all exclamations points intact
I found these letters in the attic at my mother’s house in Chicago. We were cleaning up after the funeral, and I had kept several boxes of memorabilia, old photos, and high school year books -- all kinds of neat stuff. These letters were tied in a bundle. I hope I’m not breaking a confidence here. I’ve changed some of the names.
The first letters are from Jill Farias. She’s a senior at an all-girls Catholic high school in a suburb of Chicago, and the oldest of six children. She’s writing to Sam, who has been her boy friend for two years, but now’s he gone off to college at the University of Toronto in Canada. The year is 1965.
This is not the diary of Anne Frank or the memoirs of Doris Lessing, but to call them “ordinary” is a disservice to the heart.
Do young people write letters today? I believe they do it on the Internet. I’d like to show these letters to some college students that I know -- and find out what, if anything, has changed since 1965.
And I should apologize for the length. At 2,100 words, this story is too long for the email format being used. My excuse is that I am a terrible editor. I kept trying to cut out certain parts, but I couldn’t do it. So, you don’t have to read it all, but if you do read it all, you will find yourself in a different time and place, and it feels really fresh and alive.
le 22 janvier, 1965
I did very well on all my exams and I’m getting an “A” in French for the semester. I want to go on the New York senior trip and it’s going to cost $150. Pop says he won’t pay for any of it, but I’m hoping that he’ll relent! The trip ought to be pretty good because Maura and I are planning to get tickets to “Golden Boy” with Sammy Davis, Jr. and the “Fantasticks.”
I’ve decided, and discovered through experience, that unless one goes to New Trier [the public school], there is nothing to do around here. A senior girl without a date might as well resign herself to a life of spinsterdom and bore-hood. Other years it wasn’t too bad because you could always get a ride to Loyola’s (YICK!) sock hops. But this year, just forget it. All it seems that senior girls do is drift from party to party to Rolling Stone to Campus Den to Hubbard’s Cupboard to party again. I’m sick of it and I HATE IT intensely. I think I’d almost rather stay home. Everything’s in a rut -- school, home, etc. I can’t wait for summer to come -- then at least it will be a pleasant rut.
So anyway, when exactly is the weekend that you’re coming home in February? Will you be able to make it to the dance on Feb. 5 ? Please tell me in your next letter because if you aren’t coming, I’ll ask Bob Heineman.
DOWN WITH AMBUSH PERFUME!
YICK! ICK! ZOT!
I despise it. Kathy [Jill’s younger sister] literally pours it on everything. I put on my green mohair cardigan last night and I was almost knocked out. The fumes were too much to bear so I had to take it off. If any poor insect, let alone any moth, had come within 50 ft. of that sweater he would have been killed instantly. I honestly believe that Ambush perfume has a good market as an insecticide. What do you think?
I still miss you.
le 13 fevrier, 1965
How’s your bod? Have you gotten your hair cut yet? It’ll be great to see you Thursday so speed yourself home.
I can’t wait to go to college. No one around here respects my opinion on anything. My parents and my grandmother treat me like I’m an absolute moron. Every time I open my mouth Dad tells me “you don’t know what you’re talking about” and “when you are older, you’ll realize...” etc. I’m sick of it! If I don’t say anything, Mom tells me to quit pouting and “you’d better brighten up or else!...”
I’m getting inducted into the National Honor Society this coming Thursday. Dad won’t be able to make it because of a business trip and Mom acted like she was really going to have to put herself out to show up...”I don’t like to go to these things alone.” She really just doesn’t want to be bothered. Sometimes it seems that they don’t give a damn about me! The sooner I get away the better I’ll like it.
I know I shouldn’t burden you with my problems but it seems like it always ends up that way. I suppose it’s because you’re one of the few people I can trust.
I don’t understand it, but for the last couple of weekends I’ve been terribly depressed and I can’t seem to shake it no matter what I do.
Well, things are looking up. After dinner last night, I went out with Maura and Fitz, and Bob Deirdre. We just went down to the “Huddle” in Evanston for a coke but it was a lot of fun. It stopped my depression. You should have seen us in Evanston, we were running around screaming -- some people call it singing, but truthfully speaking it was screaming -- some song about “on the Russian field we will beat the foe” from the movie, Alexander Nevsky. Anyhow, it was a lot of fun.
Enough of that! If I ever suggest going to a horror movie again, please kick me in the appropriate place! I’ve seen “Psycho” and “Two on a Guillotine” in the past two weeks. “Psycho” was rather disappointing, but “Two on a Guillotine” was awful. I don’t know why I go because once I get inside I’m a nervous wreck and I hate every minute of it. It got so scary in one part that I left, under the pretense of going to the john. Never again!
Signing off for now,
P.S. I saw John Donovan last week. Did he ever look neat in his uniform!
