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A Gift For All Loungers

Marc Chevalier

Gone Home
Messages
18,192
Location
Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California
.

Here, at last, is my 10,000th post – and my gift for all Fedora Loungers.


In the late 1990s, my friend Ben McGinty assisted at the estate sale of an old man who had no children. Ben was throwing away some of the miscellanea when something caught his eye. It was a large envelope with dozens of handwritten, time-yellowed pages inside.


What you are about to read is extraordinary: it is a series of “letters” from a young, recently widowed, grieving father to his infant son – who eventually became the old man whose estate my friend helped with. Written over a five-year period (from 1915 to 1920), it is a window into the heart and soul of a farmer/businessman living in rural Wisconsin between the end of the Victorian Era and the beginning of the Jazz Age.


I have transcribed the entire text below; nothing has been edited or deleted. If this long-ago father’s words touch you as much as they have touched me, then the many hours of tedious transcription will have been worth it.


Only three other people have seen these unpublished letters in modern times: Ben, me, and an anonymous Lounger. Now, it’s your turn. May they move and inspire you.


(This post is dedicated to Lady Day, Andykev, and Quigley Brown.)




_________________________________________________________________



September 19th , 1915


To my Son:


Little Boy, daddy is going to write a little in this book from time to time and tell you things about your little “mommy”. That was your own name for her and she liked it as soon as you took it, and so did I. You could say mamma and even mother, if told to, but “mommy” was the name you used.


Three weeks ago, we laid her away, and, little boy, how we miss her, you and I. You don’t know you miss her, but I do, you want your daddy now every minute, and demand him a little bit more peevishly and naughtily than she would have allowed, and you wet your pants twice today. I can’t remember when you did it last. It was a long time ago, and she spanked you and then you probably tried to make it up to her. The only times you were ever real affectionate were just after you had been punished – then you would say “mommy, mommy” and put her on the shoulder. She did most of the disciplining and did it well, and everybody remarked what a fine, well-behaved little boy you were. Now daddy has got to make you mind, and it’s awfully hard. Everybody wants to love you, and daddy most of all, but you must be the nice little boy we have been so proud of and daddy seems to be the only one to do it.


Daddy will tell you about “the mommy” (you usually put the “the” on it: “Dere’s da mommy”, you would shout) some day, when you are big enough to understand. But if daddy should be taken just as suddenly, you would have to grow up without knowing so much about your little mommy. That’s the hardest part. Daddy had her for his own for nearly five short years, and she had you for less than two … and little boy we need her, you and I.


There is so much I want to write and tell you about her that I don’t know whether to begin at the beginning or just let the words come as they will. Memories crowd upon one now. I think of things I haven’t thought of for years. Every time I do a thing or go someplace or touch something, each brings forth so many memories. I chased out on Lake Michigan today in our canoe trip canoe that has been in the garage since our last trip up north. I thought I saw some ducks a little way out and must go after them. We did the same thing three years ago, only we got a duck and I didn’t today.


The first time I saw her was the opening day of school. She came in with her brother and sat down one seat ahead across the aisle. She did not look to the right nor to the left and I hardly saw her face, but I was interested, and after the short enrolling session, I looked forward to seeing her the next day. But she didn’t come! I saw them on the street, she & her brother, a few days later. “Say, the teacher wants to know why you don’t come to school.” “We’re not going to that school,” said your Uncle Harland, and they passed on up the street. They lived near us and I was soon shooting bows and arrows with Harland and showing off to Ruth.


The first time I kissed her I got slapped, and hard too! We boys had made a toboggan on the slippery grass of the lake bank and used boards for sleds. Ruth wanted to try it. I held the board while she climbed in place. I kissed her as I let go. But she didn’t slide down – off like a flash and a real slapfest for me. I made believe I thought it was a joke, but I don’t think she ever really knew how much that slap hurt in more ways than one. We made up, of course, without saying a word to do it, and I stole kisses occasionally when I could or dared after that. I was slapped, but never as hard as that first time.


Soon after I was fourteen, I went away to school and we wrote to each other. Daddy has nearly every letter your mommy wrote to him, except those he received the few times he was away after we were married, and those were mighty nice too. I wish I had them, especially those in which she tells me about you. “You had spilled the milk and were spanked.” “You were asking for daddy.” “You were calling loud attention to anybody that spilled. Didn’t they do the same to you.” And so on. I had the little mommy & the boy home, so why keep the letters after once read? I tore them up … now I don’t have the mommy or the letters.


