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Valentine’s Day Message in a Bottle Leads to Year Long Quest for Authors

Here’s the beautiful, romantic message in a bottle I found in 2007. This greeting of peace and love was sent by Ed and Carol Meyers on their first wedding anniversary, which was Valentine’s Day, 1999. You may recall that the brown smudges on the message are the remains of their wedding cake – they had saved a piece of it for their first anniversary, and included some in their Valentine’s Day message in a bottle!

Ed and Carol's Valentine's Day Message in a Bottle

Ed and Carol’s Message in a Bottle, sent on Valentine’s Day, 1999. I found it in 2007.

I googled the names I found on the message, Ed and Carol Meyers, and found nothing.  I searched the Fredericksburg white pages; nothing. I even emailed the resort whose stationary they used for the message, but never heard back.

The Sanderling Inn Resort, where Ed and Carol Meyers launched their Valentine's Day message in a bottle in 1999.

The Sanderling Inn Resort, where Ed and Carol Meyers launched their Valentine’s Day message in a bottle in 1999.

Finally one day in 2008, over a year after I found their message, I took my dad’s advice and contacted a newspaper in Fredericksburg, VA. Cathy Dyson, a reporter at the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star, ran a story called “Beach Find Launches Quest”.

Cathy Dyson's article, "Beach Find Launches Quest," for the Fredericksburg Freelance Star.

Cathy Dyson’s 2008 article, “Beach Find Launches Quest,” for the Fredericksburg Freelance Star was vital to helping me connect with Ed and Carol Meyers.

The day the story ran, I was woken by a call from a woman named Amy who knew the Meyers. She gave me recent contact info for them—but not recent enough, it seems, because it didn’t lead me to them.

All day, my phone was buzzing in my pocket with more messages from people—total strangers—trying to help or just wishing me luck, but I couldn’t answer, because I was at work.  I was a deckhand on Wendella tour boats in Chicago at the time.

Clint Buffington as Deckhand on Wendella Boats in Chicago.

Clint Buffington as deckhand on Wendella Boats in Chicago, 2008.

A Long-Awaited Reply

That night, however, when I got home, there was an email in my inbox from Carol Meyers, titled “Pssst … you found our greeting of peace, love and happiness”.  She wrote,

Hi Clint,

A friend called us about today’s Freelance Star article and your amazing find. I’m Carol Meyers, and I live in Washington, D.C., with my husband Ed. Yep, we’re the couple who set the bottle adrift off the shores of the Outer Banks in 1999…

Send us a note; bottle optional.
Carol and Ed Meyers

There they were! Real people! Still alive! It may have taken a year, but I finally found them. And they were still together! Love love love…

After we made contact, Cathy Dyson wrote a follow-up story called “Tide Washes Up Blissful Memories” to celebrate the connection.

We emailed each other now and then as another year passed. I worked all winter as a bartender at Blue Sky Winery on the Southern Illinois Wine Trail, scraping together tip money.  Eventually, I was able to buy an Amtrak Rail Pass so I could travel to DC, and I scheduled my trip for May.

A Journey By Train and a Crosswalk Reunion

The ride out to DC from Chicago was beautiful!  The views from the train were stunning, and it is my sincere hope that we will make High Speed Rail a reality in this country so more people can travel this way.

DC was…less stunning, at first.  The hostel I stayed in had bedbugs (I woke up with a juicy one crawling on me). My “room”  was separated from the next “room” by a threadbare pink sheet tacked up in the corners over a gaping hole in the wall—perhaps an old doorway? That “room” was occupied by woman whose snoring sounded like amateur Tuvan Throat Singing. I didn’t sleep much.

After a night in that hostel, I was dying to meet Ed and Carol. The next evening, I made my way to DuPont circle, where we had agreed to meet. Finding Ed and Carol in the throngs of people leaving work was a lot like finding their bottle amid the thousands of other bottles on the beach—it happened just as suddenly.

I stood at a crosswalk; a walk light blinked on; a throng of dark-clothed people, many wearing suits, exploded into the crosswalk, everyone racing home or to restaurants. I peered into the oncoming tide of strangers, looking for someone who looked like they were looking for me…

Suddenly, there was a bright pink flash of hair and a smile, and just like that, Carol simply appeared in the crowd as Ed materialized beside her. Man, was I nervous! Ed and I shook hands; Carol hugged me.

Valentine’s Day Wedding Led to Valentine’s Day Message in a Bottle

Ed and Carol took me to an Asian diner, and we just talked!  It was great—you can see from Carol’s website that she is a thoughtful, kind person. She was exactly the kind of person I had always hoped I would be connected with if I were ever lucky enough to find a message in a bottle!

Meanwhile Ed has a quiet intensity about him, and he’s downright funny. He has that deadpan delivery that just kills you. Your brain sparks and fizzles as you try to figure out, in the moment, whether he is pulling your leg (which, of course, he is!).


