Editor’s Note: Sandboxx News presents a World War II series by Kaitlin Oster on the power of hope, letters, and love in seeing us through the terrors and agony of war. You can read the other installments here, listen to Kaitlin’s radio interview about the series here, or visit her website here.
Loretta woke up alone. It was the first of June, her first wedding anniversary. She stirred quietly as the morning sun peered in through her bedroom window and turned to face the day. As she sat up, she rubbed her eyes, feeling the ring around her finger touch her face. She stopped for a moment to examine the symbol of her nuptials — the physical representation of the unfathomable love she had for her soldier across the world. The sun caught the ring and it gleamed for a moment. The spark of light forced Loretta to put her face in her hands and cry.
The silence was a reminder that there was no Harold hopping around the house that morning.
There was never any preparation for what she was experiencing. She felt guilty for leading a semi-normal life at home while her husband lay in a German POW camp, probably fearing for his life. Harold always made it sound so peaceful and civil in prison, but she read the newspapers. She knew it was — most likely — far worse than he described. She often found herself questioning what he wrote, but not because she thought he was lying. She knew he couldn’t tell the whole truth or else his letters wouldn’t make it past the German censoring bureau. She also knew that he couldn’t tell the whole truth because he didn’t want her worrying more than she already was, and that reminded her of how much he still cared.
Making the most out of a bad situation
She made herself a pot of coffee and took in whatever silence she could manage before other members of her family woke up. It was a Thursday, and she didn’t have to go to work until three o’clock that afternoon, so Loretta planned to get a quick bite to eat with Eleanor if the timing was right. They could gab and people-watch before she had to go catch the train at Jamaica Station. Such a beautiful, sunny day may as well have been cloudy and raining, for Loretta could do nothing other than think about her man. The morning felt a little emptier than usual.
Loretta’s mother was already off policing, and she was thoughtful enough to leave her daughter a small slice of pound cake next to the coffee pot. Attached to it was a note with a simple heart. Loretta sat with a newspaper at the table. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle always carried news of the war — where the Allies were, how many were killed, who defeated whom, and so on. It was overwhelming to read and at the same time she was oddly comforted to know that Harold wasn’t in the mix-up of battle. His battle was happening within the fences, certainly, but to what extent she feared she would never know.
Eventually, the photos of war and destruction turned the slice of cake in her stomach, so she decided it best to start her day. She wanted to go for a walk around the block, stop in and see Harold’s mother, and see if Eleanor was around for some more coffee. It was such a melancholy day although it was so warm, but she decided to make the most of it. She thought to herself that Harold would want her to celebrate on their anniversary, regardless of what he was doing.
Before work, she decided, she’d check in once more at home and see if he sent her a letter in the mail — that would brighten her day.
June 1, 1944
What a husband I turned out to be; missing our first anniversary. I’m sorry doll, and I won’t let it happen again. I hope [you’re] well and happy. I love you. Regards to the family.
Feature Image: A woman working on aircraft parts in 1942, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, California. (Library of Congress)
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