Letters to a Lost Soldier: Chicago Hanukka party 1944 – A surprise visitor

Dear Daddy,
I wrote to you again in December, 1944. This letter is for you to read when you aren’t Missing in Action and come home from the war.
We went to a Hanukka Party at your brother’s home. Uncle Eddie picked up Mommy, her parents, Mimi and Bepa, my sister and me and we were all squeezed together in his car, but I didn’t mind because it was cold and I was too excited to be afraid of the dark. Aunt Libby greeted us while cooking latkes and her house was lit with candles on the menorah. It was warm and smelled good inside. I showed off the dress that Mimi bought for me in the Chubbettes department for roly poly girls. I always wear my sister’s hand-me-downs, so I was happy to have a new dress, all my own. Mimi fixed my hair in Shirley Temple curls because she likes fussing over me. We ate latkes with applesauce and I played the dreidel game with my cousins. I had a good feeling in my tummy. I wanted to eat the gold covered chocolate gelt, but was told to wait until the game was over.
The door bell rang and Aunt Libby said she wasn’t expecting any other guests. My heart started beating very fast thinking that you were not Missing in Action any more, but home from the war and were surprising us. I missed you joking around with your brothers, Uncles Eddie, Lester and Bob. A Santa walked in the door. He didn’t look like the one we saw in Marshall Field’s and when he shouted HO! HO! HO!, he sounded a lot like Uncle Eddie. I had given up hope for the doll I wanted because I had to tell the other Santa that I fight with my sister and wet the bed. Mommy said she couldn’t afford to buy a doll for me because the government payroll checks for your service were stopped when you were declared Missing in Action. With Uncle Eddie pretending to be Santa, my hope was renewed.
But when he walked into the room with a big sack on his back and asked if we had all been good girls and boys, including the parents and grandparents, I felt doomed again. One by one Santa called out everyone’s name and passed out presents to all – except me. Then he got up to leave and said, “That’s all, folks, see you next year if you are good.” My lips started to quiver and I tried to hold the tears back, remembering that we sent a canvas bag to you with the words KEEP YOUR CHIN UP written on the flap. I told myself that I really didn’t want the doll that I saw in a store window on my walk to school and I tried to keep my chin up.
Then, just as he was leaving, Santa said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, there’s still something left in the bottom of my sack.” I burst out crying even before he said that the package was for Maxine. I knew that the doll I wanted was inside and I felt that somehow, some way, what I want so much will happen and that you will be coming home, Daddy.
I clutched my dolly all the home in Uncle Eddie’s car and didn’t complain about being cold and squished because I was hugging my dolly and thinking about hugging you when you are home and that all my wishes do come true.
Your 37th birthday is January 25, 1945, Daddy, and I’d like for you to be home for a birthday party. I am going to ask Mimi to help me bake a birthday cake for you.