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