Authors: Debbie Macomber
It’s become tradition for me to write a letter to my readers with each book. Generally I explain where the story idea came from and add a few pertinent details. I’m not going to do that with
This story is unlike anything else I’ve written.The format is unique. I think the characters are perhaps the strongest and most compelling of my twenty-year writing career—and I hope you’ll agree. Lesley and Jillian have been best friends their entire lives.They learn from each other, support and encourage each other.They’re the best friend you had in high school and have never forgotten.They’re baby boomers, like many of us—like every woman who grew up in the ’50s and ’60s. If that wasn’t when
grew up, perhaps your mother did or an older sister or a friend.Whether Lesley and Jillian reflect your own experience or that of someone close to you, I think their lives and times will have meaning for you…as they do for me.
No project has touched me the way
has. You’ll understand why I say that when you meet Lesley and Jillian. And so, my friends, laugh, cry... remember.
Watch for the newest novel from
For all the wonderful women who have graced
my life with their wisdom.
My mother—Connie Adler
My aunts—Betty Stierwalt, Gerty Urlacher,
Paula Malafouris, Betty Zimmerman
and Lois Munson
My mother-in-law—Marie Macomber
Pine Ridge Herald
BORN SEPTEMBER 1, 1948
Adams, Mr. & Mrs. Charles, 112 Folsom Avenue, boy
Adamski, Mr. & Mrs. Michael, 220 Railroad Avenue, girl
Burns, Mr. & Mrs. Harold,
456 North 3rd Street, boy
Franklin, Mr. & Mrs. Oscar,
33 Main Street, boy
Johnson, Mr. & Mrs. Gary,
743 Weeping Willow Lane, girl
Lamb, Mr. & Mrs. Dolphus,
809 South 8th Avenue, boy
September 10, 1948
220 Railroad Avenue Pine Ridge, Washington
I thought you should know Mike and I had a baby girl on September first. I realize Daddy said I wasn’t to contact either of you ever again, but I felt you’d want to know you had a granddaughter.
We named her Lesley Louise and she weighed 8 pounds. Lesley because it seems like such a pretty name and Louise after you, Momma. Mike wasn’t home to take me to the hospital, so Gertie Burkhart, who lives next door, drove me. My labor took almost twenty hours. I thought I was going to die, but all that pain was worth it the first time I got to hold my daughter. She’s a beautiful baby, Momma. She has your nose and Mike’s forehead, with soft wisps of blond hair. I think her eyes are going to be blue, but the nurse told me we won’t be able to tell until Lesley is six weeks old.
I wonder what the future holds for my baby girl. Will she grow up to be smart and pretty? Will she have a chance to finish high school? Dare I dream that one day she’ll go to college the way I always hoped I would? Mike says asking questions like that is a waste of time. Still, I can’t help wondering if those were the same questions you had when I was born, Momma. Did you love me as much as I love my baby? I’m sure you did and I can’t believe you no longer love me now.
Mike and I are doing all right. We live in Washington State—it seems so far away from Mississippi. We’re renting a two-storey house and Mike’s uncle got him a job at the lumber mill. He’s working lots of hours and I’ve been putting a little bit aside every week for when the mill shuts down, which it seems to do on a regular basis. Unfortunately, Mike was so excited the night Lesley was born that he got drunk and was arrested. I had to use the money I’d saved to bail him out of jail.
I miss you, Momma. I’m not any of those ugly names Daddy called me.
If I don’t hear from you, then I’ll accept that you agree with Daddy and want nothing more to do with me. When I look at my baby, I don’t think of the circumstances that led to her birth. What Mike and I did was a sin, but we’re married now.
Lesley is a beautiful child, created in the image of God. That’s what Father Gilbert said a child is, and I believe him. I hope you’ll love her despite everything.
Mrs. Leonard Lawton 2330 Country Club Lane Pine Ridge, Washington
October 12, 1948
Dearest Aunt Jill,
I regret taking so long to answer your letter. After waiting fifteen very long years for a child, one would assume I’d be better prepared for the demands of motherhood. I had no idea an infant would take up so much of my time and energy. I’m months behind on my correspondence and can only beg your indulgence.
Jillian is truly our joy. As you know, Leonard and I had given up hope of ever having a child. We’re both convinced her birth is a miracle and we are so very grateful. I know how pleased you are that we named her after you, but you’ve been a mother to Leonard since his own dear mother’s death. Without you, he wouldn’t have any memories of her.
Leonard is thrilled with his daughter. Every night he rushes home from court in order to spend time with her. She’s already standing on her own and it looks as if she’ll be walking soon. I’m afraid Leonard must bore everyone at the courthouse with photographs of Jillian. In his eyes she’s the most brilliant, precious child ever to appear in this world. She has deep blue eyes and dark brown hair and a cheerful, happy disposition. She loves listening to the radio; her favorite show is
Kukla, Fran and Ollie
. Leonard claims it’s really
favorite show, and Jillian gives me the perfect excuse to listen. One show she doesn’t like—I think it scares her—is
The Lone Ranger.
Every time she hears the music she buries her head in my skirt.
Thank you for recommending Eleanor Roosevelt’s book
This I Remember
. I’ve ordered it from the library, but my reading has been severely curtailed since Jillian’s arrival. I’ve been making an effort to read during her afternoon nap, but the problem is, I usually fall asleep myself. With her teething, I haven’t slept an entire night in weeks. The poor child is having a difficult time of it, but the pediatrician assured us everything is normal.
Leonard and I are delighted that you’ve accepted our invitation to spend the Christmas holidays with us. Jillian will surely be walking by then—and sleeping through the nights!
I’ll write again soon. Give our love to Uncle Frank and everyone.
Leonard, Barbara and Jillian
Mrs. Leonard Lawton 2330 Country Club Lane Pine Ridge, Washington
January 4, 1955
Dear Sister John,
Enclosed please find the invitations to Jillian’s seventh birthday party. Would you kindly distribute them to all the children in both first-grade classes? My husband has hired puppeteers to perform at the party and there will be cake and ice cream for everyone. I would consider it a big help if you could let us know how many children we should expect.
Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter.
Mrs. Leonard Lawton January 10, 1955
220 Railroad Avenue Pine Ridge, Washington
Dear Judge Lawton, Mrs. Lawton and Jillian,
Thank you very much for the invitation to Jillian’s birthday party. Unfortunately we already have plans for next Saturday, and Lesley will be unable to attend.
Lesley so enjoyed the afternoon she spent with Jillian following their tap dancing class. We’ll have Jillian over to visit soon.
I’ve had to withdraw Lesley from dance class, but we’re hoping she’ll be able to start back soon. Jillian’s been teaching her the new steps at recess so she won’t be too far behind. These two have certainly formed a fast friendship, haven’t they? I’m grateful Lesley has such a good friend.
I’m sure Jillian will have a wonderful birthday. I’ll get in touch with you about having Jillian visit for an afternoon.
Mrs. Michael Adamski
KAKE RADIO dedicates
Ballad of Davey Crockett”
to birthday girl Jillian Lawton.
Happy seventh birthday,
Jillian, from all your friends here at
Now everyone put on your Coonskin Cap and sing
Happy Birthday for seven-year-old Jillian.
Pine Ridge Library
300 Main Street
Pine Ridge, Washington
October 1, 1955
Dear Mrs. Adamski,
At your request the library is holding
by Herman Wouk and
by Patrick Dennis until the end of the week.
Mrs. Joan McMahon
September 28, 1955
Dear Grandma and Grandpa O’Leary,
Thank you for the Betsy McCall doll. I named her Jilly after my best friend in school. I can read now.
November 14, 1955
220 Railroad Avenue Pine Ridge, Washington
Dearest Momma and Daddy,
Lesley loves her birthday gift! She’s wanted a Betsy McCall doll for months. She wrote the thank-you note herself, but then you could probably tell that. She’s a smart little girl and can already sound out words. I take her to the library often and she loves books as much as I do. Even when she was two and three years old, she insisted I read her a story before she’d settle down for her nap. Now she’s almost reading on her own!
Susan is eager to read, too. She starts kindergarten next year and follows her big sister everywhere. Mikey and Joe are growing big and strong like their daddy.
Mike was laid off for three months, but he’s back working at the mill again. We managed all right. I didn’t tell him about the money you sent, Momma, so please don’t mention it. I bought groceries and a few chickens to raise for the eggs. I bake all our bread myself, just the way you always did, Momma, but my baking powder biscuits just aren’t as fluffy as yours. Luckily Mike never tasted your chicken and dumplings because mine just don’t compare. I wish I’d paid more attention when you were cooking.
Momma, I should have told you sooner, but I was afraid you’d be upset with our news. I’m pregnant again and due to deliver any time now. I thought Mike and I had a complete family. Four children in six years have worn me out, but God had other plans.
