Saturday, August 12, 2017


Tuesday night -- Feb. 4, 1941
Coral Gables
sketch by bbm
My dearest –
     Something dreadful has happened.  (Yes, again!)  I haven’t been wearing my cameo locket lately because the chain broke again and I didn’t want to put you to the trouble of repairing it.  Today I picked it up to see if I could fix it with a piece of string -- and the cameo was missing.  I was so upset that I accused Janeth of breaking it.  We were shouting angrily at each other when suddenly I noticed the baby’s face.  Her lip was going down and before I could convince her that everything was  all right, she had started to cry.  This shows once more how sensitive she is to the tone of your voice and your facial expression.  I felt so ashamed that I began to cry, too.
         I have a favor to ask of you.  I am thinking of returning to Boston in June and completing my secretarial course at Bryant and Stratton.  Would you find out for me if I would get a diploma, even though I’d need only a month or two to finish up?
     As you read this letter -- only two weeks to go!  I can’t believe you’re really coming at last.
Coral Gables                                                               Thursday -- Feb.6, 1941
Eddie darling –
     Mother is going to ask the Culberts to leave on some tactful pretext or other. Mr. Culbert has gotten terribly on her nerves -- lying around like a log, day after day, unshaven, unbathed (making the living room reek), using the electric light from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.  He and Bobbie monopolize the living room so that we don’t have any privacy for family life.  And the way Mr. Culbert orders Vaughan around!  He never says please or thank you, but just demands service.
    If the Culberts leave within the next two weeks, then you and I won’t have so much shopping to do for groceries.  (Mother trades at the Super Market -- no deliveries.)  Also, you and I could have most of our meals here, since Vaughan would have just three to cook for (Janeth and us) instead of five.     
     Don’t be surprised if Kathie is afraid of you at first.  She’ll get over it.  I did!
Coral Gables                                                   Friday night -- Feb. 7, 1941
Dearest Eddie –
     You’d better tell me again what train you’re coming on, what line, and what time it arrives.  Yes, I know you sent me a time table, but someone lost it or threw it away.  Shall I blame Janeth, for old time’s sake?  No, I have to admit she’s a good kid most of the time, and let the sky fall if it wants to.
     The Culberts are leaving Sunday.  Vaughan told me Bobbie ranted for awhile, but she’s reconciled now.  They’ve found a place just a few blocks away.  I’ll have to take you around and “show you off” to her.  Do you mind?  Remember when we went to some formal dance together shortly after we met, and I pretended I had to stop at Taffy’s for something?  And you, you scamp, knew all along that I just wanted to exhibit you.  And remember how you used to say, “I’ll have to bring Betty over to see you.”  That really annoyed me.  As if I were some little novelty you had picked up at Woolworth’s.
     Do you know what that crazy brother of mine has gone and done?  He’s joined the army!  Mother and I thought he couldn’t possibly get accepted because of his eyes, but he cheated.  He memorized the first three lines of the card when no one was looking.  He got in and is now a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard.  They leave for Indian town Gap around March 1st where they will be in camp for a year. 
     That’s what love did to him.  He says he could never work or be happy as long as he was obliged to see Mary every day.
Coral Gables                                                   Saturday night -- Feb. 8, 1941

