Monthly Archives: May 2008

Letters to Remember

My Great Aunt Mabel was a nurse in the Army Nursing Corps during World War II. She wrote dozens of letters home to her family and a few years ago my mom gave me copies of them. The locations from which she sent them tell a story of their own: Camp Hale, Colorado; Charleston, SC; San Francisco, CA; Somewhere on the West Coast; Somewhere on the Pacific; Australia; New Guinea; Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea; In a Hospital Ship on the High Seas; Manila, PI; Clark Field, Luzon. Her letters are a fascinating glimpse of a woman I don’t remember meeting — of that time in her life, as well as that period in our nation’s history. In fact, they were the inspiration for a central character in the book I’m currently (re-)writing. It seemed appropriate to post excerpts from a couple of them today, Memorial Day. So we don’t forget.

This is the beginning of the first one she wrote:

Camp Hale, Colorado
Jan. 12th, 1943

This is the army sure enough and it is everything they said and more. So far we have gotten a tremendous kick out of it all – certainly is different. The place is so new it isn’t completed by a long ways. They are beginning to get more and more supplies now so expect the worst is over. The first nurses came about Nov. 26th and there wasn’t a thing they say. They really started from scratch! All they had was aspirin. They were so happy when they finally got some sulfathiazole.

[Note: Sulfathiazole is a sulfa drug once widely used to treat bacterial infections. In a letter dated Nov. 1944, from the 247th General Hospital in New Guinea, she wrote: Sir Fleming was here not so awfully long ago. That penicillin is wonderful.]

Here’s another one from when she was still stateside:

Stark General Hospital
Charleston, S.C.
Nov. 6th, 1943

Over last week end we got orders to evacuate all or as many as we could of our patients to other general hospitals. This place seemingly will be a debarkation hospital and we were to get ready for a convoy… hospital ship full of casualties from overseas. So Monday A.M. early we took about 200 patients to Lawson General near Atlanta on a hospital train. Those ward cars are quite completely and conveniently arranged and had some unusual incident occurred enroute I’m sure we could have mastered the situation. I had charge of the litter patients. The road bed between here and there is horribly rough and we were well shaken up – everyone was hungry constantly it seemed. I did so well walking up and down the aisle that maybe after the duration I’ll get myself a job as a conductor on a train. My uniform skirt seat is shiny now so I’ll continue to wear it. A conductor isn’t complete and proper unless he wears a shiny threadbare suit I feel. We didn’t arrive there until almost midnight and that according to authorities is too late to unload – so we sidetracked about half a mile out and we all stayed on the train for the night. Early in the A.M. we reluctantly gave up our dear boys – sent them over to Lawson in ambulances. We didn’t even get to see the place. They fed us our breakfast on the train and we even had fried potatoes. From then on they restricted us to the Post so we would all be within shouting distance should the Convoy come. Yesterday was a big day in the history of Stark General. There will no doubt be many more days like it as these ships come in and give us these patients for us to have for a few days – re-classify and then send out to the various hospitals elsewhere. We were all so impressed by the whole thing. This was the first time most of us have seen a group fresh off the boat. It is hard for anybody to explain just how you do feel when you see 790 of them brought in in all shape and conditions. Most of them were speechless – they were so tickled to be back. You never saw more smiling faces anywhere – and many it would seem have very little to smile about. When we finally had them checked in and they knew it wasn’t just a dream their first and foremost concern seemed to be “when do we eat?” “can we really have milk?” “do they have more hamburgers?” etc. etc. No one complained and I don’t suppose they ever will again.


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Home Repair 101

Most of you reading this know that I’m getting ready to put my house on the market. Because it’s time. I met with the real estate agent last week and she had a few repair-type suggestions. I knew she would. Most of them I expected. A few were things I hadn’t thought of.

So I have a very long list of things to do. And I absolutely HATE doing this kind of stuff. But it looks as if this is going to command my full attention for the next little while. I thought maybe if I wrote about it over here and shared it with you all, it might not be so bad. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m already in agony just thinking about it. At least this way I’m not suffering alone. Maybe I’ll take some before and after pictures so everyone can be horrified by my appalling photography and housekeeping skills all at the same time.

My agent suggested I start with the yard work, so any “wounds” would have time to heal before we list the house. I found it rather amusing when she said you can’t really see the house from the street. Because I thought, yeah, I kind of like it that way. But I guess any potential buyer might want to actually see the place. So I’m getting estimates for machete-wielding deforestation-type activity.

In the meantime, there are several things I can do myself. Hooray. Here is what my kitchen bay window looked like this morning.

Those curtains were perhaps charming 20 or so years ago. If you like that kind of thing. I’ve always hated them. Certain family members claimed to love them. So I left them up, even after those family members were no longer living here. Why? I have no idea.

This is what my kitchen bay window looks like now. I can not even describe how good it felt to get rid of those things.

The cross-hatch window bars are removable; they’re attached with little plastic fasteners on the sides. My agent suggested I remove them from these windows (and several others in the house) as they break up the view into several tiny panes instead of one large window. I see her point. In fact, I took those cross bars out of the window over the kitchen sink years ago. But these windows look awfully bare to me right now — though in a good way. I’m just uncertain about making them look even more naked. Any opinions from the gallery?

NEXT UP: I have no idea. The list goes from bad to worse. You’ll just have to wait and see. It’s entirely possible I’m already tired of this topic.


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Wow. It has been a long time. The last post I wrote on this blog was about a day of doing nothing. I haven’t had a quiet moment since. Yet none of the stuff keeping me busy has been particularly interesting [except for the stuff I wrote about on another blog; that was great fun] and none of it has inspired me to write about it. Until now.

I celebrated Mother’s Day early this year. My son graduated from college on Saturday with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from East Carolina University.

I don’t talk about my son much on this blog — not because there isn’t anything to say (far from it) but because I’m pretty sure he’d be horrified to know I was talking about him here. Now that I’ve decided to devote a blog post to him and his accomplishments, I can’t find words adequate to the task. I’ve written and deleted this post so many times, I’m no longer sure what I wanted to say. But I’ve pretty much decided I can’t say it without becoming overly sentimental. So I guess I’ll start by just describing the events.

There was a ceremony Friday night in a small (indoor) auditorium for the Economics majors, about 40 or so graduates. It was nice to hear my son’s name called out and see him walk across the stage and shake hands with the Dean. Very nice. If that’s not an understatement, I don’t know what is.

The next day was the main graduation, held in the football stadium. If you’ve ever been to a graduation, it was exactly like that. Here is a picture, in case you’ve never been to one and wondered what they look like. Sitting in the two groups of chairs on the field are the graduates receiving doctoral and masters degrees. The couple thousand other graduates are sitting up in the stands. We all sat and stood and then sat again for about two and a half hours. It was sunny and hot. I was very grateful my daughter had thought to bring sunblock. And glad I remembered to bring kleenex.

There were so many proud moments this weekend, I’m not sure I can bring them all together and express them as one coherent thing. At one point in the weekend, I think it was Friday night when we all went out after the first ceremony, I was sitting there watching my son and daughter and listening to them talk and laugh and it occurred to me that beyond the fact that I love them, I like them. I like who they are and I like their friends. I like how they act and why they laugh and what they have to say. And I like the fact that they genuinely like each other. They’re good people.

In the car on the way home yesterday, my daughter asked, “So, mom, what do you want to do tomorrow for Mother’s Day?”

And I said, “I just did it.”


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