Many years ago, I was at my aunt’s house and she was going to throw away a stack of postcards that my grandmother had saved. She said she didn’t know who any of these people were and she was just going to pitch them. Luckily I stopped her. It turned out that several of them were from my grandfather, J, who was living in Ohio, written to my grandmother, F, who was living in Romania before they were married.
J and F were very close friends in Targu Neamtz. They had grown up together but when J was 14, his father took him to America with his step-mother. In the meantime, F was arranged to marry a British officer, MG, who was stationed in Romania.
J wrote to F and asked her to come to America and marry him. She wrote back and told J that she was engaged to MG (actually a very good marriage for a poor romanian girl). J wrote her lots of postcards to urge his case. (I remember my grandmother talking about how embarrassed she would be when J sent her those postcards, pretty risque for the early 20th century, especially because the imagery and sentiments were “public.” Anyone could read them. She said the postman always gave her a hard time.)
MG was gassed in the war (WWI) and knew he was dying. He wrote to J in America and asked him to take care of F. J wrote F a letter that took two years in transit and included a ticket on a ship to America. (I have always been intrigued by this two year letter…that slower pace…the fact that the ticket was still good…the fact that J was still waiting.)
F didn’t want to go to America. The night she received J’s letter, she dreamt a woman came to visit her. This woman told her, “I could never have the man I wanted so I’ll make sure that my son has the woman he wants.”
F told her mother about this vivid dream and her mother asked for a description of the woman. F’s description was a portrait of J’s mother who had died giving birth to him. She hadn’t been able to marry the man she wanted because she had two older sisters who needed to marry first. Her lover did not want to wait.
F’s mother said it was a sign and urged her to go to America. So, at 20, F left Romania knowing she would never see her mother, sisters, and family again.