Judy and Elena.

My Sweet 16 Party – Elena is behind me.

In my recent odyssey of reconnecting, I would love to see Elena again. I really want to know what she has done in the last thirty years. Her admission of frailty and pain in her letter (at the end of this post) was heartbreaking. She was only about twenty years old when she wrote to me, because I remember her birthday was one day different than mine. That was so young to have suffered so much!


Dec. 15, 1976

You know I’ve always wanted to keep a diary. But I guess the thought of it scares me away, so this lined paper will just have to do. I really think that it’s neat to look back at the things you write, like you’re doing now. I really like writing, but I wish that I had the time.

Gosh, I feel like crying. I think I’ll take a shower, but I need to type some music. I love guitar! So much!! And I love harmony and especially Elena and life. It’s just so damn beautiful. It probably wouldn’t be that way if I weren’t so lucky. Look at Joni. She reeks of cigarette smoke and sadness. I feel so sad for her.

You know, I should do this more often. Even if I write only a paragraph! I regret not doing this before. So much has happened to me. Already I feel better, and it will be neat reading this again.

Jan. 9, 1976

Well, I think it’s over (I had broken up with a boyfriend). So what? I’m just so sick of it all that I don’t want to think about it. I’ll change the subject to my great friend, Elena. Today, she was very upset about life, isn’t everybody? Joni and her – I could be upset with it now, but you can’t be upset at life. It’s not to blame – I love it. No, I don’t love my boyfriend, I love life and that is more important to me. I wouldn’t love life as much if I was only with one boyfriend! Tonight I’ll just go out with my friends and probably enjoy myself more.

Mar. 30, 1976

I guess I’ve been avoiding it. Either it doesn’t bother me or else it hurts so much I’m trying not to think about it. It’s as if I didn’t even know Elena. You know I can almost forget things, but no – because if anyone asks me to play I’ll just say, “OK” but it sounds so much better with violin and harmony and Elena but I don’t know Elena anymore or she doesn’t know me. I’m the same but I’ll try to forget what she’s like now. You see, even if she comes to her senses, I could never be friends with her because she has a cruel streak and if some guy came along or she had lots of friends she’d dump me for a while.

You’ll meet other friends. And I’ll try to find ones that aren’t as snobbish, mean, and selfish as she was. No, I don’t feel sorry for her. At least this shows that I had a good girlfriend for a while and I’ll find another one.

I think I miss the music more than her really. I guess that’s all we really had in common. But so what? We enjoyed each other’s company. How much more can I say? There really are more important things. Please, Judy, don’t get too friendly. It will hurt. It’s 10:01 and my parents aren’t home yet. I wish I could love a guy like that. Eventually, I will.

Apr. 16, 1976

It’s sort of late, but when I’m in the mood to write, I should. I’m listening to some mellow music and that makes me feel like writing something sad. I think I’m getting over Elena. The only time it hurts is when I think of old times and when I figure out something musically to show her. But I can’t. Last week I sent her a long, long letter. I don’t know why. I have to see her on Tuesday in P.E. She’s going to have to move out of the locker.

May 21, 1976

The field trip on Wednesday sure was dull. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I didn’t have to look at her. She was sitting near me yesterday. Why did I cry last night? I guess it’s hard to lose something and not ever get it back. All I’ve got are memories and when I think of them it gets to me. But, enough of a paragraph to her.

Please, get over her already.

Jun. 11, 1976

When my boyfriend called yesterday, I think that I talked too much about Her. I don’t think I’ll capitalize her anymore because that makes it like a God. Anyway, I picked up the yearbook yesterday. It’s fun to get signatures. I got hers. Sometimes, I think I’m a masochist. One day, I’ll find a friend who can laugh with me like she did and be happy inside.

Aug. 20, 1976

I’m looking forward to the vacation with Joni. That way I won’t have as much solitude where I dwell on depressing thoughts. Gosh, I feel so hollow and empty right now. You know, I feel just like my song . . .

Sep. 7, 1976

Right now I feel weird. Maybe it’s better to have one thing take the place of another in the mind. I’m worried that I’ve opened myself up to hurt again. Today was registration. I saw Her – Elena. It isn’t good not to talk to someone. Well, I said “Hi” and before you know it, it was like old times. We discussed old times and our mistakes. Have I forgotten the hurt so soon? Or was it necessary that I get hurt before so I could grow and learn? But I opened up too much again! Damn!! Well, we made plans to see each other before school. We couldn’t have made up with it fresh in our heads. But she’s a fun person to be with. Singing is okay and it’s not even that important. I like to sing by myself and I’ve learned to do without her. I guess it’s just good to start off school with someone on friendly terms.