For the past four and a half years, ever since Ruth and I were married, we have lived in the present and for the present … and now that it is all over, I realize how perfectly contented and happy we were. Not that we didn’t have our quarrels and spats, especially in the first year. The first year, they say, is always the hardest. But ever since we expected you, the spats have amounted to nothing; and after you came, we three – the mommy, you, and I – have been as close a little family as ever there was. She said more than once that she never regretted your coming, not one instant, and only wished you had put in an appearance sooner.


How she enjoyed nursing you! She would get up as regular as a clock, and without a clock too, for your night feeding; and for your morning feeding, I’d go and get you and we’d cuddle up together and watch you at work. And the first time I saw her bathe you, you gave me a demonstration of swift and fancy kicking and splashed the water even out of the tub. I too gave you a bath soon after, under her direction. She said I ought to know how, in case she had to be away. The next time I bathed you was about a year later, just two weeks ago: for she has gone away and will never bathe you again.


Everybody said that she was the most sensible little mother in Racine and I think she was, little boy. She was crazy about you, but she shared you with everybody without a thought of selfishness, and she never told anybody but your daddy what a marvel she thought you were. She knew your daddy would agree and she told him that you were the best-looking, the smartest, the cutest, the best behaved … in fact the best everything. I never heard her praise you extravagantly to anybody else, but we certainly would congratulate each other on having a half interest in you.


Your mommy was always a bit impatient when she wanted anything. Mother Brown told her that she was glad that Ruth had at least to wait a while for her babies to arrive. If we both had had a little more patience in waiting for our car this summer, daddy would have had one more day and two nights with mommy. But we had been without a car all summer and were anxious to get it, so daddy & Uncle Harry went to Detroit to drive it home. Mommy drove us to the train in Uncle Harry’s automobile; daddy kissed her goodbye and watched her drive away. She made a face at daddy, for she knew that daddy was listening to see if she clashed the gears, and she didn’t. That was the last that daddy saw of her alive. Oh little boy, daddy’s lonesome! These beautiful October days that mommy & daddy always looked forward to and enjoyed together! We would hunt ducks together, we would canoe up north together and camp out in a little tent, and your little mommy was the best all-around sport there ever was. We were looking forward to going up north with you when you were big enough. Now you’ll have to go just with daddy and daddy will tell you how he and mommy used to do it.


The word “mommy” hasn’t been said in front of you since she left us, for it is best that you should forget. Yet it nearly breaks daddy’s heart to think you must forget her. I know how glad you would be to see her today if she could appear. You wouldn’t have forgotten her yet: you loved her too much. You would [?] that little face like the sun, then “Mommy! Mommy! Dere’s da mommy!” Then hug her and pat her on the shoulder. I’ve seen you greet her when she has just been away for an afternoon, and it was a real greeting.


She was never away from you but for one night. Grandma Brown was in Racine and stayed with you while mommy went out to Eagle Lake with daddy hunting. We didn’t shoot any ducks and we hustled right home to our boy. We hustled so fast that we broke the rear spring of the Hupmobile doing it. This was a year ago. Then even with the broken spring, we decided to drive down to Chicago: grandma, the baby & all. It was a dandy ride, and you were just as good as gold. We stopped and gave you your milk under a tree, and you decided right then that you liked camping out. Coming home the next day, you slept all the way and mummy’s arms were nearly broken holding you for so long. The more we bumped, the harder you slept. Daddy can’t realize yet that there are to be no more rides for us three. We used to take you up out of bed on hot summer nights, put on your coat over your nightclothes, and then ride & ride. You didn’t object, never a whimper, and you would either sleep in mummy’s arms or sit up and take in the sights.


They say that time will heal even big hurts like these. It’s only been a month now, but daddy feels it more than ever. Your mummy formed so complete a part of daddy’s life that hardly a thought passed through daddy’s head that didn’t include her in some way. Daddy is crying so much just now that he will have to stop writing and go find you. Daddy wants to hug you more than ever these days, but you are not much of a hugger. Mommy wanted her next little baby to be a little girl as she thought a little girl would let her hug and cuddle more.


Daddy just finished looking over mommy’s and daddy’s old music sheets, so as to put a lot of them away. Daddy found a sheet of music torn out of a magazine. Mommy & daddy found and played this one day before they were married. Christmas, 1910. Such a short time ago. We had been looking forward to this Christmas and all the Christmases to come, counting on the fun of giving you lots of toys. Last Christmas, you were really too little to enjoy what little things we gave you. This Christmas, mommy was going to get you a velocipede. Daddy will get it now, but the fun of selecting things with mommy for you will never be. Ah my boy, when the days are dreary & cold like today and mommy is out in the cold, daddy can hardly believe there is a God.


