George Wanted Me to Burn the Letters

One memorable Saturday morning, after Joe and I were married a few years, I was leaving Keefer’s delicatessen when I bumped into George.

As soon as we finished exchanging pleasantries George offered to buy me a cup of hot chocolate.

The two of us sat at a small table in the back of deli and told amusing stories about our children’s escapades.

Each us of us were careful not to mention our, long ago, relationship. We kept the conversation light and friendly until we were getting ready to go. Then, from out of nowhere, I startled George by announcing, “I still have all the letters you sent me.”

My Letters from George – AP Photograph

Once George regained his composure a wonderful smile lit up his face and with a quick wink he said, “MJ burn them!” And that’s what I intended to do when I got home but my day became unbelievably busy and I forgot.

Did you ever wake in the wee hours of the night and know there was something you needed to do?

Well, at 2:00 am the next morning that happened to me. So, I slipped out of bed, crept up the narrow stairs to the attic, found George’s letters and brought them down the stairs to the family room.

Next, I rekindled the fire my family had enjoyed earlier that evening and ceremoniously took the first letter and held it over the fire but, all at once, George’s signature caught my eye. “I miss you something awful Mary Jane. bonne nuit – Love, George”

Immediately I pulled the letter away from the fire and there I was all cozy and warm dressed in my flowered periwinkle nightgown reading the letters once more.

In one particular letter George explained about a campus brawl he had been in on a Halloween night. He tells me, “This morning I have a beautiful shiner and a lip that looks like the Graf Zeppelin but honestly Elster you should see the other guy.”

He then goes on to thank me for teaching him the manly art of self-defense. This brought to mind the all-time funniest experience I had with George.

In fact, while I was remembering that eventful day a little giggle escaped from my lips and suddenly I burst into gales of laughter.

On a winter’s evening in December of 1950 George drove me to Huntington Beach. This is the most picturesque area in Bay Village.

We parked on the side of a cliff high above a sea of splashing water and with his arm around my shoulder we watched the flocks of ring-billed gulls fluttering about in the icy winter’s air.

Then George whispered, “Aren’t the stars beautiful?” And I thought, “Oh boy, here it comes.”

As usual I was right. After he leaned over and kissed me he proceeded to go a step further and, as usual, I stopped him.

But this time his face became flushed and he muttered, “Come on, I’m taking you home so you can read your Catholic Girls Guide.”

This was a handbook that, in part, attempted to show young women the value in protecting their virginity. Quite frankly, I doubt it is still being published. Who would buy it? Still it was, for me, a way of life.

When we arrived at my house the last thing George said to me was, “Some day I’m going to read your Catholic Girls Guide” and I was so frustrated with him the words just popped out of my mouth, “I’d like you to read it. There’s a great chapter on how to protect yourself from teenage boys with raging hormones.”

It was a week before I heard from him again.

Burn the letters – NEVER

Mary Jane Schriner

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