woman on beach Letter to Paul
Anna Moment

Photo by Michael Moreth

Dec. 1, 2002

Dearest Paul,

I've just come across this old photo and thought you might like to have it. It was taken the year I left a miserable job, a tiny apartment in the Bronx, and the man who would never know he was your father. I moved across the country to Southern California, where you were born a few months later. This photo is of my first walk on a California beach, still carrying you inside me.

When you were born, I managed to find an apartment close enough to the beach so that I could sit you to play in the sand while I waded along the shore. You loved the water, too. When you got older, you wondered about the ever-present cruise ships, where they were going, and if you would ever take a trip on such a big boat. Since I worked in a tourist office, you saw plenty of boats in travel brochures. Remember all those ships you'd cut out and paste in scrapbooks? I still have some of them.

Twenty years have passed since this photo was taken and now, my dearest, you are in the Navy. How we argued about your enlisting! You have your ship, but it's no vacation. I worry for you. Every day the president pushes us closer to war. You are headed toward some secret destination, so I don't even know if you'll get this letter. I'm afraid, Paul, afraid that you'll be hurt or killed, afraid of what we're getting into as a country, afraid for the whole damned world.

So I send you an old picture, just because that beach and the cruise ships in the background always remind me of you. Write soon. In the meantime I'll do what I can to bring you back, alive and unharmed: march, protest, even send e-mail petitions around the world. Suddenly, Paul, war is not an abstraction any longer.

Return safely, and soon,