Ed, Carol, and me. Check out Carol’s awesome pink highlights! That’s how I found her in the crowded crosswalk.

“We brought something,” Carol said while we waited for our food, “it’s our wedding album!”

From their cake-smeared message, I knew Ed and Carol married in 1998.  Flicking through these wedding photos with narration from Carol was what I imagine the experience of amnesiacs to be like: I felt we had always been friends but I couldn’t remember these events—like I had been at the wedding, and they were now hoping to jog my memory.

“Our wedding was a blast!”  she told me.  “We married in an old, small Unitarian Church on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg,” she went on. “We walked five blocks to the reception, which we hosted in an art gallery occupying a cool loft space.”

Walking to the reception–Carol calls this one “Abbey Road”

At the reception, Carol said, there was “a fabulous old school juke box with songs of the mid-90s—think Smashing Pumpkins!”.

Check out that juke box!

There was dancing, and—as there is at every wedding—there was drama.  Ed, who had been mostly quiet while we flicked through the wedding album, caught sight of the Bible they had used in the ceremony and planted his finger on the photo with the Bible in it.

“Let me tell you about this Bible,” he said.  Carol gave him a “don’t you dare” kind of look, which I knew was my cue to encourage him.  “To make a long story short,” he said, “A family member of Carol’s wanted to know where we got our Bible from.”

Carol interrupted him, “It was a gift to Ed after one of his parents had died—”

“Yeah,” Ed went on, “and this person wanted to know where it came from, because–they said–some Bibles are printed on the same presses where pornography is run off!  Geez, I thought, ‘Whose wedding is this, anyway?’”

But one glance at these photos told me that no drama was going to spoil their big day. Carol and Ed are both red-faced and vibrant in each picture.  See them, as they blush and burst from the chapel doors, hand in hand, laughing their way into their future together.


Throughout the night, we made more discoveries: we figured out, for example, that Ed and my dad were in Vietnam at the same time–both were drafted, and actually they were in many of the same places.

When we stepped out into the street, it was dark, windy, and spitting rain, some time past midnight.  Everything was a whirl of wind, wine, and laughter as a cab pulled up to the curb beside us. When I got in, Carol thrust her hand through the driver’s open window and handed the man a twenty dollar bill. I couldn’t believe it!

“Take him wherever he needs to go!” she shouted through the rain at the driver.

As the cab took off, I flung my hand out the window and held it up high as the Meyers waved, until I saw them turn into the rain and cross the dark road through the same cross walk where we had first locked eyes.

We Meet Again! Message in a Bottle Leads to Lasting Friendship

Once, I asked Carol: why?  Why did they send this message in a bottle?

“What compelled us to toss the bottle into the ocean?” she responded, “It was a spontaneous gesture really. But I suppose romance—of the sea and of sharing our love.  Seemed like a way to honor our happiness and offer our wish that others might experience it as well.  Ed and I walked into the surf together, hand in hand, and tossed the bottle.  Honestly, I expected it to surface 20 yards down the shore.  What an adventure it ended up taking.”

Ed and Carol Meyers sending their Valentine's Day message in a bottle in 1999.

Actual documentary footage of Ed and Carol tossing their Valentine’s Day message in a bottle.

And then, out of the blue one day last summer, I received a package from Carol.  Inside was a T-shirt, a few pictures, and a note:

Clint, Imagine our surprise recently when we learned the Church where we wed had been converted! Eileen’s is a beautiful bakery. Most fun is the tee shirt (the back especially) Hope it fits. Enjoy! Carol

The back of the shirt Carol sent me. Eileen’s!

In this 1998 photo from their wedding, there are a few men standing outside the entrance to the church, all looking in one direction as if something important is approaching:

The Unitarian Church where Ed and Carol were married.

In the second photo, there’s the same church with “Eileen’s Bakery and Café” lettered above the doorway and windows:

Ed and Carol’s wedding spot…now a bakery!

When I received Carol’s package, I didn’t know that I would be returning to DC soon. But, in February, 2011, I traveled to DC again.  This time I went for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference on behalf of Limestone, the literary journal I co-edited at the time with John Barbour.

One night I had some free time, so I contacted Carol, and we made plans to meet in DC’s Adams Morgan neighborhood for dinner at a great Mexican restaurant called Lauriol Plaza. The food was fantastic, and the waiter took our picture. Carol told me about her trip to India, and informed me of a new project of hers that was inspired by our message in a bottle experience. We talked about the writing conference, and just caught up on life. You know, like real friends!

Walking back to my hotel, I wondered how long it would be before I would see Ed and Carol again…


Ed, me, and Carol at Lauriol Plaza in DC, February 2011

Thanks to Carol for all the wedding photos!

(If you missed the first part of this story, click here to read it)