Kit’s tired. And sore. She is so tired and so sore that she doesn’t think she remembers the last time she wasn’t tired or sore. Sometime – before. Before she joined the WAVES, before Oklahoma, before New York City. The weeks have blurred into months, and she keeps going, and she is going to keep going.
Her roommate asks if she wants to come out to the park, and she shakes her head, mumbling something about letters to write to people back home. While what she really wants to do is sleep, there is something to be said about keeping regular waking and sleeping hours, and she does in fact need to write letters. They’ve been here nearly three weeks, and Ruthie doesn’t even have her address yet! This is an oversight that Kit must remedy right away, so she takes out a pen and paper and begins:
Ruthie dear –
I am so very sorry I have not written sooner! I know it is important that you have my new address while I am moving about from place to place and you are holding the fort down at home. Please believe me, there is never a lack of regard, nor of respect for you, simply an increased respect for the needs of my own body and the rules of training.
For busy they keep us, here! Our minds and our hands and the rest of our bodies stay in motion, continually. I have been practicing so much shorthand that it takes considerable extra attention to remember that I am writing words, not notation, in correspondence such as this. By the end of this yeoman’s training, we must all be able to take dictation at no less than a full one hundred and forty words per minute, and must type at least eighty. I am fortunate that our girlhood newspaper writing has given me a head-start on the typing, at least! I was very near the standard when first tested, and in the coming weeks I know I will only improve.
Oh! That reminds me! The newsletter here is called “Brightwork” and perhaps I will be able to write for it, to discuss our activities during the time we are here. If they do see fit to let me, perhaps I will be able to send you a copy?
I do wish that you were here with me, that we had been able to be WAVES together. But I know that they will not accept a wife of a Navy man. Sometimes I am surprised they accepted a sister! My roommate, Marjorie, reminds me a bit of you – she loves the Lang fairy books, too, and has been known to spend Sunday afternoons in the park reading them, with children surrounding her as if she is their very own personal Pied Piper. And well, you see these words as the proof of what it is that I choose to do with my Sunday afternoons, though there is talk of starting up a tennis tournament.
Now, Ruthie, you must tell me the news from home – how are my family, and yours? Is Aunt Millie still holding Victory Garden workshops? What nonsense has Uncle Hendrick had published in the papers lately? Whatever news you have, I want it all.
With Much Love,
Kit addresses one envelope, then begins another letter, this time paying extra attention to keeping her writing as neat as possible.
October 25, 1943
Or am I required now to address you as Lieutenant Kittredge? Am I now too familiar in my manners, given that we are sworn to the same branch of the service, and you far and away my superior in it? For you must know there is vicious talk and disapproval of young ladies such as myself and my WAC counterparts, even among your illustrious ranks, and I would not wish to further bring myself or my company into disrepute in your eyes. Though I should hope you have enough trust in the character of your little sister, the dearest friend of your beloved wife, to at least not believe the very worst of the slanders they set against us.
But enough of that. I hope it pleases you to know that at my intake testing, I could already type at a rate of 75 words per minute. The passing standard at the end of our training is 80, and I hope to exceed that and put my childhood skills to good use for the Allies – as I hope you are continuing to put the engineering skills that once designed your little sister a treehouse and yourself a sleeping-porch to more elaborate use. We each (and all) must use such skills as we have, after all.
I hope you are safe and well, brother. Although I am proud to be part of the WAVES, I must say I wish that there had never been a need for such as us. I hope and pray for victory and for our safe return home.
With Much Affection,
Yeoman M.M. Kittredge
One more letter. She has time for one more – maybe it should be to her parents, but Ruthie will pass along what news there is, and romance wins out over the sense of daughterly duty.
Stirling dear –
I realize that my day of rest is not always so restful for you, but I must make the best use of the time that I have as there is so little of it in training. Would you believe I have not been to play tennis once since coming to training here, though courts and equipment are available to us Navy girls? I miss it so and I fear I am losing my skill, yet the daily drills have left me with little energy for such things.
I don’t know if I’ve said this enough, but thank you, thank you so much for standing by and sticking up for girls like me who go into the service. Though I suppose you might have more of an understanding than most of what it is to feel the mistrust of ordinary soldiers and the sisters and sweethearts they leave at home – you because you are not in the service and me because I am. There is crass talk, of course, of the sort of men who are unable or unwilling to endure the conditions of training, and what they must be like. And every chance I get, I tell those who talk so just how wrong they are – as if the condition of a man’s lungs or legs or the lack of hearing in his ear speaks to his mind or his God-given soul.
You serve Chicago well, and I know that when you are a minister and no longer merely a student, you will serve well at whatever church chooses you. I pray that victory comes soon, and that – God and family willing – I can come home to you, wherever you are, and we can begin the life together that we first talked about at Charlie’s wedding.
With love, always yours,
Kit addresses the last envelope just as Marjorie returns to their room, begging Kit for help with her hair. The children she was reading to were throwing leaves at her, she says, and she does not want to receive demerits at dinnertime!
Demerits at Dinnertime, Kit muses. That sounds like the title for a funny article about life in the WAVES.