Daddy hasn’t written in this book for some time, and has just read over the last paragraphs. Daddy is going to try not to say such things as those again, for I guess that your mummy wouldn’t like it, and he must be thankful for the happiness that has been lived with mummy and you, and I guess mommy will like it better if he smiles with you and only keeps the memories fresh of the happy days with her. Today was your birthday. You were born just two years and about an hour and three quarters ago.


Daddy was plowing fourteen miles out in the country the day you were born, but was pretty close to a telephone and when mommy telephoned that you had decided to make an appearance, maybe he didn’t hum along in. Your mommy was the bravest little mommy that ever was; at least, there are none braver. I know she went to her last fight just as bravely as she did when you came, and she didn’t have daddy by her side to encourage, either. Daddy is so sorry.


The day after you were born, mommy told daddy how you had lifted your head and moved your fingers so wonderfully when they brought you to her. The next days, daddy used to come to the hospital to see you and mommy, and you would usually greet daddy by crying, and daddy would watch you take your meals so businesslike, and mommy & daddy were as proud of you as can be.


Today you spent playing hard as you know how with lots of new toys, and daddy has so enjoyed your pleasure in your presents. Two trains, a ‘telephone’, a table, a chair, a couple of rocking horses which are going back as you won’t have anything to do with them, and a push-along boat. You had a cake for breakfast with two candles, and a cake at the Thanksgiving dinner down at Aunt Hettie’s. You call cake “cookie”, but you seem to like it just as much as mommy. That is one thing that mommy didn’t like about daddy: he didn’t like cake as much as she did and she hated to have it made just for herself, as it was never all eaten up before it got hard. She and daddy were both fond of candy and so are you, it appears. We used to get lots of it. It was one of our few extravagances.


Little boy, daddy hasn’t written to you in here for two or three weeks. Your birthday has passed and mommy’s too, and now Christmas is coming. These are hard days for daddy, and only you make the days at all easier. Daddy wants to have his arms around you most of the time. This bores you very much, though you always say “Luv me, luv me” and hold out your arms when I put you to bed. I guess mommy used to say that to you and that is how you learned it. The last two nights, you have awakened and wanted to come into daddy’s bed. The first night, daddy took you in gladly, for daddy’s bed is mighty lonesome. You were there quite content and went to sleep very soon, and daddy did too after a while. Last night, you wanted to come in, but daddy thought it was getting to be a bad habit for you and told you to lie down & go to sleep, and then you cried “Daddy all gone!” That’s what you always say now when daddy reproves you or says you can’t have a thing. You cried so hard, daddy weakened immediately and pulled you over into his bed and hugged you close, and dried your tears. You hugged back quite nicely and then went right to sleep.


Daddy must tell you about the last real whole day we had together. Daddy went away on a Thursday, and as daddy was working all day during the week before Thursday, the Saturday & Sunday before is the time I mean. We went out to Eagle Lake in Uncle Harry’s automobile, daddy driving and you sitting first on mommy’s lap and then on Uncle Harry’s. You are a restless little son of a gun, and are always all over the place. It was a nice day Saturday, & daddy and Uncle Harry were busy fixing up the boathouse to have it ready for hunting in the Fall. You helped greatly by getting in the way and working daddy’s tools and nails & saws. Mommy put on your oldest rompers and you sat on the shore and threw stones in the lake, and filled up a tin can with them. Daddy climbed a hickory nut tree near the cottage (mommy’s & daddy’s special nut tree, by the way) and shook down the nuts. Then we all got busy picking them up. That was fine business for you. You piled nuts, shells and all into the basket, and tried to carry the basket too. Mommy & Uncle Harry started for the farm in the car, to get you milk for supper. You were to be taken along, but you didn’t want to go: picking up nuts was too much fun. You went with them, though, and were all right when you got started. Then you had your supper of bread and milk, and then got busy piling stones on the table, then climbed up in a chair, dropping them on the floor and then going after them. Mommy cooked the supper of pork chops, potatoes, and sweet corn, and we had a fine time with you bustling around with your can of stones. After the dishes were washed by daddy & dried by mommy & Harry, we took you up to the cottage and put you –protesting at first– to bed. Then we went in the other room and played cards for a while. Daddy & Harry got up early next morning and went hunting, but with no luck: it was raining and not much fun. You and mommy came down to the boathouse just as daddy was starting breakfast. You had your oatmeal & milk, and mommy said she didn’t want any eggs – just so daddy & Harry could have more, I think. It was raining, so we carpentered around the boathouse while you got most gloriously dirty. Daddy put up ‘steen dozen’ shelves, which mommy held while daddy put in the screws, and Harry carried wood for the stove down to the woodbox from the car, and put his chains on his tires for a slippery ride home. Daddy cut a hole in the ceiling of the boathouse to make an attic of it, and in so doing dropped the boards down nearly on your head. You thought that was for your amusement, and tried to pick all the boards up at once. Then came time to go home, so we shut up camp and started home in the rain and the mud. We were snug with the curtains down and you soon went to sleep in mommy’s arms.


