Your letter came today. Old Mr. Angstrom snowshoed from town and dug through the snowdrift at the kitchen door to deliver it.
Your mother and sisters were with me, and Iím sure they wanted me to read the letter to them. We treasure every scrap of news about the war in the Pacific. But I was selfish. I ran upstairs to your old room, where I sleep. Itís bitter cold up there during the day, because we only light the fire in the little grate at night. But I braved the cold to be alone with your words.
I tried not to look at myself in your dresser mirror. What would you think, I wonder, if you saw me wearing your old faded purple sweater over a long gray wool dress your mother gave me? The sweater hangs down to my knees, and the long, loose sleeves almost keep my fingers warm.
But donít think of me like that! Remember how I looked last spring at Eddieís in downtown San Diego, in my yellow dress with the white taffeta sash. We danced to Glenn Millerís music, and you told me I looked like the first spring daffodil. You wore a uniform like the other Naval Training Station boys—but you were a head taller than the rest, with that pale blond hair and the kindest deep-blue eyes Iíd ever seen.
It didnít matter that I was a California girl. It didnít matter that your home was a wild, strange place called North Dakota. It didnít even matter that Iíd dreamed of a big church wedding. We said our vows before the judge, and those two perfect days we had together were better than flowers and candles and a white satin dress.
Before you shipped out, you asked me to go home and live with your mother. The endless open plains and the lonely farmhouse seemed strange to me, but that didnít matter, either. I learned to love Ma Pederson and the girls. All through the spring and summer and autumn, we worked: planting, mending, repairing, harvesting, canning, preserving. Until winter came.
When I was a little girl, my Dad took us to Julian, a little mountain town above San Diego. There was snow on the ground, and it was wonderful and magical. I picked it up in my small hands, and laughed at how strange and cold it felt.
But I didnít understand winter until I came here. When the first October blizzard blotted out the land and the sky, I didnít tell anyone how afraid I was. But it seemed to me that a great white beast lurked just outside, blowing like the wolf in the fairy tale. And we were trapped—trapped and waiting for him to blow in the door and devour us. I was never warm, except when I sat in front of the big stone fireplace or the wood stove. And I began to daydream about blue skies and palm trees and ocean cliffs.
Today, when your letter came, I wanted to be alone with you. I wanted to tell you how I felt about the endless days of bitter winds, fierce cold, and white, white, white all the way to the horizon. I wanted to tell you why I had to go home: not because I wanted to break our vows, but because I didnít belong to this place. And when the war ended, I would be your wife—but not here, not here.
Then I read your letter.
You couldnít tell me where you were or what you were doing—the censors wouldnít allow that—but I knew you were somewhere in the Pacific, because you called the ocean ďthat great and terrible beast.Ē And you wrote about home. Your home. Our home.
The snow is deep now, isnít it? I always liked winter. I loved the snow. It made everything look beautiful and clean. And it was such a good feeling, to be inside with the family, to be safe. I like to think of you there with all of them, all of you safe together, when there is so much fear and danger in this world...
Oh Beloved, I have been a child and a coward, but perhaps I wonít be so much now. For I will sit by this window each day and read your letter again and again, until I can see the winter... through your eyes.
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