The handwriting on the letters has almost faded away and the yellowed paper and envelopes are so torn and fragile I’m afraid to open them for fear they’ll disintegrate. The dates of the letters are in March and May of 1918, which I calculate to be ninety-five years ago this month. They are three letters written by a young Marine serving “somewhere” in France in World War I to his mother who evidently thought they were worthy of saving. On this Sunday afternoon my partner Teresa gave them to me as we cleaned out our Bodega to get ready for a garage sale.
“I think you’ll like these,” she said, “especially since they’re a soldier writing home and tomorrow is Memorial Day.” Occasionally on her adventures at yard sales she finds words for me to read – words that someone saved for a reason. No longer wanted by family, they’re sometimes stuck inside the pages of books she buys or in a little box or even in a scrapbook tossed aside as unimportant.
I don’t think the names are necessary but I will say that the mother lived in Indiana. I’m glad she thought her son’s words were worthy of saving. I believe they’re worthy of being read again.
May 12, 1918
Today is “Mother’s Day” – your day – and I wish I were home to spend the day with you. Altho I cannot send you a big box of flowers I will endeavor to send a little flower that grows near me on a green hillside.
I hope you are well and happy today. Of course I realize how you feel about me being over here, the two battles you have to fight, that is, keeping up a brave front and smile when I know you feel bad about me. Mother dear, I really am safe and the best news I get from home is that you are well and enjoying life. I would rather hear that you enjoyed a good show, say once a week, than to hear that you had denied yourself one little thing to help the Cause along. I sort of figure that you have done your bit, so please try to have a good time and remember that I don’t fare so bad. It isn’t nearly so bad here as you all imagine.
We eat, sleep, read magazines, letters and roam around and see everything going on.
We aren’t getting any furloughs at present. I mean my outfit, but maybe it won’t be long until we can go touring again.
I’ll have many stories to tell you when I get back, and I’ll trade stories for some good pies & cakes – and any eats at all that you cook. We move so much that I thought I’d have to throw away some pictures, but I’ve found a way. We always find a way. It seems a necessary part of a Marine to get along most any old place and get along well.
I sent a list home of some things I want – and you may add on to that list a few pounds of homemade candy, preferably fudge. I don’t care how old fudge gets, it is always the best tasting eats we ever get from back there. I can buy French candy & chocolate at the Y.M.C. A. huts, so you see that we really don’t suffer for those things, but nevertheless some good old homemade candy is the stuff.
I write you once a week, when possible, as an answer to Dad, Sis & your letters so they must not feel slighted, but this is your letter, and nearly every mother who has a son in France will get one too.
Spring is coming in very beautiful, but the rain is so frequent here. After a big rain the sun pops out with a blue sky and green hills – then everybody is happy.
I tried to subscribe for one of the 3rd Liberty Loan Bonds but they aren’t selling them here. I would like to have one of each issue.
I have no kick coming about getting mail now as it is coming pretty regularly. I’d appreciate some of those fried chickens you spoke about but I think I’ll wait until I come home.
Well Mother dear, next Mother’s Day we will celebrate properly and have a good time.
Love to Dad & Sis, and you…
Your loving son,
Tomorrow I’ll gratefully remember the soldiers who served and were wounded and even gave their lives on many battlefields in every corner of the world through the years on our behalf, but I’ll also see a young Marine writing home from “somewhere” in France almost a century ago asking his mother to send homemade fudge.