You have nearly stopped saying “No to daddy” now. You started it when mommy would say to you as daddy left in the morning, “Say goodbye to daddy”, and you would say “Goodbye to daddy”; and it soon came to be also “No to daddy” and “No to mommy”. When we came home from supper at Mrs. Agnes’s, we would usually go in and take you out of bed where you had been lying kicking your feet in the air and shouting and singing your monotone song. We would take you into the front room, and you would be not at all sleepy and want to play as much as ever. When daddy was holding you, it would be “Go to mommy! Go to mommy!” And when mommy had you, it was “Go to daddy! Go to daddy!” But when we said “Want to go to bed”, it was “No to mommy! No to daddy!”, with many negative shakes of the head. But when we took you in, you usually went quite peacefully and would say “goodbye” quite readily. Daddy & mommy were awfully happy then.


Everything has so many memories connected with it, that daddy’s heart is wrung so many times a day. Daddy just went down to shake the furnace, and saw the old icebox that we had until we got this big new one about a year ago. The old icebox opened up at the top where the ice goes in, and that’s where the milk is kept. One night, mommy got up to get your night meal, and daddy dropped off to sleep again. Daddy was awakened soon by mommy coming into the room crying as if her heart would break. I thought you were sick or dead, and jumped up. “What’s the matter?” “The icebox fell down on my head and it hurts!” Daddy gathered mommy up and cuddled her, just as he cuddled you last night when you cried & wanted to get in daddy’s bed.


Last night, a Victrola came for your and my Xmas present from Grandma. We were playing it for some time tonight. It is so hard for daddy to enjoy these things, like the Victrola, the new Hupmobile, and even the new things you say. All daddy’s pleasures have been doubled and multiplied by having mommy to enjoy them with him. He wanted a Victrola “awful bad” last Xmas, but decided not to get it but to get a car this summer instead, and as it turned out, mommy didn’t get to enjoy either one. The car cheated daddy & mommy out of two last days together. I show you pictures of her, little boy, and you say “mommy” and I try to believe you remember her, but I’m afraid you don’t … though I know you would if she could come back to you.


Three days before Christmas! First Christmas without her. I wonder how many there are going to be. I wanted this book to be a help to you, to know something of your little mother. What she liked, what she said, anything about her that you might treasure … but I find that when I write, it is usually an outpouring of my grief. But daddy can’t help it. I wanted to tell you about our canoe trips up north, about our Saturday afternoons on Lake Quinneg[?] on the Charles River, while Daddy was at Harvard. About the lunches at the ‘Thorndyke’, Boston before football games, and occasionally supper at the Thorndyke and theatre afterward, and then the long ride back to Worcester on the train, or out to West Roxbury on the cars, for daddy knew the way pretty well to both places when Ruth Brown was there. Daddy “fussed” all the football games, and always with the same girl. These memories come flitting back now, but not enough, not half enough. “Daddy has a poor memory.” That was an axiom with mommy, just as “Mommy has a fine memory” is an axiom with daddy. The last five years, daddy has been so happy and content that he has lived entirely in the present, and yesterday was soon forgotten. So few kodaks have been taken since Ruth and I were married. We had each other and didn’t need pictures of each other. When daddy was away at school and mommy in Racine or later in Boston, we took lots of kodaks and exchanged them; it was the next best thing to seeing each other. So you see, our kodak books before we were married are fairly fat. Those blessed kodaks of you taken in the backyard last August are dear to daddy, for they are good of you, and a good many have mommy in them. You were wearing your first pants (or “panities”, as you call them), made by Grandma Brown. We put them on you and then, without much more than just them, took you out in the backyard to have your picture taken.


We show you the picture now and you recognize them for mommy, but whether you know who mommy is, I don’t know. I’m afraid you don’t.


