Just to show I’m not that much of a curmudgeon, here is an insight into teenage anguish.
About forty-five years ago, I met Sindey.
A friend of mine and I had gone to his grandmothers’ house for a weekend during high school and I quickly realized we were the “cool guys from the Big City” to these young country girls. I think there were several of us, but there were plenty of admiration to go around.
Being a teenage boy, I accepted any attention, but there was this one face that caught my eye. She was quiet and rather shy. She had big bright eyes and a smile that could melt your heart.
As I recall, there was some sort of party one night in the basement of the farmhouse and while the music played, Sindey and I got to know each other.
No! Not in that way. I don’t even think we kissed, but we talked and laughed that quiet laugh that only two understand.
I was smitten.
I called and wrote her letters, which she returned with the usual high school charm of friends dating, football scores, and innuendoes. We wrote back and forth for several weeks, reading between the lines of secret meanings. She spoke on the phone of the Monkees and grades and quiet whispers until her mother made her leave.
I went to visit her one weekend on the bus, getting lost in Charlottesville while her mother waited. A brief lunch and few stolen moments trading sunglasses for dog tags and I was away.
A few of the letters I kept through the years, knowing there was no real romance in them, but it captured a time of innocence that meant so much at the time.
Princess Anne Inn
In the Heart of the City
July 4, 1966
Finally! A letter! I’m glad the letter you wrote in class came because the letter you mailed Tuesday didn’t come – come – and anyway, now I can’t understand the letter you wrote in class because I didn’t get the letter you wrote Tuesday. Hello? Ralph? Please explain. How about a duplicate of he letter you wrote before (too many Tuesdays).
I’m at Drum Bay. Where you at? How are you? I’m fine. How are your parents? Mine are fine. Do you have a dog? We do and she’s fine also. (I was bored till I started this letter).
Now let me see if I can get serious and invite you to Drum Bay next weekend. I don’t know when we’ll be leaving. I’ve got a dental appointment in Charlottesville at 11:45 on the same day, so it would be nice if you could go with me, since that’s where the sunglasses are! Thursday night would probably be a good time to call and straighten this out.
Really nothing to report about Laura. It all quieted down in a hurry and, as far as I know, she and Ricky are as before.
It was a great surprise to see you! In fact, it was such a shock, I’m not sure I’ve recovered.
Nothing about the dog tags make me unhappy – Its Ann Grey having your hat that worries me. Just how did that happen?
I hope you had fun at Virginia Beach. I’ve never been there but everyone says it’s a nice place. We’ve been shooting fire works all weekend and so far no one’s gotten hurt.
Time out to find a lost parakeet! I’m so glad you found my glasses. I guess they were right at home in all that dirt and grease. It doesn’t matter too much so long as they aren’t broken. Since that’s a promise, I have nothing to worry about unless there’s some accident.
The stationary I’m using came from the hotel where the convention was held. I thought of you when I saw it.
I’m looking forward to hearing my song again so never forget your guitar.
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P.S. Are you hinting for your dog tags back?”
My mother decided to give me all this old paper since she says I’m writing so many letters. As you’ve probably noticed we now have a Gulf station not Atlantic.
In your last letter you commented on my letters and said, “They make me have…” – Please tell me what you meant. Nightmares – maybe?
Boo hoo – we lost last night, something like 32 – 0. I didn’t listen to the game on the radio and I didn’t go, either, so I just found out this morning. Now we won’t be able to get the district championship. Gail and Jadd told me that Tee Jay had never been very interested in football. They go to some school in Richmond but I’ve forgotten which one. I met them at the beach when we first starting going there.
There’s no comparison between Drum Bay and Wilmington. There’s nothing at Drum Bay but peace and quiet and a change in scenery and new friends for us. If you could follow my Dad on a weekend at home, you’d know there’s no change from everyday business around here unless he leaves. You got a small sample Sunday when Mom had a cold dinner.
