illuminate history

Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)

Grandma’s perspective

My father was sent to Guam in January 1945. I was not yet two-and-a-half; Mother was pregnant with my sister Barbara, who was born August 22, 1945.  The three of us joined Daddy on Guam in June 1946. We traveled by train from NYC to San Francisco, where we boarded a troop ship. There were dozens of families just like us on one deck of the ship; soldiers on other decks.  Mother told us later that soldiers hung around the bases of the ladders going from one deck to another. The women holding babes-in-arms and herding small children did not have a hand free to hold down skirts billowing freely in ocean breezes.

Mother and Daddy wrote to each other several times a week during that long separation.They numbered their letters , more than 200 from each. I have not read these yet. During the first year, Daddy also wrote several letters to me; illustrated letters that my mother pasted into a scrap-book.

Christmas letter 1945

Daddy saved the letters that both of my grandmothers wrote to him.  I particularly like the one that my grandmother Emma, his mother, wrote on Dec. 30, 1945, after she had spent Christmas in my grandmother Carol’s Scarsdale apartment with Mother, Barbara, and me.

Diana, age 3

 

My oldest memories are a couple of episodes that happened while we were on Guam; I don’t remember the scenes my grandmother describes in her letter: “That was a lovely little Christmas tree story you wrote for Widge [my nickname, in those days, a “widget” was a baby gremlin] And she was terribly interested in it when Shirl read it to her and showed her all the illustrations. Shirl put it in Widge’s scrapbook so she could read it herself one day” …and indeed she did.

Grandma also wrote about opening gifts on Christmas morning: “Widge hung up one of Shirl’s stockings and in the morning she was thrilled to death to find it filled to the brim. She was so excited and overcome, she hardly knew what to look at or play with first. It was a great day for her and she talked about her Daddy this and her Daddy that. She said she was going to take all her presents to Guam when she went to see Daddy.”

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3 comments on “Grandma’s perspective

  1. Terese Loeb Kreuzer
    March 22, 2013

    Diana, your father being in the military, danger and extended separations were part of the job, though I’m sure never easy for anyone. My father also served in World War II, but as a private in the Army. He was drafted on May 18, 1943, when I was five months old, and came home when I was three. On my first birthday, he wrote me a letter from Italy, where he was stationed, expressing his regret at being so far away. When he came home, I didn’t know him, of course, and I was afraid of him. There were scars from that war that aren’t commonly discussed but which were there, nevertheless. Terese

  2. Dian
    March 22, 2013

    I will be interested to read your story as it unfolds. I am not at all familiar with those type of family separations. I was never separated from either parent until I went away to college. Such a different life those in the military live, so many difficulties, and maybe scars, you have experienced that are very foreign to many of us.

  3. Archer
    March 23, 2013

    Diana,
    Another separtion story: My father spent several years on a sub-chaser in the South Pacific and did not see my sister until she was two. She knew him only from a photograph of him in his uniform. One day on a bus, she realized that the driver was wearing a uniform and climbed up on his lap, thinking it was her Daddy.
    Our father talked about football plays from highschool and college, but he never talked about his experiences in the Navy. All I know is that he became the captain of the boat when the captain commited suicide and that he ate so much tuna that after the war he refused to ever eat it again.
    I haven’t yet gone through his letters.
    Archer

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This entry was posted on March 22, 2013 by in US History, Writing and tagged .
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