Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grandma and the Prince - Part 24

I'm so embarrassed! I thought I was up on Christmas Day but turns out yesterday (22nd) was my turn.

I'm offering the letter my dad sent home to Grandma El one Christmas during World War II.
I’d had no idea my father had been stationed in Maine briefly over the Christmas holidays in 1943. Calais (pronounced “callous”) Maine, way up at the Canadian border. It was a strange jumping-off point for a group of sailors headed for New Guinea and the Philippines but there
you have it. He was eighteen at the time, glad to be away from home, excited about where he was heading next. He was like lots of other young men of that era, eager to fight the good fight.

“Christmas Eve
Dec. 24, 1943

Dearest Mom, Dad and Mona,

Well, here it is, Christmas Eve and I’m spending a nice quiet evening in the barracks. I really do feel homesick tonight with the Christmas carols playing on the radio. How I hope I never have to spend a Christmas away from home again. Tomorrow we have a 24 hour pass and
three of my best pals and I are going to Christmas Mass in Canada.

Not Nova Scotia, Dad, sorry to say. I’d really like to have you meet these fellows, Mom. They are swell guys. You’d really like them.

I received your letter today and you don’t know how handy that $5 will be.

Mom, you said that I sounded unhappy over the phone, well I suppose I did in a way, but with Christmas so near, everyone is feeling the same way.

We are supposed to leave here Monday night around 6:30, but we still don’t know where we’ll end up. I suppose it will be in California. I still owe you and Dad a nice present and I’ll send it as soon as possible.

Well, mom, my next letter will probably be from our next base. Here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and let’s all hope that next year will bring victory and we’ll all be together again.

All my love to the dearest family in the world,

The true story? He didn't go to Mass in Canada. He and his friends went looking for girls!

Imagine three idiot Yankee sailors wandering around in minus ten degree weather on Christmas Day, looking for action. Not too likely. They were walking through town when a car lumbered by on the hard-packed snow. A pair of pretty teenagers smiled at them through the back window and my dad and his friends whistled and winked and acted pretty much the way you’d expect a trio of lonely teenagers would act.

Then the car slowed to a stop and they realized a stern-faced man was behind the wheel.

“Now we’re gonna get it,” my dad said. “Her old man’s gonna kill us.”

(Remember, it was a more innocent age.)

“Let’s run,” said one of his pals.

The father climbed out of his car and walked toward them. “You’re Americans?” he asked.

The guys gulped and admitted the obvious.

“From the Passamaquoddy base?”

They gulped again.

“All alone?”

They were in big trouble.

The father’s forbidding expression suddenly transformed itself into a big wide smile. “We’ve been looking for some soldiers or sailors to share our Christmas with us. You’re invited back home for a big holiday feast.”

The man was true to his word. They climbed into the car with his pretty teenage daughters and were driven out to a small farmhouse about ten miles away where they were welcomed into the heart of the man’s family. Turkey. Stuffing. Cranberries. Every vegetable you could think of.

They ate and drank cider and sang carols and gobbled up a trio of pies and when the farmer drove them back to the base, they meant it when they told him it was the best Christmas they could remember.

“Of course it was the best,” said my Grandfather Bert in a letter to my dad a few months later. “You were in Canada, weren’t you?”


Happy Holidays! See you next year with more stories.


Estella said...

I really enjoy the stories about your family!

Michele L. said...

Hi Barbara,

You always post such fascinating stories about your family. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Have a fantastic New Year!