To all the women who have waited...and to those who continue to wait.
January 19, 1943
Dear "Garden Witch,"
I've stained my fingers blue trying to do this right.
Tonight, though, I'm feeling rather lonesome and overwhelmed, so I'm throwing caution to the wind and finally writing to you, a woman I do not know, with the honest understanding that you might not have the time (or desire) to write back in return.
I guess the best place to begin is at the beginning, right?
There's a ladies' 4-H group that meets at the church hall on Wednesday afternoons. I don't really fit in, but I'm trying to pass the time. Anyway, they didn't give out real names, only these addresses, you know? And said if we felt lonesome (which I do) or desperate (which I didn't but I feel it creeping in on me day by day) or anything, we could sit down and write a letter to another girl who might be in the same situation. The situation. I just loved the way Old Lady Moldyflower (Mrs. Moldenhauer) said it. What does she know about our "situation"?
They passed a hat around that held pieces of paper with fake names and real addresses. I suppose the purpose is anonymity, but I figured if we are going to write, why not know each other? The paper slips hadn't been folded, and the girls were sifting through, picking whichever struck their fancy. The whole exercise felt silly and impractical, to tell you the truth. I wasn't going to take a name at all, but Mrs. Moldenhauer nudged me so hard I believe she left a bruise on my upper arm. To spite her, I picked last. I guess the other girls skipped over you because you have "witch" in your fake name. I feel lucky I got you. I could use a little magic these days. I'm seven months along now, and Robbie, Jr. is only just two. He's a holy terror.
Well here's hoping you get this and you feel like writing back. It'll be good to run to the mailbox looking for a letter without an army seal on it.
My name is Gloria Whitehall. I'm twenty-three years old. My husband is First Sergeant Robert Whitehall in the Second Infantry.
Nice to make your acquaintance.
With fondest regards,
February 1, 1943
IOWA CITY, IOWA
I hope this letter finds you well.
I apologize for its lateness, but to be honest I spent a week debating whether or not to pass your letter along to Mrs. Kleinschmidt, my next-door neighbor. She dragged me to the Christmas party for the 4-H, which is when we war wives scrawled our phony names on those slips of pink paper. I was in an awful mood, hence my choice of pseudonym. I do, however, have a lovely garden from late spring through early fall. I can't say it's magical, but it definitely has personality. I planted sunflowers last year and they grew to enormous heights, nearly reaching our gutters. Mrs. Kleinschmidt pronounced them "vulgar" and claimed that staring at their round, pockmarked faces gave her headaches. Of course, this is only incentive to plant more this year.
Now, lest you think I truly am a witch, I should tell you about my "situation," as your Rockport version of Mrs. K. so quaintly puts it.
My husband, Sal, is too old to fight in a war but signed up, anyway, right after Pearl Harbor. Until then he'd been teaching biology at the university here. He spent some years working in a hospital when we lived in Chicago, so they placed him as a medic with the 34th Infantry. Last I read, his division was in Tunisia. I had to look it up on a map.
My boy, Toby, turned eighteen on Halloween. By Christmas he was in Maryland starting his basic training for the navy. On the day he left I was still making his bed and pressing out his clothes, so I'm worried sick about how he's going to manage. I can't imagine the drill sergeants are patient.
Excerpted from I'll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan. Excerpted by permission of Mira. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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