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Saturday, August 12, 2017

ARE YOU STILL SURE IT IS FREEDOM YOU WANT? (6)

Boston
Dec. 1 1940    
           
Dearest -- Back home again.  I had a swell week-end in Ossipee but still, it’s rather nice to be back to the peace and privacy of the apartment.  And I had the joy of finding a flock of your letters waiting for me.
     You asked why I hadn’t commented on your decision to accede to my wishes and postpone your divorce.  Barbara, my darling, you can’t possibly imagine my elation when I learned that you weren’t going to cut me off completely from you.  I didn’t dare let you know how happy I was for fear you would write back and warn me not to be too hopeful.  My whole life revolves around one fact: my hope of living again with you. 
     Now that you are free to make any decision you wish, are you still sure it is freedom you want?  Now really, wouldn’t all the things you are doing and enjoying be even nicer if I were with you to make your life even fuller?  Oh, my love, can’t I make you see that our sharing, loving, fighting, and living together was a part of your world that can’t be replaced with substitutes?  I admit there are things in life for you besides just being my wife and Kathie’s mother, but darling, those things can only make your life fuller; they in themselves can’t take the place of “us.”  As for another man, or being rushed, or dates, are you truly sure that someone else’s kisses will be sweeter, warmer, or more breath-taking?  Will his hands, hair, or skin thrill you more?   Will you, my sweet, go into his arms with any more abandon or tenderness?
     Physical attraction alone is not enough for one such as you to give herself, just for a thrill.  Dear, please tell me that my lovely Kathie isn’t here simply because two people were simply looking for a good time.  Didn’t my hands touch the strings of your heart as well as the vigor of your body?  Verily, though I’ve given you your freedom to choose your own destiny, may I not still hope that your heart has no freedom, for it belongs to me?  Can’t you see that your “freedom” is only a mirage, that the damn strength you have can lead only to a sure slavery.  With me, you would not feel bound or restricted.
     Next Friday, when I get paid, I shall send you some money by airmail.  Please forgive me for keeping you waiting; I’ve really been short.  I just don’t know where my money goes.  I need your economical hand in my affairs again.
     Please kiss the baby for me.  Would you whisper in her ear that her daddy sends his love?
Coral Gables                                                   Monday night - Dec. 2, 1940
Dearest ‑‑ 
     You go to dances and I to do homework.  'Tain't fair, McGee!   You'd better save up energy for your vacation because I'll be so starved for fun (not love) that I'll keep you busy.
     I'm worn out from studying.  Instead of having spots before my eyes, I see shorthand symbols.  I count them before going to sleep.  I have nightmares about them.  I even think in shorthand, and wake up trying to figure out the symbols for "darling Eddie."
     Kathie is trying to sit up.  If you hold out your two index fingers, she grabs them and hangs on while you pull her up.   At first she used to let go on the way, but after landing plunk on her back a couple of times, she got the idea and now hangs on until she is in a sitting position.  Her neck isn't very strong yet ‑‑ her head wobbles on the end of it like a flower on a fragile stem.  She sits cross legged, head bowed, like a solemn little Buddha.
Tuesday, December 3, 1940
     Today I got a letter from Eddie that made me feel almost indifferent to him.  Encouraged by my recent concession, he wrote asking if I didn’t realize that school, job, etc. would all be much nicer with him as my partner -- that these things would only make my married life fuller, more complete. It wasn’t so much what he said as the way he said it -- a flowery eloquence that made me feel as if he were thrilled with his own rhetoric.  His less self-conscious letters, which appealed to my emotions, to my pity, moved me far more than this oration which appealed to my reason -- and failed miserably to move me.
[Marginal note: It must have been my Bad Time of the Month.]
Coral Gables                                                   Wed. Dec. 4, 1940
Dear Eddie -- I’m afraid you don’t understand as well as I thought you did why I came down here, what I am aiming for.  I’m going to business school, not because I want to be a career woman, but because I must earn a living for myself and also pay up debts.  If I came back to you, I would want a job as compensation for the things that I feel are lacking in our marriage.  You see, if a man is unsatisfied with his marriage, it is no great tragedy.  He has all kinds of escape mechanisms -- his work, other women, sports, etc.  But a woman is out of luck, for she is so tangled up with running a family that she can’t escape.  Marriage is her life.  If it fails, her life is a failure, and she can seldom hope for another chance unless her husband is wealthy enough to finance her freedom and is willing to give up custody of his children.
     That is why I am afraid to come back to you without giving myself a real chance to find out.  I would rather come to you completely sure that no one else could possibly mean more to me.
