Maxine Clamage 

Letters to a Lost Soldier – My train trip from Chicago to Los Angeles

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Dear Daddy,

(I originally wrote in June, 1946) I’m sitting alone in a seat next to a window on the train, watching the world go by. Last night, a man came and sat next to me. He smelled of cigarettes and whisky and I didn’t like him. I left my seat and went to the Dome Car. Some people were sleeping and others were looking up through the overhead windows.

I could see the stars tumbling around in the sky. There were at least a million of them! It was so beautiful and I wondered why I had never seen so many stars in Chicago. Early in the morning the sky is bright red and the sun is an orange ball. The mountains are tall and craggy. There are trees bigger than any Christmas tree I have ever seen and we cross foaming rivers along the way.
We aren’t in Chicago any more where there are streets and cars, trolleys and traffic lights, stores and houses. I am on a magical journey heading west to an unknown land and I feel a sense of excitement that I have never felt before. California, here I come! I can’t wait to see my grandparents in Los Angeles.

I love eating in the dining car, but I have to be very careful not to spill my milk. It jiggles around in the glass because we are traveling very fast. There’s no human life to be seen for miles and miles outside the window, but we do see the vast country that never seems to end. People are very friendly on the train. They say hello when they pass my table. They smile and ask my name. A lady offered to play cards with me after breakfast. We went to the Observation Car and it was nice not having to ask anyone for permission. I don’t need a boss to take care of me. I’m capable of being my own mother and father from now on.

I feel that God is watching over me. He proved it to me by answering my prayers and bringing you home safely from the war. I am glad you are getting medical attention so that you can recover from your war wounds. God loves you and God loves me and that’s all I need to be happy. I’m very thankful that Hitler didn’t win the war and take over our beautiful country.

Did I ever thank you for going off to war to fight for our country and help defeat Hitler so that he wouldn’t come to America? If I forgot to thank you before, I am thanking you now. I hope you get to see the beautiful country that you helped save.
America is really big! Every time I look out the window I quietly sing to myself: “Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain,” and I realize the words are true. I am overwhelmed by the beauty and the spaciousness of my country. The sight of it makes me feel optimistic about my future. I can think big about life.
When the train stops in Albuquerque, I’ll have a chance to get off, stretch my legs and mail this letter to you. At least it won’t come back stamped “Return to Sender - Missing in Action.”

I hope you are doing okay at home and making progress with your electrical appliance business. It’s nice you have a section for records and little booths where customers can listen to the records in private. I’ll visit your store when and if I return to Chicago.
I hope you are getting the medical help you need to be a nice father again. I want us to be a loving family, to be nice to each other and talk things over instead of hurting one another. Other families are good and I always thought that we were a good family. I really love you, Daddy, and I don’t want to be afraid of you. Please get well.


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