If we have a baby girl, we’re going to call her Lily. I don’t have a boy’s name picked out yet. Mike said he didn’t care what I named the baby. Since Mike, Jr. was born, he told me I could call the babies anything I wish. I know Daddy was pleased when I named our Joe after him.
You asked about Mike’s drinking. He does like his beer, but he doesn’t get drunk as often since he returned to work. Don’t worry, Momma, we’re all fine.
Pine Ridge Herald
May 2, 1959
Wins Fifth Grade
Lesley Adamski took top prize at the tenth Annual Spelling Bee sponsored by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. She successfully spelled the word serum, besting runner-up Jillian Lawton, daughter of Judge and Mrs. Leonard Lawton.
As the first-place winner, Lesley Adamski was awarded a Fifty Dollar U.S. Savings Bond. Jillian Lawton received a Twenty-Five Dollar U.S. Savings Bond.
The money raised by the Annual Spelling Bee has been donated to the March of Dimes for polio research.
Six fifth-grade classes competed in the Annual Spelling Bee from schools all across the county.
May 3, 1959
I won! Jillian and I practiced and practiced, and I was sure she’d win, but I did. Jillian was happy for me. I would’ve been happy if she won, too. My mom took the $50.00 savings bond and put it in a safe place. Mom and Susan, Mikey, Joe and baby Lily were at the spelling bee to see me win. Dad was with his friends, but that’s all right. Afterward, Mom said she was proud of me and took us all to the Dairy Queen for hot fudge sundaes. She invited the Lawtons, and Judge Lawton insisted on paying for all the ice cream we could eat. I’m so excited I can’t sleep.
Mrs. Leonard Lawton 2330 Country Club Lane Pine Ridge, Washington
June 23, 1959
Dearest Aunt Jillian and Uncle Frank,
Leonard and I are overwhelmed by your generosity to Jillian. We received the paperwork regarding the $25,000 trust fund you’ve set up for her college education, and it took our breath away. We don’t know what to say other than to thank you both from the bottom of our hearts.
I’m so sorry to hear you won’t be able to join us in Hawaii this August. Uncle Frank, take good care of yourself!
We love you both, and although Jillian is too young to fully comprehend the significance of this trust fund, Leonard and I certainly do.
All our love,
Leonard, Barbara and Jillian
Jillian Lawton/English J. M. J.
September 7, 1959
HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
School let out on Memorial Day and Lesley Adamski and I spent three whole days together while her mother was in the hospital having her baby brother, Bruce. We got to go to the Country Club with my dad and he let us carry his golf clubs for him. After that we went swimming and got a sunburn. The best day of the summer was when Lesley and I were at the pool at the Country Club.
Then in August my parents and I flew to Hawaii. This is the third time I’ve been to Hawaii. I didn’t get airsick on the plane. The stewardess let me hand out gum to the passengers before we took off and said I did a good job.
We were in Hawaii on August 21st when it became the fiftieth state. My father wanted to buy property, but he says no one can afford $1.25 a foot for beachfront.
I like Hawaii, but I like Pine Ridge better. Pine Ridge is home and that’s where my best friend lives. I feel sorry for all the Cuban refugees who are coming to America, having to leave their homes behind. I hope they’ll be able to return to their homeland soon. There really isn’t anyplace better than home. That’s what I learned this summer.
St. Mary Parochial School
1521 North Third Street
Pine Ridge, Washington
November 2, 1959
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Michael Adamski,
I regret to inform you that your tuition payment for Lesley, Susan and Mike is now three months past due. We trust that you will take care of this matter at your earliest convenience.
October 23, 1959
Lesley spent the night and we watched Rowdy Yates in Rawhide—he’s so handsome!!!!! Then we watched The Twilight Zone and hid our eyes at the scary parts. Lesley’s family hasn’t bought a television yet and she said she doesn’t mind, but I think she does. After Mom and Dad made us turn off the light, we lay on my bed and talked and listened to the radio. I called in and requested Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” and later Lesley got through and asked for Paul Anka’s “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” I wanted to ask for “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb,” but the disc jockey said I could only request one song at a time. I think Edd Byrnes is cute. Lesley does, too.
Lesley Adamski is my best friend for life.
January 1, 1962
This is my first entry in the new diary Mom and Dad got me for Christmas. My name’s engraved on the front. They got Lesley one, too, with her name engraved on it. We both plan to write in them every night all year.
My day started off bad. Mom and I had a fight about the bomb shelter. It’s all finished now and takes up half the basement. Dad had it built in case of an atomic bomb. It’s ugly, with bare concrete walls and shelves filled with canned food and emergency supplies. I told Mom that if Russia dropped a bomb on us I’d rather die with the rest of my friends. Mom said Dad built it because of me and I should be grateful. She also said she won’t have me talk about dying when there’s a perfectly safe place for us in our own home.
I went to my room and closed the door. Well, actually I slammed it. I used to be able to talk to my mom about anything. I still can with my dad. He’s older than a lot of my friends’ dads, but he understands what it’s like to be almost fourteen. Sometimes on Saturday mornings he takes me to breakfast and I sit with all his attorney friends. Dad includes me in the conversation and that makes me feel important. We talk about me going to law school one day, and I think I will. I like listening to my dad and I’m proud that he’s a judge. People respect him and like him. I bet there isn’t anything he doesn’t know about the law.
Lesley phoned in the afternoon and I told her about Mr. Hanson kissing me at midnight. (I know him from breakfast on Saturdays with my dad.) It wasn’t a real kiss, but it was close. He kissed my cheek and told me I was going to grow up to be a beauty. I hope he’s right. I don’t feel beautiful with a mouthful of metal braces.
The New Year’s party was really cool except Mom kept insisting everyone go downstairs to take a peek at the bomb shelter. She thinks Dad was prudent by having it built. She insists he was the one who wanted it, but I know Mom put the idea in his head. She mentioned it first and then found the plans and talked to the contractor. The concrete was poured while we were in Hawaii this summer.
I had a good time at the party, and I’m glad Mom and Dad finally realized that I’m old enough to participate. I’m not a child, although Mom treats me like one. Jerry Lee Lewis married his cousin and she’s younger than I am!
Lesley told me about her New Year’s Eve. We talked for half an hour, but she’s on a party line and we kept getting interrupted. She spent New Year’s Eve baby-sitting for the Randalls. She said it was the easiest $3.00 she ever earned.
Lesley hasn’t been kissed for real, either. I don’t understand why because she’s super pretty and smart, too. She’s pretty enough to be a high school cheerleader if she wanted. I told her she should try out next year but she can’t because her mother needs her to help at home. She has five brothers and sisters now. I wish Lesley was my sister. Her mother hasn’t been feeling very well since Bruce was born and her father doesn’t always have a job. But Lesley never complains. In all the years we’ve been best friends, I’ve only stayed the night at her house once and then we camped outside. I don’t mind, though. I think Mom and Dad prefer that she comes here, and they don’t need to tell me why, either. (Mr. Adamski drinks too much. Sometimes when I call Lesley, I can hear him yelling in the background.)
Larry Martin phoned after dinner and asked if I’d be at the boys’ basketball game next Saturday. I told him I would.
Mom and Dad have already told me they want me to attend Holy Name Academy next year. I don’t think I’m going to like attending an all-girls school, but it’ll be all right as long as Lesley is there, too.
No one else phoned and I lay on my bed and listened to music for the rest of the afternoon. I like Roy Orbison and the Supremes the best. Mostly I thought about next year and high school and wondered if I’d ever be kissed for real and by whom. Lesley says I probably will be soon. Maybe Larry will kiss me. I wonder if it’s possible for Lesley and me to be kissed on the very same night. That way we won’t have to worry about who was first.
I don’t care what Mom says, I’m not going into that bomb shelter without Lesley. We’ve been friends our entire lives and I refuse to let her die because her family can’t afford to build a bomb shelter.
Pine Ridge Herald
May 29, 1962
Top Ten Students From
St. Mary Junior High Named
The Sisters of Providence have named the top ten students from the eighth-grade graduating class. They are listed in order of ranking: Jillian Lawton, Lesley Adamski, Jerry Englehardt, Marilyn Andrews, Bonnie Gamache, Bernard Simmons, Yvette Dwight, David Thoma, Steve Bounds and Diane Kerry. Each student received a twenty-five dollar scholarship toward tuition at either Holy Name Academy or Marquette High School.
July 10, 1962
220 Railroad Avenue Pine Ridge, Washington
Dear Judge and Mrs. Lawton,
Thank you so much for inviting me to the Seattle World’s Fair with you and Jillian. I had a wonderful time, even if we didn’t get to see Elvis. I especially loved taking the elevator to the top of the Space Needle and riding on the monorail. I’m sorry I can’t go to Hawaii with Jillian, but my mom and dad need me at home. It was very nice of you to include me. Perhaps someday I’ll see the islands.
Thank you again.
