Pages

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I RECEIVED AN UNKIND LETTER FROM DICK STAPLES. (10)

10-14 2013 -- This post  and several others are out of sequence.  Sorry about that.
Coral Gables (Airmail Special)                                   Tues. morning -- Jan. 14, 1941
Darling –
     Something awful has happened.  I’ve just been through a dreadful scene with Mother about your coming down next month.  If people had only minded their own damn business, it would have been all right.  But everyone -- Dick, Vaughan, Aunt Theona, -- has been telling Mother that it’s a terrible mistake to let you come to Florida.  It doesn’t “look right,” it’s an expense she can’t afford, it’ll make things hard for Vaughan -- and besides Mother fears that the same thing will happen all over again between us, and I’ll not be able to finish my secretarial course.
      I wish you were here so we could thrash this out together.  I can’t bear to disappoint you -- and myself -- by calling off our three weeks together.  I cried so hard that Mother gave in and said she would make the best of things, but I imagine it will be very difficult for us all.  If you do still want to come, we’ll make ourselves scarce.  And darling, the more you can contribute to the expense of your visit, the more pacified Vaughan will be. 
    Could you possibly wait until I return to Boston at the end of the summer?  If you could stand it, I could.  Please help me, darling.  Whatever you decide will be okay with me.  You don’t feel any worse than I do, believe me . . . .
Coral Gables                                       Tuesday morning - Jan. 14, 1941
Dearest –
     I am writing you again this morning so you will still get a letter by regular mail Thursday or Friday.  I’m so upset that I’m staying home from school.  I look too awful and feel too awful to get any work done.
     Oh darling, if you decide not to come, be strong, be brave.  Don’t write me heart-broken letters, please.  I am miserable enough as it is.  I need to be cheered up and if you are big enough, you can do it.  But this letter will be too late, I fear.  You have already written something funereal, now haven’t you . . . .
Boston                                                             Wednesday -- Jan. 15, 1941
Dear Babs –
     My darling, how discouraged I do become sometimes.  I am so alone in my battle for your heart that it seems as if I just can’t continue the struggle.  Really, I believe that you are my best ally.
     If you could only know how I’ve looked forward to being with you.  I’ve scrimped and saved to get a hundred dollars together; I’ve gone to work when I was so sick with the grippe that I could hardly see, so that I wouldn’t lose time because of illness.  My whole life has been lived in hopes of seeing you soon.  In addition to being with you and Kathie, I desperately need a vacation and rest  -- and what could be nicer than Florida.
     I am going down as I planned. You are still my wife and I love you.  Also there is Kathie -- nothing in this world could keep me from her.  It is a strange phenomenon that I can’t explain but I do love her more than anything else in the world.  Probably that seems peculiar to you inasmuch as you know how little I’ve been with her.  Somehow I believe it is because I was so terrified and unhappy about you the morning she was born.  For me, my love for you was culminated in her.
     May I ask you to do something for me?  Please be loyal -- try to remember that my only sin has been to love you.  When people -- or should I say “if” -- make disparaging remarks, think of the nice things that you know of me.  If only you would let me, I could make your dreams come true.  Mine is the love and strength that could help you to have all that you want: Home, Career, Happiness.
     My dear, won’t you come back with me in March?  Won’t you put your life in my hands?  Won’t you have a blind, unreasoning, complete faith in me?  I promise to give you all that you wish.  Trust in me and I shall not fail you.
Coral Gables                                                               Wed. January 15, 1941
My dear –
I’ve decided I don’t want to hear about your “affairs.”  I thought I wanted to, but I find I am capable of a dog-in-the-mangerish jealousy.  I just don’t like to think of you with other women.  Probably when I start going out with men who can give you some competition, I won’t be so unreasonable. 
     I am reading a wonderful book by H.G. Wells -- “Babes in the Darkling Wood.”  You must read it.  The hero and heroine -- oh what fine minds they have!  Instead of Joyce’s “stream of consciousness” technique, the author deals with the world’s fundamental problems using natural, everyday dialogue.  Well, almost natural.  Wells explained that he couldn’t put down exactly what the characters said -- unfinished sentences and all – so he wrote what they meant to say. . . . 
