Do you ever look at gravestones and think about the life contained between the two dates inscribed on stone? This is my whimsical way of weaving a story about the adventures in the dash.
The first Monday of every month, I’ll feature a gravestone (or two) along with a fictional story depicting what a piece of their lives might have looked like.
In the interest of privacy, I’ll give only first or last names, not both. I hope you enjoy this fanciful peek into what might have been.
Previous stories can be found on the Graveyard Tales Archive
Letters From Home
Name: William and Jane
Dates: William: 1925-2007; Jane: 1930 – Present
Inscription: SGT – US Army Air Forces. World War II. Air Medal.
William would have been 14 when WWII started, and Annie would have been 9. My guess is that William enlisted as soon as he turned 18, though he certainly could have been drafted. At that point, Jane would have only been 13. According to some online archives I managed to dig up, it looks like they got married either in December of 1952 or January of 1953. What caught my eye about this particular gravestone was the fact that it had a stone that was obviously the original, and then a much newer, larger one beside it with Jane’s name engraved as well. It struck a chord in my soul that this man’s family loved and missed him enough to evidently save until they could afford a larger gravestone for him.
Soldiers in WWII loved getting letters from home, and I ran across references of people making a point to write to all the boys they knew, so I thought-wouldn’t it be fun if Jane had written to William as a boy she knew from her town, and they got to know each other through that? Accordingly, I’ve written a whimsical letter from an energetic (and possibly a little immature) 13-year-old to a boy fighting a war.
Inspired Fictional Story:
Letter from Jane to William, placed in 1943
My name is Jane. I’m thirteen and momma says that all the boys in our town deserve letters, so all the girls in school drew names and I got yours. I don’t know if you remember me, but I live in the house across the street from the school. Momma went to visit your momma after you enlisted, and she says your momma cried the whole time she was there. My brother says he isn’t going to war until they draft him because he doesn’t want to die. Did you want to die?
Momma just looked over my shoulder and said I shouldn’t write things like that because it’s rude, so I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude, I was just curious. I heard some people don’t like their home life and that’s why they go off to war. But Momma says that you did it because it’s your patriotic duty and
your you’re a good soldier. Do you want to hear about what’s going on around town? It feels a lot more empty here with most of the older boys gone, and I feel like every time I go out, I see someone crying because they miss their boyfriend or father or brother.
School is emptier too because some of the kids aren’t allowed to go anymore because their parents are scared about bombs and some of the older kids got jobs. Momma says I’m too young for a job yet.
We had an air raid drill yesterday in school, and one of the little girls skinned her knee getting under the desk, so it didn’t go too good because she wouldn’t stop crying until the teacher comforted them. I tried to tell her that a scraped knee wouldn’t matter if they
was were killed by a bomb, but she didn’t listen to me.
Momma and I started a Victory garden with lots of different types of vegetables. It was fun planting them, but now I have to weed them every day, which I hate. Momma says that I’ll sing a different tune when we have fresh food on the table again. I wanted to tell her that I sing a different tune every time a mosquito bites me, but I’m pretty sure she would call that talking back. We also helped Mrs. Creed next door plant one because she is too old to do it by herself but she wanted to help with the war effort.
Betty Barrett got engaged last week. Momma says that every boy in town was sweet on her, but she picked a minister because she didn’t want to raise babies by herself. I don’t think she meant me to hear that, but I was coming in from weeding when she was talking to Mrs. Creed about it, so I couldn’t help it. Were you sweet on her? Did she break your heart? What does it feel like to have a broken heart? I asked Momma, but she said it wasn’t an appropriate question for a girl to ask, but I thought she might just not know, so I should ask someone who does.
Our school organized a scrap drive last week. We collected so much metal that teacher had to go get her husband’s truck to haul it for us. She said that the government will use it to make airplanes and stuff. Momma said you’re in the air force. How do you feel about flying an airplane made from tin cans? It seems a little problematic for me (I just learned that word in school – isn’t it fun?).
Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book. I’ve read it three times, and Momma says I like it because I’m just like Anne. I talk too much and ask too many questions. But I also heard that soldiers don’t get many books, so I’m going to put in this package so you can read it too. If you can bring it back after the war, I would appreciate it though because it is my favorite. Momma made you a bunch of cookies and some bread, which we are going to send with this letter.
This was a lot more fun to write than I thought. If you want, you can write back and tell me about the war, and I’ll keep you updated on the town.
I hope you stay alive.
P.S. The grocer just kicked someone out of his store. I could see him through the window. He had him by the back of his pants and just threw him into the street! Momma said he was probably being rude to a lady, because that’s how they treat men who are rude. Have you ever been rude to a lady?