Scanning Around With Gene: Lasting Love
This column usually focuses on printed pieces that were designed to be public: advertisements, magazine spreads, letterhead, decals, and so on. In this installment, I'll look at something very private: a scrapbook, more than 50 years old, filled with mementoes from a couple's short life together.
An Edited Life
Scrapbooks are not a complete look at life, but rather an edited one. Some are the result of compulsive types who chronicle almost very detail; others show only a small glimpse in time. Some are the result of romance at least one party wants to re-visit. These can be the hardest to look at as an outsider -- it can feel like a violation of privacy. Such is the scrapbook I recently picked up at a swap meet, which belonged to Edgar and Josephine, a young married couple from Oakland, California.
“Ed” and “Jo,” as they called each other, were married in 1939. She was 22. Since most of the contents of Jo’s scrapbook are in the form of greeting cards, I have to piece a few things together. There aren’t a lot of comments, newspaper clippings or official documents to fill in the blanks. Rather, Jo saved those items that were a gesture of affection, either from Ed or friends. And she had many. Click on any image for a larger version.
Ed was a man of few words, but he chose his cards carefully. Here, from 1941 and 1942 are Christmas cards to his wife, signed simply, “Ed.”
For their anniversary in 1940, Ed sent this gem to Jo, along with a small newspaper clipping that he placed inside.
A year later, Ed bought a card that was much bigger and had a more romantic sentiment. I don’t know if it was given at the same time, but Jo saved a dried orchid on the same page, marked with the caption “my first real orchid, 1940.”
The next Valentine’s Day, Jo gave this card to Ed, along with the greeting, “You are my love.”
When Jo went into the hospital to have her appendix removed, she received several get-well cards. Here’s the one from Ed, which came with a bouquet of flowers.
In 1943, it appears that Ed went to war and was stationed in Hawaii. This card arrived by military mail from Honolulu. Jo saved the envelope along with the card.
It’s difficult to determine the next sequence of events, but it appears that the card above is the last one Jo received from her husband. Ed didn’t make it back to Oakland.
Next came the sympathy cards for Jo. And that is where the scrapbook ends.
Yet even after the crushing blow of the death of a spouse at such a young age, people go on. Here’s a picture that was simply stuck in the back of the scrapbook, which shows an older Jo working as a waitress at a small diner.
Two people truly in love have a connection outsiders can't understand. I believe this bond exists between any two people, not just between a man and a woman. And to me, it is that connection that defines a true marriage. To suggest that the bond between any two people is not as “official” or as “real” as what is between other people is narrow-minded and heartless.
Today, Ed and Jo could be Ed and Joe. Regardless of their chromosomes, if one of them was lost in battle, the heartbreak felt by the other wouldn't be much different than that suffered by the Jo of this scrapbook, all those years ago.
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