Sep. 9, 1976

I sure wish I wasn’t such an open person. I say stupid personal things. Oh, well. Jude, are you foolish? My boyfriend called and made me feel like I’m a lesbian or something. Am I abnormal? I’m just scared right now and it makes me want to cry. When I talk to Elena, my mother glares at me. That upsets me, because she’s right. I went through HELL last year. Right into the depths of the most damnable, depression in my life. I cried a lot didn’t I? Why do people forget? No, why do I? Did I deserve to suffer as I did? I caused it, didn’t I – or was it the only thing I could do? I wish I could remember. Shit! Will you stop crying, Judy? It’s not so bad. How can one person be so painful?

I think I’m making something out of nothing. She cannot be a lifetime friend. Or one I can trust in. She’s just funny. I almost wish I could hurt her back.

I’m not going to confide in my mother anymore. I should just write down to you – “paper.” My mother can be right, but she can also be insensitive and very, very narrow-minded. Right now I’m crying just because I needed to talk to someone. Well she’ll feel privileged next time I confide in her! But why say that when I forget by morning?

I still have so much to tell Elena tomorrow night. But what can she understand about my hurt? I suppose if I wasn’t bitter in that letter – she might have come back as friends. But she knows of hurt – I’m sure she can understand what it is like to lose someone.

You know I say I’m not going to let myself get hurt again. But I’m hurting right now with apprehension. What can I do? I’m so vulnerable and I won’t stop myself from having the fun of a girlfriend like her. I guess the future will happen. And I will meet someone to take her place. But that will only be done with effort and time on my part – and I will devote to it. Judy, are you a fool? A lesbian, I’m not, but I feel strange. I sure wish she moved away or died . . .

Sep. 20, 1976

Oh, things have cleared with Elena. We know that any friendship would be impossible, so it’s somehow just casual. It’s the best way, and it’s good when you have a class together. She made me feel that I deserved what I felt. Maybe I did to some extent. But her only remorse was that she should have told me sooner. Well – that’s me. Anyway, I’ve been depressed.

Nov. 23, 1976

Oh! I had the best time at the choir party. I performed and did really well, even though I was nervous. I must have played guitar for hours – and sung my heart out. I was surprised that Elena showed up. Amélie was so happy after she performed (I accompanied). She told me she loved me. I love singing!!

Jan. 19, 1977

Well I found time to write. My problem is that most of the time I don’t, and when I do, I have so much to say that I can’t really put my intimate feelings down.

My choir love is still around. It’s hard to learn all the new music that is being assigned, but somehow I’m managing. I have decided not to invite Elena to the banquet. Sure, my performance suffers, but I have a feeling inside, that it’s time I stop catering and worrying about her. If she were so interested in choir, she would sign up. Anyway, next semester I really won’t even see her.

Mar.12, 1977

For almost the first time, a new friend has placed me on a pedestal, just as I did with Elena.

But . . .what is happening to my personality? Where is the spark and enthusiasm? Why do these things not make me happy anymore – I mean getting notes like that should make me cry. Why am I not rejoicing in the fact that for the first time in my life I can count my friends off both fingers on both hands? And I do go out with guys – I don’t even remember their names anymore. What do I want?

May 12, 1977

I love my music – so, so, much! Why must good things end? I have too much to look forward to, it will all hit me at once – and then it will all be over. I cry when I realize that what I’m living now is very soon to be only memory. Memories that fade slowly of choir, performing, and friendship.

And yet, don’t get me wrong, I still find time to get depressed. But, when you know that you can talk to someone who makes you feel really good, that helps. I know I’m normal (I have boyfriends) but I think I find more girls to love than guys.

Oct. 24, 1977

My life is a dream where I hope I never wake up.

Jan. 18, 1978

I love painting with watercolors. I would like to write a song – but I need some good lyrics. My life is happy and all my lyrics to my songs are sad. Most happy songs are about falling in love and not about going out with lots of guys.

Feb. 7, 1978

Anyway, life is busy. Is it real? I feel detached sometimes, like a wandering entity put to the test all the time. It’s kind of lonely, too, esp. when I spend my time cheering and pleasing other people all around me – who really have no idea what I’m really like. Very few people have ever come close. Parents can come to a certain point – where they know certain parts perfectly and never know others.