San had invited Jill to a formal dance at his college, and she was making plans to fly up for the weekend from Chicago.
February 22, 1965
Mom and Dad want me to take a plane to Toronto. Mom said that if you can’t meet me at the airport, we can just forget about it right now. Both have decided that I’m an idiot for going to Toronto instead of the Senior trip, and Pop is starting to be rather difficult. Anyhow the fam is still rather vague about what flight I can take so I’ll let you know a couple of sentences from now -- after I’ve talked to them again!
Everything’s kind of a mess! My parents want to know exactly whom I’m staying with, etc. so send the information as soon as you can get it! Why don’t you telephone instead? It would be a lot easier! Pop has just announced that he wants to hear from a nun in the dorm who will say that it’s all right for me to stay there. Maybe she could write a letter or something. I really think it would be better if you called so everything could be completely settled. Mom is completely deadset against this trip, but I think things will work out anyway.
Goodbye for now, hope to hear from you soon,
Ides of March
I am very. very sleepy. So what else is new, you say. Nothing much!
Thank you for asking me to the dance. I had a wonderful time for the whole weekend, but I sure wish you had met me at the airport.
[The editor can’t help bursting in at this point. Sam invites his girlfriend to come in for the weekend and he doesn’t meet her at the airport. What a jerk! ]
When the plane took off to take me back to Chicago.I started missing you immediately. However the full brunt (Doesn’t sound like the right word.) finally hit me when my fam was driving me home from the airport and Dad started harping on “5:00 curfews” and “know-it-all teenagers” He’s still a dear anyhow. Anyhow the whole point of this midget paragraph is that I do miss you terribly and wish that I was back up there with you.
I’m getting sleepier and sleepier.
I’ve done lots of thinking on you and me and have come to some conclusions, so I’ll have much stuff to talk to you about in May. It’s not really so far away. I still haven’t heard from McGill University [in Montreal] yet, but I’ll know for sure by tomorrow night because Dad is calling them. Good night for now.
I love you,
St. Patrick’s Day, 1965
It’s been snowing for some time now, 6 inches, and I’m not going to school. It’s really kind of funny -- here it is 9:30 on a school morning. and I’m still lying in bed. It’s so peaceful around here right now watching the snow coming down and listening to some music. It’s almost like being asleep only I’m not. Things seem to be drifting around me and not really affecting me, just kind of floating by. It gives me a very detached feeling.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking again on different things -- mostly you and me, but anyway why don’t you address letters to me as Miss Jill Farias instead of just plain old Jill Farias? Please tell Michele that I found the jewelry that I thought I had left there.
Sue O’Gara had some old Loyola yearbooks lying around so I caught a picture of you in Freshman year. Ha! Ha! Ha! Even my Freshman pictures weren’t that bad. Such a baby face!
Maureen and Fitz are their usual selves. Fitz is coming in AGAIN this next week-end and staying for a whole week. That doesn’t make too much sense. He’s been in almost every week-end since the end of January --Don’t think that’s a hint because IT IS! I wish you would come home every weekend.
So much for today.
I love you,
March 27, 1965
How’re things in Toronto? I haven’t been working at all this last quarter and I’m going to get at least 2 A’s and the rest B’s. Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty good about the whole thing.
I really did a stupid thing last week. I went under the sunlamp without any goggles on....You should have seen my face, not only was it red, it was completely swollen up. My eyes were just slits in my face. I’m glad you didn’t see me. As my face was de-swelling, I caught a cold. The cold made my nose get all drippy-red and made me miserable. I think, on the whole, that my bod is falling apart. For the first time in about a year, I talked to Fitz alone, i.e., without Maureen. It was really nice. You should see his beard. It’s really getting thick. He really looked neat the other day. If I didn’t love you, I’d probably love him. I still love him, but in a different way.
I still haven’t heard from those creepy McGill people. I’ve practically given up. I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore anyway. I can see how you could get all mixed up after studying all those philosophers because I haven’t studied any of them -- except Sartre, who I think is an idiot! -- and I’m pretty mixed up. I don’t suppose it’s any comfort to you to say that it’s just a stage that all people go through sometimes in their life. Most of the kids I know are having problems of some sort or another right now so you’re not alone.
It seems as though Fitz has solved his problem, whatever it was, because he is a great deal happier now than I have seen him be in a long time.
Were you just exaggerating when you said you were an agnostic or were you serious? Please let me know because you worry me a lot sometimes, especially when you start talking about becoming an agnostic.
Well, there’s not too much else doing here so goodbye for now.
I love you,
P.S. I think of you often.
This was the last letter. When Sam came home for the summer that year, things were just too different. He had been out in the world, and Jill was the one who got left behind. So, they broke up.