I mentioned on facebook missing by a day one of my favorite letters from Letters Home, the February 17, 1945 entry. Again, I’ll sound silly if I start calling out favorites, because I love them all, but this one stands out for three reasons. One is the line in the title of this post, which is a line that might not have the same potency in a work of fiction but keeping in mind these letters were their sole means of communication and that he was truly just talking to her makes the line so sincere and more poignant.
He’s attempting to convince her to stay with his parents while he’s gone, because she’s pregnant and he wants to be sure someone’s looking out for her, but the second thing that stands out to me, which recurs in the letters, is that he thinks of her as a decision maker. After presenting his argument, he writes: “The decision is, as always, up to you.” That might sound terrible to admire that, what we would think of now as obvious, but for that time, his attitude was pretty progressive. Probably not as unusual as we might think but also not typical, for that time.
As he’s presenting his case, he imagines her feeling resentful of help from his parents, and points out that he understands that feeling.
They are anxious to do things for you as they always were for me. When I first started to work Dad hated to see me do it. He wanted me to go to the lake with them that summer and enjoy myself, as if I never would have to start out on my own. They would never let me pay my own way to a show or take them. That would have made me feel important but I was their baby and was to be looked out for. – Letter, February 17, 1945
Now I realize he was reminiscing but his feeling seems so fresh and to think he was twenty-three years old, a bomber pilot fighting in World War II, sitting on an aircraft carrier on a day he might have gone on a hop or had a hop planned for the next day, and he’s thinking about how taking his parents to a movie and paying their way would have made him feel important. Our perception of the generation that fought World War II is, I think, our memories of our grandparents. We forget that they were, at that time, their parents’ sons. Young adults starting out as we all do, with some mix of wanting to strike out on our own but also wanting to feel important by making our parents proud.
Please stay tuned for an upcoming Q and A Boston Literary Magazine is planning with me for Letters Home. I’ll also be arranging a giveaway of the book if you’re interested and haven’t gotten your copy yet. In the meantime, check out some great short fiction from their latest issue, here: http://www.bostonliterarymagazine.com/
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