Saturday, January 3, 2009

March 24, 1930


11:30 P.M.

March 24. 1930.


It is getting to be a habit with me to
write you a note before retiring.,1 It is indeed a
pleasure to write and relate to you everything that's
happening around me.

My implicit faith in you Sweetheart was
amply rewarded by your attitude of late, it was
heaven on Earth to gaze at your sympathetic eyes and
to listen to your sweet and friendly voice.

Oh Dear, words fail me to express the true
feelings and heavenly joy I've experienced in
your company Sat. and last nights.2

My only object in life shall be to make you
happy and contented, I shall try hard to live
up to your expectations, and with the Lords help
I shall succeed.

The fact that you gave my competitor the
(as you call it) b.r. proves to me that your mind
and heart have cooperated to guide you in the
right path. 3

It was divine power that impelled you
to look at my approaches in a different light
to see that my love for you was of [the] immortal kind.

I have ever since I've known you Sweetheart
known of the existence of a spark of love for me,
and now I shall make myself worthy of it, for
when you Dearest love it is more than sincere. 4

And now in closing I want to let you know
how anxiously I'm looking forward to meeting you
tomorrow (Tuesday) night, but I'll have to come a little
later as Archie is off tomorrow and I'll have to close
the store at 10 sharp. 5

So Dearest Good night,

Pleasant dreams tonight and every other night,

Your devoted



Matt’s Notes

1 - Remember, in the days of twice-daily postal delivery, Papa could send a letter late at night and expect my grandmother to receive it in the following morning’s mail. (He wrote this at 11:30 PM and it’s postmarked 7:00 AM the next day.)

2 - In his Thursday, March 20th letter, Papa mentioned that he wanted to take my grandmother’s mother and brother for night out at Cafe Royale (a famous gathering place for New York Jews in the early 20th Century) on Saturday the 22nd.   I’ve speculated that Papa planned to pitch them on his plan to marry my grandmother, who still had doubts about his matrimonial viability, and drum up their support. It appears, from this letter, that my grandmother joined the party as well, and in the ensuing few days turned the corner in her attitude toward Papa. In fact...

3 - looks like I must have have misread Papa’s last few letters. I’ve been thinking my grandmother dismissed her other suitor and agreed to marry Papa in January of 1930, but clearly she waited a bit longer to give Papa’s “competitor” the “b.r.” (“B.R.” is, I expect, short for “bum’s rush,” which you may or may not recognize as a slang expression for chasing away undesirable people. According to multiple dictionary sources, this phrase was in relatively fresh circulation in 1930.)

The anxiety Papa expressed in his last few letters makes more sense to me now; he was worried not because my grandmother was second-guessing her decision to marry him (as I had thought) but because she was still entertaining thoughts of marrying someone else. Now, though...

4 - ...the decisive language he uses in this letter clearly indicates that my grandmother had, at last, accepted his proposal (perhaps over dinner at the Royale). Alas, though Papa believed her “mind and heart" had "cooperated to guide [her] in the right path,” my grandmother would, in later years, admit to my mother that she married Papa for practical, and not romantic, reasons.  Her mind said he would take good care of her and that was, at a time when her family’s finances were in disarray, the loss of her father was still on her mind, and a Depression loomed large, more important than whether her heart said she truly loved him.

5 - As in many of his other letters, Papa suddenly switches here from soaring, romantic rhetoric (“It was divine power that impelled you to...see that my love for you was of the immortal kind”) to mundane business (“Archie is off tomorrow and I'll have to close the store at 10 sharp”). I find this transition to be a little jarring in a love letter, but I imagine it wasn’t so odd in an era when letter writing was (as noted above) a frequent and relatively immediate form of communication (and perhaps more so in Papa’s case since he typically wanted to squeeze everything into one note while stealing time at work or “before retiring.”)

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