welcome us, so we had a ready-made community. After spending that winter in La Jolla, we looked at each other and said: “We are not going back to ice and snow!”
San Diego State University (SDSU) was hiring. We got a job as the first couple to job share at the Business School. I taught my Women in Management class as well as teaching in the MBA program.
La Jolla was good to us. We easily made friends and liked our colleagues at SDSU. That summer we flew back to New Hampshire, sold our house, packed up all our belongings, and said goodbye to friends and colleagues. We returned to California to our new life. We knew we would be happy anywhere as long we were together.
We were able to buy a house, part of a development on top of Mt. Soledad with a view of Mission Bay. We could see the Fourth of July fireworks from our backyard. San Diego was heaven for our children and grandchildren with the beaches, tide pools, and the famous San Diego Zoo. My grandchildren and Herman’s grandsons learned to swim in our pool. We found San Diego to be a vibrant cultural city with a plethora of theaters, concert halls, museums, and three universities. It was a center of medical research. We discovered that the best medical care in the world was right at our doorstep. The academic life suited us, giving us the free time to write, travel, and spend time with friends. We were happy.
At a dinner party in La Jolla, I happened to be sitting next to Jonas Salk. When he found out that I was born in Paris, France, he jumped up from his seat, took me by the hand and led me to a quiet room. He picked up the phone and called his wife Françoise Gilot who was in Paris. No matter that it was three o’clock in the morning in France, he woke her up and said he wanted to introduce her to his dinner partner and handed me the phone. I apologized for the hour. We talked in French. I suggested we continue our conversation when she returned home a few days later. We met for lunch. She is a fascinating woman; she had written a book My Life with Picasso and had two children by him and is a painter in her own right.
I shared some of my poems with her, which I was planning to send to a publisher. She loved them and offered to illustrate the book, and so she did. Our book Is This Where I Was Going? (published by Warner Books in 1983) was very successful with many printings. We gave several lectures together. It was wonderful to have a friend with whom I could speak French. It is strange how speaking in a different language can stimulate a different way of thinking and perceiving the world. Today Françoise is living in New York, still paints, and exhibits her work.
Herman and I became good friends with Jonas and Françoise. Jonas came as a guest lecturer to both our classes. He was interested in the topic of creativity and invited some of the most creative individuals in the U.S. for a week-long seminar at the Salk Institute. He asked me to facilitate that program; it was the highlight of my year.
One of my more rewarding teaching experiences was being asked to lead the first day of classes each year at UCSD Graduate School of International and Pacific Studies, teaching foreign students about how women were being marginalized and discriminated against, which many of them had not been exposed to in their countries. This made a difference in how women in the classroom were perceived and treated for the rest of the semester. I was grateful to be given the opportunity to teach a favorite subject — gender equality as a human right.
Natasha Josefowitz is the author of 21 books. She currently resides at White Sands Retirement Community in La Jolla. Copyright © 2021. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.