Friday, April 6, 2018

Get off the phone. I’m trying to call you

And so we embarked on an exchange of letters, which started slowly. Then, over time, the intervals between one letter and the next grew shorter. 
First she told me about changes affected by the war effort:

Mama read in the magazine: “Rationing has been introduced not to deprive you of your real needs, but to make more certain that you get your share of the country's goods, to get fair shares with everybody else. When the shops re-open you will be able to buy cloth, clothes, footwear and knitting wool only if you bring your food ration book with you. The shopkeeper will detach the required number of coupons from the unused page... You will have a total of 66 coupons to last you a year; so go sparingly. You can buy where you like and when you like without registering.”

By Valentine’s Day, her voice became warmer and a bit more confident. She began to trust me with little things, little stories about her life, stories that showed her to me not only as a pianist but as a sixteen-year-old kid.
She wrote,

Mama tells me to put on my roller skates and go to several neighborhood groceries because they’ve received a shipment of sugar, flour, butter or some other rationed items, and she’s given me some ration coupons that can be redeemed for the items. Every once in a while there may be Nylon Stockings that Ma would want me to try to get. If I can’t find any, she might have to get them on the black market.

I asked for her phone number. She gave it to me with a warning, saying that she liked chatting with her friends for long periods of time, so getting through to her would be tough. It would be next to impossible. 

This was true. After trying repeatedly to call her for three hours straight I finally got tired of it and resorted to send her a telegram, which I knew would be delivered at once by a young man riding a bicycle in a Western Union uniform and a cap, which is sure to get her attention. The telegram said, “Get off the phone. I’m trying to call you.”

Lenny in The Music of Us


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