August 8, 1962
Summer is so boring without you. I wish I could be with you in Hawaii, but I need the baby-sitting money for my school uniform. Did you hear that Marilyn Monroe died? Mom didn’t like her because she was too sexy.
Susan and I went to the movies last Saturday and saw John Wayne in
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
It was good, but I would’ve had more fun with you than my little sister. Dad said spending 25¢ to see a movie is a waste. I didn’t tell him popcorn went up to 10¢ a bag.
Call me over at Mrs. Johnson’s house the minute
you get home. I have a lot to tell you.
Your Best Friend Forever,
September 4th English Class
Here we are, the first day of HIGH SCHOOL. Don’t you just want to die with happiness? I was disappointed we aren’t in the same homeroom, though. Someone must have told Sister Anna Marie that you and I are best friends. They want to keep us apart, but nothing ever will. At least, we’ve got English and Algebra together.
Can you meet me after school? We need to practice the watusi. I can do the bossa nova but this new dance is more complicated. Thank you for saying I can twist better than Chubby Checker. Now all we need is for a couple of boys to invite us to a dance so we can show everyone how good we are.
I heard Sister Bernice grades easy in English.
Do you think we’re going to war? This is so scary. Even my dad was talking about it. I can’t concentrate on Algebra, can you? Mom went to Mass this morning to pray for peace. Cuba wouldn’t really bomb us, would they?
I don’t know if there will be a war or not, but if there is you can come in the bomb shelter with me. I’ve already told my parents that I refuse to go inside without you. Do you want to sleep over tonight? We can camp out in the shelter. In case something does happen, we’ll be safe.
P.S. If the politicians listened to the music of Joan Baez and the New Christy Minstrels, I bet this wouldn’t be happening.
Holy Name Academy
230 First Street
Pine Ridge, Washington 98005
November 1, 1962
Dear Judge and Mrs. Lawton,
Thank you for your generous financial contribution to Holy Name Academy. It is because of benefactors such as yourselves that the Sisters of Providence are able to offer high-quality education to the young Catholic women of Pine Ridge.
You can trust that the matter of the scholarships for Lesley and Susan Adamski will be handled in the most discreet manner possible. Neither the girls nor their parents need ever know that you have paid their tuition in advance. I have discussed the matter with Mother Superior; she felt it would be best if the girls were awarded scholarships and nothing more was said. I’m confident, however, that if Lesley and Susan Adamski were aware of your generosity, they would express their gratitude personally.
Again, your generous check is appreciated.
In Christ’s Service
Sister Martin de Porres
December 4, 1962
Scott kissed Jillian and she said it was the most romantic, wonderful event of her entire life. She asked Scott McDougal to the Sadie Hawkins dance and I asked Roy Kloster. Jillian’s dad picked us all up in his new Cadillac. It was my first official date and Roy brought me a corsage. My mother pinned it on my dress—and then embarrassed me by saying in front of Roy how pretty I was.
Jillian and I spent all afternoon with our hair in pink rollers, the hard plastic ones. Her mother said we used enough hair spray for our hairdos to survive hurricane force winds.
I was barely home from the dance when Jillian phoned to tell me that Scott kissed her. She described everything he did, and it sounded better than anything we’ve read in
Modern Screen Magazine
I don’t think I’ll ever be kissed. I’m planning on joining the Peace Corps and dedicating my life to helping children in Africa.
I wanted Roy to kiss me, but all he did was hold my hand. He barely spoke to me all evening. I didn’t talk much either. I knew Roy from Junior High and when I called to ask him to the dance, he sounded like he wanted to go. Mikey has a paper route now and he delivers to Roy’s house on Maple Street. He thinks Roy wants me to be his girlfriend.
Mom said Roy is shy, but I am, too. If we’re both afraid to talk, we could be seventeen before either one of us gets up the courage to do more than gawk at the other. I want romance and music, the same way Jillian had with Scott. Maybe someday I’ll meet a boy who won’t be afraid to kiss me...and I won’t be afraid to let him. Until then I’m keeping the idea of joining the Peace Corps in the back of my mind.
Even if Roy didn’t kiss me, I had a wonderful time at the dance. I’m going to sleep now and dream about being kissed. Susan’s still awake and she keeps pestering me. She thinks I should kiss Dr. Kildare. If I can’t get Roy Kloster interested in me, there isn’t much chance a famous television star like Richard Chamberlain would want to kiss me. Besides, I like Ben Casey better.
January 1, 1963
Mom and Dad had another one of their fights. They woke all us kids in the middle of the night, ranting and raving at each other. Lily and Bruce came racing into Susan’s and my bedroom and climbed into bed with us. I don’t know what the fight was about this time. Probably money. Or Dad’s drinking. I wish he didn’t drink so much, but he says a beer or two never hurt anybody. Only it does. It hurts Mom when Dad gets so mean. It frightens Lily and Bruce. They’re too young to understand what’s happening or why Dad gets the way he does. All he cares about is his beer, his Legionnaire friends and watching
The Beverly Hillbillies.
Christmas was awful. Dad got laid off at the mill before Thanksgiving, and we couldn’t afford gifts. Mom wrapped up empty boxes with handwritten promises. She promised me a new pair of shoes and a Beatles album after Dad goes back to work. She promised Susan a perm and Mikey a used bike for his paper route. Joe got a picture of a fire truck and Lily a doll that cries Mama when she’s turned upside down. Bruce didn’t understand why he couldn’t have his big red wagon now. I don’t know what we would have done for Christmas dinner if Catholic Charities hadn’t dropped off the food basket. I’d hate it if anyone at school found out how poor we really are. I’d die before I’d tell Jillian about my pretend gift. Her parents had 22 gifts under the tree for her. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have that many presents.
They’re so nice, her mom and dad. They always give me something for Christmas—I got this new diary with my name on it, just like last year, and a beautiful blue sweater. I know envy is a sin and Jillian’s my best friend but I wish I had parents like hers.
I’m sure the nightmare Lily had was caused by Mom and Dad’s argument. She slept with me the rest of the night and woke up sobbing and wouldn’t tell me what was wrong. Then she clung to me and made me promise I’d never grow up and move away. She wouldn’t stop pestering me until I told her I’d live at home forever, but I crossed my ankles when I said it. I want to leave. I can’t wait to get away from my father. Jillian and I talk about college. Her parents want her to attend Barnard College in New York. Everything’s already been settled for her. She has a big trust fund to pay for college. I pretend there’s a chance I’ll be able to go. But Mom and Dad could never afford to send me. Jillian doesn’t realize how lucky she is.
Even if we were rich, I don’t think Dad would let me go to college. He told me he didn’t plan on wasting money to educate girls, seeing that we wouldn’t be the ones supporting a family. I wanted to stand up to him and tell him that plenty of girls go to university these days, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good to argue. He’d only get mad at what he calls my “smart mouth” and belittle me. I think it’s because he didn’t graduate from high school and is afraid I’ll be smarter than he is.
Mom said if I continued to get good grades there’s a possibility I might get a scholarship. She said that if I did, she’d do whatever was necessary to find a way for me to attend college, even if that meant taking a second job. I know how much she hates working at the school cafeteria, but Mom said she’d be willing to work there and scrub floors, too, if it meant I could go to college. I wanted to cry I was so happy. Mom was serious, too. I could see it in her eyes. Then she held me against her, tight as could be, and said where there’s a will there’s a way. A hundred gifts under the Christmas tree couldn’t have made me happier than I was at that moment.
February 20, 1963
Dear Ann Landers,
I’ve tried to write this letter a dozen times. Please help me. My husband’s involved with another woman. I pretend I don’t know about her but I do and it’s eating me up inside. We have six children. Don’t tell me to leave him, because I can’t. I feel trapped and miserable, and stupid.
Dorothy A. from the Seattle area
Wanna spend the night on Friday?
P.S. Why do elephants have trunks? Because they don’t have glove compartments.
I’ll have to clear it with my mom first, but I think so. Let’s stay up all night and talk, okay? Do you have any new records? Did you notice the new boy at First Friday Mass? He’s cute!
P.S. Why do elephants climb trees? To hide.
March 10, 1963
Lesley and I had the best time ever! Mom and Dad were involved in some social function at the Country Club all weekend, so we had the house to ourselves. On Friday we stayed up all night and read Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy. We did it for extra credit in Sister Sebastian’s English class, but it was the best book I ever read on purpose about history. First Lesley would read a chapter aloud and then I’d read the next one. We didn’t mean to finish the entire book, but we couldn’t stop reading. Lesley said I look a little bit like Jackie Kennedy. Jackie’s much prettier than I am and so graceful and elegant.
The only reason Lesley said that is because Jackie and I both have dark hair. It would be like me saying Lesley looks like Marilyn Monroe did (before she died!) because she’s blond.