Coral Gables
Wed. Jan. 15, 1941
Dear Dick --
     I can hardly wait to get back to Boston’s intellectual atmosphere.  Mother and I intend to map out a program of cultural activity -- one musical event a week, a play every month, lectures and courses during the week.  Newton High School is offering night courses on art, music, literature, etc. which I hear are fine.  If I can summon up enough nerve to show my face, I shall sign up for some of these.
     I only hope my fine plans for self-improvement don’t peter out to nothing as they usually do.  I can just see myself attending a lecture if Bob Black deigned to take me out instead. . . .  
Coral Gables                                                               Thursday, Jan. 16, 1941
Darling –
     I am dashing this off so I can get back to my fascinating book.  I’ve done my homework, made the baby’s formula, and when I’ve written my nightly letter, I can settle down to the best entertainment in the world -- a good book.  Don’t be offended.  Once you got your nose in this book, you wouldn’t lift your head if Jeanette McDonald, Irene Dunne, and Hedy Lamarr walked by, arm in arm.
     I did 55 words a minute in a ten-minute typing contest, so I graduated into the next class.  If I keep going at this rate, I’ll graduate by the middle of summer and get back to Boston that much sooner.
     That child of yours is squalling most annoyingly.  How can I think of sweet somethings to say to you with all that noise going on? 
     But do you know what Vaughan said about Kathie?  It's her first day here, and she said she never saw such a good baby -- and she’s taken care of lots of babies!  Stick around, Vaughan, Kathie has her moments -- and very noisy moments they are, too.  If her admirer should come in here from the garage apt., she might be disillusioned.
Later:  I take back what I said about Kathie.  Mama came in and found that the poor baby was roasting to death.  She was so thirsty that she drank half a bottle of plain faucet water.  Mama changed her diaper, took off her uncomfortable nightie, and a few minutes later, she was asleep.
     As Vaughan says, “A good baby like that doesn’t cry unless she has a reason.”
Coral Gables                                                      Friday night -- Jan. 17, 1941
Dear Eddie –
     I can’t find my fountain-pen anywhere in the jungle of my purse, so that means I left it in school where it will have to spend the weekend.  What a place to spend the weekend!  Almost as bad as the way I spend mine nowadays -- studying and reading.
     Though I may fuss, at heart I love my work.  It is a satisfying feeling to be learning something.  I commend the Marshes because they go in for lectures and courses and don’t let themselves get into a stupefying rut.  They keep up with the latest books, discoveries, etc.  No wonder they are such popular couple.
     Sometimes I wish I could have finished my college career.  Especially when I get letters from Taffy,  telling me what a whirl she is in, describing the books, plays, and courses she is interested in. 
     But in my more reflective moments, I think perhaps it is a good thing for me that I didn’t go to college.  I’ll always be dissatisfied with my lack of knowledge and try to “catch up” with my better educated friends.  .  “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”  (Browning -- Jotting -- B.F. Rinker, 1938)
    Why can’t I remember anything, Eddie? I try to read thoroughly and understandingly, but plots soon fade away.  What was “Look Homeward Angel” about and “The Web and the Rock”?  I can’t remember.  And this book I’m reading so passionately now -- will any of it be with me next month?  It’s very discouraging.  I wish I had a photographic memory.  That’s what these Information Please wizards must have.  Nobody could be that smart naturally.
Coral Gables                                                               Saturday -- Jan. 18, 1941
Darling -- Mama got a wonderful letter from Mr. Tower today.  In a business-like and formal style it told her that she would soon be in his employ, writing advertising for Lamie’s Tavern, at a very good salary.  So our financial worries are over! 
     Mother doesn’t care if she has to wait for her share of my earnings.  In fact, she doesn’t want me to feel obliged to repay her at all.  I will, though, someday.
     I’m having Mother’s old Royal portable typewriter thoroughly gone over, so that I can type lessons at home.  The sooner I get through the typing text book, the more time I’ll have to work on my shorthand.  Time is money to me.  If I finish this course a month or two early; that will be $25 or $50 I won’t owe Mother.  I suppose I might as well work at Liberty Mutual until I hear from the Civil Service.  Or maybe I could work for Mr. Tower.  Maybe, if, and, but, perhaps -- forgive me for bothering you with my daydreams.
