different war, different century – same yearnings


Danger, danger, danger – where are our safe places, our safe people, our safe distances from our safe people in our safe places…to mask or not to mask, that is the question. But of course we are not the only generation to wage war against enemies seen and unseen. Seven years ago I published this post about a young soldier who tried to comfort his mother on Mother’s Day from a place that existed only in her imagination.

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The handwriting on the letters has almost faded away, the yellowed paper and envelopes  so torn and fragile I’m afraid to open them for fear they’ll disintegrate. The dates of the letters are in May of 1918, which I calculate to be 95 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. Pretty discovered the letters  when she was on one of her fishing expeditions for treasures in old houses.  Occasionally on her adventures at yard sales or estate 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 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.

 Somewhere in France,  May 12, 1918

Dearest Mother,

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 to 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, Buddie

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Perhaps next Mother’s Day we will all celebrate properly and have a good time without fear of the invisible enemy that attacks us through the Covid-19 virus. Ironically this letter written in 1918 by a soldier looking forward to the spring in France was a Marine who had no way of knowing a pandemic that would sweep across the world was about to begin. The Spanish flu or the 1918 influenza pandemic began in the spring of 1918 and lasted through the summer of 1919 with an estimated 500 million confirmed cases according to Wikipedia. Did Buddie survive both the war and the virus… I wonder…

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

 

About Sheila Morris

Sheila Morris is an essayist with humorist tendencies who periodically indulges her desires to write outside her genre by trying to write fiction and poetry. In December, 2017, the University of South Carolina Press published her collection of first-person accounts of a few of the people primarily responsible for the development of LGBTQ organizations in South Carolina. Southern Perspectives on the Queer Movement: Committed to Home will resonate with everyone interested in LGBTQ history in the South during the tumultuous times from the AIDS pandemic to marriage equality. She has published five nonfiction books including two memoirs, an essay compilation and two collections of her favorite blogs from I'll Call It Like I See It. Her first book, Deep in the Heart: A Memoir of Love and Longing received a Golden Crown Literary Society Award in 2008. Her writings have been included in various anthologies - most recently the 2017 Saints and Sinners Literary Magazine. Her latest book, Four Ticket Ride, was released in January, 2019. She is a displaced Texan living in South Carolina with her wife Teresa Williams and their dogs Spike and Charly. Her Texas roots are never far from her thoughts.
This entry was posted in family life, Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, photography, Random, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to different war, different century – same yearnings

  1. Wayside Artist says:

    I wonder too, Sheila. Did he survive both? Of course there was a Great Depression and a Second World War waiting in the wings. We are such a busy species. 😓

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sissy Jeffords says:

    What a beautiful Mother’s Day letter from a son far away. I know she cried as she read it. It surely brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing this with me Sheila.
    I do so hope things look very different next year at this time! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sissy, thanks very much for reading. I’m sure you understood the mother who read the letter from the son who was far away. I’m sure she must have cried when she read it. I actually loved the letter for its honesty and simplicity. Pretty has countless treasures, but the words are what I love to read when she unearths something like these letters.
      And yes, I hope along with you and Buddie that things will look very different next year.
      I appreciate your comments. Have fun with the granddaughter tomorrow!

      Like

  3. Susanne says:

    What a delightful letter. It sounds so calm compared to everything I’ve read about the soldier’s life during WWI. I guess that’s the work of the censor. So much more happened following the “War to end all wars”, i feel kind of ambivalent wondering did Buddie live to see the next 50 years?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Luanne says:

    Wow, what a treasure! Oh, really brings the human condition home, doesn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

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