But, in the midst of my state, which I act upon well during the course of the day – I wonder if I’m feeling. Am I happy? I guess, if I’m smiling. Am I sad? I’m not crying, and smiling is my favorite habit next to eating and biting my nails.

Of course, in writing I never touch upon certain things. But I feel like I will tonight.

What really continues to keep me going like a light bulb, is my feelings about me. I’m satisfied (although I sometimes complain) very much with my looks and I love when I’m creative and much more. I love to think – I wish I could remember everything because I am so fortunate that my life is filled with so much. Let’s face it – I love myself enough where I don’t think about it. I’m just plain happy.

Life has so much to offer. To me, everything, everyday goes by as homogenous happiness. Friends, family, dates, everything comes my way, usually. But, I’m waiting for something that will make certain things more special – and I don’t mean only boyfriend love – it could be a deep friendship. You see, getting hurt is worth it.

Feb. 20, 1978

Yay! The audience clapped in unison with their vibrancy exuding upon the stage . . . the clapping continued . . .I nervously grinned and acted real cutesy. Then there was a hushed murmur as I played a romantic classical guitar piece that transported everyone in the room to that time . . .

And then it was over. As the last note of mellow vibrato faded from my instrument – the thunder arose. Not the thunder of noise – but of love and enthusiasm for my very soul pouring from my guitar . . . And I played more. I was devoured eagerly. The feelings were tremendous. Those same feelings accompanied me in the darkness. I continued playing songs that never end, only because everyone wanted me to continue . . .

These are memories I cherish dearly.

Apr. 3, 1978

Elena and I went out to Westwood on a double date. I’m glad that I cleared things up with Elena, though. A single statement eased my annoyance with her considerably. “I’m sorry that I ever hurt you, Judy” – it was her acknowledgment I had never really felt before. It’s okay, now.

May 16, 1978

Such wonderful things in my life! I have the opportunity to sing as if in the past – those feelings again – ebbing into my body – the warm breezes of summer, of old friends, old lovers, and old times. I have so much to look forward to! Concerts, love, new friendships, dances, parties – and so much! School will soon end – and with it, the beginning of experiences that will fill my life with many memories.

Jun. 25, 1980

Now for a final and last shock: I received a letter from Elena – yes, Elena if you can believe it. And now, strangely, four years later I receive an apology from her. Can you believe it? When I think of all the pain I went through – she was my world. And she was everything to me. I thought she didn’t care. And now I find out – she felt horrible without our friendship. She had cared all along without ever letting me know. How can I forgive her for that? If she had only let me know – maybe, even with my stubborn sensitivity we could have worked things out.

Crazily, sometimes I can even see myself . . . playing my own music emotionally on an outdoor stage – with people all gathered and sharing it with me – there’s harmony and beautiful background arrangements and when I sing out it’s correct just like the way I do it at my voice lessons.

Actually, the future that I really envision is one of holding Mike sleeping next to me, being together always, entertaining others in our apartment and going away for the weekend. Of being together, sharing silent looks of love most of the time, going for long walks at night under the stars and kissing passionately.

“HER LETTER” –  I never heard from her again

Dear Judy,

You cannot know how much I have longed for you. For a person whom is truly creative, who loves partnership – creating with other people. You are the original. There is no one like you. I have tried and tried to find a friendship that is as fun, creative, and productive as the one we used to share, but in vain! Not that we don’t share it anymore, but it is hard living so far apart from another person – we can’t do the things together we used to do. Certainly, my feelings for you have only grown. I have tried and tried to find a person that is as fun as you are that likes having fun as much as you do, but it is in vain. Or, perhaps, in fairness to the other people, they just don’t consider the same things fun. But remember the pita pizzas? How fun they were? And we both liked them to eat them and to make them (but especially to eat them!) And remember the artwork? How great it was that we created together and that we inspired each other?

You certainly inspired me in my artwork; you said that I inspired you in your music. What a special friendship! I have thought this so many times and was going to write it back in that long letter that I never wrote to your long letter. And it was so incredible that we could write together!

Even when I began to write, when I first became aware that I had a talent for writing, I used to yearn to write with the English teacher that sparked me, I used to wish we could create something together. Even as special as he was to me, or that relationship was to me, it lacked the creating together – we never created something together (instead I went home and sweated and worked for hours until I came out with something right) He was kind of my mentor, like your art teacher yours.

But it was never like it was between you and me. I’ve wanted to go home and see you so many times but I was kind of scared, because I thought perhaps you wouldn’t like me after mentioning all those special people in your letter, I thought maybe I wasn’t special to you in that you didn’t need me – something like that and then I thought that I might be cruelly hurt by the fact that you were getting married.