     The bureau I share with Jan has been overflowing with more than two months accumulation of daily letters from you.  Today I got stern with myself and decided to burn all but my favorites.  Of all those letters, I saved about fifteen and a few souvenirs like the “Merry-Go-Round” postcard, the New Year’s Eve napkin (with the tattle-tale red), the jokers from our deck of cards.  Someday I’ll get ambitious and put them in a scrapbook.
     Vaughan is still raving about Kathie.  Isn’t it nice that she was blessed with my beautiful disposition.  But don’t feel bad, darling, she has your tongue.
Saturday, January 18, 1941
    I need to tell you something that I couldn’t possibly confide to Eddie, who has usurped your place to a great degree.  At times like this, I am glad I can turn to you, my favorite confidante. 
     I received an unkind letter from Dick Staples, ending with the doubtful benediction -- “God have mercy on your soul.  I wouldn’t.”  He said I was ruining two lives (Eddie’s and Kathie’s) because, “obsessed by delusions of grandeur,” I thought only of my own happiness.  Kathie would be brought up by “doting females “who would pamper and spoil her."  What would become of me in ten or twenty years when I lost my figure and my looks?  Why should Eddie have to pay for the mistake both of us made?
     Of course, there is a good answer to every one of his old-fashioned and prejudiced arguments, but that isn’t much consolation to me.  It hurts my pride and my sense of justice to know that someone I like has a hard opinion of me.
     Evidently he thinks there isn’t much chance of my marrying again.  Evidently he thinks Eddie’s love is so great that he’ll never be happy with another-- very flattering but very silly.  And how unjust of him to assert that Eddie is doing all the suffering for our mistake.  All Eddie is suffering from is unrequited love -- as if he were the only unrequited lover in the world.  He can drink and go out with other women and forget -- but I must study, never have any fun, so that I can pay back all the money I owe and support Kathie.  It seems to me Eddie is getting out of this pretty easily.   I know he is unhappy and lonely, but that is only temporary.  Is it fair to say that he alone is paying for our mistake?
     Mother suspects that Eddie may have put Dick up to writing that letter, but I’m sure she’s wrong.  Because she isn’t overly fond of Eddie, she is apt to attribute all sort of unpleasant qualities to him.  I know he wouldn’t do a thing like that. .
      Tonight, with Mother's help, I wrote a rebuttal to Dick’s letter:
     “No, I don’t regard you not as a “meddlesome fool,” but as a caring friend of Eddie’s.  I can understand your going to bat for him, but some of your pitches were pretty wild, in my opinion.   As you point out, there is Kathie to be considered.  Psychologists and psychiatrists may often disagree with each other, but according to everything I have read, they are in accord on one point.  That is, that bringing up your child in an unhappy family is a worse evil than subjecting that child to the consequences of a divorce.
     I fear that if a “sense of duty” should persuade me to remain with Eddie for the probable extent of my very healthy life, we might both find ourselves miserable.  If that were so, then Kathie would be adversely affected, for she is too bright not to sense discord in her family.  I don’t expect to “deny her the normal home life to which every baby is entitled.”  It is my hope to give her everything -- even a happy home.  You underestimate me when you assume I wouldn’t remarry. I might even marry Eddie again, but first I’d like the opportunity to make my choice without the pressure of a pregnancy.
     Knowing Eddie as well as I do, I don’t believe he would want me to remain with him because I pitied him (which I do) or because I was trapped by a sense of duty.  Such a marriage would be hurtful to his pride and his manhood.  I give him credit for wanting nothing from me if I cannot give him everything.
     I am, of course, disappointed that he has been drinking and have the letters that confirm it.  As for “going after other women,” this is what he has every right to do and should do.  He has told me of someone who is pining for him.  This is the sort of relationship he should seek, a woman who would not want to leave him for an instant. 
