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The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father's Warby Louise Steinman
From the Prologue: Somewhere at Sea
In January 1944 when my father crossed the Pacific for the first time, he did not know where he was going. He did not know he was headed for New Zealand. He did not know that after a year of training and waiting, first in New Zealand then in New Caledonia, he and his army buddies in the Twenty-fifth Infantry Division would be transported to northern Luzon, the Philippines, where they would sweat out five and a half months of combat.
The monotony, the uncertainty of the destination, the hot sun, the loneliness, the roiling sea all took their toll on him. “Ive never felt so blue. Its the thought of leaving you. I hope I can get over it soon, because its a terrible state of affairs,” he wrote to his wife—my mother—from the confines of a transport ship.
As the realization of a long separation sank in—months, possibly years—his mood veered toward panic then settled into depression. Writing letters was his only relief. “Dear Anne,” he wrote home, “Im sorry that you wont hear from me for such a long time until you get this letter, but because of the safety precautions and secrecy involved (for our own good), I wasnt allowed to tell you when I left the States.” To describe his location, he wrote simply “Somewhere at Sea” in the upper right-hand corner of each letter.
My father—a graduate of De Witt Clinton High School in the Bronx, with a math degree from New York University—was lacking his usual reference points. No Sunday New York Times, no conversations with his parents, no weekly lectures at the 42nd Street branch of the New York Public Library. And the most grievous lack of all—his wife.
It was not like the pragmatic father I knew to daydream, sitting motionless, spinning in his imagination every inch of his wifes body. Her hair. Her smile. The way she wore hats. He composed letters in his mind, wrote them down when the seasickness abated...
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