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Repurposing an old boyfriend

June 29, 2020


The author and her, now-editor Rick, pose for their Junior Prom picture in 1968

How many of you remember the Y2K scare or 9/11? It's hard to imagine some adults weren't here for either. How about looking back 50 years? Who remembers watching Neil Armstrong on a black-and-white TV screen as he took "a giant leap for mankind"? I do. 

In 1968 I lived in Lawrenceville, N.J., where every day I walked from our rented two-story Colonial, carrying my books in my arms (no backpacks then) to high school. It was during that happy time after nuclear-blast drills and before active-shooter drills. I usually wore a mini-skirt or jumper I had created with my Singer sewing machine, using the skills I'd learned in Home Economics. 

Although I was not one to break too many rules, the day they took 1969 yearbook photos, I photobombed as many clubs as possible. I did enjoy Folk Singing even if I never actually joined the club. Fifty years later, there is my smiling face among the members of that club, plus Gymnastics and Equestrian club photos. Sorry, Equestrians, yours was the one club I would have liked to join.  

Future Farmers of America? Nope, I didn't even bother photobombing it. My 18-year-old self never pictured being a farmer. No, back then, I wanted to be a social worker or maybe a teacher; even though an aptitude test recommended physical therapist. I loved horses (then and now) but never thought that would morph into a desire to raise cattle. 

I still see my classmates as teenagers. As I compare the 1969 yearbook photos with the elderly "now" pictures some have posted on our online reunion page, it's hard to recognize anyone through 50 years of wrinkles and sags. Faces may be hard to place, but I do remember the 1969 Homecoming game (where we lost 69 to 0 – I kid you not). I remember when the flamingos my sister put on our lawn disappeared, taken by who-knows. I remember my prom date trying to pin on my corsage without being too handsy. It all seems like yesterday.

How can memories help a 67-year-old farmer? One memory of a classmate did. Rick was my boyfriend for a just few months in 1968, but when I left for summer camp in Colorado, he wrote me daily – sweet letters that I still have. You could say "our song" was "See You in September." That's when I dumped him. (I had my reasons.)

On the strength of those old letters, I messaged him on Facebook, asking if he's the guy I knew in Lawrence High. Three days later, he wrote, "Yes, this is that guy, and are you the girl who broke my heart?"

After some messaging, then phone conversations, I discovered not only that Rick was a retired newspaper editor living in New Jersey who had published two books and hundreds of monthly columns about raising his three daughters.

Writing isn't hard for me – editing is. An editor can catch redundancies, contradictions in logic, and jumps in chronology. My husband-editor Bruce was getting tired of reading my work, and I needed a critic, not a spouse, to keep my wandering prose from doing exactly that - wandering.

Rick is now my paid farm-story editor. I send him this weekly column and other bits requiring editing. Each week he tears into my writing (he may still be a little angry), sometimes causing me to shout at the wall or cry into my ice cream. After each tantrum, I either accept or revise his changes and you, dear reader, get to enjoy a better-structured piece. 

Thanks to social media, it's easy to reconnect with old friends. But, in most cases, after the basic catching-up is done, there's nothing more to say, and the friendship goes back into hibernation. But Rick and I have been collaborating for two years - longer than the two months we dated in High School. A relationship that had been mostly based on teen hormones has been replaced by a shared enthusiasm for writing. Even though I dumped him '68, half a century later, he has become my "Mr. Write."

Carole Soule

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