Grandmamma’s secret soldiers

Published 11:36 am Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Daddy’s picture — the one of him in his Army uniform — that is what I wanted to find as I dragged the plastic box out from under my bed. I hadn’t looked inside that box in a while and dust covered the top.

After vacuuming it good, I snapped it open and pulled out the box filled with pictures. One by one, I sifted through them, finding snapshots from the past that took me back in time. There were so many birthdays saved forever in black and white, pictures of children seated behind a cake with lighted candles.

And there were photos of Christmas long past and even of pets that once graced our lives. In one of the shots, Mother and Daddy were young and dressed in their Sunday best surrounded by their children. Grandparents, cousins, and even friends from as far back as kindergarten showed up in that stack of pictures, but nowhere was the picture I wanted to find.

So, I pulled out another box, this one cardboard. Inside was a stack of pictures and a couple of cigar boxes filled with old letters. After a few minutes, I found Daddy’s picture, the one I planned to post on Facebook to honor his service during WWII, and to remember his passing on Veteran’s Day 11 years ago.

I started to close the box but the letters seemed to call to me and I took out a handful. My grandfather, the one I never knew, was the author of most of them. He sent them to my grandmother when he was serving in France during WWI and later when he played baseball and was on the road.

I read them before and in the lines heard the story of their courtship and the early days of their marriage. So I just looked at the envelopes noting the dates stamped on each one.

As I flipped through them, I noticed a letter addressed to Grandmamma in handwriting different from my grandfather’s, one I didn‘t remember reading. I slipped it out of the fragile, yellowed envelope and discovered something about my grandmother I never knew.

The flowing writing came from the hand of what seemed to be a suitor other than my grandfather. He called himself, a “childhood” friend, but from the tone of the letter, it was obvious friendship was not the only thing on his mind.

I could also tell it wasn’t his first letter and that maybe my grandmother hadn’t responded to his past attempts at “friendship.” Still, he requested that she write him back and then wished her a happy life should she choose not to answer.

I laughed thinking of my Sunday School teacher grandmother as a young woman pursued by two soldiers. Then I spotted another letter in another different handwriting.

Yep, you guessed it. Grandmother was quite the popular lady back in her day. Yet a different soldier sought her company and wrote to her seeking her attention. From what he wrote, it seemed she met him when she was past childhood, maybe through friends.

In the letter, he tried to convince her that he was not, as her friends had apparently told her, a flirt. Again, reading between the lines, it appeared Miss Bovene, my grandmother, was not flirting in return.

Like the other soldier, he asked her to answer his letter. Whether she did or not will forever be a mystery.

What happened to those two young men is also a mystery. Did they come home from the war? Did she ever see them again? I will never know.

Of course, I’m glad she chose my grandfather instead of either of her other options. I would not be here had she chosen differently.

Still, I find it interesting that she kept the letters all those years. Maybe, it was her way of remembering the girl who, long before she became my grandmother, turned the heads of three soldier boys.