Daddy feels sometimes as if he would feel better to take you and go far away from where he has been so happy, but then when he thinks of being away from the place that holds so many memories, it is like losing hold even of the memories. The many nights that daddy and mommy have spent in this room, both reading by the table; quite often resting in the big leather chair and not reading. Mommy usually finished reading first, and would climb into daddy’s lap and say “Don’t let’s read”, and put daddy’s book away and cuddle up quite comfy. And then after a while, she would go to bed while daddy finished his story. “Coming to bed pretty soon? It’s awful cold in here …” It wouldn’t take much of that to make daddy hurry through his story. The first year we were married, we would play lots of double canfield or solitaire. Mommy usually won, as she did at all card games, but daddy got so he could give her a close rub if he had a little luck with him. But if the cards came out right and the game went to a finish, mommy always won: for she would get excited and laugh with excited squeals at every card slapped down just ahead of daddy’s card, until daddy would throw down his cards and the game would then end for the evening. We played a little canfield this summer, after we sold our car and were waiting for the new one that never came for mommy. But daddy was out of practice and mommy “walked all over him”.


Mommy was very fond of cards and a fine bridge player. Daddy is decidedly not, though he improved somewhat and won a prize at the last party that he and mommy went to. Playing in the evening, daddy would soon lose his interest and incur mommy’s displeasure by his poor & careless playing.



.
 

Marc Chevalier

Gone Home
Messages
18,192
Location
Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California


Jan. 7, 1916.


You have been sick with a bad cold the past week, and Grandma Dalman has been down here. Daddy scares very easily now where you are concerned, for the full responsibility rests with him. It is much easier to decide on actions when there is the mummy and the daddy to decide together. Mommy was a capable one to decide too. Now that daddy hasn’t got her to look for advice as he did in everything, he realizes just how much of a help she was. She was the most clever woman with her needles that ever was. Mommy could and did make most of her own clothes, and just about everything of yours. She had such a happy time sewing things for you, both before you came and after you were here. She made things so quickly, she would start a thing and fairly fly to its finish: yet they were wonderfully made. Daddy is keeping some of the things she made you, which you will treasure someday. Among them is a little white corduroy coat & hat. This she made in September. She finished it just a few days before she kissed you goodbye for the last time. She thought daddy didn’t appreciate her cleverness enough in this regard, and would occasionally say so when daddy didn’t admire enough. I think I appreciated it, little boy, but I was lacking in my not showing my appreciation enough. However, on this little coat I think I did remark on it two or three times while she was making it, and talk to her about it, and the hat too. In fact, I helped her try the hat on you. She had bought one to go with the coat and then decided she could make one and save us the money. She made it immediately. It wasn’t quite right, and we tried it on you and she changed it, and I think she was going to take it in a little bit more too, but she didn’t have quite enough time. She did these things so swiftly. I would come home from work: “What did you do this afternoon?” “Oh, I made a shirtwaist for myself, started some towels, and played bridge down at Katherine’s.” She would make the dandiest silk shirts for daddy for his birthday and Christmas presents. And the neatest buttonholes! Daddy hates to wear them and yet loves to wear them. He hates to use the “drawn” towel and the embroidered initialed [?], for they will wear out so soon. The only thing mommy wasn’t swift on was sewing buttons for daddy and mending socks. She would let the socks go until I would sing out “One more pair of black, no more tan”: then she would finish up the batch in one fell swoop. As for the shirts, I’d hang a few on the chandelier as a gentle reminder, and then they would be usually done.


She was clever with tools, too. You ought to be a crackerjack in that way, if you are at all like your mommy & daddy. A year ago, about the time daddy was overhauling the motor on the Hupmobile – when it came time to put it together, daddy needed help and confidently called on mommy. And she was some help: she put in the nuts and bolts just about as fast as daddy. Harry had helped daddy take it down, and daddy could see the difference between his helpers. And when it came to changing a tire, we had some systematic speed. Daddy would jack up the wheel and start pulling off the tire, while mommy put on daddy’s ‘patented’ power pump and got out the new tube, or patched the old one. She always was a good all-around chum, and daddy’s heart is mighty empty … except for the little spot where you are working in, and you are a blessed gift from her.


Boy, why is it that our loved ones have to be taken from us before we fully realize how much we love them and need them, and how much more we could have done to show our love? Mommy knew she was everything to me, but the last two or three years I didn’t tell her very often, not as often as I should have. One becomes so contented that the opportunity slips by, and if one suddenly remembers, it seems hard to say it, though it shouldn’t. I’m writing this as advice to you. When you get your girl –and I hope you get one as wonderful as mommy– keep on a-telling her. She won’t get tired of it. I think I knew this, too, but I don’t know why I didn’t make use of it.


