Wishing my sister a Happy Birthday made me nostalgic and I began to think about my family, my sisters, and my parents. My mother died in November, 1981 and my Dad in February, 1985. I really miss my parents and now that my sisters and I are well into our late 50’s and 60’s it makes me stop and think about my life, my past and my future.
The one thing I have been concentrating on over the past year is to stop thinking about my life with an expiration date and maintain that life continues until it is over and no one knows that date. I could live a minute, a day, 30-40 years, even 10 years is a long time. So I am living my life just like I did when I was 20.
My future is unknown so I need to live today as if it is my last while always preparing for tomorrow.
Thinking about my sister and my past, I thought about when my parents met. It was like an old black and white movie, the war was on, a chance meeting, and then a marriage that lasted a lifetime.
My niece Robin who has always been more like a sister wrote about my parents’ meeting on her blog and I thought you might enjoy it.
My parents’ meeting…
Westbound Train – July 1944
by Robin embellished by me as told to me by my mother
It was one of those hot steamy days and the close quarters on the train was becoming unbearable for Elizabeth. As befitting a young Southern lady traveling she was dressed in a proper fitted navy summer linen suit but underneath she had chosen a revealing loose-fitting sleeveless cream shell which made her clear blue eyes sparkle as the sun hit the windows of the moving train. She had already removed her suit jacket revealing her small frame and soft rounded shoulders. She was a vision. Her shoulder length brown hair falling down onto her blouse and swishing across her face as the train swayed. She was gorgeous, high cheek bones, pouty mouth, at just over five feet tall she was any man’s dream girl.
She was on a train, her fiancé was not with her, nor her mother, she was alone. She was going to see relatives in St. Louis and meet her mother. They planned a big shopping spree to prepare her for her wedding. Ice tea, if she only had some ice tea she would feel better. Ice tea always made her feel better.
She opened the door to her cabin and began walking down the narrow passageway of the viewing car toward the dining car. It was just noon, it was lunch time. The dining car would probably be crowded and even steamier with all the people and hot food. She continued on her way swerving first left then right to avoid passengers making their way to the back of the train. The train was already over booked. The rail company was providing transport for the military. The train was filled with army, navy, air force men all going on leave or to bases around the country for training. We were at war and we were all doing whatever possible to help in the war effort. She tried to move inconspicuously down the passageway of each car to the next as she attempted to keep a low profile as the cars now seemed brimming with men all gawking at her.
In the car just before the dining car was the smoking car where people could wait for tables, smoke, and talk to other passengers but this day as she had feared it was overrun with military men. As Elizabeth tried to quickly pass through she immediately caught the eye of several men all rising to move toward her. She picked up her pace and entered the dining car. Out of the corner of her eye she could see several men crisply dressed in their military uniforms, two sailors overly anxious were making their way toward her. Upon entering the dining car she was taken aback by how crowded it was. There was no way she would be able to be served. She needed to escape the men now moving in on her. She would have to make her way to the bar car if she wanted the cold refreshing glass of iced tea. Committed to her quest she moved through the dining car. She knew that the bar car should be off limits but at this point she was driven by her thirst and it was so hot.
The Bar car was the last car on the train. She finally reached the door and she was aware that she was being followed by a couple of sailors and another man in uniform she wasn’t sure what service. As she moved through the door she realized maybe this too had been a bad idea. The bar car was crammed, jam-packed with men only men. Her greatest fear realized. Every where she looked it was swarming with drinking men. She suddenly found herself surrounded. Nervously she looked around for an escape, and then their eyes met. A handsome soldier stood by the bar looking straight into her eyes. Her eyes pleaded for help. The men around her were polite enough, but there was an edgy eagerness to their approach. She felt her stomach squirm as if signaling this could become dangerous.
Suddenly she felt a strong arm move gently around her waist and a man’s voice saying, “darling what took you so long, I’ve been waiting here forever”. Instinctively she would have pulled away but his hold was so definite and his voice so strong and protective she felt secure. The next thing she knew he spun her around and he kissed her – hard – on the mouth.
She could do nothing but kiss him back. The room was suddenly empty and it was as though it was just the two of them holding each other. Elizabeth’s legs buckled beneath her and her rescuer held her tight.
The other men, defeated, looked at each other shrugged and walked away.
Straightening herself, Elizabeth looked at the stranger and quickly said, “Thank you, I appreciate your help, I must get my tea and go. Good-bye.”
As she started to walk away, he caught her hand. “Please don’t leave. We’ve just met. What’s your name?”
She hesitated, but there he stood, this handsome young Army soldier. She found herself responding, “Elizabeth. Elizabeth Watts. And you are…?”
Smiling down at her, he replied, “Captain Walter C. Blake, US Army. It’s a pleasure to meet you Elizabeth. May I buy you a drink?”
Remembering who she was and how she had been brought up, she hesitated, but then nodded yes. He was so very handsome and he had assisted her. Again, without thinking she responded, “Yes, please, an iced tea would be wonderful”.
