Cape May, New Jersey
November 12, 1952
The Wildwood Jewish Congregation invites all men of the Jewish faith
to attend Sabbath services this Friday.
After services a traditional meal will be served.
For those attending, dress blues are the uniform of the day.
(signed) Base Commander
Far from religious, under normal conditions Mitchell would shy away from religious services of any kind. But after almost a month and a half of Coast Guard food—although he had to admit that, really, it wasn’t too bad—what caught his eye was the “traditional meal” part.
“Excuse me, young man.”
“We’re Mister and Mrs. Fox…” holding his hand forward, “and my wife and myself would like to invite you to our home for supper.”
Shaking the offered hand, “Hi, I’m Mitch Lipensky. And thank you, I’d love to. And who’s this?” Squatting, offering his hand to the little girl, “Hi! My name’s Mitchie. Who are you?”
November 15, 1952
You must really be surprised to get a letter from me after five months, and from a place like Cape May, New Jersey.
I’ve started to write to you at least a hundred times, and I don’t know whether you’ll be glad to get this letter or not, (I pray that you are), but something happened to me last night and I could not hold back writing to you any longer.
Sue, after you gave me back my ring and told me that you were not going to see me anymore I didn’t know what to do and almost went crazy.
I did go to Wright, but could only think of you and could not concentrate on anything else, and believe me, Sue, I really tried. So, to be honest, I ran away. You see, I simply could not go on living that close to you and not be able to see you, so I enlisted in the Coast Guard and arrived in boot camp on October 9th.
At first the training was very hard, but by now I’m getting used to it.
Hey, you ought to see me! (God, how I wish we could see each other.) I’ve lost about 25 pounds since the last time you saw me. And believe it or not, I’ve even got a muscle.
Anyway, what happened last night, and the reason I’ve worked up the nerve to write to you now is because of this.
Wildwood is the town closest to base with any kind of a Jewish population, and the Jewish men on base were invited to attend Friday night services last night and after the service to go to their homes for an old fashioned Jewish meal.
You know I’m not religious, but I miss my family a real lot, (and you, Susan, more than I can tell you) so I got permission to go.
The service was real boring, but when it was over this nice lady and her husband, Mr. & Mrs. Fox, invited me to come home with them for dinner, and the thing is they have a daughter. She is five years old and everything I would hope for if I had a sister, and exactly what I would want my daughter (someday) to look like when I do have children.
This little girl is what got to me and the reason I am writing to you now.
She has the prettiest little face, with light brown eyes and dark brown hair, and she looks exactly like what I imagine you looked like when you were five, and what our daughter would look like if we were married (God I wish) and had a daughter.
And you know what else?
I couldn’t believe it, but the little girl’s name is Susan too (Susan Friedman, Susan Fox), and when I heard that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
The Fox’s have invited me to their house again for Thanksgiving and I’ve put in a request to see if I can go.
Sue, I’m going to be in the Coast Guard for four years. But if you think about it, I’d have been drafted for two anyway, so it is only like two more years.
I know that is a long time, but less time than the army and college would have been, if I had gone to college.
I can get training in the Coast Guard for all kinds of things, like radio or electronics, so I will be able to earn a good living when I get discharged, and I’ll have the G.I. Bill to go to college on, and if we are together I certainly will!
Susan, you’ve got to know that I have never stopped loving you, and I know that you still love me.
I am sure that you didn’t break up with me because you wanted to. I know it was your parents that talked you into breaking up with me and I would like to spank you for letting them do this to us, to both of us, to you and me.
Please, sweetheart, think about this letter very carefully and know that my heart beats only to hear from you.
But also know this, Sue. I’ve been hurt very badly by this, and really cannot take much more, so if I do not hear from you, or if you do write and tell me that you really don’t love me, then I promise that this letter will be the last time that you will ever hear from me.
Like I said before, no one will ever love you as much as I do.
He spent all his free time on Saturday and Sunday writing and re-writing the letter.
Although Mitchell thought he would never forget Susan’s phone number, her address, though, he’d only looked at twice: when she’d given it to him over the phone that first night, then later when he looked for her building.
Taking the blue envelope flap from his wallet—where Susan had written her phone number, and that he had later written her address—Mitchell addressed the envelope, wrote his return address on the corner, put an airmail stamp on it, then returned the blue envelope flap to his wallet.
Wanting the letter on its way on this night, even though he knew that it would not go anyplace until the next day, as it was just a half-hour to lights out, he ran to the base post office, was about to drop the letter into the slot when, remembering the prayer he had said on the day he’d met Susan, and it had worked then, to a point, so, “Oh, God,” he prayed, his words just above a whisper, “please let me hear from Susan! Please let her tell me that she still loves me! Please!” Kissing the envelope, he dropped it into the slot.
Wednesday he knew that it was too soon, But it did go airmail, and if she got it on Tuesday and wrote to me right away and sent hers back airmail, too… There was a letter, but it was from his mother.
Thursday: Yeah, it’ll be here today! But no mail on Thursday, or Friday.
On Saturday there was a letter… from his father.
All of us at home hope that everything is going well with you and the Coast Guard.
We are all fine here.
Yesterday I received a very embarrassing phone call from Mr. Friedman. He told me that Susan had repeatedly told you that she did not want to hear from you and that you sent her a letter anyway, and that in the letter you threatened to beat her up for breaking up with you.
He also told me that if you ever write to her, call her, or try to see her again, they will contact the police and the commander at Cape May, or wherever you are stationed.
Mitchell, your mother and I are well aware of how you feel about Susan, and we know you better than to believe that you would ever threaten to beat her up, but it is well about time you realized that it is over between you two, and the sooner you forget her, the better off you will be.
Don’t take this too hard, everything works out in the end.
All our love
Never! He reread the letter. I threatened to beat her up? To beat up Susan? Never! My, God, I’d never hurt Susan! He further thought, How could she show my letter to her father? How could she!?
Because one’s private letter and the U.S. mail are, after all, sacrosanct, and being naïve and basically honest, the thought that his letter did not reach Susan, that his letter might have been intercepted, never entered Mitchell’s mind, nor that, possibly, Susan never saw the letter… Possibly…
Taking his wallet from his pocket he opened it, removed the blue envelope flap and looked at it: Susan Friedman, Sh. 3-5758, in her handwriting along with her address in his.
Going outside without his coat, the cold wind pressing his shirt and jeans to his chest and legs, Mitchell walked beyond the comparative shelter of barracks 7 to where the Atlantic wind blew the fieriest.
Looking at the bleak, winter sky, carefully tearing the triangle of blue paper into pieces, opening his hand…
(A Becoming Excerpt)