Now those ‘canoe trips’. Daddy has always liked to canoe, hunt & camp, and he and mummy used to canoe quite a lot on the Charles River in the Spring, whenever daddy could get away from his studies, and he usually did quite often. Mommy got to be quite an enthusiastic canoeist and suggested we take a canoe honeymoon trip. We planned one all out, but we didn’t take it. We went from New London, where we were married, to New York; stayed there a few days and then went to Jacksonville, Florida to see her sister. We did not stay but a few days in Florida, for we were anxious to get to Racine, fix up our flat, & unpack the wedding presents.


That summer, though, we planned a canoe trip for the Fall. About the end of September, we started up north with our canoe just ahead by freight and our outfit that we had selected with such fun in the baggage car. We left the “jumping off place” (see Steward Edward White’s The Forest) and had crossed the first little lake from Fosterville when it started to rain hard. We made camp at the end of the next lake in the rain, and didn’t even have time to cut a lot of branches to soften the hard ground. Daddy managed to get a fire going, though, and we crouched in the tent and friend some bacon with the rain sputtering in the pan. Bacon and some marshmallows was our supper. Mommy bought a big bag of marshmallows at the “jumping off place”. “They won’t weight much, and I’ve got to have something to eat,” she said. Then we tried to go to sleep on the hard ground; the ground slanted towards the foot of the little dog tent. We did get some sleep, but not much. Mommy went to sleep before daddy, on daddy’s arm, and he didn’t dare move it for a long, long time, as he was afraid she wouldn’t get much sleep if she woke up again. Oh, but everything was wet in the morning, and in rained nearly all day. We didn’t want to go on in the rain, as the only clothes we had were on our backs. Daddy softened up the bed a bit with pine boughs and we slept better that night. And it rained the next day, and I think the next one too. Daddy wanted to pack up and go home, for it was a dreary little lake we were on, and a four foot dog tent isn’t very big … even for two little people like daddy & mommy. Mommy said “No, we won’t quit yet; we’ll wait until tomorrow anyway.” It wasn’t raining the next day but looked like it, so we broke camp and went on. Cloudy all day, but we paddled, carried, and drifted until we got to Round Lake, where daddy intended to make a permanent camp. We made camp and then it rained some more. In fact, it rained some the whole time we were up there. But mommy was such a fine campmate. We had a good time in spite of the weather. We shot a few ducks and partridges, and daddy missed a whole lot of ducks and lots of mallards, and mommy caught a nice mus[?] trolling. The only incident to mar the trip was that mommy didn’t like daddy’s pancakes. Daddy thought he was some pancake maker, for Harold & Uncle Jerry ate them as long as the batter lasted and looked for more. “They aren’t even done though,” said mommy. “Fry ‘em yourself,” said daddy. Mommy tried, but when the smoke got to chasing her around the fire no matter where she went and the fire was first too hot and then not hot enough, she gave it up and we left the pancakes out of the menu from then on. Mommy was usually cold at night, for daddy couldn’t get her to wear heavy clothes, try as he might … but she was a perfect brick just the same. I remember one time on the trip: the mallards, after daddy shot in vain at them, seemed to wing it from the creek and drop in a lake a little way back in the woods. Daddy found the lake, and saw the ducks up at the other end. We decided to go around and get at them from the other side, so mummy and daddy started through the woods. Mommy wasn’t accustomed to walking through this thick stuff, and daddy in his impatience kept getting ahead of her, and let her plod along alone. It suddenly occurred to daddy just what he was doing, and he went back to mommy and put his arm around her. “Getting tired, darling?” “It’s awfully hard walking, Roy.” “The deuce with the ducks – that lake has moved. Let’s get back to camp. I’m hungry”, said daddy, and we wandered arm in arm back to the canoe. And daddy was thinking what a wonderful woman he had … but I’m afraid he didn’t tell her so, not just then anyway, but he did that night when we cuddled together in the little tent. The next day we decided to go home, and at about nine o’clock started north across the lake to make Fosterville in time for the nine o’clock train. When we reached Crab Lake after two camps, the wind had sprung up to nearly a gale and daddy couldn’t make a foot a minute against the waves, which were so high that mommy started to cry: both from fear and because she knew we would not make it and would have to camp out another night, and we had thrown away nearly everything we had to eat before breaking camp on Round Lake. That night was real cold, and mommy was so cold she couldn’t sleep. Daddy wanted to get up and build a fire in front of the tent, but mommy wouldn’t let him. Morning finally came and we made an early start for Fosterville, and had a good dinner when we got there. Daddy thought that this would be all the canoe tripping that mommy would want, but she started to plan what we would do next Fall on the way home on the train … and we went next Fall, too.