Darling –

    It's Saturday night again.  The night is mild, the moon is mellow and do you know what your glamorous wife is doing?  She is sitting in her pajamas and housecoat, waiting for 9:00 to come so she can go to bed.  
   Here is a sketch of Kathie in the baby carriage she used to sleep in. As you can see, she has discovered her opposable thumb and isn’t opposed to it at all.   What shall we do two weeks from tonight?  Dance?  Movies?  Ride?  Radio?
______?  No!!  If you have any such ideas in that scheming mind of yours, you can just forget them.  I’m older and wiser now, Mr. Malley, so you’ll have to play the game my way, this time.  I mean it.  I’ll be satisfied just to kiss you.  With sisterly love . . .
Coral Gables                                                                Sunday -- Feb. 9, 1941
Eddie dear –
     Do you want to hear what I did last night?  After I finished writing my letter to you, I took a shower and washed my hair.  Bobbie’s cadet came to take her out on their weekly Saturday night date.  With him was his room-mate, Tip, whom I went out with last Saturday (my only date in a month).
     I was wrapping my head in a towel when Bobbie said, “He wants you to come.  What’ll I tell him?” 
     “Tell him I’just finished showering."
     When I walked out of my room, Bobbie and the fellows were just leaving. 
     “Have you got a date tonight?” Tip asked me.
     “No I haven’t.  I’m going to bed.”  I felt like adding, “ So it's a Saturday night.  So what?”
     After they left, I was all alone in the house (except for the baby).  I decided to have a drink.  Mother had some of that wine she gets at the A & P, and I finished up the bottle.  As I sat there by myself, the situation suddenly struck me as funny.  I began to laugh, and then to cry.  I felt very silly, I assure you.  I reeled into bed and it rocked me to sleep.  The experiment taught me a lesson I shall not forget while you are here.  The wine brought out all the latent desires I thought I had under control.
     Moral: “Never touch the stuff while Eddie is around.”  And if you try to coax me to drink, Mr. Malley, I’ll know your intentions are dishonorable.
Coral Gables                                                                 Monday night -- Feb. 10, 1941
My dearest –
     It’s a good thing you are coming when you are, or I’d have a nervous breakdown.  I’ve been studying, studying, studying night after night without any relief.  Now I’m so tired and nervous that I can’t work at all.  When I’m typing, I can’t seem to remember where the letters are.  I rip out one sheet after another until I can hardly keep from screaming.  Three weeks rest is what I need for body and brain.
     Do you know what I’m looking forward to in my “career” more than anything else? Writing a little note to the Women’s Club and enclosing a check for the scholarship they gave me.  In a way I am reluctant to return to Boston at all.  How I hated the gossip that went on after our marriage!  When I come back divorced, I’ll have to face it all over again.  I have nightmares about people looking at me with disgust or contempt, and wake up feeling hurt and humiliated.  People don’t look at me like that down here.  Maybe it would be better for me to try to make a life here.
     The trouble with me these days is that I think too much about me.  Notice all the I’s in this letter.  I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re happiest when you’re making someone else happy.  Isn’t that original of me?  Remember when we first met how you told me of your philosophy of life and advised me to adopt it?  You said to go after what you wanted, not to let anything or anyone stand in your way.  And I said, that’s fine, but suppose two stubborn people like you and me wanted opposite things, then what would happen?  Someone would eventually have to give way.  Well, here we are, darling, pulling in opposite directions on an unbreakable wish-bone. . . .

