23rd February 1918
My dearest Rupert,
It is a cold and dreary Saturday here in Windsor. I know it’s not long since your father and I wrote you last and I have not even had time to receive your response, even if you’ve had time to write me back. I know you’re very busy in France at the moment.
I was struck by a horrible feeling at breakfast this morning and I felt like I simply had to write to you straight away. I was thinking about my last letter to you and how much page space I had dedicated to your Aunt Olive’s vegetable patch. I told you all about her carrots and potatoes and then yesterday, 3 families in town received their telegrams. I have been filled with horror since at the idea that if I were to have received a telegram at the same time, the last words you would’ve read from me would have been about carrots, of all things.
We have never been an effusive family and although I have told you in the past that I love you very much, I fear you may not know the depth of it. I could not bear it if you had even a moment of doubt.
I saw a photo last week in the newspaper that showed some soldiers laying on the ground on their stomachs with their guns in front of them. I know none in the picture were you but I had a powerful recollection of the first time you rolled over onto your belly as a baby. There were no guns around obviously so I know that the comparison is perhaps not clear to you but for me, the image of you lying on your front with a gun in uniform was very strongly overlaid with the image of you lying on your front as an infant. You and I were on the bed and your father was at work. You had only recently discovered the ability to chew your own feet and this was fascinating for you. I was watching you because watching you explore, discover and grow was and has always been the most absorbing thing for me. The rocking of your hips from side to side tipped you and as you struggled to right yourself, you wriggled so much that you were suddenly facing the bedding. You were most displeased to find yourself so as you hated being on your stomach but you were soon giggling away as I was so excited that I picked you up, spun you round and celebrated the moment with lots of loud cooing. I remember being filled with an overwhelming pride even though you had only accidentally rolled. I told you, as I was swaying and laughing with you, how much I loved you and how clever and special you were.
You have done so many things over the years that have made me feel the same way. Do you remember how excited you were to show me the first time you skipped a stone in the lake? You were seven. It probably is one of those memories fading in the back of your mind for you but for me, it’s one of a thousand moments that I recollect when I am afraid for you or feeling distant from you.
Sometimes I would look at you, sleeping with one hand curled around your ear as you used to when you were a baby, and I would be so filled with love that I thanked the good Lord over and over for giving you to me. I hope one day you have your own children so you can understand the hold they have over you. From the moment they handed you to me, it has felt like half my soul resides in you. I have become better at being separated from you over the years but I always feel incomplete when you are away.
I'm sure that you think this silly. After all, wars have always been fought and will always be fought. Soldiers return all the time and, indeed, the last time you were home on leave was a blessing. Accepting that danger might befall you has been one of the greatest challenges I have faced as your mother. From the first time you stumbled and grazed your knee to the letter I received detailing the lucky escape you had from the graze of the bullet last Spring, I have always feared the worst. Your tear-streaked face, smudged with dirt and blood still haunts me, though you were but a toddler and the injury was slight. I have always covered my near terror each time a minor disaster strikes you with bright and encouraging words so you must forgive your fool mother for finally revealing her weakness to you. You are, and always have been that for me. My pride, my life and my weakness.
I am sure that you will be deeply embarrassed by this letter and will tease me dreadfully about it when you come home next. I hope you do. I look forward to it, in fact. And you must forgive your mother her outpourings - it is terribly difficult to see your friends receive the news that we all fear. Something dies behind their eyes and I think it might be the half of their souls that they’ve lost.
I hope this letter hasn’t made you maudlin either. We are doing very well at home and, at the risk of going on about Aunt Olive’s carrots again, we are very well fed on some delicious homegrown vegetables at the moment!
I look forward to seeing you in two months when you have been promised some more leave. Until then, take good care of yourself and pass on my good regards to the boys in your regiment.
I love you, my dearest boy.
No. M.93 . Army Form 104 -- 83
HOUSEHOLD BATTALION Record Office
1st March 1918 191
It is my painful duty to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office notifying the death of: -
(No.) 1563 (Rank.) Corp
(Name.) Rupert Jones
(Regiment.) HOUSEHOLD BATTALION
Which occurred in the field of France
On the twenty-third of February in the morning
This report is to the effect that he was KILLED IN ACTION
By his Majesty’s command I am to forward the enclosed message of sympathy from Their Gracious Majesties the King and the Queen. I am at the same time to express the regret of the Army Council at the soldier’s death in his country’s service.
