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Lonely Woman Finds Sealed Letter from Her First Love Hidden in Pocket of Her Old School Jacket — Story of the Day

Preeti Pillai
Jul 13, 2022
04:00 P.M.

When Ruth found a touching letter from her high school sweetheart from decades ago, she burst into tears. She couldn't change the past, but what she did next was incredible.


"Home is where the heart is, Ruthie," her mother used to say.

The trouble was, 56-year-old Ruth didn't really know where her heart was. It had been that way for several years now.

She looked around the half-empty house. Every corner had a lifetime's worth of memories in her mind. And yet, it felt like the place had grown around her over the years. At the same time, it felt like she had been shrinking inside it.

This house had been Ruth's world for the last 31 years. This is where she began her life with Charles, her husband. This is where they raised their two precious boys, Harry and Mitchell. The walls bore witness to Mitchell's early inclination to art, and Harry's towering height, something he inherited from her.

The walls bore testimony to the different milestones of Ruth's family life. | Source: Getty Images

The walls bore testimony to the different milestones of Ruth's family life. | Source: Getty Images


The backyard, once rich with berries, had been neglected for the past few years. Ruth still remembered the last breakfast that the family shared there. The laughter from around that rusty old patio still echoed in her heart. But somehow, the echoes had now grown distant.

After she lost Charles to cancer seven years ago, it had gradually become easier for her to detach from that beautiful house. The boys had settled down, and she was a grandmother now.

It was nice to be needed now and then, but Ruth knew in her heart that she had to make a change.

That is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why she agreed to Harry's suggestion of moving into a retirement home. Maplewood Senior Living looked luxurious, with spacious rooms, facilities tending to every little need, and a large open area just for gardening.

But even in that picture-perfect future, Ruth knew something was missing. She couldn't explain this feeling, so she didn't share it with anyone.

'Tomorrow!' she thought. 'Tomorrow is a bright new beginning.' And while most of the packing and shipping was done, Ruth had kept one thing for last. She looked at the big box on the kitchen counter, waiting to be opened. It was time.

Ruth was about to open the big box of memories one last time. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth was about to open the big box of memories one last time. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth walked up to the kitchen and propped herself next to the box.

Even before unpacking it, she remembered everything in there and precisely how everything was arranged. And yet, she gasped in awe and nostalgia over each of them.

There was a box of medals she had earned for running track and winning debates in her school years. She leaned over and read the inscriptions on those medals, all 67 of them. Each one was spotless. Each one tugged at a different memory from those forgotten years.

Then there was a collection of cassette tapes, her most prized possession as an angsty adolescent. That music got her through some rough times of being bullied, struggling to belong, and splitting up with friends. It also became the soundtrack of her first high school romance. William, or Billy, as she called him.


Ruth and William met on the running track at Yellow Springs High School. Ruth was in grade 11 when everybody was talking about this "new brown-eyed boy with the fancy sneakers" who had transferred from a school in California.

Ruth didn't care enough about this new student until she saw him running track one day. As she watched him sprint fiercely with such ease, his perfectly groomed hair bouncing up and down and his neon orange and green sneakers chasing each other, she was instantly intimidated.

Ruth noticed that William appeared to be a fantastic athlete. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth noticed that William appeared to be a fantastic athlete. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth had been the undefeated running champion of the school for the last two years, and this was the first time she feared losing her shot at the scholarship she desired.

But over the next few weeks, William broke every inhibition Ruth had about him. The new star sprinter was a shy, chivalrous introvert who shared a lot in common with her. He wasn't threatened by her. Instead, he celebrated her and asked if he could train with her. He cheered for her victories and laughed at her hilariously poor attempts at singing or playing the drums.


And Ruth was the first person he went to when he needed to catch up on academics. Unlike everyone else at school, he treated her like a friend, not a prodigy.

Ruth and William became confidants of each other. They didn't know when, but somewhere between the running track and the classroom, they fell in love.

As these memories began to take over, Ruth couldn't help but close her eyes. She could sense the air on the school ground, the track under her shoes. And she could feel William running right next to her. The moment Ruth would surpass him and win a race, William would pull the scrunchie off her hair, undoing her hair bun. Holding the scrunchie up, he would dramatically declare to the spectators, "Look, I won!"

Over the following year, he ended up losing quite a few races to her, and she ended up losing quite a few scrunchies to him.