I broke up with my boyfriend and had a terrible, huge, terrible break-up and was sensitive for a long time about marriage. That’s what made me write to you the fact that I knew what you had gone through, and what I could do to put it right since I knew what I wanted my boyfriend to do! I also felt scared and guilty, because I hadn’t written back to you after you wrote that long letter.

It was a matter of health. Indeed, I barely got that first one to you, short as it was, because I was in such poor health that every little thing was an enormous effort for me. Even now that I am in better health, I seldom write back to the people I am close to here because it is so difficult to work my hand. My system is dreadfully fouled up. But I’m going to be O.K. I think, because God is going to restore me. I was given it as a promise, so I believe it!

But anyway, I felt bad and I knew how easily hurt you were. I thought that maybe you wouldn’t want to talk to me. But then I thought of you, and thought of you, and I couldn’t stop thinking of you and our friendship. I missed it, missed it so dreadfully. In the joyless days that seemed so endless to me, you would appear to me. You are the embodiment of fun, of enjoyment, of a zest for life, and I admire it so much. Not that I don’t have it. I do, otherwise we could not have shared so much. But sometimes I am so hard on myself that I block myself from doing things that I want to do. I end up enjoying myself less than most people.

But anyway, do you know what I miss? You, and your gigantic studio, filled with drawings. My eye is starved for beautiful things. You are so creative! I admire it so much. I’m so sorry I never wrote back after your letter, I cannot apologize enough! (And I’m sorry for how late this letter is.) But I have never run into problems of this sort before, of not being able to move my hand (Can you tell by my writing?) of my eyes burning and watering, of weakness throughout my body)

I would not be writing you this letter, if it not for the fact that I had an unusually good day, emotionally – lots of good people, good experiences, and a high after talking to God, (praying). So the inner joy in me can overcome the outer obstacles. My good feelings have given me enough energy to fortify me and to enable me to stand the discomfort of writing. But I am not used to feeling so bad physically!

Elena has burning eyes, and Elena has been perhaps permanently maimed by sorrow. Elena has a hard time dealing with not feeling physically great. God will restore me; I have only to wait. Sorry about my writing. I am so glad we are friends again; I was so glad to hear you happy on the phone. Well, I’d better go.

Love, Elena

Page 1 of 6 – Elena’s letter to me. Clicking on it makes it larger.

Page 1 of 4 – My letter returned to me (Undeliverable).

I am adding this part on to my post about Elena.

My story about my high school friend was simply about one of those adolescent experiences that forever shape you.

I discovered my love for the guitar and music around the time that I met Elena. She taught me how to harmonize and we spent many hours together creating harmonies for popular songs from that time. We both especially loved the harmonies by Simon and Garfunkel.

One day, I decided to write my own song. The name of my first song was entitled, “You’re Not the One.”

Elena, Anita, and me with my classical guitar.

Elena created a nice harmony for it, and we practiced it often. We were able to perform together for some volunteer events. The other girl in the picture above was in my high school choir; her name was Anita.

I wrote three more, original songs where Elena harmonized with me. I have the lyrics, but since I didn’t make any recordings, I cannot remember the melodies to those songs. After my friendship with Elena ended, I continued writing more songs.

One day, I hope I will find my friend who sang my very first song with me.

I shared my story about Elena with some of my other high school friends. I received this message, which was very sad.


It is nice to hear from you.  I read some of your blog entries, and I was especially moved by your pieces about Elena, who I remember as being a wonderful friend, extremely bright (perhaps a genius), immensely talented with a wicked sense of humor. She was also quite complex — a lot of brilliant people are — and she had every reason to be (which you alluded to in your writing). The last time I saw here was in the winter of 1983, in a small hotel in New Hampshire, in a snowstorm. We were both looking at East Coast graduate schools, and checking into the same motel at the same time. An amazing coincidence! A few hours later, I went down to her room and we talked very openly for quite a while. She confided in me that especially after her mother passed away (I remember when that happened), her father was physically abusive to her and her brothers. As successfully as she hid the bruises and marks as a child/ teenager, her wounds were ever so evident in her mannerisms, her speech, and her aura as a woman. This was truly sad. I often think of Elena…she is certainly one person I would love to track down. Have you ever heard from her?

Thank you for sharing your writing — yourself — with me.

A still taken from my sweet 16 birthday party – Elena is behind me.

© Judy Unger and http://www.myjourneysinsight.com 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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