An herb garden sounds lovely. I've ordered seeds from the Sears Roebuck catalog and my dear friend Levi Miller is going to fix up a big square like you said with all that good soil. Then I'll put in all kinds of things. And some big sunflowers just for you.
Levi can't fight. He's got a bad heart or something. You'd never know it from looking at him. As children, we played on the beaches together every summer right here in Rockport. He never seemed to have any difficulty keeping up with Robert when we were small. Or me, for that matterhave I told you I was considered a tomboy? Still am, in some ways, though you'd never suspect it if you saw me. It's Levi who plays with Robbie now that I can't run around anymore. I'm almost due. Any day now, actually. I'm not even a bit scared of the pain. Does that convince you? It doesn't convince me.
As I write this letter I'm watching Robbie, my little love, play in the snow. My heart aches for Robert. Rita, will it ever stop? The missing? I just don't know. Everything is the same, and then new, and then the same again (only not really the same). The best thing for me is to keep on going about my day as if my sweet husband were to walk in the door any moment, picking up Robbie with one strong arm, and folding me close to him with the other.
I still cook for him. I know it sounds crazy. I've been making this recipe every week. It's so easy, and doesn't touch the sugar ration. Enjoy.
Beer Bread! (So simple and good.)
Mix one bottle of beer, three cups of self-rising flour and 1/2 cup corn syrup.
Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes.
Let me know if you like it.
March 9, 1943
IOWA CITY, IOWA
You would think Iowa would be oozing with corn syrupcorn grows everywhere here. Would you believe I once saw a stalk shooting up through a crack in the sidewalk? Our grocery was all out, though, so I borrowed some from Mrs. Kleinschmidt. She'll probably lord it over me, but the bread was worth it. Completely delicious.
My heart goes out to Levi. The men left here walk around town like they forgot where they parked their cars. Do you know that look? Something's missing, and probably will be for their entire lives. Are they the lucky ones? I don't know. I am glad you're giving Levi something to do. Have him get that soil in fast so you can let it set a bit before you plant. Treat new soil like a newborn babelots of rest, lots of food, lots of love.
Roylene came back, scratching at the door again like a stray. She wanted to add something to the note I was writing to Toby. "Well?" I said as we sat down at the kitchen table. She jammed one dirty fingernail in her mouth and bit down. Her eyes looked everywhere but at me.
Patience is indeed a virtue, but I had dishes to wash and wasn't feeling particularly virtuous. "Spit it out," I said.
She flinched. "Tell him I finally got the potato soup right?"
So I used one of my precious lines of V-mail for an update on Roylene's cooking skills. I didn't ask her to stay for dinner. Heck, I didn't even pour her some tea. Maybe this war is making me mean. I haven't heard from Sal. Not a word, Glory, and it's driving me nuts. To answer your question, the missing never stops. For me, the wondering is even worse. We've been married for twenty-one years. I'd like to think I'd know if he died. I'd feel it, right?
When I stepped onto the porch to see Roylene out, Mrs. Kleinschmidt stood on her front lawn, staring hard at both of us. I watched her look down her ski slope nose at the girl's tatty coat and men's galoshes. My conscience started poking at me.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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