Letter to Bill Berry 4-26-43 (Friend of Ruby Thompson living in the USA)

                                              78 Western Road
                             Romford, Essex
                         Easter Monday, April 26, 1943

My dear Bill,

I have been writing to all the boys these last few days and now I feel I shouldn't stop before writing to you also, who seem to have become a sort of adopted child of the Thompson clan. I can't leave you out when I think of my American family. So here's a spiel from Grandma.

First of all I think I must say thank-you for a parcel from Macy's which came to hand in March. It contained two jars of turkey and 3 bars of chocolate. There was no clue at all as to who was the sender, but I think it must be either from you or from Johnnie. Anyhow, my most warm thanks to the sender, whoever he was. We are going to eat the second jar of turkey for dinner today, accompanied by a small bottle of Invalid Port which my brother in law, old Herbert, sent for my special consolation, because he thought I was so dreadfully knocked over by the bad news we received about Artie last week. This was so sweet of him, though booze isn't my idea of consolation. Still it was awfully nice of him to give it to me, and his brother Ted will sure appreciate it! Oh, I am afraid this sounds horrid. It was a nice thought  and a nice gift of Herbert's and I shall drink Artie's health in it presently, and the health of all my boys and all whom I love. Artie, now a lieutenant in the Reconnaissance Corps, was sent to North Africa last March. We had a couple of letters from him, according to which he was thoroughly enjoying himself, swimming in warm ocean water, doing p.t. on the sands, and glutting himself with oranges after a three years absence from them. He was happy and well. Then last week we got a telegram from the War Office, stating that he had been wounded in action on 10th of April, and a letter would follow shortly. No letter has come so far, but neither has any other communication, so we take comfort from this, concluding he can't be worse, and must be recovering somewhere. There was an awful battle around the 16th of three boys in this neighborhood whom we know were there, 2 have been reported killed, and one as having lost an eye. So it goes, damnation all around and Hitler not licked yet. My prayer is that Artie's eyes are alright. It seems to me it would be easier for a man to live minus a limb than minus his eyes. We have no idea where Artie is wounded. We only know it must be serious or we shouldn't have been  notified. Also, he can't be worse, because if so, we should have been notified of that also. I'm very sorry for his wife. Young love grieves so terribly. When you are young you think every disaster is the end of the world; you don't know what you can get over. She is a nice young girl. I like her very much. She is a Scotch girl whom he met when he went to Scotland for his O.C.T.U. She is a W.A.A.F. at an action station in Scotland. Poor thing, she has no private place to hide her grief, which may be as well. I know what it is to make yourself ill with weeping and it doesn't do the slightest bit of good. After all the tears everything is exactly as it was before, so why weep? There you are, women do. Yes, Bill, we are awful fools.

Fancy you dreaming of joining the navy!The navy ties with the R.A.F. for first place in public affection over here. We have so many hero's in this war and we need them all, God knows. It is strange I hear nothing of my U.S.A. boys having to go into a uniform. Is it because they have all got children? What about Dick? Is he still civilian also? The only boy I have heard of is the one you have told me about, The Harp, and whose house you are renting. By the way, is The Harp, an American yet, or is he still an Irishman? No family? 

Thanks for telling me about Chili's Lynne and Charlie. I hear my sister also considers them the best brought up kids in the family. Well, both Marjorie and Chili are fine people, they should produce nice children. I wish I could see them though, all of them. I hear there are two more grandchildren to come to town this month. Have you heard of any arrivals yet? Tell me, Bill, what have you heard about poor Harold's children? I had a letter from Harold a few days ago in which he said he might ultimately  have to put his two youngest into a Catholic orphanage. This idea puts me into a frenzy.

