I admit it, when I got a packet of photocopied letters from my grandma’s first love on my birthday last weekend, I was a bit giddy. I’ve been transcribing grandma’s diary from 1942, and thereby living through the terrible longing for Zip… for letters from Zip… for anything Zip. I felt like — FINALLY — the letters from Zip had arrived.
What I’ve missed — in reading grandma’s 16-yo obsession with Zip — is Zip’s voice. I could never tell from grandma’s diary whether he was really interested. She certainly didn’t think so. She doubted him and hated herself, said she was jinxed.
Zip was not exactly the master of romantic prose, but he was less of an oaf than I had imagined. Each letter is signed “Love, Bob” and implores grandma to write soon.
When love is interrupted by things like war — and lovers are forced apart, unable to consider any kind of future — there can be a lot of emotional static. Does he really like me? Will he ever write again? Will he live through the war? It’s a kind of sweet torture. Intense longing riddled with doubts.
It’s painful to read the longing from both sides, especially when grandma was so certain he didn’t really like her at all…
GRANDMA (Nov 23): “I love him + miss him so much — guess he likes me a little or he wouldn’t write at all — but maybe he’s just doing it cause he said he would — oh — but I just love him — Probably writes to Phyllis all the time — she couldn’t think so much of him as I do tho”
ZIP (Nov 24): “I sure was glad to get your note. That was cute stationery. I miss you too. But will see you again. If you care… If you haven’t anything to do wish you would write bout six times a day, well maybe just once if you still love me, or did you ever?”
GRANDMA (Nov 27): “I miss Zip so much! — he probably writes to half a dozen other girls + I hate to be the only one who really likes him when he likes them all — specially that Phyllis bag!! — Wrote a letter to Zip to-nite — (said he misses me — but he’ll see me again — if I care) — he knows darn well I do!”
ZIP (Nov 27): “Well as I lay here in my bunk thinking of you it’s raining like hell! Oh I hate this dam weather… I bet right now there’s a dozen Slys or that kind of dopes in your house… Seems as though I’m thinking of you a lot. If I don’t get some letters soon I’ll stop writing letters to you for good. You probably don’t care — you can have more time to sleep.”
GRANDMA (Dec 6): “I wrote another letter to Zip — I printed it — went to bed — what a life — I’m just jinxed — I just love Zip — but there’s so many other girls where he is — he’ll probably stop writing to me + just write to Phyllis — I despise her — ugh!! — They played ‘At Last’ in the show and I almost cried — just makes me so lonesome.”
ZIP (Dec 12): “I just received your letter and card. I can’t remember when I have received anything so nice and thoughtful. I sure wish I had been to the dance the other night at Black Diamond. We sure would have had fun… I sure look forward to your letters. No kidding.”
GRANDMA (Dec 14): “guess Zip quit writing me letters — course to Phyllis or somebody — that’s probably different — don’t think he gets mine — oh well — he wouldn’t care if he did or not — wish he did tho.”
ZIP (Dec 22): “I don’t know where you get the idea I don’t like you a lot. Because if I didn’t I wouldn’t write or enjoy getting letters from you so much. So you regret going out with me eh. Well I don’t blame you. I’ll bet you have fun just the same.”
GRANDMA: (Dec 27): “I hope I get a litter from Zip tomorrow (letter not litter — but I wouldn’t mind a litter of letters from him)”
ZIP (Dec 28): “You sure are lousy on sending letters. I thought you were going to write often.”
GRANDMA: (Dec 28): “I suppose Zip stopped writing letters — to me but of course not to other girls.”
ZIP (Dec 29): “I’ll take a drink for you on New Years and be thinking of you. I would like to be in P.A. on New Years. We could sure have fun… You know something. I guess I write to you as much or more than anybody.”
GRANDMA (Dec 31): “I won’t even say happy New Year. It couldn’t be. I love Zip.”