    You tell me not to feel bound, but I can’t help feeling tied by my marriage.  Fortunately it doesn’t make much difference at the moment because I don’t fancy the “bronzed Tarzans” down here.  But if I go north next summer and feel the way I do now, I shall probably ask you to give me my freedom.  You realize I couldn’t possibly go out with anyone up there if I were still married to you.
     I see I’ve done just what you expected I would -- written you a discouraging letter squelching your hopes.  Well, I just had to let you know how I feel.  I couldn’t let you labor under the illusion that a job would satisfy my yearnings and complete my life.  You may be right, perhaps you are the only man for me, but don’t you see, darling, I’ve got to find that out for myself?  Your telling me isn’t enough.  After all, you are a little prejudiced.
    Oh dearest, I hope this letter won’t make you unhappy.  If what I’ve said depresses you too much, just forget about it and we’ll thrash things out when we see each other. 
Boston                                                             Wed. Dec. 4, 1940
Dear Babs,
“Drunk last night; drunk the night before.
                        “Gonna get drunk tonight like I never was drunk before”
     The above seems to be my new theme song.  Oh well, I’m not the first to drown my sorrows in drink.  Just think of what people will say about you when I reach my end as a victim of the D.T.’s!  I can hear them say, “Yes, she simply drove him to a drunkard’s grave.”  Then you’ll be sorry.
     I fear I must close, as it is nearly time to go to N.H.  How I dread the drive -- the roads are terrible because of a blizzard we had last night.

Coral Gables                                                                             Thursday ‑‑ Dec. 5, 1940
   I had lunch in a wonderful cafeteria today-‑got a bowl of soup and crackers for five cents, ten cents less than what I usually pay at a hamburg stand.  Also for five cents are pies and cakes of all kinds, salads, etc.  For ten or fifteen you can get almost any kind of main dish.  Coffee is five, with as many free refills as you want.  I'm going to take you there some evening.  We'll go downtown on the bus, have dinner at the Davis Cafeteria, then go to a show.  Won't that be fun?
     Try to manage it so that your train arrives Friday afternoon, the 20th.  Then you can meet me at school, and we can come home together.  What will I say to you?  I'll feel so self conscious.
Boston                                                 3:30 A.M.    Friday, Dec. 6, 1940
Dearest -- O-o-o-o-o-o-o- I’m so mad at you!  Why do you say so pointedly that you aren’t starved for love?  You know that you don’t mean it -- you wouldn’t be you if you didn’t want me to take you into my arms and kiss you.  I wish you could be as determined about coming back as you were to leave.  You’re coming back, so why not have the fun of planning and looking forward to our home together.  So there!  Oh yes, and stop saying “Eddie, I don’t want you to get too hopeful.”   I am not only hopeful, I'm determined to have you.   I've woven a secret spell so powerful that it could reach way over to Africa if necessary to bring you back.  “_ __ _ __________, why not lie back and enjoy it.”  Mad?  Angry?
     If only you knew how unhappy I am.  Tonight I passed the Boston Lying‑In and what was left of my heart simply fell right out.  If you can imagine a mad wolf roaming, seeking, restless and wild, then you can have some idea of how I am.  I feel like half a man; my better half is in Florida.  If these were the dark ages and I could arouse myself to brutality , I'd go to Florida and drag  you home by your hair.  You'd be mad but I'd rather be with you mad than not with you at all.  Oh damn, this is an awful letter  but I'm tired and have had too much to drink ‑‑ tear it up and  forgive me....
Boston                                                                         Saturday morning -- Dec. 7, 1940
Dearest Barbara --     I certainly enjoyed your last letter.  What a cute sense of humor. Have you learned how to write “Darling Eddie” in shorthand yet?  By the way, I don’t want you to forget me just because you’ve started school.  I insist on remaining the love of your life.
     Last night I went to a country dance in Attleboro.  Mmm, are those milkmaids ever nice!!  I left, in boredom, about eleven.  Alas, I fear I’m a one woman man.  Isn’t it just too, too gauche -- to be in love with one’s wife?
Coral Gables                                                               Sat. Dec. 7, 1940
Dear Dick -- I wish you could be here with us over the holidays.  Christmas won’t be Christmas with you so far away.  Didn’t we used to have fun at 716, getting up at six o’clock, running down to open our presents under the tree?  I wish I could recapture the excited, thrilly feeling I used to get on Christmas Eve.  Darling soft-hearted mother would ease the suspense by giving us one little gift to hold us until morning.
     Did you know I was going to school?  I am taking the regular secretarial course plus Spanish, and later on I shall prepare for the Civil Service.  I am so busy and interested in my studies that the weeks fly by. 
