My dearest Sylvia, I cannot believe I haven’t written since we were evacuated! Time has flown and you’ve missed my birthday, I’m sure my present is on its way. I’m missing you dreadfully and I hope you and mother are safe but I bet you aren’t having as much fun in Devon as I am in Windsor! Guess who I met on Wednesday? The Queen! She was opening a Youth Centre and I nearly tripped trying to curtsy! She asked if I missed my home, I told her, “No of course not!” I then stupidly confessed that every weekend I cycle 26 miles to London to see father. The Queen was shocked. “Oh, but my dear,” she said, “you are our next generation, we must keep you safe!” Some snitch told our House Mother and she made me swear I wouldn’t cycle again until the war had ended. Connie and I watched a splendid ballet performance recently. Unfortunately, it was during a particularly bad air raid with deafening guns firing overhead! But no one left and the show continued in the air raid shelter. I did think, is this how I’m going to end, blown to smithereens? But I didn’t care because I had my umbrella. Write soon, I miss our sisterly chats. Perhaps we can celebrate together when we win the war? With love, Phyllis After I finished reading the letter, I looked over at my great gran. Her eyes were tightly shut but a mischievous smile slowly crept across her face. I knew she had taken in every word. Finally, I heard her voice softly whisper, “I’m trapped inside this old body now, I’ve lost my sight and only have partial hearing, but you reading this letter has reminded me of the time when I truly felt free.”
The writer has filled this evacuee’s letter with gorgeous detail. It’s a convincing snapshot of a girl’s life during wartime, with new experiences and excitement amidst the upset and the fear. The final part, where we meet Phyllis and her great-granddaughter in the present day, sets the letter within the great span of a woman’s life. This is a wonderful way to finish. Suddenly the piece is about more than being an evacuee; it’s about life, and aging, and the passing on of memory.