Lynne by John L.  Neel

Every young man has crushes and girlfriends growing up.  These girls come and they go, but some stay with you forever, fragrant memories of youth and young love.

I've had two great loves in my life.  This is about the first, the young girl, long gone from this world, who still occupies a small piece of this old man's heart. 

I met Sylvia Lynne in geometry class in my sophomore year at Woodlawn High School in Birmingham.  It was 1968, a tumultuous year in America, Vietnam was in full swing, the Civil Rights movement was changing a racist Birmingham forever, and I was taking another math course.

Freshman algebra had not been a friend to me.  Mathematics in general had never been my forte.  It had become vividly clear that I had zero study skills, even less discipline, and that my dream of becoming a doctor was just that, a fanciful dream.  I sat in the back of the class, hoping Mrs. Godwin would never call on me.

From this vantage point, I could watch the girl, two seats from the front in the third row.  She was the teacher's pet, fantastically gorgeous, and extremely intelligent.  I'm certain that I paid more attention to her than to anything Ms. Godwin had to say.

As the semester progressed, I would find little ways of speaking to the girl, a good morning here, a can I borrow a pencil there, or just trying to say something that didn't make me look like the abysmal dunce I was thought to be.  She was always sweet, constantly happy, and with a smile that, to me, outshone the sun.  She had amazing green eyes the shade of emeralds, whose color I have never since seen anything like.

Slowly, I began to change seats with people, moving closer to the front and more centered on the class, closer to the pretty girl, living dangerously with Ms.  Godwin.  Before long I was sitting in the second row, two seats back, directly to her right.  Now, I was able to talk to her before and after class, and we talked a lot.

Finally getting up the courage to ask her out, I posed the question after class, sometime in January.  Yes, It took me five months.  Though I expected to be shut down, she said, simply, "t took you long enough to ask; Sure."

I remember this very well but my memory of our dating has become sketchy.  This is why everyone should always keep a Journal.

What I remember:

She lived in Crestwood, in a little white house at 617 56th Street South, with an "S" on the front screen door.

We talked on the phone for hours, every night, about what, I don't remember, but we soon had one code word, "Errrr," which meant, "I Love You." We had pet names for each other, which, by today's standards, are completely inappropriate.  I will not list them here for that reason and because they are still just between us.

She was Baptist and I was Methodist.  We attended services together at each other's churches, my 67th Street Methodist and her Crestway Baptist on Crestwood Boulevard.

When we first began dating, we double-dated with other people, Carey Martin and his girlfriend, Roy Ledbetter and his dates, and, once-or-twice, my Brother Jim and his girlfriend Linda (could have been Melody).

We went to school functions together, games, pep-rallies, shows, and such.  After these events, we went along as all of our friends converged on Shoney's.  She taught me to eat onion rings with salt and catsup.  I still eat them that way.

She had the softest lips.

I remember her wearing White Shoulders perfume.  It remains my favorite.

We were in junior chorus together.  She was accepted into the Girl's Glee Club (GGC) at the same time I was accepted into the Warbler's Club, in 1969.

I don't remember why we broke up.  I think it had to do with my friendship with another girl, but I can say, without a doubt, there was NO other girl for me but Lynne at that time.  I do remember taking her hand one day between classed and dragging her away from her new boyfriend, “to talk.” I made her cry.  I hate this memory.

In my junior year, the Warblers put on a "Farewell Hobo Show."  While Lynn and I weren't dating at the time, we had always talked about going to the Thursday night show, Opening Night, together, and I promised that I would take her.  A week before the event, I approached her to confirm this date and she said she already had plans.  I realized that I was late and that this was not her fault, but it hurt.  I thought this date might be a chance for us to get back together.

The Summer after our Junior year, the GGC and the Warblers took separate trips to Ft.  Walton Florida.  I went along, but stayed to myself most of the time, attended a few house parties, but mostly living on the beach.  The last night, she and I ran into each other walking along the beach.  We walked and talked for hours, taking a break in a little beach pavilion.  We kissed but she was seeing someone to whom she was going back.

Throughout our Senior year, I had feelings for her but never asked her out.  She went out with a couple of my friends, once on a triple date with Carey, putting her between Carey and me in front and my date in the backseat of Carey's Delta 88, with the other couple.

A week before I got married, the first time, I went to see her.  I needed to convince myself that I was doing the right thing.  I kissed her and knew I was not.  I married the other girl anyway and it was a huge mistake.

She married a professor from her college, gave him a beautiful daughter, became a professor and college administrator, the First Lady of the city when her husband became Mayor, a loving Grandmother and a published author.

She didn't attend our first two reunions but she and her husband came to our thirtieth.  We wrote back and forth before and I think we were both looking forward to seeing each other.  The night was fun, we sat at a table with all of our old friends and caught up.  She and I, with permission from Jerry, her husband, danced a few times.  Though the girl was gone, her eyes were just as green as ever.  On our last dance, she kissed me, to "see if it is like I remember." It was for me.

I made contact with her again by mail a few years later and received one reply.  In this letter, she told me that her breast cancer had returned, but said little more.  I fired off a quick letter asking "what does this mean?" hoping she'd talk to me about it and tell me about her next steps.

She never returned my letter.  I found out about her death about three months afterward. 

I went to visit her in May of 2013.  I couldn't believe I was standing at her gravesite.  We had a good talk.

Throughout my high school years, I kept a box with all of the notes we passed  between classes, keep-sakes, tickets, and the memories of those years.  I threw it all away after high school.  It was an incredibly stupid thing to do.

All I have left of her is the note she wrote in my Sophomore Woodlog, the taste of good onion rings with salt and catsup, and the occasional smell of White Shoulders.

I wish I could remember more.

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