Portrait of gleeful daughter
     Eddie is coming on the 20th.  I am quite sure that I don’t want to go back to him, but if I should change my mind, I intend to stay on and finish my course anyway. I think the business world would be good for me -- keep me from slipping into a rut and getting too wrapped up in my children.  When the children grow up, if the parents are mutually disappointed in each other, what has a wife got left?
     However, I can say impartially that I know Kathie will never disappoint me.  She is a perfect child.  You ought to hear her laugh.  She has an adorable chuckle.  Trouble is, she rarely laughs twice at the same joke.  A trick that makes her gleeful one day will leave her cold the next.  We are kept busy inventing new antics to entertain her.  We think she is more fun than a “barrel of monkeys” and she probably feels the same way about us.  
Coral Gables                                                   Saturday night -- Dec. 7, 1940
Eddie darling -- Thanks loads for the check. My, what a big one!  I am overwhelmed by your generosity.  Don’t send me more because if you did, I would worry that you were depriving yourself.  I promise to eat well, so you won’t feel uneasy.    I’m sorry to hear that you’re mad at me.  Is it because of the declaration of independence I wrote a few days ago?  Well, I’d rather have you mad than heart-broken.
     Please note that this is Saturday night.  I shall continue this letter tomorrow and mail it Monday.  You may rest assured that the most exciting thing I do every night is to write you a letter.
(continued)                                                                  Sunday night -- Dec. 8, 1940
     Gosh, I like Bobbie a lot.  She’s so different from what she looks like.  You’d think she was the beautiful-but-dumb type and that she’d be a pretty hot number, but she isn’t like that at all.  (This is to warn you so you won’t be deceived by appearances.  I’ve warned her about you, too.)  She has a good head on her shoulders, both inside and out -- and do you know, she says her prayers every night -- well almost every night.  She prays when she is very happy or very blue, but in between she’s apt to forget.  I don’t mean that Bobbie is very religious.  She just believes that almost everyone needs something to put his faith in.
Monday morning, Dec. 9, 1940
P.S.  Remember that box of Jane Rush’s baby clothes that Vaughan sent me?  I didn’t bring them down because I didn’t think Kathie would need them, but it gets awfully chilly here.  Could you please send them C.O.D.?
     I’m staying in bed today to see if I can get rid of my cold.  Mama has the baby propped up in a chair at the foot of my bed.  We are having a fine time amusing each other.  She makes the dearest little noises, puckering her mouth up into a dewy little rosebud.  Now she is pulling the blanket up in front of her face and trying to look over it.  I am doing the same thing.  We think we’re a riot.
Coral Gables                                                               Monday night, December Ninth     
     I was thrilled and touched by your telegram.  Bobbie Culbert was very much impressed by your thoughtfulness.  “Most men don’t think of things like that,” she said.  I told her you always do.
    I wish you could bring some nice fellow with you to take Bobbie out. I’m afraid she’s going to be dateless over the holidays -- and I don’t like to have blondes floating around loose when you’re in the neighborhood.
     Mama just brought me a glass of delicious wine.  We get a big bottle at the drug store for 29 cents!  One small glass is enough to make me feel pretty mellow.  It’s probably poisonous stuff, rotting away my insides this very minute. Remind me not to do any drinking when you come down.
    When you come down.  I wonder how many times that phrase has entered my thoughts and my letters.  Do you realize that a week from the time you get this letter you will be on your way down here? Won’t you?  You haven’t told me, but I assume you’re planning to arrive week-end after next.
Coral Gables                                                              Tues. Dec. 10, 1940
Dearest -- Your old friend Aunt Theona (who told mother you were “the business man type”) came to see us today.  She and her husband are wintering about 25 miles from the Gables.  She was enchanted with the baby.  “What an intelligent face!” “Surely she must be thinking!”  “How bright and interested her expression is!” “Isn’t she a healthy-looking baby!” etc. etc. 
     Bobbie says Kathie is going to be a heart-breaker.  She has a coy, half-smiling way of looking at you that is quite captivating.  There’s no doubt about it -- she’s a super-baby.           
Coral Gables                                                                           Wed. Dec. 11, 1940
Eddie darling - I have finished writing a lesson in shorthand, and you can see what it did to my handwriting.  Here is a message in shorthand -- do you know what it means?  Well, I’ll tell you.  It says, “You are a very good boy.  Will you continue to be good when you visit me next week?  You’d better be!”  As soon as I get proficient enough, I am going to start writing my diary in shorthand.  It would probably make more sense to you than some of my letters do.
