The photo is from 1942, black and white of course, showing them in her parents’ house the day before her birthday which marks spring, the season of new beginnings.
He’s wearing a dark suit and felt fedora instead of a yarmulke, the skullcap of observant Jewish men. Her soft silk crepe dress drapes her small frame. Her blonde hair is softly waved from sleeping with bobby pins. They stand under the chuppah, the fabric canopy signifying home, lean in toward each other, peering into their future in a moment of hope that blocks out the encroaching reality.
Across two oceans, war.
He never questioned he should enlist, yet could not have known this commitment to the U.S. Army would stretch to four years. He is grateful for the touch typing lessons in high school that stations him in a barracks’ office as an aide to the captain, an ironic destiny as he endures anti-Semitic rants more virulent than those of the enemy both soldiers are here to fight.
He was born at home, a dozen blocks from the grammar school where he heard English for the first time. He has a good ear, the teacher said, and in a few months, his English is fluent. His childhood Yiddish proves an asset as he translates the German of POWs, interprets messages from enemy lines, sends coded missives to the Americans’ front lines of engagement.
She waits for him, in her parents’ house, performing dutiful daughter/wife roles, her teaching certificate abandoned. He arrives on leave in time for the birth of their first child whose blood type matches his. The infant survives.
She tends to the baby, does laundry and more laundry, reads his letters of longing. She dreams of a life outside her family fortress. He returns once more. Now there are two children, and never enough time. She sends him letters of frustration, she wonders about her choices, waffles about their future.
The war ends.
They begin, really begin, their lives together, working hard, saving, pursuing then achieving, the mid-century dream: owning the home with the new car in the driveway, a piano in the atrium, plenty of food on the table, a little extra money for theatre and concerts. Even a family vacation or two.
She saved his letters from overseas, so full of desire to express his love, anguish that her love had faded, craving their future with the family they created. He saved only the key token from the hotel room of that spring wedding night. She lives but a few years beyond her thirties. He remarries and that marriage lasts twice as long as that first one. He is happy and unhappy.
The photo ages into a monochromatic gray, fading the facial features, yet we see the eyes, mouths, visibly open. Oh, the anticipation.