Tom Kiske '61 has written several wonderful articles for this site. He wrote the first contributed article, "McKinley Walk." Tom is the author of numerous published articles, stories, essays and a great book with reflections on the life in the 50's and 60's in the Soulard neighborhood.
Sometimes a relationship ends too soon, too abruptly, and often it is not what we said or did, but the words left unspoken that haunt us down thru the years. In this poignant tale, Tom tells of his discovery of a cache of yellowing letters from McKinley days – a discovery which led to the unlikely renewal of a correspondence interrupted more than 40 years ago, and how closure was achieved almost at the last possible moment.
|For J., Wherever She May Be|
been one poor correspondent
I’ve been too, too hard to find
But it doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind . . .”
“Sister Goldenhair,” by America
|I’ve come to believe that as we pass through our lives, we sometimes snag on things, most often other people. You meet someone, get to know them and a little thread of the fabric of your being gets hooked on them, and maybe part of them on you, so that although you may walk on alone, still the two of you remain attached somehow. The thread that connects you can be so slender that you’re seldom aware it’s there until one day, perhaps decades later, it tugs at you, pulls you up short. You have to pause in your usual movement towards tomorrow, turn and grasp that silken thread gently in your hand and trace it back to where it is anchored, deep in the truth of where you were and who you were in some distant yesterday.|
Perhaps you’ve had such an experience.
For me, it was in this way that I came to rediscover a handful of letters from 1958, it was how a correspondence interrupted by more than 45 years was renewed and how an old, unfinished story finally reached its long delayed conclusion.
J. was my friend Mitchell’s girlfriend through much of high school. Those who knew us then will know of whom I write.
|Few know that before she was Mitch’s girlfriend, she was mine. I used to walk her home from school. Her mother worked, but boys were not allowed inside while she was away and J. was a “Good Girl” so we would sit on the back stairs and talk. We spoke of many things, silly and profound, grew closer and, yes, shared a few shy, awkward and ultimately innocent kisses.|
|During this time, although we saw each other every day, we also exchanged letters. Not notes passed in class, but actual letters, posted through the US mail and delivered to our homes. Why we did this is now lost among the dim mysteries of a 50's teenagehood. Maybe it’s just that it was fun to get a letter from somebody you liked. It’s not that they were lovey-dovey, let’s smooch letters. J’s letters were, as she was herself, articulate, insightful and witty. They were written from the sweetness of a young girl’s heart, but any hint of affection was guarded and disguised.|
|Sometimes they ended with the Latin phrase, “Te Amo.”|
J. and I were together for only a few short weeks. Perhaps too abruptly
I stopped walking her home, and offered no satisfactory explanation. Mitchell
saw his opening, stepped in, and the two of them went together for the
next several years.