Anyway, after we read, we listened to the radio. My favorite singer is still Roy Orbison and Lesley likes Peter, Paul and Mary. We talked for a long time afterward. Mostly it was about boys and school. I’d rather go to a co-ed high school, but an all-girl is okay, too. I bet we’d meet more guys, though, if we went to a regular school.
I wonder what it would be like to fall in love and marry. Lesley insists that she doesn’t want to get married until she’s out of college, but I do. I want a romance just like John and Jackie Kennedy’s. I don’t know anyone I’d want to marry yet. Not even Scott. I asked Mom how she knew Dad was the right man for her and she got a goofy look on her face and said she just knew. That didn’t tell me anything. It was the same way last year when my periods started. Mom hardly explained anything. She seemed embarrassed about it, mumbled a few words and then handed me two safety pins and a pad. If it hadn’t been for Lesley starting first, I wouldn’t have known what to do. In biology class, Sister Mary Clare said that our periods tie in with having babies but I’m still not sure how. It’s like a deep, dark mystery no one wants to talk about. Lesley tried to check out a book at the library that explained everything but the librarian said she had to be eighteen to take it out of the building. When we went back to read it together, the book was missing. Lesley thinks the librarian saw us coming and hid it.
Oh, I almost forgot! My birthday gift finally arrived. I have my own television now. I don’t know anyone else in school who has her own TV. Dad had it built right into the wall. Lesley’s going to spend the night next month so we can watch the Oscars. I really hope Sidney Poitier wins Best Actor for Lilies of the Field. Lesley and I liked that movie better than any of the other movies we saw this year. Everyone talked about how wicked Tom Jones was, but I just thought it was silly. Lesley and I both learned something valuable from that movie. Neither of us can tell a lie and not feel guilty about it. We told our parents we were going to some other show and instead we went to Tom Jones and we both regretted lying. It was hard because Dad picked us up afterward and I wanted to blurt out the truth the moment I saw him. I didn’t, but he knew something was bothering me. Dad didn’t pressure me into telling him and I’m glad he didn’t. I wouldn’t want to see the disappointment on his face when he learned I’d deceived him.
This summer, instead of going to Hawaii, Dad said we might go to Disneyland. I said that would be fine as long as Lesley gets to come. Last year in Hawaii, Mom insisted Kathy Galloway tag along so I’d have company. Mom’s friends with Mrs. Galloway and she thought I’d enjoy having someone close to my own age. I would’ve liked company, but it didn’t work out. Kathy’s three years older and wasn’t interested in hanging around the hotel swimming pool with me. She was after men. Mom figured that out soon enough when she found her in the cocktail lounge flirting with a businessman. I bet Mom won’t invite Kathy again for anything, which is all right by me.
Bell’s Book Store
455 Main Street
Pine Ridge, Washington 98005
July 29, 1963
Dear Mrs. Lawton,
The Feminine Mystique
is in. At your request, I have set aside a copy for you. We look forward to seeing you soon.
Ethel Cowin, Manager
August 29, 1963
The most incredible thing happened yesterday. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered around the Washington Monument in our country’s capital in a Civil Rights demonstration. It was on television and on the radio. Mom and I talked about what it meant to be a Negro in America. Several colored families live on the other side of the railroad tracks. Dad works with colored men at the mill. He calls them names Mom won’t let me repeat. Mom said they’re like everyone else. They bleed and sweat and breathe the same as us, despite what Dad says. I can hardly believe that the South treats people so differently just because their skin is a different color, and I told Mom that. I read that Negroes have a hard time finding a job or getting an education. That isn’t fair. Mom was born and raised in Mississippi, and she said the Civil War was about more than slavery. She explained some of the South’s history since the War Between the States (that’s what she calls it), and she helped me understand how much courage it took for this rally in Washington to happen. Then she recited a quote from an English writer named Samuel Johnson. I’m writing it down because I don’t ever want to forget it. COURAGE IS THE GREATEST OF ALL VIRTUES, BECAUSE IF YOU HAVEN’T COURAGE, YOU MAY NOT HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO USE ANY OF THE OTHERS. I don’t think I’ve ever realized how smart my mother is about life. (And I didn’t know who Samuel Johnson was until she talked about him.)
There’s going to be a colored man speaking at the Pine Ridge Emmanuel Church on September 6th and I told Mom I’d like to hear what he has to say. She didn’t think that was a good idea because it wouldn’t be right for a Catholic girl to be seen inside a Protestant Church. Although Mom said I couldn’t go, I had the feeling she’d like to attend the meeting herself. If I had my driver’s license and a car, I’d do it. Jillian’s taking Driver’s Education this summer. She thinks her parents might buy her a car. As it is now, her mother drives her to school every morning and her father picks her up every afternoon.
I hate being fourteen. I want to be sixteen and to be able to drive and hear the people I want to hear and meet the people I want to meet.
November 22, 1963
President Kennedy was killed today. Lesley and I were in Religion Class when the news came over the loudspeaker that the President had been shot. Sister Dorothy immediately had us get down on our knees and pray. No one knew then how serious it was.
It wasn’t long before we were released from school. Lesley and I went right over to church and it was already full of people pleading with God to save our President. By the time I got home, I learned he was dead. I can’t stop crying. Even my dad had tears in his eyes.
Poor Jackie. She’s the one I’m crying for. I can’t bear this. It’s so terrible. Everyone is watching television. Everyone is weeping. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I can’t believe President Kennedy is dead.
Goodbye Mr. President
by Lesley Adamski
I was in school
When I heard the news
Such an ordinary Friday
Without any clues
Of what was to happen
Or the reasons why
Oh, dear John Kennedy
Why did you have to die?
As the tears flow from my eyes
And I pray
I know that forever
I’ll remember the day
Our country wept
Our country mourned
It felt as if
Our flag was scorned
Our country will remember
Now and forever
You were so young
So handsome, so clever
It’s a loss for the USA
And the whole world, too
Nothing ever, John Kennedy
Will be the same without you
Caroline and John-John
You’re much too small
To be without a father
A leader to us all
And dear Jackie
What can I say
My heart aches
With no words to say
Goodbye, President Kennedy
Holy Name Academy
January 20, 1965
Student: Jillian Lawton
Offense: Rolling up the uniform skirt above the knee.
Holy Name Academy
230 First Street
Pine Ridge, Washington 98005
January 20, 1965
Dear Judge and Mrs. Lawton,
Enclosed is the demerit slip for Jillian, which I have had no choice but to issue. She has had repeated warnings about the length of her uniform skirt. Several of the Junior girls have defied the rules and each will be obliged to remain after school the first Friday of February to polish the gymnasium floor.
I appreciate your cooperation in this unfortunate situation.
Sister Agnes, Principal
January 23, 1965
This whole detention thing is juvenile, and all because I rolled my skirt up. First, I detest wearing a uniform. I told Mom how much I hated it but she didn’t care. She says that a lot. “I don’t care” and “We aren’t going to talk about it.” Sometimes I swear she treats me like I’m ten years old. The other day I wanted to stand on my chair at the fancy new dining-room table and scream to get her attention. How else can I get her to recognize that I’m sixteen years old?
The state of Washington trusts me enough to give me a license to drive a motorized vehicle. Dad even bought me a car to go back and forth to school. It seems that if the government thinks I’m mature enough to drive, I should be smart enough to figure out what to wear to school. Apparently they think that if I had a choice, I’d wear something obnoxious like jeans and a sweatshirt. The truth is, my choices have been completely taken away from me, since I’m forced into a ridiculous school uniform. My closet is full of dresses I never get a chance to wear. I have this fear that I’ll be wearing a blue skirt and red blazer my entire life!
I love my parents, especially my dad. Both Mom and Dad are swell, but at times they can be completely irrational. They’re no better than my teachers when it comes to this uniform thing. Girls attending school in Communist Russia wear uniforms. (I don’t know that for a fact because no one really knows what’s happening in Russia except spies.) We talk about the Berlin Wall and the struggle for freedom, but we’re not all that different right here in Pine Ridge.
When I insisted that wearing uniforms was a form of Communism because it enforced sameness and obliterated personal identity, Dad said he wasn’t going to argue with me. I told him he was a coward but in a joking way, since everyone knows my dad is probably one of the truest, kindest, fairest men in the entire courthouse. I could see that he was amused and I know why. By proving my point with such a smart argument, I’m showing my parents that I’d be a good attorney. Actually I like to argue. I enjoy flustering people and proving my point. It gives me a sense of satisfaction.
I flustered the kid at the gas station the other day, but I didn’t mean to. He was young, probably about thirteen. He wanted to wash my windshield, but couldn’t reach the middle of the glass so I got out of my car and did it for him. Then his big brother showed up and finished the job for us both. I don’t think any boy has ever affected me like this. His name was embroidered on his coveralls.
. He’s the sexiest guy I’ve ever seen. One look told me he was a break-all-the-rules kind of guy. My heart was going crazy. I wasn’t about to let him know the effect he had on me, so I casually stepped aside and let him take over.
