"Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus, friends absent speak."
Family and Friends
By now most of you have heard how these 400 letters were discovered and how busy I have been for several months putting them into binders. There was a period when our dining-room table was covered with empty envelopes, scribbled notes, and bits of crumbling, yellowed paper. I summarized each letter briefly, without reading most of them through, and then scanned them, page by page, into my computer. There are about 700 scans in all. It has been a remarkable experience, loaded with meaning on so many levels that I will have to wait until I work my way through all the letters before I can make sense of it all.
The sheer number of letters is extraordinary. I can’t believe I wrote them. How did I find the time? Meeting me as I was more than sixty years ago has been like being introduced to a stranger. I have been fascinated with how the salutations of the letters change as I evolve from an eighteen-year old into a newly-hatched “adult” of twenty-one. And I watch myself becoming homesick as the geographical distance between my family and me suddenly becomes vast; and our separation grows longer, month-by-month.
In letter after letter, while reassuring my parents that I was safe, I would scare the hell out of them with descriptions that were unnecessarily loaded with vivid adjectives. After the Normandy beachhead, and later in Holland and Germany, I learned to tone down the melodrama -- but I still seemed bent on keeping my family on the edge of their seats. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the parents and wives of soldiers in the infantry, who were constantly in life-threatening danger. In my letters, there are many times when I express my admiration for the men who were fighting nearby in the midst of unspeakable horror, and how aware I was that my own experiences paled in comparison with theirs.
Well, it’s time for the letters to speak for themselves.
Howard (or, for those who don’t know me, Howard Goodkind)