They sat and talked the whole way to St. Louis. He was on his way home to visit his family in St. Joseph, Missouri and then on to California to meet his fiancé. She told him she was headed to St. Louis to meet her mother and visit relatives, and to shop for her trousseau. Somehow their destinations didn’t matter to them. It was clandestine how much they had in common and how easily they spoke with each other. Elizabeth felt elated to have met such a wonderful man. She had almost completely forgotten she was engaged. They both realized their time together was ending as the train slowed for her stop in St. Louis.
“Well, Walter, it’s been lovely getting to know you. I hope you have a lovely visit with your family, and that you keep yourself safe for the remainder of the war and thank you for helping me escape that situation. You had an interesting method of doing so, I must say!”
Walter laughed. “What can I say, a woman in distress…I had to act. Honestly it wasn’t that hard. When I saw you flustered and anxious standing there I couldn’t just stand by. I had to step in. and believe me when I say at that very moment I held you in my arms, I looked up to Heaven and thanked God for putting me in this car.”
Elizabeth shyly laughed and Walter took her hand again holding it tightly. They smiled at each other.
Elizabeth softly said, “We’re approaching St. Louis now, so I really must be going. My mother will be waiting at the hotel. Good-bye, Walter. It was wonderful meeting you. Take care of yourself.” She reached up and put her hands on his chest and kissed his cheek, and started to exit the train car.
“Lib, wait! Let me escort you off the train and help you collect your bags. It’ll be a couple of hours before the train is off again. Would you like to get a bite to eat with me?” Walter pleaded.
She smiled and nodded. “I should say no, but I would like that, Thank you. Let me call my mother and tell her I have been delayed.”
Hand in hand the two exited the train and made their way into the station. Walter collected her bags for her and together they went into the station eatery where they munched on eggs and toast. For them both, time didn’t matter. Laughing and talking the time slipped away and before either of them realized the time, the whistle was blowing for the boarding of the train.
Their time together was over. Walter had to leave to catch the train and Elizabeth needed to get a cab to go to the hotel. Walter carried her bags and walked her out of the station and hailed a cab for her and made sure she was safely in the cab. He then asked her where she was going and she told him her hotel’s name and he told the cabby and paid him the fare. She kissed him on the cheek and he suddenly reached for her and said “Libby, wait!” he stammered. She turned back to him, right eyebrow raised questioningly. “This will sound crazy, I know, but…I am in love with you! I want to marry you. Let’s go find a jeweler so I can buy you a diamond ring right this minute!” As he spoke, he had taken hold of her hands and was staring hopefully into her eyes.
“Walter! No! You have a fiancé, I have a fiancé you can’t be in love with me! You may not buy me a diamond ring!”
His face fell and he dropped her hands. She laughed and put her right hand on his cheek. “Walter, if you really believe you are in love with me and want to marry me you may find me and bring me a book and some flowers.”
I just may do that, Walter thought with a big smile on his face as if he knew something Elizabeth did not.
Walter watched as her cab drove away.
What Elizabeth hadn’t realized was that Walter knew exactly where to find her. He had after all told the cab driver her hotel. Now all he had to do was grab his stuff off the train, find the book and flowers and seek her out at her hotel. He would not give up he would make her his bride.
He remembered in their conversation on the train that she had mentioned the book “Meditations in Wall Street” so that would be the book. Now where was the nearest book store? Once he bought the book, he was off to get flowers. He was a man on a mission. With the book and flowers in hand he was off to the hotel to propose.
When he got to the hotel they didn’t have an Elizabeth Watts registered. Crushed he was beginning to panic and then he remembered she was meeting her mother. So he asked for Mrs. Adabelle Watts claiming to be her daughter’s fiancé from Norfolk, Virginia. He knew that was her hometown, he knew it because she had told him on the train. The clerk gave him the room number so that he could call from the lobby phone but instead he made his way to the room and knocked on the door. No answer. Resolute he sat down next to the door and waited. He would wait until she returned. It seemed like hours, in fact it was hours but he sat and waited.
And then the elevator doors opened and he heard her voice. Elated he jumped to his feet and waited until she came around the corner. There she was just as he remembered only now she was dressed in an off the shoulder pale blue silk evening dress which made her look almost like an angel as she walked toward her room and him. He moved toward her. “You said to find you and bring you a book and flowers and you would marry me. Well, here I am.”
They were married just months later. Their ceremony was on a Army Post, just before Walter was being deployed back to the front and Elizabeth and her best friend Elsa were the only women at the wedding. All of the other guests were soldiers. To hear my Dad tell it he spent the entire time threatening the guys in response to their trying to steal his bride.
From time to time I will be writing about my family. They are the focus of my life. I have been fortunate as my family is loving and strong and even though there are times we don’t see eye to eye the underlying love that exists is never enough to break our bond. To my sisters all my love and to my readers, thank you for stopping by… until later… betti : )