When he was finished, I paid him the $3.09 to fill up my tank. As soon as I pulled away, I looked in my rearview mirror and found Nick watching me. Then he grinned—and I nearly steered off the road. I felt that smile go right through me, the same way I do when the cat lies across my chest and purrs. I think I might be buying gas at the Texaco station a lot more often. Not soon, though. My driving privileges have been suspended for two weeks because of that demerit slip. I’m furious about it, but no amount of arguing would change my mother’s mind. As far as I’m concerned, Mom is the unreasonable one in our family.
P.S. I found out that Nick goes to Pine Ridge High and he’s a Junior (same as me).
February 5, 1965
Jillian had a detention because of her skirt length and had to stay after school to polish the gym floor this afternoon, so I walked home alone. Buck Knowles saw me and stopped to offer me a ride. Buck is twenty-one and works at the mill with Dad. Because I kinda know him, I thought it would be okay to accept. He didn’t remember that I was Mike’s daughter and then tried to pretend that he did. He said he’s noticed me before, looking all “virginal” (his word) in my Academy uniform. It sounded like he’s been interested in me for a long time. I’ve noticed him, too.
Last week Mom sent me down to the mill to collect Dad’s paycheck and I saw Buck. He looked at me and I looked at him. I had my school uniform on then, too. The way he stared made me feel older than sixteen. Mom didn’t see him drop me off at the house today and I didn’t mention that Buck had given me a ride. After I closed the car door, he leaned over and rolled down the side window and said he’d see me around. I know I’ll be looking for him.
Guess what? Buck Knowles came home from work with my dad last night and had dinner with the family. He’s the guy I was telling you about who gave me a ride home last month. I haven’t seen him since and I was beginning to wonder if I ever would. Neither Buck nor my dad get along with the foreman and they spent the entire night complaining about him.
The best part is that Buck said he’s coming to pick me up after school, so I won’t need you to give me a ride home. I’ll call you as soon as I can. Buck is so-o-o-o handsome. Lesley
P.S. I signed up for Driver’s Ed, but I sure won’t be driving any fancy cars!
April 3, 1965
Quantity 10 gal Per Gallon .309 Total $3.09 Attendant: Nick Murphy Signed:
April 12, 1965
Dad said he’d make sure you got my note. I’m sorry to hear about the foreman’s accident. I hope he’s on the mend soon and won’t miss much work. I know how hard it is on our family when Dad’s off for a long period of time. Dad said that both of you would be working a lot of overtime in the next couple of weeks, so I’ll understand if I don’t hear from you for a while.
I did enjoy seeing your apartment and watching television with you. The news about Vietnam doesn’t sound good, does it? Your place is small and a little messy, but that’s okay. Arranging the empty beer cans like a pyramid against the wall is a clever idea. You’re right, I haven’t had much experience with kissing but I did like it. Well, most of it.
May 7, 1965
Quantity 9.5 gal
Per Gallon .309
Attendant: Nick Murphy
Dance Card for Jillian Lawton Junior/Senior Prom “Moulin Rouge” May 15, 1965
Can you believe this is our last day of school? As of this afternoon we’re officially Seniors. We should celebrate. Mom and Dad want me to go to Hawaii with them again, which means no real job for me. I hate Hawaii. I don’t understand why we can’t go to San Francisco instead. I’d love it there, I know I would. Did you hear that My Fair Lady with Audrey Hepburn is starting next Wednesday? Do you want to go or do you have a date with Buck? You’re still seeing a lot of him, aren’t you? Meet me after school and we’ll celebrate being Seniors.
Sorry, I can’t go out with you after school this afternoon. I got a call from the library—I have an interview for a summer job. I’d just about given up hope of getting hired. Say a prayer that I get the job. This is important. Besides, the library pays more than baby-sitting. I’ll call you the minute I know. Buck said he’d take me to the drive-in tonight. Are you and Scott doing anything special?
|August 10, 1965 Dear Lesley, Here I am in Hawaii again. (Sigh.) I wish you were here. I can’t tell you how bored I am with nothing to do but read and laze around the beach every day. I miss you and Scott so much. I’m counting the days until I return. I hope your summer is more exciting than mine. See you soon. Love,|
|US Postage 3¢|
Miss Lesley Adamski, 220 Railroad Ave., Pine Ridge, Washington 98005
August 25, 1965
I was so glad to hear from you. Is the water in Hawaii truly that blue? I’m sorry you’re bored, especially when there’s so much happening elsewhere. Did you hear about all the rioting in California? The television news has been full of it every night. Last night they reported that there were 20,000 National Guard troops in Watts. So far, 34 people have died, and after five days of rioting it’s still going on. I didn’t think anything this terrible would ever happen in our country. Mom said it all has to do with civil rights and moral wrongs. I won’t tell you what my dad and Buck said, but I think you can guess.
Every day before I start work at the library, I’ve been checking into different kinds of scholarships. You wouldn’t believe how many are available. Mom’s been encouraging me to apply at the University of Washington. I know your parents are set on you going to Barnard College, but that’s in New York and Jillian, I just can’t afford it. At the same time, I can’t imagine attending college without you.
The Soroptomists offer a thousand-dollar scholarship. A thousand dollars would pay all my expenses for the first year at the state university. I’ve been thinking about it and I’d like to get into the nursing program. My mom thinks nursing would be a good choice for me. My dad doesn’t know anything about this yet. Mom said she’d deal with him when the time came. I’m so excited to think about where we’ll be a year from now. But we have to finish high school first and I’m going to need top grades if I plan on getting any scholarships.
I’m putting every cent I earn into a savings account, but I did buy myself a pair of bellbottom trousers. Buck said I have a cute behind, and he’d like me to wear miniskirts. Can you imagine what Sister Agnes would say if she saw me in one of those??!
I miss you so much. At least ten times a day I think of something I want to tell you. Five weeks has never seemed so long. I know you’re sick and tired of Hawaii and that you’re missing Scott, but do try and have a good time. Call me the minute you’re back. Until then, I remain...
Your Friend Forever,
|August 27, 1965 Dear Scott, Just a postcard to let you know||US Postage 3¢|
October 13, 1965
Buck phoned twice, but I had Susan tell him I wasn’t home. I don’t want to talk to him, not after what happened last week. When he picked me up for our date he’d been drinking, but I thought everything would be all right. It wasn’t, and Friday was the worst night of my life.
He said it was my fault, and that I can’t lead a man on and then turn him off. He was so rough and angry and it hurt so badly. Jillian and I used to discuss what it would be like the first time and this wasn’t anything beautiful or tender. Buck hurt me.
I know I should go to confession, but I don’t want to talk about this. Father Morris wouldn’t understand. He’s a man and he’d say I was as much to blame as Buck. It wasn’t my fault! I didn’t do anything to lead Buck into thinking that was what I wanted. We started kissing and when I saw he was getting really worked up I tried to stop, but that only made Buck want me more. Next thing I knew, his hands were on my breasts and then he pinned me down on his davenport and he’d shoved my panties down.
When Dad came home from work tonight, he wanted to know why I wasn’t talking to Buck. I told him we’d had a fight, which we did, and Dad got mad at me. My own father sided with Buck! I’ve decided to have nothing to do with Buck ever again. I don’t think I can forgive my father for thinking I was the one in the wrong. He doesn’t even know what happened. No one does. I can’t talk to Mom about this, or Susan. My sister has barely been kissed. As much as I’d like to tell Jillian, I can’t. I can’t even tell my best friend! My dress is ruined and even if it wasn’t, I’d never want to wear it again. I feel ugly and dirty and so ashamed.
Lesley, Are you all right? You’ve been so quiet lately and that isn’t like you. Is your dad out of work again? I bought an album yesterday by a new group called The Rolling Stones. My dad listened to “Satisfaction” and ordered me to destroy the record because he considers the lyrics indecent. I think they’re swell.
Have you seen the show Get Smart? I laughed all the way through it. It’s so much better than My Mother the Car.
October 26, 1965
Buck phoned and this time I was unlucky enough to answer. He begged me to see him. I said no, but he turned up at the house anyway and insisted on taking me to the Dairy Queen for a Dilly bar. I didn’t want to go, but my dad asked me if I considered myself too good for a man who worked at the mill. I told him not seeing Buck didn’t have anything to do with his job.
Buck and I sat and talked at the Dairy Queen and he apologized over and over. He promised me nothing like that will happen again. He seemed so sincere. Tears came to his eyes and I wanted to believe him. Then, when we got in his car, we started kissing. Before I realized what he was planning to do, he had his hand up my dress. I could see he was getting excited and I immediately put an end to our necking. Buck got mad and what he said made me feel kind of guilty. He kept saying how crazy he is about me and how much he needs me. We ended up doing it again. I could’ve stopped him, but I didn’t. At least it didn’t hurt this time. When we finished I started crying. Buck didn’t understand why. I’m not sure I do, either, but I couldn’t make myself stop. I told him it would be better if we didn’t see each other again and he said it’s because I think I’m too good for him, just the way Dad claimed. He dropped me off at the house and then took off with his tires squealing.
