Dear Daddy,

(I originally wrote in April, 1945) Roller skating on the sidewalk in our Chicago neighborhood gives me a chance to think. I get out of the house where we are all prisoners of war. Bepa wants to go back to Los Angeles and must wait until we win the war in the Pacific against the Japanese. He is stuck here with us. Mimi wants to leave but can’t until you are liberated and return from the war. She tries convincing Aunt Miriam and her family to move to Los Angeles with her because Aunt Miriam is still sick and needs help caring for her family. Mimi also wants us to move to California. Mommy is stuck in limbo waiting for the war to end so you can come home.

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I’m enjoying roller skating again now that the snow is gone from the sidewalks and it isn’t freezing cold outside. It’s easier for me when I fall down because I’m still wearing long pants. In the summer I get skinned knees.

I am feeling free. I am free from people at home who are ill from being indoors too long. I am free to be me at school. I am not appreciated at home because everyone is tired and irritable. Mommy says I always have my nose in a book as if that is wrong or bad. In school I am praised for being a good reader and have earned library privileges.

At home my sister complains that I am a big showoff when we have company and I recite poems and sing songs to entertain our guests. Everyone claps at school when I read my reports with enthusiasm, expression and energy. I think I’ll be a teacher, a writer and an actress when I grow up.

I’m lucky to live in America – the land of the free and the home of the brave. Hitler wanted to rule the world and make us slaves and now he is hiding in his underground bunker. That makes him a prisoner of war without freedom to be above ground. Tyrants lose.

You won’t be a Prisoner of War for long, Daddy. The American Army is moving faster than any army in history. They are determined to get this war over with and return home to their families. As they progress toward Berlin, they are rounding up thousands of Germans and making them Prisoners of War, giving them some of their own medicine.

Soviet troops are also moving toward Berlin. Your last known address is Stalag 2A in Neubrandenburg near Berlin. We hope the Americans reach you first and bring you safely home.

Why do we need wars to protect and preserve our freedom? Why can’t people leave each other alone and enjoy what they have instead of taking over others? Why don’t people obey the Ten Commandments? If they did, they wouldn’t grab what belongs to someone else, as Hitler has done.

I think about these things as I fly around the neighborhood on my roller skates. I am only reminded that we are at war when I look both ways before crossing the street and see no cars because of gas rationing. Sadly, I don’t see people outside walking in our neighborhood.

I am alone and I like it. There is no one to tell me that I am fat and ugly as my sister does. There is no one to tell me to do housework as my mother does. There is no one to tell me to eat everything on my plate as my grandmother does when she puts food there and I may not be hungry for all of it.

Yes, I am happy being by myself, skating around the neighborhood and enjoying what goes on inside of me. There is a place I can be happy, where no one can bother me, torment or disturb me and it’s right here, behind my eyes, inside of my head. I made a discovery. I figured out a way to ignore what I don’t like and keep myself from being a Prisoner of War. Hooray!

Love,
Maxine

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