Ruth and William went from being fierce competitors on the track to close friends in life. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth and William went from being fierce competitors on the track to close friends in life. | Source: Getty Images


But their innocent love story would soon come to an end. Towards the end of high school, William received a scholarship at a prestigious college in California, while Ruth received it in Connecticut.

The two knew they couldn't ask each other to give up their dream college. And while they could have tried to keep their relationship alive through the long distance, neither Ruth nor William dared to risk getting cold, distant, and heartbroken.

They never said it to each other, but on prom night, when they saw each other for the very last time, they knew it was goodbye.

That was decades ago, yet Ruth could vividly remember the last teary-eyed hug with William. That night, she had managed to sneak William's boutonniere away without him noticing.

There it was, safely wrapped and preserved in the box.

And then, under all of it, was her famous leather jacket. William had bought Ruth the jacket on her birthday back then. And even though she wore it every other day in high school, the last time Ruth wore the jacket was on prom night, as William walked her home.

Ruth found the leather jacket that William had gifted her on her birthday. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth found the leather jacket that William had gifted her on her birthday. | Source: Getty Images


Remembering that night, Ruth now picked up the jacket and took a long glance at it. 'Should I try it on?'

She knew it wasn't going to fit her. But she also knew that she would probably give it away the following day with the other pile of old clothes.

'One last time,' she thought and tried the jacket on.

With a bit of struggle, she could somewhat fit into the beautiful vintage piece. Posing in front of the mirror, she looked at the jacket sitting on her from every angle. She remembered how William would often wrap his arm around her and put his hand in the jacket's right pocket as they walked.

Instinctively, she slid her hand into the pocket. And to her surprise, she felt something in there. It turned out to be an envelope with her name on it. She recognized the handwriting. It was William's!

"My dearest Ruthie,

I know we promised to part with a smile on our faces. I know we don't know what the future holds. But the way we hugged tonight, my heart refuses to believe that this is goodbye forever. This doesn't feel like an end. Maybe it doesn't have to be.

So please, my darling, write to me. And I'll write back to you. I'm not letting you go yet. Here's my address: 443, Antelope St, Sacramento, CA - 5843.


I love you. You will always be the wind beneath my wings, my Ruthie!

Only yours, Billy"

Ruth discovered a sweet note that William wrote to her years ago. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth discovered a sweet note that William wrote to her years ago. | Source: Getty Images

A tear rolled down onto that sweet name. As she folded that letter back, Ruth felt a strange sense of loss. If only she had worn her jacket again instead of keeping it wrapped and boxed up! She couldn't help but imagine every possible way her life would have been different if she and William had made it together.

But all of that imagination was pointless. In reality, Ruth did meet a lovely young man who loved her; she did build a family with him. And she wouldn't trade any of that for what her future might have been with William. 'What a futile thought experiment!' she thought.


'What could be the purpose of me discovering this note now, after all these years?'

As she turned the kitchen lights off and retired to her bedroom, she kept looking for answers to those questions.

She thought again of the new retirement community she would move to. She tried to visualize her life there. She tried to imagine every positive aspect of that place. But now, all she could see was William's teary eyes. All she could think of was how he would have waited to hear from her.

'Who knows how long he hoped for my response? And how heartbroken would he have been, thinking I did not want to be with him anymore?'

At that moment, Ruth knew she had to try to reach him. She had to tell him the truth. William should know she loved and longed for him just as much!

She thought of trying to find William online. She could probably also ask for Harry's or Mitchell's help. But then, she had a better idea.

The old letter led to a series of thoughts and questions in Ruth's mind. | Source: Getty Images

The old letter led to a series of thoughts and questions in Ruth's mind. | Source: Getty Images


The next day, she was on the first flight to Sacramento. Her sons were angry with her impulsive decision, but knowing their mother as a soft, accommodating woman, they were more worried about her than angry. She hadn't carried much with her: just a few clothes, toiletries, and the letter.

As the taxi drove her to the address, Ruth tried to picture how William's life must have progressed there.

And when the taxi finally dropped her in front of 443 Antelope St, she froze for a second. Picturing William's smile in her head for the 100th time, she gathered the courage to walk up to the charming house and ring the bell.

A faint old woman answered the door. "Yes?"

Ruth wasn't expecting a woman, but she soldiered on and said, "I'm sorry, but is this where a Mr. William R. McCulkin lives?"