November 20, 1965
Quantity 9 gal
Per Gallon .309
Attendant: Nick Murphy
December 14, 1965
I stopped at the Texaco station with a fruitcake for Mr. Murphy. He seemed surprised that a customer would remember him at Christmas and gave me an entire set of matching juice glasses. Jimmy knew I’d been collecting them whenever I filled up my tank and must have told his father. I was disappointed Nick wasn’t there.
Last week I saw him riding his motorcycle in front of Holy Name Academy and wondered if he was looking for me. I hope he was. My heart beat so fast when I saw him. He pumps my gas almost every time I come to the station now. Sometimes we talk, but he’s usually too busy to say more than hello.
Lesley warned me that I’m flirting with danger. She says Nick is dangerous. I see it in his eyes and the way he looks at me, as though I’m the only girl he’s ever wanted. Whenever he focuses on me, I can actually feel it. The air between us gets hot and heavy like it does before a big storm. This shivery feeling goes all through me and doesn’t stop for a long time afterward.
I’d be a fool to break it off with Scott. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t want to hurt Scott’s feelings, but I’m drawn to Nick the way a moth is to a flame. Scott has been a good boyfriend and I’m the envy of every girl at school. I know if I broke up with him, he wouldn’t have any trouble getting a new girlfriend. That makes me wonder if I should stop seeing him.
Nick has never asked me out, never called me at home. For the longest time I didn’t even think he remembered my name. The most he’s done is fill up my car with gas and flirt a little. I can’t hurt Scott over that. Not when he’s been so sweet and considerate.
Speaking of breaking up, I wish Lesley would dump Buck Knowles. He treats her terribly. At first it was exciting that Buck wanted to date Lesley. He recently turned twenty-two and no one else in class is dating anyone that much older. The fact that he’s so attracted to her tells us all that we’re no longer girls; we’re women now. But I don’t care how much older and more sophisticated Buck is. He doesn’t treat Lesley the same way he did when they first started seeing each other.
I don’t know what’s wrong with her lately, but she hasn’t been herself. She tells me she’s going to break up with Buck and then she never does. When I ask her about it, she always has some excuse for why she can’t. It’s like she’s caught in a trap and doesn’t know how to break free.
The whole world seems to be in turmoil. The war in Vietnam is heating up and there was a huge protest rally in Oakland. When I asked my dad about it, he said it was vital that we wipe out Communism. He thinks it’s a good idea for the United States to be involved in the war. My father is the smartest man I know. If he believes in this war, then I’ll do whatever I can to support it.
I finally figured out what I’m getting Mom for Christmas—a book. I know that sounds boring, but she enjoys reading and The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris West is one I know she’d enjoy. Dad subtly dropped that hint, and I was grateful.
Les and I should be able to spend time together over Christmas break, and maybe then she can tell me what’s wrong, because something definitely is. I’ve been her best friend since first grade. I know her as well as she does herself. Whatever it is has to do with Buck, I’m convinced of that.
You want to know what my New Year’s resolution is? First and foremost it’s getting that scholarship from the Soroptimists. I want to be a nurse. Secondly, I’m going to break up with Buck. I mean it this time. Meet me after class.
Where have I heard that before? I’ve got a dentist appointment after Latin. Call me tonight, okay?
January 3, 1966
Today was the first day back at school following Christmas break, and it was hectic. Lesley and I had lunch together and we passed notes in Latin class. Sister Angelica is half-blind and hasn’t got a clue what’s going on behind her back. I’m so happy Lesley is breaking up with Buck. This time she sounds serious about it. I hope so.
She told me her resolution for this year, but I didn’t tell her mine. I haven’t told anyone. I can’t. I want Nick Murphy to kiss me. He’s so cute and he’s got that dangerous kind of sexiness. He even looks like trouble in his black leather jacket, riding his motorcycle. He makes me go all shaky every time I’m near him.
I know Mom and Dad would never let me date him. In their view, anyone who drives a motorcycle is part of a biker gang. I think Nick might’ve gotten into some sort of trouble with the law, too. Dad mentioned that he didn’t think I should gas up at the Texaco station any more. I asked him why and he said those Murphys were hotheads. I didn’t dare show too much curiosity about that, but I’m paying cash for my gasoline these days instead of using credit.
One kiss is all I want and then I’ll be satisfied. Then I can go on with my life and he can continue with his. My curiosity will be satisfied and Scott need never know.
January 20, 1966
Dear Lesley, You won’t answer my phone calls so I’m forced to write you a note and bribe your little sister into giving it to you. The least you can do is talk to me! How are we going to solve our problems if you refuse to have anything to do with me? I know you’re upset about what’s happened the last few times we went out. But you’ve got to understand, baby, that kind of frustration can lead to serious physical problems.
Can’t you tell I’m crazy about you? You’re the smartest girl I ever met and you go to that fancy Catholic girls’ school. I felt like the luckiest man alive when you said you’d date a high-school dropout like me. I can’t let you go. You’re the most important thing in my life.
Are you going to the school dance Friday night after the basketball game? Your brother said he could find a way to sneak me into the gym. I’ll look for you there. Whatever’s wrong, I’ll make it right. You have my word on that.
January 21, 1966
I am so stupid. I can’t believe what a disaster tonight was. I swore to myself that if Buck showed up at the school dance, I wouldn’t talk to him. Sure enough, he was there. He’s everywhere lately. Last Sunday he sat in the pew behind me during Mass. He must be leaving work early because he’s parked outside the Academy most afternoons, waiting for me. Thank goodness Jillian’s been driving me home. Apparently he had words with my dad about the job, because he hasn’t been coming over to the house much. That helps. It’s been three weeks and I’ve managed to avoid him thus far. Still, he won’t leave me alone. No one knows how awful it is to keep looking over my shoulder, worrying and wondering if he’s following me.
Then he came to the school dance and it seemed everyone there was watching us. Jillian was with Scott or she would’ve helped me. I didn’t want to create a scene and I was afraid Buck was going to pick a fight with Roy Kloster, so I agreed to dance with him. It was awful, a slow dance by
The Mamas and The Papas
. Buck held me close, closer than I wanted, and he kept whispering in my ear how crazy he is about me and how he can’t sleep nights because he needs me so much.
I was proud of myself because I told him I don’t think we’re good for each other. It’s true. All we do is argue. We don’t view life the same way. When he drinks it’s like seeing my dad. I told Buck that, and he got mad. He said I was playing hard to get and there were plenty of other girls interested in him. That’s when I said those other girls were welcome to him and walked off the dance floor.
Buck left the dance in a huff, but waited for me outside the gym. When I didn’t come out soon enough to suit him, he found Mikey and sent him inside to get me. Buck threatened to yell until I agreed to come out and talk to him. I should never have done it, especially alone, but I couldn’t find Jillian and I didn’t want to involve Mikey or Susan in this. I could tell Buck had fortified his courage with beer. I realize now it would’ve been better to return immediately to the dance. Instead I tried to reason with him, but Buck was angry just like Dad gets angry and in no mood to listen. He wanted what he’s always wanted from me. Before I could stop him, Buck shoved me against the side of the school and kissed me. I tried to break free, but he tore open the front of my blouse and started mauling my breasts. I don’t know what would’ve happened if Father Morris hadn’t happened upon us. He told me to straighten my clothes and get back to the dance.
I don’t know what he said to Buck afterward. I don’t want to know. Father Morris. Ye gads, how am I going to look him in the face again? When I got home from the dance, I wanted to talk to Mom, but she’d had another fight with Dad and was trying to hide that she’d been crying. I sat with her while she talked about
this new television series she likes. Mom has troubles enough of her own without listening to mine, so I didn’t tell her anything.
My life is awful. All I want to do is graduate and get away from home.
February 5, 1966
Be my Valentine. Meet me behind the snack booth
after the hootenanny.
You’re not going to do it, are you? What will Scott say?
And Jillian—these verbs are impossible! I might as well give up and just accept that I’m going to get a C.
Scott’s visiting the University of Oregon this weekend. He’ll never know. I haven’t decided if I’ll go or not.
And Lesley—I’ll help you with the verbs. We’re going to be co-valedictorians, remember?
You’ve got that look in your eyes. You’re going to meet him, I can see it. Just promise me one thing. BE CAREFUL and for heaven’s sake, don’t let your parents find out about this!
No one else knows. I promise I’ll give you a full report afterward.
February 11, 1966
Nick Murphy has never lacked nerve—that’s for certain. My dad would have a conniption if he found out I was planning to meet Nick. My stomach was in knots the entire hootenanny even though we sang all my favorite songs: “Kum-ba-yah,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “If I Had a Hammer.”
