Maxine Clamage 

Letters to a Lost Soldier – Why I ran away from home

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Dear Daddy,


(I originally wrote in June, 1946) I’m glad that you were able to get your new business going. I hoped you would get back to normal and be the kind father you were before you went away to fight in the war.

I wasn’t prepared for the way you acted at my 9th birthday party. I was excited preparing for the party and planning a scavenger hunt and games. Mommy let us play in the living room after we ate lunch in the dining room and I opened my birthday presents. Mimi visited from Los Angeles and prepared a big pot of meatballs and spaghetti with sauce, which you enjoyed. Everyone loved the cake and ice cream.

The trouble started after the scavenger hunt and games. I guess it was time for the party to end, but I hadn’t planned for it to end that way. Did you let my sister put on the record player and start dancing right in the middle of the party with the Charlie, a neighbor boy, or was it her own idea? When I started crying, you came into the room and poked me in the behind with your knee. I couldn’t believe what was happening. My loving father who never hit me before he went off to the war became a strange man who butted me in my behind with his knee.

You didn’t say a word, but I got the message from your actions that the party was over and that’s why I left with my guests. I went home with Benita. Her mother greeted us with, “Well, it’s the birthday girl. What a surprise.” I told her I didn’t want to live with my family anymore, and she said that you must be worried about me. She suggested I call home.

I told Mommy I was at Benita’s house and was afraid to come home. “You hurt me. You let my sister break up my birthday party. You didn’t stop her when she came in the living room, put the music on and danced with Charlie in the middle of my party. It’s the worst birthday I ever had. Your home isn’t my home anymore.”

Benita’s mother wanted to talk and I handed the telephone to her. “I’ll send Maxine home.” I realized then I was alone in the world and felt that I could never trust anyone again. What a birthday present for a nine-year-old.

Daddy, you are the boss and you let my sister spoil my party. You are a different person now than before the war. You would laugh and joke around and weren’t mean to me before. I know you suffered in the POW camps in Nazi Germany when you were in the Army. I heard you say there was always a guard nearby who had a rifle pointed at your head telling you that Hitler wanted you dead.

Did a guard butt you in the behind with his knee? Is that where you learned to do that? I want to live where people are as nice to me as at school.

You threatened to send me to boarding school as a punishment for fighting with my sister. I want to go away so I never see her again. She spoiled my birthday party and you punished me. I can’t go back to school and face the kids who saw you poke your knee in my behind. I am so embarrassed.

When I got home, Mimi said, “Let’s talk about the vacation plans we made, Maxine, after school is out next week. We are inviting you to spend the summer in California with us. Bepa and I are leaving here in two days and you can take the train the day after school is out. We’re going to get a ticket for you to ride the El Capitan on the Santa Fe railroad and we’ll meet you at the Los Angeles Union Station.”

I’m going to Los Angeles. Please remember that I am a child and I am smaller than you. Please promise not to hurt me again.

Love,

Maxine
 
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