A Valentine’s Day Story

By Richard Mabey Jr.

 

In August of 1942, my father had just finished his basic training, in the United States Army, at Fort McClellan in Alabama. He was granted a week’s leave. Dad was about to be assigned to the Seventh Army Air Corps, to be dispatched to Hickam Airfield in Hawaii. 

 

While on his week-long leave, Dad had lunch with his brother Earl and Uncle Earl’s wife, Eleanor. Uncle Earl and Aunt Eleanor had just gotten married in June. They moved into Aunt Eleanor’s homestead, in the 600 block of Boonton Avenue in Boonton. They lived with Aunt Eleanor’s widowed father.

 

It was a Sunday afternoon that Dad visited Uncle Earl and Aunt Eleanor. A most fateful Sunday. After lunch, Dad and his brother took a walk to the front yard of Uncle Earl’s new home. They stood beneath a maple tree and talked. Across the street, on Boonton Avenue, a young high school girl sat upon the rock wall of her home, reading a book. 

 

In the dozens of times that Dad told this story, he always said that he asked Uncle Earl who was the girl sitting upon the rock wall. And Uncle Earl simply replied, “she’s one of the Kemmerer girls.” Then Dad was quiet for a moment and he simply said to his brother, “she’s such a pretty girl. I’m going to marry her.”

 

Fast forward to February of 1943. Dad is at Hickam Airfield. He is assigned the task of fueling up airplanes. He is all so homesick. There is a certain anxiety and fear in the air. For rumors are abounding of another Japanese attack. 

 

It is now Valentine’s Day of 1943. Janet Kemmerer (my Mom) is working an after-school job at the A&P in Boonton. She is working in the Bakery Department. It is close to closing time. Three Valentine’s Day cookies are still on the shelf. They had not been sold. Mom’s boss simply says, “Janet, why don’t you take those Valentine’s Day cookies home with you.” So, Mom does. 

 

Mom gives one Valentine’s Day cookie to her Mom, and one to her Dad. And, the other one she carefully wraps in a box, to send to the Airman at Hickam (being my Dad). Mom had become pen pals with Dad. Aunt Eleanor, knowing of Dad’s homesick blues, gave Dad’s Hickam Airfield address to Mom.

 

Dad always said that Mom’s Valentine’s Day cookie, sealed the deal for him. That the second that he opened Mom’s box and saw the carefully wrapped Valentine’s Day cookie, that this really was the girl he was going to marry.

 

Fate and Destiny are strange twins. How much of our lives, are totally our of our hands? Now at 70, I look back at all the times my father told the story of his Valentine cookie that Mom sent him. Dad would often laugh about how the cookie came broken in pieces and that the box was a little crushed. Then Dad would say that it was the best Valentine’s Day gift he had ever received. 

 

Was it by Divine decree that those three Valentine cookies were left unsold? And, Mom’s boss, at the A&P, could have easily taken those cookies home for herself. And why three cookies? If there were just two cookies left, Mom would have probably given one to her Mom, and one to her Dad. 

 

I often wonder, what if Mom had not been sitting upon the rock wall, that bordered her front yard, that fateful Sunday afternoon in August of 1942? And, what if Dad had not visited his brother, Earl, on that very same Sunday afternoon? And, what if Aunt Eleanor had not given Dad’s Hickam Airfield address to Mom? At times, it all seems so eerie and haunting. I believe that God is guiding our lives, more than we will ever know.           

 

Richard Mabey Jr. is a freelance writer. He hosts a YouTube Channel titled, “Richard Mabey Presents.” Richard most recently published a book of poetry and short stories. He can be reached at richardmabeyjr@hotmail.com

 

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