I am to add that any information that may be received as to the soldier’s burial will be communicated to you in due course. A separate leaflet detailing this more fully is enclosed.
Your Obedient Servant
K. Birkhart LIEUT COLONEL
Officer in charge of records
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Just a note about this - I know it doesn't connect to any of the current troubles but I think that a mother's love is timeless and the fears that mothers have about their sons being in danger then and now probably have the same strength behind it. I am privileged in that I do not have any experience of racism and didn't want to write about it - I think that my white voice should probably stay in her lane and let the people who have have their voices heard.
Aww! This is so sad and so sweet! Well-done, Laura!
Effectively captures the mother's voice, especially how little domestic details still have their importance in war. But oh! the tragedy of her son dying before he receives the letter that tells him how much his mother loves him!
Ha, yes. I thought that the carrots from Aunt Olive’s garden should make lots of appearances. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!
You are clearly a natural storyteller Laura. A poignant tender tale, well told. The tone does get a tad mawkish at places but then anyone would forgive an indulgent mother. You needn't have explained completely the part about lying on the stomach, gun in front. Trust the reader to connect the dots, leading to a more immersive experience. Also, may I suggest giving more thought to Story titles. You owe the readers something that'll tease and provoke.
Thank you! I completely agree with the point about titles - I find them so difficult! If you’ve got any tips on thinking of them, please help me!
I wish I knew :) Perhaps this one could be punned as, "A roll of love" Would you please give me feedback on mine ?
Of course! Are you looking for any particular style of feedback?
My punctuation is weak, I think. But open to all advice to improve impact.
This was very well written, was expecting the bad news to follow, lovely.
Thank you! Any constructive criticism? I’m always looking to learn
Beautiful story Laura! I loved your portrayal of the mother. Her concerns are very valid. As a mom, I fear for my kids too. How is their ‘tomorrow’ going to be? I understand your point about not having any experience with the racism. Personally I never faced any racist treatment too. But I see it around me everyday in various forms. I wrote my story based on the colour discrimination in India. When you get time, please check it out too. Thank you!
Thanks! I have to say, I don’t think this is technically very strong but after I wrote it I realised that I was writing a letter to my daughter and that it was accidentally very personal. It took me a long time to write anything for these prompts this week. I feel like other voices are more important than mine with this. I will definitely check yours out - I’ll try and do it tonight but, if not, I’ll read it tomorrow. Thanks again for your kind words!
Well, in my opinion we don’t have to personally experience it to express our views. Every single thought matters. Take your time Laura. No hurry.
I agree but wanted to tackle it from a perspective that didn’t have me writing beyond my realm of understanding. I’m very, very white.
I completely understand what you are saying. To be honest, it’s a very sensitive topic and I had my own reservations too when I was planning the story. I almost decided not to attempt. But then I thought it’s my turn to speak up and decided to write about the colourism in India.
I’m glad you did - I learned so much!
I feel a bit bad because there are so many new stories on here I want to read, without reading older ones. But this is excellent. My only complaint is that you didn't point it out to me because I think you know by now that I love this kind of stuff, older language, historical setting etc. And telling it through two letters is brilliant. Not to mention tricky to pull off. When I read my older work I sometimes cringe at how young and naive I was at the time of writing (by older I mean from a few weeks back), but I think you can look back on th...
Ha! I should’ve thought about that! I think this andHole in the Femce are two of my weakest ones - they are (as you said) two of the first pieces I ever wrote and so I’m not particularly proud of them. This one I also feel is particularly self indulgent as I wrote it when I still had a tonne of post-baby hormones swirling around. I did do lots of WW1 research though for this one. The second letter is a genuine WW1 telegram format for the British. In terms of older ‘gems’ - I’m not sure I’d classify any of them as gems! The Agony of the S...
I think you’re a bit hard on yourself, writing-wise, which isn’t a bad thing, it means you’ll keep pushing yourself to improve, but it’s also good that there’s a platform like this for you to get objective feedback on your work, so you can see it is, in fact, very very good. The emotions in this one are powerful, and isn’t it great that, as writers, we get to leave bits of ourselves behind in our work, so we can one day look back at our writing as a chart of our progress, not just as writers but as people? That’s part of the attraction of w...
What a poignant story. I found myself tearing up, even before I reached the tragic ending. Wonderfully written, Laura.
Thank you! I’m glad I managed to make you feel a thing!