This picture was taken in 1946, within a month or two of exactly 60 years ago, and these two little girls are the daughters of American soldiers. The child on the left is me, and the other little girl is my cousin, the daughter of my father's sister. I was born a little less than a year after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and this little cousin was born about 16 months after me.
As nearly as we can figure it, we haven't seen each other since about 1956. Separated by miles and years, we've come together recently through e-mails, and for the past few days she's been giving me a daily synopsis of what she's been reading -- and I am enchanted.
Unlike my own parents, whose marriage didn't last much beyond the war, my cousin's parents have stayed married all these years. And the marriage isn't the only thing to survive; they've saved all the letters they wrote to each other during World War II. Their children have organized the letters chronologically, and my cousin is reading them and passing on pertinent bits and pieces to me. Her e-mails plunge me back into history, letting me see it on a personal level for the first time through the eyes and words of my aunt and uncle.
My mom and my aunt hung out together while their husbands were away, so sometimes my mom and I were mentioned in my aunt's letters. It's fun to read about their daily lives and the things they did together to pass the time. What's really interesting, though, is hearing about the experiences of the soldiers in the field.
In September of 1944, my uncle wrote about a week-long ocean voyage that ended when his company arrived in France. Within a day after landing, he learned that my dad's company was less than a mile away. My uncle walked there and found my dad. Can you imagine how great it was for these men to find family so far from home?
In the 1990s, my dad talked to me on several occasions about the war, and each time he talked about it, he cried. It wasn't until that late in his life that I had any inkling of the long-term effects of his war experiences. He didn't go into too many details, but he made me understand that war really is hell. From that frame of reference, I was incredibly moved when reading of his reunion with his brother-in-law in France, and their adventures together over the next few days.
God bless my aunt and uncle for saving their letters. God bless our soldiers.