Saturday, September 09, 2006

Letter from Ted

Anyone who has been following this blog will remember the author of that unforgettable poem Bea quoted earlier on, “The dreams of thirty centuries have been spun out since first thy thirsty soil drank deep of blood …”, her Greek-American beau from Williams whom Harry did not want his daughter to marry: Ted.

Bea has saved one of Ted’s love letters. What makes it noteworthy? In the margins, Bea has left comments – in capital letters below – a habit she later applied to correspondence from my brother and me.

Across the top Bea has scrawled, “Oh, bless his heart for such a sweet letter!”

“431 Riverside Drive
New York City
March 12, 1932

Dearest girl,

I can’t say anything that would express or could indicate one poor scrap of my feelings. What can I do? I could fill this sheet with nothing but, I love you, I love you, I love you. Or, I could try to thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming down from Heaven. Or, I could try to tell you that I still don’t understand how or why you can be so good to me.

But I can’t do any of the above because they would seem so terribly trivial compared to that surge of emotion, (GOOD!) which was the fleeting joy of your visit. You came and went – and it was like the aroma of wood smoke on a breath of evening wind in fall. It had vanished so quickly, and yet had left something, which can always be recalled. (OVERDRAWN TO SENTIMENTALITY?)

If you knew how I hope you were satisfied with your visit, how I hope you accomplished your aim! At last, if the results were disappointing to you, won’t you be a little glad that you helped me, just as you do every time you see me? (I DON’T WANT YOU TO SPEAK ANYMORE TO ME OF MY HELPING YOU BECAUSE …)

You see, darling, if it doesn’t sound too ridiculous, you are teaching me the pleasure of humility. No young man could fail to take mental stock of himself, see his many shortcomings and decide to try to overcome them, when he has been treated so dearly (NO SUCH WORD) by the girl he cares for. (PROPER HUMILITY NECESSARY IN LOVE BUT OTHERWISE, AFTER MARRIAGE COMES REVERSE OF TOO MUCH HUMILITY IN A DESIRE TO SHOW AN EXCELLENCE NOT FELT SINCERE, A DESIRE TO COMPENSATE IN PART AND IN PART AN OVERDEVELOPED IMPULSE OF MALE TO SUBDUE, IN A SENSE, THE FEMALE.)

It is only gradually that I am learning what a woefully insufficient person I am. But, thanks to you, I not only gain such knowledge, but am led to do something about it. Of course, I am also led to the conceit of desiring to be your lifetime task of regeneration (BETTER NOT TO MENTION THIS TOO MUCH)… but since such a conceit is universal, can’t we excuse it on the grounds that it’s just another of those Instincts?

When I received your telegram I was delighted at the prospect of seeing you.

By the time your train was due, I was also afraid.

When I missed you at the gate, I felt very ill for a moment.

When you told me that you had come down to see me, a gigantic steam shovel removed a mile of earth under my feet. (VERY GOOD!)

And, at six o’clock yesterday, when you told me you could stay until eight, I felt like the fellow in Cell 13, who has just received a stay from the governor. (GOOD!)

Finally, when your train pulled out, I was a very lonesome little boy, afraid of the tall buildings and dark, narrow streets. (THIS ALSO GOOD.)

I’m so glad you were able to stop in, even if it was for a moment. Mother hopes you will come again on your next visit to New York. So does Grandmother, who expresses decided ideas on you, including comments on the latent strength of your little finger … (GOOD BUT POINT OVER-STRESSED AND BETTER NOT EXPRESSED.)

Dearest, some day, when I wake up and realize how nice you’ve been to me, I’ll try to thank you as I should. Meanwhile, let me enjoy my dream and tell me, when you have a chance, what conclusions you drew this weekend, if you drew any. (BEA HAS DRAWN TWO LINES HERE IN THE MARGIN.)

Above all, no matter what you decide or what happens, let me say,

All my love, Ted”


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