Christmas '54

by Lynn Speer

Dear Margaret, Christmas, 1954

     I got your letter last week. It's comforting to be able to correspond with you, my friend. I know that a lot of the people at the unit thought that we'd get married after the war, but we both knew that it'd never happen. All of us were too much like siblings to ever be lovers. (Not that I didn't dream!) I still want to be a part of your life, and regardless of what happens, you will always be a part of mine.

     It sounds like you've found your niche, a clean hospital with sterile conditions and normal bodies with normal injuries and illnesses. I'm still at the hospital, and I also do some time at the local clinic, where the other doctor has one foot in the office and the other one on the golf course. Our little clinic is small enough that we know almost everyone that comes in. We see lots of measles, colds, and things that need stitching - all very mundane, all very easy to treat. The only meatballs I see are the ones we have for dinner occasionally. We are doing quite a few pregnancy tests now that the weather has turned cooler. We send our rabbits out to a lab for results, and I haven't had to operate on any of them.

     You asked me to let you know how I am doing. The answer is, for the most part, I'm doing fine.

     Another Christmas is upon us, as is the season for remembering auld lang syne. Sometimes a memory just comes to me out of a clear blue sky, but most of them are now good memories. One of the better Christmas memories is being in that foxhole in the Santa suit and working on that boy - he pulled through. I also remember the kid that we kept alive until after midnight even though we cheated a little bit on that one. Both of those now remind me of the incredibly good work we did, and not so much of the horrible carnage that we saw. Just like Sidney said, the memories never go away, you just learn how to live with them.

     Dad and I spent a quiet Thanksgiving. We hosted the celebration with just the two of us and some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. The weather was very cooperative, crisp and clear. Everyone brought something for dinner, even my cousin Gary, who brought pickled eggs. He always brings purple pickled eggs, and I'm old enough now to know that they don't come from purple chickens. Dad and I provided untainted turkey and just enough mashed potatoes for one day of leftovers. I still wonder whether the potato supply in the States increased after the war ended.

     Remember the letters that we got from the school kids here? One of the girls sent Charles a leaf and he was so touched that he actually wrote her a letter instead of sending a tape for the group. I went in and visited their class about a month ago. I think they expected to see me in my Class-A's with medals dripping everywhere, and it was a letdown for them to see some guy in civilian clothes.

     These kids are sixth-graders now, and we had some good discussions. They wanted to know if I'd killed anyone. After a brief pause, I told them that we tried to save as many as we could, but that some people were too injured to pull through. They were very surprised to hear that we worked on people from both sides of Korea. Many of the kids seemed to have an attitude that we are the good guys and "they" are the bad guys. Those were two of the most grueling hours that I've spent in a long while.

     I'm getting ready to write BJ and see if he's having a good time with Erin's "some assembly required" toys. He was always good at putting tab A into slot B, even if he didn't often admit it. I bet his rain gutters are as clean as a whistle, and that his garage is clean, too. I'm sure that he's enjoying Erin, trying to make up for lost time, and I think he's finding that even though he lost the first two (almost three) years of her life, she's even more special because of that.

     I want to hear from you again. Tell me all about what you are doing, what you are feeling, how you are adjusting to civilian life -- I think that adjustment will take a lifetime! I want, no, need to know that you are doing okay and I want to keep in touch.

     Hey! Have a great Christmas, and remember that on the thrift plan, we are only a postage stamp apart!

All my love,