Sydney M. Williams
April 4, 2018
Dear Reader of Thought of the Day,
Due to time constraints associated with a book to be published in early 2019, I must suspend my Thoughts of the Day, at least for two to three months. I am sorry for this and will miss the opportunity to put my spin on people and events. I will, however, continue to write “The Month That Was” and the short, monthly essays on readings I have enjoyed. But this new book takes precedence.
It will be titled “Dear Mary: Letters from (and to) Italy, January 1945-July !945. It will be published by Bauhan Publishing of Peterborough, New Hampshire, who published my previous essays: “One Man’s Family” (2014) and “Notes from Old Lyme” (2016). The new book will consist of about 100 letters, written by my father and mother along with a few from his parents and his siblings. The letters cover the months my father was in Italy with the 10thMountain Division, better known as the Ski Troops. It will include an introduction and commentary, added color and context to the story the letters tell.
The War was the defining experience for people of my parents’ generation and letters were the means by which they communicated. My mother and father had been married for six years and had three children, with a fourth on the way, when he was drafted in March 1944. At 33, he was older than most draftees and older than most junior officers. Age was an advantage, though, in terms of perspective and in staying alive.
While much has been written of the horrors experienced by those who served in combat, less has been written about those left behind – the loneliness and anxiety; the dread of a telegram, phone call or visit by the military; the need for stoicism; the importance of a happy face for the sake of children who could not comprehend what was happening. These letters represent but a sliver of what happened to millions of people in similar circumstances, but the story they tell is universal. Most every adult had someone – a son, brother, father, uncle, daughter, sister, niece – who served during the War. The population in 1940 was 132 million, about half were under 18 or over 45. Nineteen million served in the military including 350,000 women – almost 30% of the available population. There are myriad stories, but the love, fear and doubt expressed by my parents, as well as their faith and trust in God and in their families were common to all.
My job is to go through those letters, ensuring they have been transcribed accurately. The letters must be sequenced; so that it appears, at least to the extent possible, that my mother and father are speaking to one another – raising and answering questions. Introductions and commentary must be written, to ensure that people, places and events mentioned are explained and made clear.
I have no idea how much time this will take, but the writing of essays, which take only a moment to read, take hours to compose – about twenty on average. I also do not want to ignore my wife or miss seeing my children and grandchildren. Something had to give. Sadly, it was the TOTDs, but I should be back in harness by summer. Next Tuesday, Caroline and I leave for nine days in Europe – six in Rome where we will meet up with one son, his wife and children – and then three blissful days in London.