       I think I shall wait till you come before I buy mother’s present.  I am going to get her a cosmetic set, but in addition I want to give her a camera -- one that will take good close-ups of the baby -- if it doesn’t cost too much.  You must help me pick it out, for you know more about such things than I do.
     The grind must get back to her studies.  Only a week and a half more -- and then Heaven!
Coral Gables                                                               Thurs. Dec.12, 1940
(from mother|
Dear Dick -- Did I tell you Stanley Tower is investing the proceeds from the sale of my Dorothy Muriel stock in an inn?  It is called Lamie’s Tavern, and according to Stanley, it is just the investment he has been looking for.  He, himself, will manage it, and he expects it to be as generous in dividends as Dorothy Muriel.
     Edward has sent Barbara only $10 since she came two months ago.  I have to pay for everything bought for the baby -- crib, doctor bills, formula, etc., not to mention her schooling.  I even paid for her Christmas present to him!  I suppose he can’t be blamed for not supporting her since she has left him (even though he thinks he will get her back), but I should think he’d help support Kathie.
     Barbara acceded to his plea for a postponement of the divorce to please him -- indeed to pacify him.  It wasn’t what she wanted to do, really.  But he wrote her that he was being driven to drink, and that worried Barbara.  Several times he wrote when he was three sheets to the wind.  Persuasion of that sort seems like “hitting-below-the-belt” tactics to me.
     If he gets her to give up this business course as well as her college course I’ll be heart-broken.  But she declares she will not let him do it.  It will take nine or ten months to finish it, at which time she will be a little better armed against life’s dilemmas.  We have therefore decided to stay on through the summer so she may continue her work and finish in October.  I’ll take a place right on the beach.  Rents sag to nothing when the season is ended.  Perhaps you could spend your vacation with us.
Coral Gables                                                                    Thurs. Dec. 12, 1940
Dearest --     Your daughter takes after you, it appears.  She employs every trick she can think of to keep from being left in her crib.  This morning I took her into bed with me to give her her six o’clock bottle.  She didn’t want the last two ounces.  I know she didn’t want them because when I pushed the nipple into her mouth, she gagged and spit up.  Then she gave me a drooly grin, inviting me to play with her.  Well, I like to play, but not at 6:00 A.M.  I put Kathie in her crib.  Immediately the little rascal looked pathetic and gnawed hungrily on her blanket.  Calling her bluff, I offered her the bottle.  She took a few half-hearted sips, then pushed the nipple out with her tongue, with a coy glance at me.  Every time I started to leave she would put on her starving act.  Finally I got hard-hearted and deserted her.  After talking to herself self-pityingly for ten or fifteen minutes, she fell asleep.  So did I.
      Mama says she is always pulling tricks like that.  What a little faker.  Just like that big faker, her daddy, who hasn’t got a spare minute to write a letter.  I would even be grateful for a postcard.   Yours with sorely tried affection --
Friday the 13th, Dec. 1940
     No bad luck today except for the fact that I didn’t get a letter from Eddie.  But that’s getting to be a habit with him, since I didn’t hear from him yesterday or the day before.  I hope nothing has happened to him.
     I am continuing to enjoy my course at school.  My shorthand teacher is a peach -- sort of a female Mr. Rinker.  She is a slave-driver, but in between gasps to catch our breath, we talk back to her and her eyes twinkle in a deadpan face.  She makes us sit just so when we write shorthand -- our feet planted on the floor, one forearm only on the table, etc.  Today I asked her how we’d manage if the boss wanted us to sit on his knee and take a letter.
     “Well, I hope you’ll find out first whether he’s married or not!”
     “Oh, I wouldn’t work for a married man -- no future in it.”
     “Say, you’re pretty fresh for a Boston girl.  I thought they were all sweet, demure little things.”
      The fresher we are, the better she likes it.
Coral Gables                                                                          Friday, Dec. 13, 1940
Dear Eddie --
     I haven’t heard from you for three days in succession now.  Are you all right?  Perhaps you feel that you have been wasting too much money on stamps, but you might give me a little warning.  It frightens me to have you stop writing so abruptly.  I keep imagining all kinds of terrible things have happened to you.  Please write just as soon as you get this letter and set my mind at rest. 
     My first impulse was to get mad at you, but then I thought how awful I’d feel if I heard you were in the hospital or in a coma or something.   Oh darling, I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to you.  Please, please let me know by airmail that you’re all right.     
Airmail Special from Eddie                                                    Friday ‑‑ Dec. 13, 1940
My darling,
     I can't get to Florida until February.  Dad's worried about who's going to shovel out trucks when we have bad snowstorms.   (My truck rental business has been doing well, by the way.)  Have patience, love. . . .     

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