What do yo mean you can’t stand beauty and brains? How dare you say such things? Oh, well, the statement doesn’t apply to ME. With 4 in the family, I have to get the B average or I won’t make I to college. I’m so releaved that your grades were good. My birdie is old and gets missed up.
You aren’t thinking of joining the service are you? Please, no. Make um come and get you. Weegee boards can’t be relied on.
The way things are shaping up I may play for chorus next year. At least there’s a possibility. If I play as bad as I did that Sunday afternoon, they’d soon kick me out. I hope you become a permanent member of that band you’re practicing with, that is, if you want to.
I don’t think I can stand it any longer. Are you writing Ann Grey? I’ve never let on that I was with you Sunday when you called her so you are safe. It seems that she has a habit of collecting things. She has now got a boy in Culpeper’s senior ring. He has her address but doesn’t know where she lies or how to call her. Poor guy.
The yellow submarine patiently waits your return.
P.S. I They say it’s impossible for a girl to write a letter without a P.S. so I’m going to live up to it.
P.S. II Tell Joe I hope his remarks about the Johnsons are affectionate. You see, I’ve been looking up to hom for some time.
P.S. III I can’t figure out how you want me to take you. You keep saying not to take you seriously so – I try not to. How’s that? I’m just teasing.
P.S. IV One thing you could do is bore me with your letters. The barbershop cartoon was one of the best. I take it they cut too much hair.
P.S. V Yes, yes, yes send, send, send me, me, me a, a, a pic, pic, pic ture, ture, ture. See how my pen skips with excitement?
Sindey Jane Johnson”
This is Wednesday morning and there’s no school. I knew it was you on the phone last night before I picked it up – somehow. I wasn’t expecting to be invited to Richmond, though, and this has brought things to a head, here.
The opinion is that fifteen is a long ways from eighteen, and that it is unfair all around – since I’m to act like fifteen and you must act like eighteen.
You see, at first, you were just a boy, but now, Mom and Dad have begun to appreciate you and it has become not just a matter of protecting me, but they’re thinking of you, too. I’ve known all along that we were on shaky ground. I think you have too.
You’ve been so wonderful to me; this is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through.
Please don’t think it’s because of another boy. I think the line has been drawn because the can tell I like you, too much.
Cliff, you must not call me Thursday night. I will cry, and I do so want to keep my dignity.
One thing for sure, I’ll never forget becoming fifteen as long as I live. So what else is there to say, except, Thank you for letting me know you, for all the happiness, for the records (they were exactly what I wanted).
I close with the hope that if God is willing, perhaps our paths will cross again, when three year mean nothing, when I am free to make my own decisions. By the way this is not all Daddy’s doings. He and Mom are a team and it does not come from any deficiency on your part.
All my best wishes, Sindey Jane”
PS. “Memories are good.”
“Jan. 24, 1968
Yes, I do remember a person named Cliff and who could forget a name like Leftwich? I was very happy to receive your letter and even recognized the handwriting, though a year had passed. I must say I didn’t actually think it would be possible for me not to see your even one time during a whole year!
Many things have happened since I last communicated with you and I couldn’t possibly tell all. I do want to say I’m planning to graduate by taking government in summer school this year. You have probably heard this and other things from Joe.
I hope you are doing well at R.P.I. and I enjoy telling people I know someone who goes there when they ask about it.
I met your girlfriend and like her very much. D.A.D. brought her up once when she came to see Grandee.
There’s little else to say except that I liked your poem, though, as usual, I didn’t completely understand it. Also there was one thing absent from your letter – cartoon.
Then, people change and I know I’ve changed so one can’t expect all things to remain the same. (I still like candy bars!)”
The still surviving
P.S. The stationary is a gift from Dad. Things have been tight this winter. “
So what happened to Sindey?
I have no idea.
It was probably better in the end to have faded into memory, but the memory is still sweet.
Just know this Sindey Jane, wherever you are, I’ve kept your picture and letters because for a brief moment in time, it was very special to know you.