Book inserts can often belie their innocent appearance. Take, for example, the following opening sentence on the back of a 1919 Christmas card note: “I suppose you are ‘off to The War’ in some capacity.” The card was sent to Theodore Eastman and found as an insert in the Maine Women Writers Collection book, The Smiling Hill-top by Julia Sloane, also the author of the card’s note. (Many of Ted Eastman’s books came to MWWC –inside this particular book is an additional letter from Ms. Sloane to Mr. Eastman pasted inside the book’s cover.)
In The Smiling Hill-top and Other California Sketches, Julia Sloane writes with great humor and color of her family’s adjustment to the new landscape of Southern California, having moved therefrom New England. However, her card’s opening line to Mr. Eastman tells of America’s involvement in the war in Europe at the time of the book’s publishing. Ms. Sloane also goes on to say in the note that she might “offer to be your [Eastman’s] ‘godmother’ if you are at the front.” What is jarring about these sentences is that they are in stark contrast to the sentiment of the holiday card—“Merrie Christmas.” War at Christmas time, at any time, is tragic.
Ted Eastman did live beyond WWI, and if, in fact, he did go to the “front,” this card may have become his talisman and been saved as a reminder to Mr. Eastman of his good fortune to have survived a horrific war– or possibly the card was just saved as a token of the author’s friendship. What can be surmised, once this insert was uncovered, was the importance of the card to both the sender and the person who had to reconcile the personal message with the card’s holiday greeting.