The letters didn’t start out to be the life line that they had become. The idea was born out of desperation when the girls were dealt the blow of separation the summer before their senior year. It had been a dream come true for Bea to be able to stay in one place for so long. Her Dad had decided to exit the military and take a civilian job after WWII. He took a job at the local gas company. He had been there for three years when her parents decided to move back to New York at the end of the summer to be closer to family. The news sent both girls into a state of depression. They had just one summer to make memories that would last a lifetime. By now Robbie and Bea were going steady and Bea felt like she would be leaving half her heart in Alabama―dividing the best of herself between her best friend and her best guy.
They spent the summer soaking in the fleeting moments of their youth and their union. They vowed at the end of the summer to keep in touch. College was just one year away and they had plans to attend the same one. If that plan worked the letters shared over the next year would only serve to keep them connected until they could be together again on campus the next fall. With that the first letter was sent from Maggie to Bea on September 14, 1948.
Dear Bea, September 14, 1948
I cannot believe I am sitting in Miss French’s class without you! I miss you so much!!! I hope you like your new school. Remember, no matter how bad it gets, you and I will be back to best friends by August of next year. I am already getting my application together for Vanderbilt. I know we can both get in! By the way I saw your brother the other day. He said he was going to come up to see you all for Christmas. I thought maybe I could talk my folks into letting me go with him and seeing you for a couple of days. It’s a long shot, but a girl can dream, right? I still can’t believe he didn’t go with you all. I guess being on his own this past year gave him the confidence to think he could make it on his own. Anyway, tell your folks I said hi. Let me know what your new school is like, okay?
Best Friends Forever and Ever,
Nothing much to it, but it was the spark of something that they would keep on for decades to come. Even when they met up at Vanderbilt the following year. They shared a dorm and still left notes for each other. They spoke of the boys they liked, the classes they hated, and the functions they would attend. The three years seemed to fly by. After they graduated, they were hired on at Vanderbilt Hospital. Their adult life could begin! That first year after graduation was one they would never forget. Maggie and Bea were sharing an apartment and having the best time working and enjoying their grown-up lives when there was a knock at the door one sunny afternoon in May. Maggie answered the door and was shocked to see Robbie standing on the porch. She drew back, uncertain of how Bea would take this unannounced visit. Robbie and Bea had fallen apart in the middle of that first year that she moved back to New York. Many tear-stained letters came to Maggie’s mailbox over that winter. Bea had taken the breakup hard and was sure she was losing the love of her life. Since then, she had moved on and learned that love could come around more than once in a lifetime. She wasn’t currently seeing anyone, but Maggie wasn’t sure if this would be a good surprise.
Bea came around the corner to see who was at the door. She dropped the soda in her hand as she laid eyes on the boy-turned man who had stolen her heart. She fumbled around picking up the glass and slopping up the soda as she asked, “What are you doing here?”
He casually walked in wearing that same grin that always got to Bea. Maggie quietly slipped upstairs to give them privacy, but as she went to her bedroom she couldn’t help but hear his reply.
“I came to see you. I graduated college a couple of weeks ago and before I decide to call any one city my home, I thought I would stop in to see you. I wanted to find out if you were seeing anyone. I thought…maybe if you were free…well, you know, we could go get a bite to eat or something and…catch up.”
Maggie shut the door to her room and flopped on her bed. She had a lot of emotion flooding in at one time. She knew that Robbie still had a big piece of Bea’s heart. She wanted her to be happy, but she couldn’t stifle the feeling that her friendship would be threatened by this reunion. She grabbed a book and tried to get lost in the storyline, but soon there was a knock at her door. Bea popped her head in and told her that she was headed to the burger joint around the corner with Robbie. She didn’t invite Maggie to go along. She said she would see her later. Maggie knew this day would change everything at least a little. She saw Bea’s face when she saw Robbie standing in that doorway. A best friend could always see when the other was in love.
It seemed Robbie and Bea hadn’t lost a single day. They were as in love as they had been five years ago. By Christmas of that year they were engaged and planning a spring wedding. Robbie had taken a job as a journalist for the local paper just a few weeks after he came into town. It seemed that although her best friend would be moving out after the wedding, nothing much would change. They were still living in the same city.
April is a gorgeous month in Tennessee. The chapel was decorated by Mother Nature on the outside with the most fragrant cherry blossom trees anyone could imagine. The ceremony was simple and intimate. Only about 50 people were in attendance. All of Bea’s family had traveled in. Her oldest brother Charles and his wife and two children, and Jack still single and looking more handsome then Maggie had remembered. At the reception, Maggie found herself staring at Jack from across the banquet hall.
The last time she saw him was the week before she left for Vanderbilt. He was at Scoopie’s Ice Cream Parlor with a girl. She was pretty and the word around town was that they were pretty serious. Maggie remembered catching his eye that day. He looked at her a little longer than he should have since he was on a date. She would be lying if she said she had been disappointed. She had had a crush on Jack since she was in 4th grade, but between him was always going with some girl and being her best friend’s brother, Jack was always off limits in Maggie’s mind.
He caught her eye as she was glancing around the room while at the bar getting another Shirley Temple. He made his way over to her and his smile broadened when he realized she seemed pleased to see him too. He leaned against the bar and lightly touched her arm with his other hand.
“How have you been Maggs?” He said with a more familiar nickname than was warranted. She felt heat on her arm where his hand had been and butterflies in her stomach at his confidence in calling her Maggs. She was thankful that the glass in her hand was sweating as much as her palms were. She gripped both hands around it for a cooling effect.
“I’ve been good! How about you? I saw you didn’t bring a date…your girlfriend stay at home?” She was surprised by her own boldness. In her nervous state, she had lost a bit of her inner filter that would have labeled that question as presumptuous. But it was out there now, no taking it back. She stared down at her drink and stirred it nervously with her straw.
“I don’t have a girlfriend. Just living the bachelor’s life for now. Being single seems to fit my 60-hour work week and besides, if I had brought one, I wouldn’t be free to ask you to dance,” he said with the type of smooth tone that gives girls that light-headed feeling of being swept off their feet.
And it worked.
Maggie and Jack were inseparable the rest of the night. They danced till their feet hurt and talked until they had filled the gap of the last four years. She felt like she was living a dream. This boy of her childhood could easily become the man of her dreams.