Harold wrote that on March 16 so he must have made some arrangements for his family long before this. Poor Harold! Poor Kay! Poor children! I feel so keenly that I ought to still be in Tenafly, so that I could take the children, all four of them, until poor Kay can be straightened out again. Bill, whatever went wrong there? Do you know? I hadn't heard from Kay since Susan was born, but of course I thought she was just too busy to write. We had a short non-newsy letter from Harold a little later, but no Christmas letter. Harold is not a good correspondent at the best of times, so I did not think much of that. Now last week comes this awful shocking letter, telling us Harold has had to have Kay put away for awhile. This is too awful for words and has shocked me even more than the news about Artie. After all, one's mind is prepared for bad news from the front, but never for this sort of news. My poor children! I feel so utterly useless, that makes it even harder to take. How is Harold? Do you know? You know Bill, Harold can get just as moody as Eddie, only he isn't so noisy about it. Johnny is the most steady based boy of the family; then perhaps Jimmy; then Charlie. That's the way they used to be. Maybe they have changed now like everything else. 
It is very interesting to hear your nephew is so like your father. Your mother wrote me the same thing. I have often noticed more resemblances  between grandchildren and grandparents than between parents and children. It is as though likeness skips a generation, sometimes two, for when Sheila was over here, only 2 years old, she was far more like my mother (her great-grandmother) than she was like anyone else in the family and showed many of my mother's characteristics markedly. I always thought Eddie showed very much of my father in him. Can you see me, as you know me, in any of my grandchildren? Sometimes I think I see my face in some of their snapshots, but maybe that's only my fond imagination. The persistence of family likeness is a certain thing, and I think it must feel awfully queer to see oneself being reproduced visibly in ones descendants. It works the other way, too. As I have grown older there have been occasions when I have sort of startled myself by recognizing an ancestor peeping out of my mundane ordinariness and asserting themselves most definitely almost violently. "Good gracious!" I think "that's Dad!" or "that's Aunt Marla!" or somebody of other, and usually the most far from perfect ones. Queer, but interesting. Interesting is what we crave, isn't it? Or it is what I do. You know, Bill, how bored I can get. I can still get bored. My God, do I get bored! Ted thinks it is some sort of failing on my part. Very likely. Unhappily I have got a lot of failings I can't do a darn thing about, except suffer 'em. Why is it, I wonder, that the virtuous invariably think the non-virtuous revel in their vices? I'm sure we suffer as much from our failings as everyone else does.

Do I ever want to be bored? Yet sometimes boredom will just swamp me like the sea, and I drown into anguish. I recover. Oh, yes, I recover. I'm like my mother, so tough nothing ever really drowns me.  

Thanks for the little snapshot of the Wyoming Chapel. I'll tell you about what I have done with that. I have had it enlarged and formalized into a design suitable for embroidery. Last year I took up embroidery again, and I find it a fine anodyne in trouble, and a good pastime in loneliness.I am not doing useful things;I am splurging out into pictures. I cannot find any commercial designs that were of the slightest interest to me, so I commissioned an artist to make me some designs, all landscapes. I am doing one now which I call my Van Gogh. It is a road going up a hill, with a group of houses on one side, and a church and churchyard and ploughed field, on the other, and tall poplars blowing in the wind. It's really very French Impressionistic. That's the way I work, I'm not earthly good at anything exact, neat, and dainty. The result is really very effective "even though I do say so myself." Even Ted approves and likes it. We found a funny title for this picture last night. I hung it over the sofa-back as to get a good look at it. Near the church, which is yellow with a rust roof, are three grey figures. "What are those?" says Ted: "the three first families?" Yes, and so the Three First Families it is. I thought your snapshot would make an excellent picture. I've had it drawn out about 22 x 32 inches and I shall begin on it very soon. Maybe someday your Jean might like it, for an over-mantle, if it turns out any good. Yes, foolish work, most of it a waste of time. Yet I am sure it helps to keep me sane. When I can't read and often nowadays I can't read, I can keep myself from getting broody by this useless, senseless distraction. If this comes to fail me, then heaven help me! Now Au-revoir, dear Bill. Please convey my greetings and compliments to Jean, my love to yourself. 

Yours affectionately,

Ruby Thompson

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