Coral Gables                                                      Monday -- Feb. 10, 1941
(from Mother)   
Dear Dick -- I was surprised to get your news about the army.  Perhaps such an experience would be health-building.  I hope so.  The one thing I am afraid of is that your ruse may be discovered when you are re-examined at camp.  In that case, you would be out of the army and out of a job, too, unless you could get back into Liberty Mutual.  But let’s hope that nothing like that will befall since it is your wish to have a change.  All I want is your well-being and happiness.
     I have just had an upheaval here, having told Mr. Culbert I could no longer take care of him and his daughter.  I kicked out my meal-ticket, but I can’t regret it.  He went eleven days without shaving or getting bathed, and I felt as if I were harboring some obnoxious tramp, with emphasis on the noxious.
     When the end of last month came, I gave him his food bill.  I had raised it by $4.97 for the month for the two of them.  I explained that food had gone up and that it was a miracle I hadn’t had to raise his part of the bill $15 or $20.  But he argued over that miserable $4.97, stretched out on my couch in my part of the house, hideous and unkempt.  He practically declared I was cheating him.  I made up my mind that I’d never be so exasperated and demeaned again.  I’d rather sell pencils!
     So a day or two later I gave him the gate on the grounds that Vaughan will soon be called to testify in her case, and I felt I didn’t want to do any cooking.  My new advertising job demands too much of my time, part of it being writing to order and part, visiting interesting cafes to get ideas.  That was the reason I gave to avoid a scene.
     I have two young men in another room in the house.  They require no attention, and oh they are so jolly and young and clean! 
     Janeth is on the honor-roll at school and is being “rushed” by four fine sororities.  She has at last come into her own.  Has had some dates with quite attractive young men.  She fixes her hair differently now, very soft and long in the back and “up” in the front where she has a natural wave.  Her complexion has cleared up, and she knows how to use makeup, dress, and carry herself.
      One of the men now rooming with me (Tom Coker) has turned out to be very nice.  He put up a badminton net and on Sundays we all play.  He brings me jelly and cheese and the makings for very nice cocktails, presents for the baby, etc. 
     He and Barbara started to dance together last night and he turned out to be a sensation.  I never saw so much rhythm and grace and strength.  It was a joy to watch them.
Tuesday, February 11, 1941
     I’m sorry I’ve deserted you for so long, but what with nightly letters to my soon-to-be-ex-husband and studying 25 hours a day, I haven’t had a spare minute.  .
     Eddie is coming a week from Saturday.  It’s a good thing he is because I’m a wreck from working steadily day after day -- working to keep from thinking -- study as a substitute for love and fun and companionship.  I’ve worked so hard I scarcely know what I’m doing.  My typing speed is deteriorating, so is my accuracy -- the letters don’t seem to be where they used to be.
     The Culberts are no longer with us.  They got on our nerves so much that we couldn’t take it any longer.  Vaughan took an instant dislike to Bobbie -- “Gimme, gimme, gimme -- grab, grab, grab!  That’s not the way to get anything out of me.”  When I first knew her, I thought she was sweet to leave all her connections up north for the sake of her invalid father.  But she treated him abominably.  Whenever he asked her to do anything for him, she called him an old nuisance.  Once Janeth heard her say, “I’m so sick and tired of you!”
       On the other hand, I feel sorry for her because he’s a disagreeable old man and she can’t help it if he’s her father.  Mother says she doesn’t blame her for losing her temper; living with Mr. Culbert is enough to try the patience of a saint.
     We have two young men rooming with us.  They seem very nice, Tom especially.  He’s so thoughtful and helpful that I’m almost afraid to believe he’s really that way.  He is not good-looking, but he has charm.  The last couple of evenings I have spent dancing with him after supper, and it’s such a wonderful sensation that I want the music to go on forever. 
     Tom is a tonic to my soul.  Until he came I was so discouraged and tired that I felt like giving up the struggle. But he gives me something to wake up to, something to look forward to.
     It’s a joy to have our living room back again.  Mr. Culbert used to come down at nine in the morning and lie on the couch all day, looking like a repulsive bug.  He seemed to lose more and more of his self-respect, in proportion to his increasing feebleness.  I’m much more afraid of an old age like his than I am of dying. 
Boston                                                             Wednesday, Feb. 12, 1941
My darling –
     I have been told that I should ignore you or forget you temporarily or sever our relationship so that you can see what a “prize” you are losing.  To me, such actions are cheap stratagems. I’m strong, intelligent and able, and as long as I have two hands, my brain, and something worth fighting for, I shall continue to fight in my way -- and my way is with love.  I want you, I want a home, and I want Kathie and by God, an army of Bob Blacks, Vannies, rainbows, and castles-in-the-air couldn’t and can’t stop me.  So, my love, pile up the sandbags, load up the cannons and prepare the breast-works, for on February 22nd the Siege of Barbara will be in its twenty-sixth month and in a renewed state of assault. . . .
Coral Gables                                                                 Wednesday -- Feb. 12, 1941
Darling –
     Ten more days!  Golly, I can’t think of anything else.  I can’t think Period.  In school I read the same words over and over again and they don’t make any sense.  I wonder if my brain is cracking.  My heart will, with loneliness, if you don’t hurry up.
     When Mother is gone and you are here, I think we can have most of our meals at home if you could contribute $7 or $8 to cover your share of the food for three weeks.
     Your daughter has developed a piercing shriek which she uses indiscriminately whether she is  happy or cross, lively or bored.  Her object seems to be to make as much noise as possible. . . .
Boston                                                                                 Thursday -- Feb. 13, 1941
My dearest –
     Not that I want to make any “sales points,” but if you are interested I’d be glad to borrow the money to pay the Women’s Club their money if only you will marry me.  Think it over!  Here is a definite concrete marriage proposal with a financial settlement thrown in.  How about it?
    Cheer up, my dear, I’ll soon be with you and you’ll no longer have any worries.  I’m carrying happiness in my suitcase; you could have it forever if only you would open it with me.  Think of it as the opposite of Pandora’s Box.
     I’ll keep that midnight, moonlight, madcap date with you, my dear.  Take me to your heart and say you are mine . . . .
Coral Gables                                                       Thursday -- Feb. 13, 1941
My darling –
     You’re going to have an unpleasant shock when you see me.  The combination of excitement over your visit, and exhaustion because of school work, has nearly finished me.  I can’t eat, I can’t sleep (except in class), and mama says it’s beginning to tell in my appearance.  I’ve lost almost ten pounds, so when you step off the train, be on the lookout for a walking skeleton.  The baby, at least, is in the pink of condition. 
     I wish you could have heard our duet this afternoon.  She would squeal, then I would squeal to encourage her, and then she would reply.  We exchanged squeals harmoniously until I suspect the neighbors were tearing their hair.  I think our child is going to be a prima donna.  She clasps her hands melodramatically against her cheek, opens up that rosebud mouth and lets go.
     Yes, I too am at a loss for words.  The thought of you, so near in time if not yet in space, crowds everything else out of my mind.   
Coral Gables                                                                        Wednesday -- Feb. 19, 1941
Dearest –
     Kathie loved your valentine, She liked it so much that she tried to eat it, but I thought this was going a little far.  “Make him eat his own words,” I said.  “You don’t have to.”
     She’s sitting up like a big girl now, grinning at me.  She’s never been cuter than she is now -- I’m so glad you’ll be seeing her at this darling age.  Our new roomers never cease to marvel over her angelic disposition.

