Note: Trigger alert. If you are sensitive to anything having to do with suicide, you might want to give this one a pass. It’s not Arthur, he’s fine (or was, in 1946—he died in 1968). And no one actually dies in this letter.
On the Garden Porch, 63B Im Dol,
Berlin, Germany, 5 May 1946.
A bit of a brisk walk, Meine Kinder, down to Grundwald Lake with Ajax (pronounced Ah-yahx), and now he is sitting quietly beside me in the sun surveying in a dignified way his new world. Frau Pieper is sitting under blankets, stretched out in a deck chair in the sun out on the lawn letting down the hem of my kahki pants, and recovering from the near tragedy of this past week. Heath is upstairs packing. And there are the germs of three stories which I’ll try to develop herewith.
I can now blithely laugh at the superior folks around me who have sent home for their dependents and who will shortly assume marital occupations of which they have been free since they hit the soil of Europe. For I have a dependent such as I have long craved – ever since I hit Washington, as a matter of fact, and, if all goes well, I hope that someday you may get very well acquainted with him. Ajax is a dog, a beautiful boxer, two years old, superbly trained – in every way a man’s companion, tho, strangely enough, he has been brought up by two women and has never known men intimately. Last Sunday I asked Edith whether she could find me a dog, preferably a Boxer, although I would not turn down a German shepherd. She smiled and said “Perhaps” and Heath remarked, “When Frau Pieper says perhaps it is as good as done”. Thursday evening Ajax appeared with his mistress, Frau Römer, – and my wish was granted. Frau Römer is leaving this coming week for Westphalia and could not take her dog – she was looking for a good home for him, I was looking for a companion, – presto, I now have an alter ego who sits quietly beside my bed waiting for me to awaken in the morning and who is never more than ten feet from me. It was several evenings before he would accept me, and I’m still careful not to let him out loose, for he would run the three or four blocks back to his former home at the drop of a hat, but in this house he recognizes me as his and watches over me every minute. He sleeps on an old comfortable in the corner of my bedroom, makes several quiet inspections of the house while we sleep, is quiet and dignified when we are otherwise engaged or when there is company, but can get quite hilarious when it is time to play, and every inch a gentleman. I have grown very fond of him already, and have an idea that he is going to change my life here considerably.
The second story was not so happy, but, fortunately, the ending probably justifies the experience. Last Tuesday evening a party of us had a rather high time at Harnack Haus at dinner time. Heath and I came home early, and Edith joined us in some more high-jinks; friendly, happy and jovial, with – apparently – not a cloud anywhere on the horizon. We parted for sleep – and half an hour later Heath found our friend and Hausfrau in her room actively sick – and very sick! She had left us, gone to her room and taken 11 grains of morphine, enough to kill a horse. I knew nothing about it until about 4:00 A.M. when I got up and found the house in a blaze of light and Heath and a German doctor conferring in the hall. – Well, they pulled her through, thanks to proper attention immediately administered and an amazingly strong constitution, but our gay, active Frau Pieper has been a pretty sick, subdued lady ever since, and it will be some time before she is her old self again. —- It is a sad and tragic story – aftermath of the war in a defeated country where the suicide rate is running distressingly high and minds are sick with the weight of the burden they are carrying. Edith got a letter from her husband, in the British Sector and late in concentration camp, that he was coming to Be (I can’t get used to such small paper) Berlin to kill her, himself and their two children. She carried this for a week, and then it became too much for her —- and she took the morphine. God, this place tears the heart out of one.
Später – Edith’s two kinder have just been here, – the two most adorable kids you could imagine and we have been having a wonderful time playing ball with them – and little Ilka, aged 5, left after planting a very moist kiss on my lips, unsolicited if you please. And then my child (my son and heir, Heath insists, having only two daughters to my credit) proceded to disappear with his girl friend, Ankor, a little girl police dog next door. I went to Ajax’ former home, – no Ajax and Ankor. I ‘phoned the duty officer at Headquarters Command and had all of the M. PS. in Berlin looking for them. Then the little mägdchen from 91 comes in with the two dogs and we called off the Military Police – but now we have lost a perfectly good Hausfrau who has apparently gone out looking for die Hunde. Me, oh my, life in Berlin is so complex! As I sit here I bawl out Ajax, in Deutsch, and he acts so ashamed – but I wonder whether it will happen again.
And the third item of news, sensed in the first paragraph – my billet mate expects to leave for the States in another week – and our delightful life at 63-B Im Dol will come to an end. I know that he leaves with mixed emothions (how did that “h” get in there?) for there is something in this life which grips you and will not let you go. Falls Church will seem completely flat to him – and we, in turn, will have lost a grand companion and leader. —– I look at Ajax and query, “Nimmer mehr”, and he looks at me with his homely face and wonderfully expressive eyes – and says nothing! Just what do you do in a case like that? But now Edith is back and getting dinner, Heath is coming out from behind a day and a half’s whiskers, evening is descending – and all is well with the world – until the next time. Golly, I wish you kids could get something of the feeling of this verucht platz. The birds are pouring out their evening song, the schwimmen pool is draining, for it breeds mosquitos, B-29s, compared to anything you have seen in the States, and Berlin prepares for another week.
Your box, containing just a little of everything desirable in this verucht staat, was received yesterday, sweet, and everything in it is highly welcome, whether the items be edible, pharmaceutical, housewifely or else. Thanks a million, you can never know what such a windfall means to us. Last evening George Vadney was here to dinner after Heath and he had been to hear Tales of Hoffman, and we broached one of the cans of anchovies. To us, it was something out of this world, and you can take credit for having just done things to the morale of three lorne Americans in the Berlin madhouse. —- Ahyackx is asleep on my foot – and it is, in turn, asleep, but I dare not move it for fear of awakening him. Quelle vie! Love and love,
Ajax snuggles against my leg, I’ve just spanked Edith, Heath is dressed and in his right mind (or reasonably so) some dramatic German holds forth on the radio. Frau Römer has come around to visit Ajax, Frau Pieper has burned her hand – and – well this is Berlin –