Stories, etc.: Letter 11: Rose B. Hall to Jeanne B. Myers

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Page 1 of Rose’s letter

  7204 Interlaaken Drive
Tacoma, Washington 98499
October 17, 1974

Jeanne dear,

I’ve just returned from two weeks in balmy Clearwater. Mother is as hale as ever, and she sends her love. She showed me your most recent letter, and I have to say I’m terribly sorry to hear about Sally’s divorce — but not really surprised. I know you never approved of Dale. But it still must be hard on Sally, left with a young child as she is. She’s not going to have an easy time of it, having just moved to Wilmington and having a new job besides. You’ll have to be extra nice to your granddaughter!

The weather was lovely, and we spent several days gardening. The mango trees were bombing anyone unwary enough to walk under them, the avocados were ripening nicely, and the flowers — especially Mother’s wonderful gardenias — were gorgeous. Since you were last there she’s planted a night-blooming jasmine on the north side of the house, just outside the guestroom window, and the perfume wafted me to sleep every night I was there. Yesterday morning, before I drove to the airport, I asked Mother if I could take one of her small bromeliads to put into my desert garden, and she handed me a serving spoon from the kitchen to lift the plant with. I protested that it was silver, and — this is so typical of her — she said, “Oh, Rose, it’s only plate!”

Mother took me to the Garden Seat, of course, and as usual I asked for the chocolate pie recipe. And, as usual, I was politely refused. But I did come away with some scribbled notes from the chef that should help me to duplicate his splendid she-crab soup. He uses heavy cream, sherry, nothing out of the ordinary, but it all adds up to heaven in a cup. I can’t wait to try it with some Dungeness crabs. Evelyn and I are going to take Ellen and her kids over to the Sound on Saturday; Jerry will meet us all there. He says he’ll go earlier and drop his traps, and we adults can sit back and watch the children haul up our dinner.

I don’t know whether you had heard that the Pelican burned down. I was pottering about over the causeway, and I drove past the burned-out ruins. That’s a real shame; we all liked the seafood there. I asked Mother, and she says they will rebuild.

Today is Ron B’s birthday. He’s 28, and I was reminded of him when I struck up a conversation with a young man named Kevin Long in the Detroit airport. Kevin is 29, and he was on his way home to Maryland from Canada, where he’d gone in ’65 to avoid being drafted. Ron could so easily have been drafted as well; I’m sure Larry and Pinkie breathed a huge sigh of relief when his first was born.

Anyway, Kevin seemed quite sharp, and I very much enjoyed chatting with him. He told me that he’d found a good job with CBC Radio News, and I asked why he’d come back. He gave me the most delicious superior look and said he’d become jaded and wanted to do something more meaningful with his life. It was simply President Ford’s amnesty that pushed him over the edge; he plans now to join the Peace Corps. I pointed out the oath of allegiance he’ll have to take, and he said that wasn’t a problem, he never lacked allegiance to the United States, only to the misguided policies that had gotten us mired in the jungles of Viet Nam. He told me he’d exchanged dozens of letters about the war with his elder brother Tommy, who went to Viet Nam just after Kevin went to Canada, and was wounded there. Kevin said he’s pretty sure Tommy went into the army because their uncle was killed in World War II, not exactly what I’d consider a good reason, but who’s to say what’s right for someone else?

I’m not quite certain how it came about, but Kevin asked if I’d be interested in exchanging addresses, and we did. My pen stopped writing, and he lent me his antique fountain pen. Then his plane was called, and he scampered off in haste, leaving his pen behind. So when I got home I got his telephone number from Long Distance Information and called him. That pen has had so many owners, he said, it must like to travel, and it probably wanted to come home with me anyway. I argued, but he insisted. I like it, and it writes wonderfully, as you can see. Maybe I should consider selling my typewriter!

So, in sum, I foresee good things for Kevin. And I do really hope to establish a correspondence with him; I’ve missed that ever since Dad died. Who knows, maybe Kevin will be sent to an exotic locale in Darkest Africa! Helping Negroes build grass huts in the Congo is hardly my idea of an "exotic" locale, but it would certainly be something different, and for whatever reason I’m suddenly intrigued by the prospect. (Yes, I know, it’ll probably come to nothing.) I’ve dragged out the books Osa Johnson wrote about the time she and her husband Martin spent in Africa, and they’re still fascinating reading. The world is so much smaller now; I remember my first trip to Europe right after World War II, nonstop from Idlewild to London (!), as a major event. And now we’re all zipping about in big jets like the one I had from Detroit.

I must go; the dogs are baying for their dinner at the top of their lungs, I must dress for a party at the club this evening, and Rip will come roaring in at any moment, expecting me to be ready — and sit quietly while he rushes about shedding work clothes all over the bedroom and climbing into a suit.

Do write soon, and let us know how you are all making out.

  With love,
Rose

To the Reader:

This is the last of the letters that I have chosen for publication. I hope you have enjoyed them.

It is easy to dismiss the unbelievable coincidence that these letters should all have been written with the same fountain pen, but you should remember that I set out to trace the history of that pen and that I ended my quest with dozens of letters to choose from. The letters’ unique shared history gives them a unifying thread that is of great interest to pen collectors; but it is not why I have chosen these eleven from all that I gathered. I selected each one for its existence as a snapshot of a pivotal moment in history. Some of the letters, such as my grandfather’s letter (in which he wondered how the United States could be convinced to enter World War I, only to lose his life in the tragic episode that did precisely what he had wanted done), are intimately connected with historic events; but most are not. Rather, my reason for choosing these letters is that each one shows how ordinary people of its time viewed the often earthshaking happenings around them.

I had embarked on this project before September 11, 2001, but the terrible events of that day have brought a new and more resonant poignancy to the events of the past. It has been said that times change but people do not. In light of this, it is important to us all to remember our history. The events of today, as tremendous as they are, are better understood when seen as part of a tapestry that was begun thousands of years ago and will continue to be woven long after we, the weavers of today, have ourselves become part of it.

  Grace H. Fisher, April 2002

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