DECADES LATER, RETURNED TO SENDER

The return address read “Alex Gibson, 32268741 455, Air Squadron, APO San Francisco, USA.”

Cara Addison of Rossmoor took one look at the envelope addressed to her maiden name — Cara Gibson — and thought, “‘Oh my gosh, has my brother flipped? He’s reliving the war.'”

When she opened to see the card, though, a rush of memories of Christmases past arose from nowhere. The familiar hand-painted scene depicted an idyllic snowy day — familiar because Addison had painted it herself. Sure enough, inside the message read “Love and kisses, from Cara Gibson.”

It was Christmas 2000. She had made the card in 1942.

Her brother Alex, the oldest of five children, had served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Addison, the middle child, idolized him. “We looked up to him; he was just everything to all of us.”

They frequently exchanged letters. Sometimes he slipped in photos, like the one of him cooking spaghetti in his helmet.

When his first Christmas came, Gibson was stationed in New Guinea, which to her was unfathomable. Addison — who was just beginning to build her reputation as an impressive artist at her elementary school — decided to paint her brother a card.

“I guess I wanted him to have a little bit of home in the jungles of New Guinea,” she said. “Obviously, he wasn’t having snow in the tropics.” So she painted the scene from her imagination.

“It was like receiving a piece of home,” recalls Gibson, now a resident of San Juan Bautista, who turned 80 on Monday. He remembers thinking at the time how nice it was of his younger sister to write and create a special card for her brother who was far away.

“I put it aside in one of my barrack bags to keep,” he continued. “I must have still thought the same thing when I got home” in 1945.

About a year ago, Gibson was doing a bit of purging when he came across the memento. It brought back the war — in which he says he was glad to serve — and the “nice Christmases” he had growing up.

He decided to send it back to his sister.

“I thought it would be real neat. I knew she had forgotten about it.” Gibson chuckles as he remembers thinking, “I’ll reconstitute her memory.”

It worked.

“I get choked up just thinking about it now,” Addison says of receiving the holiday card. “There’ll never be one like this. How could there be? To survive 60 years, to survive the jungle… to think he saved it for all those years.”

Vera H-C Chan is the Times event editor. She can be reached at 925-977-8428 or at vchan@cctimes.com.

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