A few days now, boy, and it will be our fifth wedding anniversary. What a short time ago. How we planned what a happy life we were going to have together … and we did, little boy. I couldn’t ask for a happier. But, oh! so short. Daddy went out to the lake last Sunday and brought in the rest of mommy’s letters. Some were out there with some of daddy’s things. Little boy, I wish you were old enough so that I could read some of them to you. I can’t seem to get up courage enough to read them alone. There would be too many memories. But if you were old enough to tell you about her, I could do it and love it. I love to talk about her, boy, but there seem to be so few people to talk about her to. Aunt Hettie has been a wonderful help, and daddy has run down there when he felt that he must talk to someone about her. I cleaned out my little file and came across a telegram that sent me up to Minnesota last September on business. I was gone three days, and hustled some to get home fast. I didn’t finish my job correctly in order to get home. I would have had to stay two more days, but I’m glad I hustled: for two weeks later, we lost her. She wrote me two of the nicest letters those three days I was away; but little boy, I didn’t keep them. I just hurried home to you and her. Little boy, since daddy first saw mommy, there never was any other girl for him, and he always has been true to her. Daddy was completely wrapped up in her; every though included her. “Will Ruth like my new shoes? Will Ruth want to go to the lake Saturday, or to Milwaukee?” I find it so hard to plan anything to do. We always planned together, and we usually wanted to do the same thing – but Ruth always wanted to do something. We had such a hard time the last Summer in finding “something to do”. We had sold our car and were lost without it. Today is Wednesday, and next Saturday is our wedding anniversary. We have her wedding dress, boy. I wish I had kept a few of her other things; she never wore the wedding dress but once, and I wish I had also kept some dress she was wearing last summer. A familiar dress will bring back memories so easily, and memories are all I have of her now. I am going to put all our letters, her dress, and some things she made you, in a little trunk in which she was happily packing things just five years ago.



* * * * * *


Daddy hasn’t written for a long, long time. She has been gone now over nine months. It still hurts so much to think about her. Sometimes with a hurt that is pleasant, but more often with a hurt that “pulls at your heartstrings”. That isn’t just a phrase, boy, for when it does hurt that way, that expression describes just how one feels. This Summer so far, daddy hasn’t stayed at home much in the evenings. There were so many evenings at home last Summer that these evenings feel so lonesome. I can’t read steadily until bedtime, as I used to. I must be doing something, or the hurt comes stabbing away. Mommy was such a little woman, boy. Just five feet tall, and seldom more than three or four pounds over a hundred pounds. Just after you were born, she weighed about a hundred and thirteen, and such a happy plump little huggable darling she was. Just look at that picture of you and her in daddy’s locket that used to be hers. Isn’t she the sweetest little mommy a baby boy ever had? She was the nicest armful for daddy, and how we could cuddle up in the big chair in daddy’s lap – with a “Don’t let’s read. Pay attention to me.”


We had such great fun teaching you to walk, and you thought it great sport too. The tumbles were the least of your worries. You were saying who the different chairs belong to the other day: “This is Henry’s chair. This is Jack’s chair. This is daddy’s chair.” “This is mommy’s,” I told you, and pointed at the low cane-seated rocking chair. You nodded your head in acquiescence and said, “When she comes back.” If only she would come back, little boy, just for a minute. To tell her again that we love her … to hold her close once more. If we could look forward to such a minute, what contentment! But we leave, and one day she is just a memory to daddy alone. We had her, boy, we mustn’t forget that. You had her love too, though you won’t ever remember it … but it will be a consolation to you, I know, in the years to come. You used to put up your arms around daddy’s neck just after she left, and say “Luv me? Luv me?”, and I think she had been coaxing and loving you, and you learned that part from her.


It’s so lonesome after you are in bed and daddy usually goes out somewhere. I can crawl through an evening if I go out and hammer around the car, the car that prevented daddy from being with mommy at the very last. When daddy thinks of how she stayed over at the hospital that Friday night, all alone, those heartstrings get all tangled up some more.


About a week more, little boy. It will be just a year since your little mommy left us. Just a year less one week tomorrow that daddy saw her last. Daddy is taking his vacation at this time, our usual vacation time, and is going up north with Uncle Harland. We are going just about in the same place as your mommy and I used to go. I don’t know whether it is going to be hard or not for me to go there. I like to think about her, and like to talk about her. No one is especially interested in talking about anyone that has left us, except those that were very close to the one that is gone. I think you will be glad to hear your daddy tell you about your mommy. In overhauling the camp outfit which hadn’t been used since before you were born, there were so many things that brought the memories rushing. Ruth’s little slippers, her “pack”, the ditty bag she made. Daddy and Uncle Harland are using these things again, and daddy thinks often of mommy.


