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  • Writer's pictureCat T. Gardiner


Happy New Year, my swinging friends! May it be a blessed one filled with the making of swell memories.

Well, it's my first post of 2016 and it's not resolutions I want to talk about because, Gawd knows, I stink at making and keeping them. It's actually coincidences I want to discuss. I truly believe that not all coincidences are happenstance. Many are those meant-to-be experiences. Some may call them Godincidences. I believe that. Sometimes things just point the way to discoveries and/or people.

A few months ago, my first post, titled 32 Satin Buttons discussed the stunning wedding gown find at a antique sidewalk sale. I remember stressing over dating it properly, having very little experience in fashion and fabric. I researched and researched until finally hitting on a couple of papers written about Skinner Satin as well as wartime brides. Historical photographs were instrumental in narrowing down the period between 1942 and 1947 of my 32 satin buttons. I was further astonished to discover that similar wedding gowns to my $1.00 windfall from that sleepy little town were fetching over $300!

Anyway, back in 2002, my mother-in-law passed away and in her belongings, wrapped in a pink towel was a doll. Obviously her own, tucked away in cherished memory. Honestly, I never cared much for the face of the doll. She sort of has these frightening blue eyes; she's a cross between Chucky's Bride and George Costanza's mother - you know the episode - the one with the doll in her likeness that yells at him. Nevertheless, in memory of my m-i-l and with respect to my husband (who probably doesn't even care,) the doll sits in my bedroom staring at me, waiting for the occassional dusting of her beautiful wedding gown. Skinner satin wedding gown to be precise.

It hit me the other day during her cleaning that, although her gown didn't have 32 buttons, it had 5, as well as a bertha collar, basque waistline, and defined wrist points. The train length also matches my $1.00 find. The doll's gown, minus the lace, is almost the exact replica of my vintage prize! I did the math: M-i-L was born in 1938; she would have had this doll between maybe 42 -47 - the dating of my gown! Had I only been paying a little more attention to the freaky doll with glowing eyes and a beautiful gown forgotten in the corner of my bedroom, I may have saved myself days of research. Remarkable, huh?

I had another coincidence - one more profound than that of a wedding gown, and it involves a love letter. Right up my alley!! In preparation for a Valentine's Day membership recruitment tea for the Tampa chapter of the National League of American Pen Women, I'm busy gathering WWII-related items. I'm hosting a table and my theme and centerpiece will be Home Front 1940s. (I'll have a follow up post for that in February.)

I purchased on Etsy a 9 page, very mushy, love letter from a newly married servicemember to his wife in June of '42. Honestly, the sentiment made me cry. He was so in love, even making little stick figure drawings of his wife and him holding hands. So sweet how he called her honey and darling. My heart clenched. Did he make it home from the war? As I read, I kept thinking that he didn't, otherwise this letter would still be with family members. Maybe they never had children.

The letter, one of many others available, written by this man, was postmarked Utah and mailed to Washington State. The Etsy seller was in Indiana. I immediately took to the internet, searching the WWII enlistment records and wouldn't you know it - I found my man. "Mr. S" survived the war + 6 months. He was in ordnance in the Army Air Corps. His birthdate was VALENTINE'S DAY! His 95th birthday would have been the day of the tea I am hosting. Sadly, I also found his obituary from 2013, but it was a plethera of information about the lovely man, written with such tender regard and adoration. His photograph showed him to be a happy person. It listed children and where they lived, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and an incredible legacy of being generous to his family and married to his beloved wife of 59 years.

I hold the letter and cannot help asking: He died in Washington State. How did this letter end up being sold by someone in Indiana? Why would family member part with such a momento of their parents or grandparents' love? Was it picked through and discovered in an estate sale? Was it stolen in the nursing home where he died then sold to the antique shop?

The letter, I view as a piece of history temporarily on loan to me. I do not own it even though I paid for it. Is it a coincidence that it came to be in my posession? I don't think so. I think it was put in my hands, hoping to find its way home to its family. Maybe I'm just sentimental like that. After the tea, on Mr. S's 95th birthday, I will try to contact his children and ask if they would like the letter returned. If not, then I'll honor the love Mr. and Mrs. S shared by writing them into one of my novels.


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