Boston                                                             Wednesday -- Feb. 19, 1941
My dearest darling –
     Just three more days and then -- “you.”  My heart leaps like a crazy jack rabbit at the thought!  I wonder how you will greet me.  Will you be warm? Eager? Cold?  Distant? Coy?  Or maybe even with love in your heart?
     Again I appeal to you, my love -- won’t you please consider coming home with me?  Home!  Only when you return will this dreary cell I live in become once more a home.  To invoke God with prayer would be the average man’s hope, but I have ever deprived myself of that.  There is left, therefore, but one thing for me -- Faith.  The faith in myself that I am all I believe myself to be.  And if that faith is justified then surely all that I need is that universal solvent Time to bring you to me. .
     I’m so near to you now that I can almost reach out and kiss you. 
                                                                                          March 13, 1941
     Eddie came to Florida ‑ pale, thin, a stranger in his new blue suit.  I'll never forget the feeling that came over me when I first saw him.  I think we were both trembling as we walked back to the car, and we didn't know what to say to each other.  Vaughan and the baby had come to the station with me.  Vaughan was wearing her nurse's uniform, and when she walked  beside me, carrying Kathie, people's eyes popped out as if they  were wondering, "Well, who is that young millionairess?"
     To see the way the baby took to her daddy, you'd never know she hadn't seen him for four months.  Since she has started recognizing faces, she is apt to cry with strangers, but she wasn't a bit afraid of Eddie.  She went willingly into his arms.
     That night we were left alone in the house.  I had thought we would be like strangers, but the first time he really kissed  me, something happened.  It was like the bursting of the dykes.   All the pent up emotion of those months without him poured out of me and I wept and wept.
     For a week we had a glorious time, beach in the daytime, dancing at night.  I was weakening in my resolve to go through with the divorce.  Then Mother came dashing home from her visit with Aunt Ruth because of a remark Vaughan had dropped in a letter.  She said, "You've been living with him.  Don't deny it, I know it for a fact.  You've got to leave tomorrow.  Pretend you love him, that's the only thing you can do."
     I"d been on the verge of going back to Eddie of my own free will, but being told I had to spoiled everything.  I said some horrible things to Mother, then turned to Eddie for comfort.  I couldn’t help it, I was so disgusted at having my private affairs dragged into the open that I couldn't talk the matter over quietly and reasonably, as Mother wanted to.
     I didn't "pretend" to Eddie.  I said I still didn't know if  I loved him, but if he still wanted me, I'd try really hard this  time to make our marriage succeed.  He said he was sure he could make me happy and that someday I'd realize I loved him.
     Mother and I calmed down and talked more rationally.  She thought I didn't love her any more.
     "And I thought you didn't love me.  How could you love me if you thought I was such a tramp?" (She had intimated she suspected me of sleeping with Tom and God knows who else -- Mr. Culbert, I  guess.)
     "A mother loves her daughter no matter what she does." (That wasn't very reassuring.)  "I'd give my life to see you happy."
     Then she suggested I stay in Florida until my course was finished -- but I must promise not to go out with Tom or anyone else.  I could see she was still doubtful about my morals, so I couldn't endure the thought of staying on.  Eddie solved the problem by offering to send me to night school up north, saying he would stay home with Kathie.
     I called Mr. Woods to tell him the news and ask him if we would have to get married again or what.  He said all we had to do was start living together again.
     We had a wonderful trip home by boat -- just like a honeymoon except for the baby.  Eddie's father met us at the dock, and when he heard we'd run out of money, gave us $2.00 for tips.


     And we lived happily ever after for a long, long time. . . .


No comments:

Post a Comment