Brooklyn in Love and at War

History of World War Two Told Through Letters

Smoke of my cigarette

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Jan 24, 1944

Dearest Sweetheart – I hope this V-mail is the thing to send a sailor – but I guess it is. I’ll also use it to write Eugene. Will you get a chance to see him? None of your folks were here Sunday and I suppose they’ll be here this coming week. We’ll all write you. Adrienne and I are fine. Cookie almost fell our of her high chair trying to catch the smoke of my cigaret[sic]. She ate a hearty supper tonight but drank no milk. Just my luck when you’ll come back there’ll be no need to make her formula any more! Is that why you joined the Navy? Lately she looks ugly. She screws up her face and bites her gums – that coupled with no hair on her head makes her ugly as sin. Do you still insist she looks like you? Betty Lampel wants to come see Cookie this Friday, but that’s the night of Leon’s commencement. We all hope he’ll be allowed to continue school in N.Y. – Blanch writes Butch fairly regularly and I guess she likes him. She dreamt that you and he would return on Feb. 5th! And now I’m all excited too. Of course it’s silly, but you know how it is! Write soon, my darling. Study hard to become an Admiral. Cookie and I are very proud of you.

Love from Mommy and Cookie

***

I think this letter is an excellent example of Sylvia’s multiple identities. She is dutifully writing a cheery letter on V-Mail, but this one page seems chock full of sentences that reveal some real-person qualities. First, Sylvia reveals for the first time in writing that she smokes. I point this out not to critique her but rather because it points out that actions that you do regularly each day, like smoking, and that are a large part of daily life, don’t make it into the letters because they are so commonplace. The reason it makes it into this letter is because she is smoking cigarettes next to Adrienne who almost falls off her high chair trying to catch the smoke. This tidbit was also surprising because to the modern eye it seems counter to her good mother role. Of course, if Mad Men has taught the TV-viewing public anything it’s that no one prior to the 1990s would think twice about the harms of smoking near kids Therefore this fact doesn’t negate Sylvia’s good instincts as a mother at that time. Second, she (jokingly, of course) calls her baby ugly, revealing a sarcastic and motherly humor. She points out the kind of thing only a mother would notice – when her daughter starts making weird faces or developing unbecoming habits. (My mom can point out the same thing!) Third, Sylvia reveals her girly and superstitious side when she begins to get excited about Alex returning on a date that her friend dreamed up. These are little bits that show us Sylvia’s humor, youth and routines that personal writing can easily lack. Sometimes the quick notes are more revealing than the long love letters.

For the record Leon, is Sylvia’s brother. Betty Lampel is a friend of Sylvia’s who has shown up before in a letter I posted in July but was written after the letter in today’s post. Sylvia mentions that Betty is pregnant in September, 1944.

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Written by Molly

January 25, 2011 at 8:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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