The old woman seemed a bit alarmed to hear the name. She came closer and squinted her eyes to take a better look at Ruth. She stood there, staring, for a few uncomfortable seconds. And suddenly, the wrinkles on her face morphed into a big, hearty smile.


Now Ruth was confused. She took another look at the woman. And though there was something very familiar about her smile, Ruth still didn't seem to recognize her.


"Oh, for goodness sake! Do you recognize me already, or do you need me to grab my cheerleading outfit from school?"

A light switch went on in Ruth's mind. "Doris! My god, it's you!"

Ruth unexpectedly met one of her old friends from high school, Doris. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth unexpectedly met one of her old friends from high school, Doris. | Source: Getty Images

After a hearty hug, the two former classmates sat down for a cup of coffee. During the conversation, Doris spoke about William's life after his scholarship.

"Yeah, he loved you. His Princeton years were quite lonely. He then got a job and helped me get a job in the same company. You know him, as charming and kind as ever.

"But his career soon took off. He met his wife Patricia, who was a paralegal right here in Sacramento. They had two children and went on to have two houses and a very comfortable life.


"Now the kids have their own bigshot careers, But sadly, Patricia passed away about eight years ago. She met with a tragic accident. William was devastated, and he just withdrew. He quit his job, gave away his things, sold his house to me, and moved away from the life he knew."

Ruth could feel William's pain in her own heart. "Where is Billy now?"

Before giving any information away, Doris was curious to know, "Why do you want to know about him anyway?"

Ruth finally opened up to Doris about the letter she had discovered and how she just wanted to meet him once and apologize for never writing back.

Moved by Ruth's plight, Doris wiped her tears, sprung up in her seat, and told Ruth:

"Get up. We're going to meet him."

Ruth was shocked by the urgency in Doris' voice. "Right now?"

Doris stared into her eyes and replied, "Haven't you waited enough?"

Persuaded by Doris, Ruth agreed to visit William. | Source: Getty Images

Persuaded by Doris, Ruth agreed to visit William. | Source: Getty Images


The two women set out to visit their old schoolmate. Everything was moving so quickly. Soon, she would be face-to-face with the man she once loved. Her heart skipped a beat.

After a 30-minute drive, they finally stopped outside a gorgeous two-storeyed house with a vast garden spread before it.

Ruth spotted an older-looking man with well-groomed hair watering plants in a corner. It was him!


The old man stopped, and even before he turned around, he said, "Ruthie?"

Fighting back her tears of happiness, Ruth said, "I found your letter…yesterday."


"I'm so sorry, Billy. Doris here told me all about you. I was...I found your letter only yesterday. I'm so sorry my jacket had been…."

Billy interrupted her nervous, emotional rant with a big hug.

"Ruthie, You're here," William smiled.

"Yes, I am." Ruth cried and let their reunion sink in.


The rest of the evening was emotional. The two former sweethearts just sat on the porch, revisiting memories, holding hands, and sharing the ups and downs of their lives with each other.

Ruth and William were lost in conversation throughout the day. | Source: Getty Images

Ruth and William were lost in conversation throughout the day. | Source: Getty Images

This had been the happiest that Ruth had been for years. She got her confidant back, and he could still wipe her tears one minute and make her laugh the next.

Secretly, Ruth wished that the evening would never end, or that she could stay with him forever. But Ruth knew that she had probably hurt William too much already. She didn't know if she stood a chance with him again. The thought of her children crossed her mind, and with a heavy heart, she got up to leave.

"Wait, I want to show you something," William said. He guided her to the basement of the house. And behind a wall of books and mementos was a stack of big brown boxes.


William brought out the box and said, "I've got boxes of our memories, too. And I want to open each of them with you. Maybe over two days. Or maybe little by little, over the rest of our lives. Either way, please stay." William said, holding Ruth's palms between his.

Ruth tried to pause for a moment before saying 'yes.' She walked back into his arms, and her heart was whole with a strange feeling.

For the very first time in years, she felt like she was home.

What can we learn from this story?

  • Cherish your memories from time to time. The past may not have been perfect, but you can always choose to revisit the beautiful parts. Ruth could only reunite with William because she decided to revisit the old forgotten box.
  • Find a way to stay in touch with those you love. If you've lost touch with an old friend or loved one, try to rekindle that friendship. You never know who might need your love and compassion in their lives right now.

Share this story with your friends. It might inspire them and brighten their day.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a woman who gets a call from her first love 28 years after they parted.

This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone’s life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to info@amomama.com.

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