Everyone was there...except Nick. I kept looking around for him and after a while I realized he’d stood me up. I’d agonized for days about whether I should meet him or not, and then Nick Murphy didn’t even have the common decency to show up.
After the hootenanny Cindy wanted me to drag the boulevard with her, but I made up some excuse and headed toward the parking lot, half expecting and desperately wanting to find Nick waiting for me. He wasn’t there, either. I’d been torn about meeting him behind Scott’s back, but Nick made the decision easy.
I was furious when I left the football field. Then I thought I might’ve gotten the day wrong or the time or something. Mostly I was disappointed and angry. How dare he! Just to be on the safe side, though, I decided to double back.
Sure enough, there he was, leaning against the snack booth, confident as anything. He had his motorcycle and looked so cool in his leather jacket. He smiled that sexy smile of his when I pulled into the parking lot. It was almost as if he knew I’d come back looking for him.
One thing I can’t tolerate is arrogance, and Nick’s got so much it’s practically coming out his ears. I almost drove away right then and there, but thank goodness I didn’t. Before I could tell him how mad I was, he reached for my hand, kissed it and asked if I’d be his Valentine. I must’ve looked terribly silly—I know I was confused. Somehow I managed to stutter that I wasn’t sure yet. He laughed. I should’ve told him Scott’s already given me a box of chocolates, but just then my steady was the last person on my mind.
We sat in the bleachers and Nick said he’d ended up having to close the station and that was why he’d been late. He said he was glad I’d come back. Then he talked about his family. He mentioned his dad some, but mostly he talked about his mother who died of cancer when he was ten and Jimmy was five. I wasn’t sure what I expected when he asked to meet me, but I didn’t think all we’d do was talk. That was exactly what we did. It was as though we’d been waiting all these months and we both had all this information stored up inside us that we had to get out first.
Later he gave me a ride around the field on the back of his motorcycle and I slid my arms around his waist and held on. I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and the smell of his leather jacket. Afterward, I was so hoping he’d kiss me, but he didn’t. He wanted to. I could tell by the way he kept looking at my lips. When we left, he followed me most of the way home to make sure I got there safely, which made me feel really good. Cherished. He didn’t ask to see me again, and that disappointed me.
Now that I’m home and in my room, I can’t sleep. This excited, happy feeling is keeping me awake. I knew I had to write it all down. I want to remember every last detail. I told Lesley I’d report back everything that happened, but I don’t know if I will. This is the first time I’ve kept anything from her. I know something’s happening in her life that she hasn’t told me about, and I understand that now. I like Nick so much I can hardly think of anything without him popping into my mind. My New Year’s resolution hasn’t been fulfilled yet, but I’m positive it’s going to happen. The only thing that remains a mystery is when Nick will kiss me. It’s no longer an if—he wants to kiss me as much as I want him to. I just hope it’s soon.
Verb conjugations are so boring. Isn’t it great that the Beatles are coming to Seattle? I’d love to go to the movies with you on Saturday, but I can’t. My mom needs me to help around the house with spring-cleaning. What’s
about, anyway? I think Cary Grant is so handsome! If Sister Angelica finds this note, we’re both going to end up with a detention.
March 15, 1966
Dear Lesley, I’ve missed you! School was a real drag while you were out. There’s no one to pass notes to when you’re not here—no one I like, anyway! I’ve been worried about you. Is everything all right? We hardly talk any more. I know you’re upset about seeing Buck with that other girl, but isn’t that what you wanted? Sister Angelica said you look pale and you do. You’ve lost weight, too. (Lucky you!) I’ll see you at lunch.
Buck, we need to talk. Please phone me right away. Lesley
Soroptimists International of Pine Ridge
200 Sixth Avenue
Pine Ridge, Washington 98005
March 20, 1966
Miss Lesley Adamski 220 Railroad Avenue Pine Ridge, Washington 98005
Dear Miss Adamski,
It is a great pleasure to inform you that we have selected you as this year’s recipient of our $1,000 college scholarship. The committee was impressed with your essay about your desire to further your education. It’s bright, responsible young women like you who are the hope and future of our country.
March 23, 1966
I met Nick again and, of all places, in the town cemetery. He showed me where his mother’s buried and we left flowers there. We walked through the cemetery, holding hands, and talked for a long time afterward. He told me his dad fought in World War II and has a medal for distinguished service. My dad was in the war, too, but he never talks about it.
This is the third time Nick and I have met on the sly like this. I love it when he takes me out on his Harley because I can put my arms around his waist and press my cheek against his back. Nick admitted that riding his motorbike gives him a surge of power and freedom and he says it’s a real high.
What’s strange is that so far, all we’ve done is hold hands. Every time we’re together I’m convinced he’s going to kiss me and it hasn’t happened. Not from lack of wanting on my part. Sometimes I wonder why he keeps asking me to meet him. The last person I expected to be the perfect gentleman is Nick Murphy! Tonight, I finally got the courage to ask him if he ever intended to kiss me. He didn’t answer right away. In fact, it took him so long I thought he might not have heard me. Then he said he wanted to kiss me more than anything, but he refused to do it while I’m wearing Scott’s class ring.
I wish now that I hadn’t asked. Not because I dread breaking if off with Scott. It’s always been understood that we’d eventually go our separate ways. He’ll be attending the University of Oregon in Eugene and I’ll be either at Barnard or the University of Washington. I dread returning Scott’s ring because I know what will happen between Nick and me once I do.
The electricity between us is so strong I swear it sometimes crackles. Up until now, we’ve both pretended it isn’t there, but it is. Some nights I lie awake and try to imagine what it would be like to have Nick Murphy make love to me. Then I feel guilty for thinking such impure thoughts and immediately say the rosary.
Before we parted, I told Nick we probably shouldn’t meet again. I hoped he’d argue and tell me how badly he wanted to be with me. Instead he agreed—but we will continue seeing each other and meeting whenever we can. He knows it and so do I. I can’t stay away from him any more than he can stay away from me. As different as we are, we both recognize that we were meant to be together.
I’ve dated Scott forever, but I’ve never felt like this about him. Every moment I’m with Nick I feel this intensity, this wonder. It’s strange that we could be so different and yet so alike.
March 24, 1966
Surprise! Remember when you were a little girl and I used to tuck notes inside your lunch box? I bet you’d forgotten. Lesley, I found the letter from the Soroptimists in your room and no, I wasn’t sneaking through your chest of drawers! I read it and almost burst with pride. Why didn’t you tell me? I’m so excited, it was all I could do to keep from shouting.
Oh Lesley, if only you knew how thrilled I am that you have a chance to attend nursing school. I always wanted to, but as you know your father and I got married instead.
Were you afraid to tell us about the scholarship? Or did you want to surprise us later? We both know how your father feels about you girls getting a college education, but he can’t argue with a scholarship, can he?
You’ve been so quiet lately, not like yourself at all. If you were afraid to mention the scholarship, I want to assure you how delighted I am. Don’t worry about Dad, I’ll make sure he doesn’t stand in your way.
I’m so pleased for you, sweetheart, and so very proud.
What’s wrong? I haven’t been your best friend all these years without knowing when something’s bothering you. Tell me. Did your dad lose his job again? Meet me after drill team practice.
April 1, 1966
I don’t know what I’m going to do. I couldn’t put off telling Buck any longer. I’m pregnant. I thought he’d be angry and yell at me, but instead he seemed almost glad. No one knows, not even Jillian. I can’t talk about it to anyone. The minute I start thinking about what this means for my future, I start to cry. That’s all I seem to do lately.
As soon as the words were out, Buck held me and kissed me and told me how happy he was to have me back. He doesn’t care if the only reason I’m his is because of the baby. Now he wants us to get married. I don’t know if that’s the best answer for either of us. He wanted to elope, drive to Idaho right away, but I refused to do that. It seems like an easy out, but if we marry now I won’t be able to graduate. If I can’t have college, then at least I can get my high school diploma.
Buck has been really good about everything. He’s been over to the house almost every night since I told him. He and my dad seem to be getting along better now, and Mom’s already treating him like another son. I’m beginning to think he’s right and we should get married. Tonight he told me he’s got the whole thing worked out. He talked to an Army recruiter this afternoon and decided enlisting would be the best solution for us. That way, all the medical expenses for the baby will be covered. I don’t want Buck to enlist. There’s so much talk about what’s happening in Vietnam, although Buck said the recruiter told him he could get an assignment in Germany—but only if he enlists within the next month. With the way things are developing in Vietnam, Buck thinks he should take the Germany assignment while he can. I agreed, but I feel guilty about him maybe risking his life for the baby and me.
Buck and I do it all the time now; there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to—that’s what Buck says. I don’t mind so much, I guess, but I find it hard to go to church or explain why I can’t take communion.