But it’s going to be awful hard to leave you, little boy. You are daddy’s all, now, and as the time draws short before we start up north, I hate to think of kissing you goodbye. You’ll miss your daddy and your daddy will miss you much more. Never mind, little boy; a very few years and you and I will go camping together.



* * * * * *


Today is the Fourth of July, 1917. You & daddy shot off your first firecrackers this morning. Then we went riding and stopped at Uncle Chester’s. He had lots of nice peonies, so we took some out to the cemetery. Some for Grandpa Roy & Grandma Roy, and then we put a bunch near mommy. You put the flowers in the water very nicely. I think it won’t be long before I must tell you what the cemetery is and where mommy is. You used to say “My mommy’s gone away.” Now you say, “My mommy’s gone away and never coming back.”


We had a nice ride, but how much more we would have enjoyed it with our mommy. You are such a real dandy little boy that daddy would love to have mommy to gloat over your perfections, as we used to do.


The nurse is dressing you now, and I can hear your ‘song’: that noisy hum which amused us so much and is still more than ever a habit of yours.


We made a boat today, down in the garage. “Round on both ends just like Harry’s, with a high tall mast.” You selected the drill to make the hole for the mast and wanted to make the hole too, as you and Harry had a fine time making holes last Sunday with the breast drill in a big block of wood. Lots of holes! You now know what everything is for. “What do chisels do?” Here you come and want your new boat. Got to get it right away.



* * * * * * * * * *



September 19th, 1920.


This afternoon, we went out to Eagle Lake, took the little pump-gun which shoots the same kind of shells as my and mommy’s gun. The early Fall days, little boy, pull at daddy’s heart. Even after five years’ absence, a day like today –its sunshine bright, the air cool with a steady breeze, and the trees just starting to turn– brings back those Fall days that we enjoyed so together. The Fall was our time! And it’s yours and mine now, and will be more & more. “When you are twelve years old, you can shoot mommy’s gun.” That’s what I’ve told you, and you’re not letting me forget.


Today, boy, as we moved around the lake, it seemed as if she ought to be up there beside you. There were no ducks or hens so early on the lake, but a poor little killdeer flew over & I nearly dropped him in the boat for you. We landed in the woods across the lake and you filled your pockets with acorns. I lay down on the grass just about where we spent an afternoon in the Summer of 1910, the Summer before we were married. She went to sleep and awoke just as I came back from the canoe, to which I had gone for something or other. I remember how startled her face was as she jumped up. I happened to be behind her and she didn’t see me …


You & I cooked our Sunday night supper as usual, and had the last of the corn from the garden … and it was two killdeer that we killed this afternoon.


Both of us too tired even for a movie tonight.





.
 

RedHotRidinHood

Practically Family
Messages
786
Location
Phoenix
Oh my.

I read it all the way through, but I know that I will come back and read it again and again. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Of course, I'm sitting here crying my eyes out, but reading such wisdom is worth it. How very sad that the little boy never married or had children. I am so glad that you saved such a treasure; things like this are so precious.

Quite simply, thank you.
Jenny
 

J.B.

Practically Family
Messages
677
Location
Hollywood
Thank You, Marc -- from a guy who was raised dad-less.

"Little boy" had to grow up mom-less. I can't imagine how tough that would be!
 
S

Samsa

Guest
Marc, this is entirely unexpected, but better than anything I had thought it might be. Thanks for taking the time to transcribe these. I've done some transcription before, and know that it's a tedious job. That you've done it with so few gaps and errors is really amazing.:eusa_clap
 

CanadaDoll

Practically Family
Messages
961
Location
Canada
Thank you so much for taking the time to post this for us Marc, I am also crying my eyes out, but it's such a wonderful touching thing to read about, and I'm glad you shared it with us.
 

Prairie Dog

A-List Customer
Messages
338
Location
Gallup, NM
You've made me cry and that doesn't happen too often.
But without realizing it, you've given both the widowed, grieving father and his son – who eventually became the old, unmarried man with no heirs, a family here at the FL. This post will touch the hearts of everyone that reads your transcription.

Marc, I'd call this a monumental 10,000th post. You've also proved that beneath your gruff exterior you're an old softie. I guess you could call most of the loungers here sentimental old softies. And that's a good thing!
 

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