Cherries a few kilometers from the WW I front

My aunt invited me to her house this week to see my first cousin once removed who was vacationing here from Florida with her husband and young son. (They picked a fine time — it was 104 degrees here and 82 degrees down in Florida!) After my 2 hour drive, I thought we’d have a pleasant lunch and I’d head back a couple of hours later. But no. Spread out all around the basement were boxes of pictures, papers, and geneaology notes that my uncle had from his parents, my paternal grandparents. We spent all afternoon sorting them out among our families so that each could have some of the family history.

Lilla Mae’s faceA big treasure was a package of letters that my grandfather wrote my grandmother in 1918 during his year as an artillery officer in France. It was a simpler time — the envelopes are addressed to

My Grandmother’s Name
Lone Wolf, Oklahoma

— no street address, no zipcode. The first letter was written on board the ship over, but the date has been blurred, possibly by the censor. The last letter is late December the same year, after Armistice Day, still waiting to come home. But, as he said on December 1, “Yes, indeed. I shall hurry home as fast as possible, but personal feelings in such matters do not have much weight.”

I’m typing the letters up to share with my brothers, cousins, and children — and my husband who finds such things very interesting. My grandfather’s penmanship was excellent, and he could spell better than my children can. But then, he married a school ma’am and became a teacher himself — and eventually a high school principal.

I’m about a third of the way through and I keep being struck by how eerie it is to have some very normal life carrying on just a short distance from the front lines. Here’s a passage describing a day off that I found particularly enchanting.

Ai Sugg 1918

Being off this afternoon, I decided to see one or two other villages and also to take find a place to take a bath (the last one I had was the day before I left the hospital, two weeks tomorrow – isn’t that awful for summer time! But it is so cool up here that I sweat little). For my perch I had noticed one village down the same valley in which is my billet, and another across the ridge a little to the right. By direct line they are not very far, just a nice afternoon “promenade”, but around the many bends and up and down the hills they are about ten kilometers so it turned out to be a hike to visit both and return home. And the bottoms of my feet are tender from my long rest, hence a blister on each one about the size of a quarter.

But it was worth it for I got my bath – but not a swim, and the water was ice cold, – and all the nice big juicy black cherries I could eat twice. I climbed the trees and picked them myself. They are free here, along the road side like cottonwoods and locusts there. Many of the trees are too big to climb without a ladder. I have not picked any before because of always being on horseback and either with another officer or my orderly when out on the roads before – and the dignity of my position would not permit it (?) (!) Really it would look funny to see an officer of the army, on the battle front, up a cherry tree while his orderly held his horse. My! Doesn’t sound big to speak of an orderly! And I feel foolish having him follow me around, altho’ I do need him sometimes, and it is required, and he is furnished me.

But I lost my story—Well, being out alone, walking under the cherry trees black with fruit was too much of a strain on my dignity – repetition of that word reminds me of your “School ma’am” dignity. Ha! So I just selected one (a school ma’am before, a tree this time) with branches low enough to conceal me when up in the tree and up I went, no one being along that spot of the road. Several wagons and autos and two or three groups of pedestrians passed without seeing me, then a woman with a basket on her arm and a hay rake on her shoulder was induced to stop by the cherries I had shook (or shaken?) off, discovered me. But it is no disgrace to be seen up a cherry tree by a woman who cannot speak your language enough to tell you what she thinks of it.

After “filling up” I continued my journey, saw the people I wished to see, found a nice secluded pool where I got my ice bath, and started back, but by this time my cherries had settled so that those in the trees began to look good again, and I climbed another tree. When I reached my quarters supper was ready – my German landlady is a real German cook, and German cooking is more to my liking than French – and it was delicious. So just now I feel “well fed up.”

 

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2 Comments

Filed under Good with the Bad, Gratitude, Savoring, Stories

2 responses to “Cherries a few kilometers from the WW I front

  1. Pingback: ” Positive Psychology Holiday Ideas from PPND " on Positive Psychology News Daily

  2. Pingback: Butterflies, Cherries and Figs: Lessons in Savoring | Positiv Psykologi Forum

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