This is the fifty-fifth of 87 letters exchanged during World War II between Nicholas Salvatore and Elizabeth Galloway. For more see Nicholas and Elizabeth.

Riders of the Purple Sage Frontispiece

December 9, 1944

On the edge of greatness (or something)

Dear Nicholas,

Here you go! I didn’t want to risk them not making it by Christmas, so here as requested are the Galloway women’s famous chocolate cookies and fruitcake. Enjoy!

It’s wonderful to hear that you’re doing so well. For months now people have been talking of the war as if it were fact that it would be over by Christmas. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I got caught up in the frenzy too, but it’s clear that it was an empty dream. After I realized that I looked into going overseas with the Red Cross but you have to be at least 25 and have a college degree – why? Makes no sense. I can do anything the rest of them can. Guess I’m here for the duration.

I keep telling myself that nothing worth having comes too easily. How can you recognize that you have your ideal life unless at one time your life was the full of hardship? I have to believe that every time I set my mind to something I can accomplish it despite my father. His ghost looms over me just as he did when he was here.

After you mentioned what he must’ve seen in this place I picked up Riders of the Purple Sage – his favorite. That’s where he got the name for my brother. He never said as much but I wonder if that’s where he got my name from too. Mom said she doesn’t know. Maybe she’s trying to spare me. Wouldn’t be the first time. Anyway, I wouldn’t tell this to anyone else, but I didn’t hate it. I wanted to so badly, but I didn’t. It’s not great literature by any stretch of the imagination, but it did make me see people here in a different light, with more depth. How about that? It took two-dimensional make-believe characters in order to see these real people as real. To see them how they see themselves.

My shift at the diner is starting soon so I better get going. Enjoy the cookies. I love you, mon capitan.


Next letter – December 12, 1944