     At this point Eddie is where he was when we met two years ago.  He is young and free and he is still Edward Malley.  I am not as I was when Edward met me.  I am not free.  I am willing to take responsibility for the happy mistake I made in having a baby, to complete my course down here, get a job, and repay several debts that trouble my conscience.  Yes, Vaughan and Mother and my sister all dote on Kathie, and they are all willing to help with her care until I establish a home -- possibly with Ed, if he turns out to be the Bluebird of Happiness after all.  Meanwhile, when I return to Boston, he can have as much contact with Kathie as he’d like.  I wouldn’t dream of depriving him of a father's role.
     As for my opinion of myself, I try not to judge anyone unfairly, and that includes myself.  I see someone who has made a mistake.  Thank heavens the world is no longer East Lynnish enough to expect me to spend fifty years in bondage because of an error in judgment made at eighteen.
     I hope Eddie and I will remain friends, whether our lives dovetail into remarriage or not.  Meanwhile I would like another chance to experience life as a single woman and see what happens. Won’t you wish me luck?  (End of rebuttal)
[Marginal note: Mothers are always right.  Eddie admitted later that he did encourage Dick to write that letter.]

Coral Gables (from me)                                                          Sunday, Jan. 19, 1941
Dear Dick –
      It’s rather a pity that your affair with Mary didn’t end with your feeling cold toward her.  You might be happier if you thought she was an unkind, ungrateful sort of person.  Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to make Eddie despise me.  There are probably ways I could do it.  But my pride, or ego, inhibits me.  It would be really hard for me to be deliberately worse than I am -- except when Aunt Ruth is around.  She is one person I take a perverse delight in shocking.
     I can just hear Aunt Ruth saying, “I told you so” when she learns of my divorce.  Janeth says she declared last summer, ‘It won’t last, marriages like that never do.’  And she said it in such a way that Janeth was sure she’d be disappointed if Eddie and I were happy together. . . .
Coral Gables                                                   Sunday -- Jan. 19, 1941
Dear Eddie –
     Vaughan was leaning over Kathie’s crib this morning, talking to her.  I began to boast about my baby.  I told her how far ahead of the average Kathie was, according to my little baby book.
     “That’s an awfully funny book your mama has,” Vaughan scolded, wagging her finger at Kathie.  “I think that book was made to order for your mama.”
      Kathie began to cry her feelings-hurt cry.  She assumed Vaughan was scolding her because her tone of voice was so gruff.  I thought we’d never be able to coax the poor wounded little thing back to her merry self again. 
     While Vaughan was jouncing Kathie on her shoulder, I picked up the book and pretended to read from it.  “Listen to this, Vaughan.  `A few babies as young as four or five months have a remarkable sensitivity to what's going on around them.’”  
     Vaughan grinned at me and murmured into the baby’s ear, “Yes, honey, I could swear your mama wrote that funny book herself!”
     I just heard Bobbie yelling at her father again.  I flinch every time he asks her to do something for him because I know she’ll lash out at him.  Bobbie was exasperated yesterday when his blanket slipped off his shoulder.
     “If you’d stop jumping around like a two-year old, I wouldn’t have to be waiting on you every five minutes!”
     The poor man is probably suffering every living minute from his arthritis, but he never complains.  One night he sighed, “Gosh, I’m tired.”
     Bobbie’s response to that was, “What have you been doing all day that’s so strenuous?”
     Another time he was trying to warm his old bones on the divan in front of the fire.
     “For heaven’s sake, daddy, do you have to hog the whole fire?  I suppose you think you’re the only one who wants to get warm.”
     The other day he apologized to her. “I’m sorry for bothering you so much, Bobbie.  I know I’m more trouble than a baby.”
     “I’ll say you are!  But if I were you, I wouldn’t admit I was a nuisance.”
      It’s a wonder to me that Mr. Culbert doesn’t commit suicide.  What has he got to live for?
     I suppose all this is a warning of sorts.  You could easily fall for Bobbie, for she is blonde, beautiful, and intelligent.  But I’d hate to see you snared by someone as heartless as she is -- even more heartless than I at my worst.  Mary Kingsbury knew what she was talking about when she said you needed someone kind and loving. 
     You may notice splotches on this paper that look like tear-drops.   I’m afraid they’re not as romantic as that.  The ceiling leaks every time anyone takes a bath, and I’m sitting under the bathroom. . . .

No comments:

Post a Comment