April 12, 1966
Something’s up with Lesley. Weeks after breaking up with Buck, all of a sudden she’s seeing him again. For a while, she was almost her old self—and then, without warning, he’s back. I’ve tried to talk to her, but she insists everything’s all right and that I’m imagining things. Maybe so. Whatever’s bugging her she’s keeping to herself. I’ve never seen her so secretive. The Sound of Music is coming to town, and we’ve both been waiting to see it for weeks. Now she has some hokey excuse about why she can’t go. I’m worried about her and I wish she’d talk to me.
Things aren’t right with Scott, either. Someone must have told him about Nick and me, because he’s been acting possessive and unreasonable lately. It all started when I told him I didn’t want to go to the Junior/Senior prom. He seems to think it’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll be his date. I probably should attend the dance with him, but I don’t think I can pretend to be his girl when my heart belongs to Nick.
Everything is so much worse since Scott’s been nominated for Prom King. I’m pleased for him, I really am. He deserves it and is a wonderful athlete, but now there’s all this pressure on me because I’m supposed to be his girlfriend. Scott can’t believe I’m turning down the opportunity to be Prom Queen.
I haven’t heard from Nick, either. It seems he took my suggestion that we not meet again seriously. I got tired of waiting for him to contact me and went to his dad’s gas station. As luck would have it, Nick was working the pumps. Other than asking if I wanted him to fill up my tank, he didn’t say one word.
Everyone’s treating me like I have the plague. First Lesley, then Scott. Even Nick’s mad at me. And I don’t know what I’ve done!
April 20, 1966
I was your first fool and I sincerely doubt I’ll be your last. If you want to break up right before prom and graduation, then that’s just fine. There are plenty of other girls interested in going to the biggest dance of the year with me.
Since you weren’t inclined to explain this sudden change of heart, all I can say is goodbye. Thanks for the prompt return of my class ring.
May 1, 1966
My dearest Lesley,
It seems odd to be writing my own daughter a letter, but I know if I try to talk to you I’ll never get through this without crying. To say that your news was a surprise would be an understatement. How I wish you’d come to me months ago so we could’ve talked things out and decided what to do before dragging Buck and your father into it.
If you’d prepared me, I might’ve been able to break the news to your father more carefully. If you remember anything from tonight, please don’t let it be the terrible names he called you. He didn’t mean them. Not a one. He was upset and angry...you know how he gets after a few beers.
What I’m about to tell you now may come as a shock. Years ago your father and I found ourselves in exactly the same predicament. Yes, Lesley, I was pregnant with you when your dad and I married. You were born six months after the wedding. (One day, you would’ve checked the dates and figured it out on your own.) My father said those same hateful things to me. He threw me out of the house and said I was never to come back. I didn’t speak to either of my parents again until after you were born.
I didn’t want to get married—like you, I had my own dreams—but at the time it seemed best for all concerned. So often in the years since, I’ve wondered what my life would’ve been like had I taken a different path. I’ve worked hard to be a good wife and mother to you kids, but every now and then I look back on the girl I once was and remember the precious dreams I held so dear. I married so young, barely sixteen, and it seemed those dreams went up in smoke the minute your father slipped the wedding band on my finger. Little did I realize then that along with everything else you inherited from me—your blue eyes and blond hair—you’d be stuck with repeating my mistakes, too.
Look at my life, Lesley. Is this what you want for your future? Six kids and a husband who has a hard time holding down a job? A husband who has a harder time refusing a bottle. I look at Buck and I see your father all over again. It seems so clear to me now. You’re smart, just like I was back in high school. Don’t you know how proud I felt when you were invited to join the National Honor Society? Don’t throw away your dreams the same way I did!
Lesley, despite what your father insists, the thought of you marrying Buck leaves me shaking with fear. Look at me, sweetheart, because I’m terribly afraid that your future is my past. I’m pleading with you not to make the same mistakes I did. Think hard and long before you decide to marry Buck. I’ll deal with your father and do whatever I can to help you.
Meet me behind the snack booth on prom night.
May 5, 1966
I felt my baby move for the first time and it surprised me so much that I stopped ironing and pressed my hand to my stomach. In the last few weeks, I thought that light fluttering might have been the baby, but there was no mistaking it this time.
I don’t know what I’m going to do. Mom wrote me a letter and said she was afraid I was making the same mistakes she did and urged me not to marry Buck. I wish I was stronger. Not physically but emotionally. Everyone’s pressuring me. Dad and Buck are adamant that marriage is the right thing. More and more, Buck acts like we’re already married. Just when I thought I could go away and have the baby in a home, I learned that Buck had enlisted in the Army—without any of the guarantees that will keep him out of Vietnam. He did it for the baby and me. He loves me, I know he does. I’m so afraid he’s going to end up fighting in that horrible war and all on my account.
So many people are against the war. There’s talk of a huge rally at the Washington Monument protesting our involvement. Now that Buck’s enlisted, I can’t turn my back on him. Even if I found the strength to go away to one of those homes, I’d never have the courage to give up my baby for adoption. But I can’t raise a child all by myself. Even though Mom would help me, there’s only so much she can do. I already know my dad’s thoughts on the subject. I feel like there’s no solution to this. Whatever I decide will bitterly disappoint one of my parents.
I finally told Jillian about the baby and she burst into tears. I wept, too, although I’ve long recovered from the shock. She’s sworn to secrecy. She knows if anyone at school ever found out, I wouldn’t be allowed to graduate. Like everyone else, Jillian wants to know what I plan to do, as though I had a limitless number of options. Dear God in heaven, how I wish I did! She broke up with Scott and although she didn’t say why, I knew it was over Nick Murphy. He’s all she thinks about.
Lately I’ve been listening to the radio, just lying on my bed and staring up at the ceiling. The Beatles have a song,
I’m beginning to feel like the girl in that song. Susan comes in and talks to me and we cry together. If this was happening to her, she wouldn’t listen to either Buck or Dad. She’s always been stronger than me. I told her that, and she stunned me by crying. She said she’d drop out of school and get a job and support me and the baby if I asked her to. I couldn’t, but I love her all the more for offering. The other kids don’t know yet, although I’m sure Mike suspects. We don’t talk about it. We can’t.
I saw Mom talking to Father Morris on Friday. I think she was talking about Buck and me. If we do marry, I want it to be in the Church. If I have anything to be grateful for, it’s that my parents didn’t kick me out of the house the way Mom’s parents did to her.
May 15, 1966
This had to be one of the most incredibly romantic nights of my life. Nick was waiting for me when I arrived at the football field and he was dressed in a suit, complete with tie and shiny new shoes. I was in my prom dress.
I lied to Mom and Dad about meeting Scott at the prom. They seemed a little suspicious that Scott wasn’t picking me up, but I explained that he couldn’t because he’s one of the King nominees. I hated lying, but they’d flip if they found out I was meeting Nick Murphy at the football stadium instead.
Nick set up his transistor radio and held out his arms to me and we danced beneath the stars. Just the two of us. He held me so close I could feel his heart beating. Even when a fast song came on, we danced slow, right through the commercials and everything. Neither one of us spoke for a long time.
After a while, he asked me what excuse I’d given Scott for not attending the prom. That was when I confessed I’d returned Scott’s class ring. I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes light up the way Nick’s did once I told him. It didn’t take him long to kiss me after that. Scott’s kissed me plenty of times. I’ve been kissed by other boys, too, but this is the first kiss I’ve felt from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I think Nick was just as surprised. We both trembled afterward, and he didn’t kiss me again until it was time to leave. All the while we were together, I kept thinking how silly it is that we’re meeting on the sly like this, but I didn’t say anything for fear of breaking the mood. I like Nick so much, but I’m worried about how my parents would react if they knew I was dating him, especially my dad. He’s got the wrong impression of Nick. I don’t know how to convince Dad what a wonderful man Nick Murphy is. I don’t dare say a word, but I hate deceiving my parents like this. It’s even worse to feel that I need to.
The Class of
Nineteen Hundred and Sixty-six
Holy Name Academy
Saturday evening, May twenty-eighth
At seven o’clock
Pine Ridge Community Center
Pine Ridge, Washington
June 1, 1966
You know I can’t stand it when we argue. You’re my best friend and we mean too much to each other to let anything or anyone come between us. That said, I want you to know I do believe you. If you say you saw Buck with some other girl on graduation night, then I know you did. But couldn’t it have been someone who
I asked him about it and he claims you couldn’t have seen him. He swears he wasn’t with any other girl. He implied that you’re jealous and trying to make trouble for him. I know it isn’t true, but I also know you don’t think I should marry him. All I can say is that it must’ve been someone who looked a lot like him. Please, let’s put this incident behind us. You’re my best friend and I love you.
P.S. I thought your Valedictory speech was wonderful. You did a much better job of it than I would have. I know it was our dream to be co-valedictorians, but that wasn’t meant to be.