Best Birthday Ever!

About a month ago, my youngest daughter called and said, “Mom, I’m booking you for August 1st to celebrate your birthday.” I said okey-dokey and wondered what she had up her sleeve. I guessed Sarah might take me out to lunch and possibly bless me with a much needed pedicure because the last time we were together she told me I could climb trees with my long toenails. I love surprises, so I didn’t even try to guess what she had up her sleeve.

My “real” birthday was on Friday, and I have to tell you, I am really blessed with a stable of friends who understand I’m a big kid at heart and I love being special one day a year–a precedent set by my parents a LONG time ago. As children we got to choose the meal and type of cake we wanted, as well as picking something we wanted to do on our birthday. For one day, my brothers and sister became the big cheese for the day. My wants were simple: brats, going to Brown’s Lake, and poppy seed cake.

This year, my day started with a call from my brother Mark singing the traditional “Happy Birthday to You.” Then I got a call from my contractor saying he would be starting the construction of the garage on Monday! I thought that was the best news of the day, until I got a call from my long-lost friend Debbie Collins. Our friendship started in junior high school and lasted until we got too busy with husbands and kids. Birthday RosesNext, my daughter Sarah brought me a beautiful bouquet of a dozen roses before the FedEx guy brought me my new computer. I figured the festivities would wind up after my dear friend Jackie brought over my birthday supper, flowers, and cheesecake. But the beat rolled on. Linda walked down and shared some birthday cheesecake with us, and of course, she gave me a gift too. What a day, huh?

Sarah arrived on time on Saturday–her booked August 1st. She found me in the back bedroom I call my “studio” putting the finishing touches on my latest painting. I wanted to finish a couple of strokes before we took off so I had my back to her as she came into the studio.

2015 Birthday 005When she asked for a hug, I turned around and couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing beside Sarah was my other daughter Amy.

2015 Birthday 001She had flown in from Seattle for the weekend — just for my birthday. (Daughter on the right.)  This was the surprise of a life time. We had been separated for over four years, and it was sheer joy to see her again. Sarah (daughter on the left) and Amy had been working on this surprise for over a month.  Like some crazy person on the “Price is Right,” I put my hands to my face and yelled, “Oh, my God!” about eighty times as I gave each of them hugs and kisses. They got the reaction they had hoped to get. Their plans for me included lunch and a pedicure. Afterward we spent a little time on our new patio with a cool drink. Unbelievable! Two best days ever in a row!

I think experiencing bad days like I’ve been writing about lately, intensifies the great days. I’m still smiling that my two daughters love me so much that they wanted to give me such generous gifts. Spending time with them as beautiful adult women now is as much fun as when I was a twenty-something enjoying them grow up.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 Continued

Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—March 22, 1940 – Angelo’s old pickup headed straight for the hospital emergency entrance. He ran around the front of the car and opened the passenger door as a shooting pain grabbed Rosalie’s back. He helped her to her feet in the gravel parking lot and walked her to the entrance as another pain hit which nearly broke her in half. This time she screamed. Angelo picked her up and ran to the Emergency Room door. He flagged down a Dominican nun dressed in the traditional black and white garments. “My wife’s having a baby,” he shouted.

She mumbled to herself. “Shhhh – this is a hospital, young man. Sick people are resting.”

“My wife’s having a baby,” he said louder.

“I heard you the first time. Don’t be fresh.” The nun answered and pointed to a sign that read Admitting. “Go.” The nun said and abruptly walked away mumbling to herself, “Honestly, girls having babies are getting younger and younger.”

Angelo swallowed his anger rumbling inside him. As a good Catholic man he realized he needed to respect this nun; otherwise, he would call her a bitch.  He found a vacant wheelchair in the hallway and lowered his wife like a fragile piece of his mother’s good china. “I guess we go this way, honey.”

Rosalie nodded and gazed at him with scared puppy eyes as another back spasm gripped her so hard she arched her back and cried. After the pain subsided, he continued to the Admitting Department. He stood in line where a tired-looking, gray-haired woman sat behind a window with a small opening that looked like a porthole. The woman wore a navy blue smock with, “Saint Mary’s Hospital” embroidered over the left breast pocket. Her yellow-stained finger tips rested on the typewriter keyboard.  Lingering cigarette smoke surrounded her head like a misplaced halo. Her bright red lipstick served as the only color on her grey wrinkled face.

Angelo cleared his throat. “Excuse me, ma’am. My wife’s having a baby and she’s–

The woman interrupted him.

“Bring her to that door.” She pointed to the door to her right.

“Thanks.” Angelo pushed Rosalie to the door as the clerk unlocked the door and escorted them to a ward of beds separated by long white drapes.

A nurse dressed in white from head to toe met them with a clipboard. The white outfit made her mahogany curly hair and brown eyes appear even darker. Angelo wondered how she stayed so clean when she worked in a place with lots of blood. Her husky voice sounded like one of the guys Angelo worked with on the assembly line. “How far apart are the contractions?”

Rosalie looked up to Angelo as another pain raced across her back.

Angelo answered with authority in his voice. “About five minutes-if that’s what these pains in her back are all about. Her water broke at noon.”

“Very well.” The nurse looked at her wristwatch and noted his response on the clipboard she held.

“What’s your name, sweetie?”

“Angelo.”

The nurse scowled. “Not you, sir.”

She guided Rosalie to one of the beds, “What’s your name, dear?”

“Rosalie.” She let out a howl as a white hot arrow of pain shot up her back once again. “Please don’t be mad at him, ma’am, he’s just so excited.”

“They all are, sweetie, but having a baby is women’s work.  We can manage without men.” She winked at Rosalie and whispered, “Now, let’s get started.” The nurse took a gown and a sheet from the cabinet in the room and handed them to Rosalie. “Take off all of your clothes including underwear and put this on–ties go in the back. Push this little button when you’re done.”

The nurse turned to Angelo, “And you, young man, need to go back to the admitting clerk and register your wife. I hope you brought your insurance card.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Then get to it, boy.” She waved him to the exit.

Stifled protest stuck in his throat as he obeyed another bossy woman. Angelo hung his head and went back to where he first started. By now three people waited in front of him. Angelo paced up and down the dull gray hallway like a caged tiger.

“Next,” the woman behind the glass said.

One by one the clerk processed the people in front of Angelo.

“Next!” She yelled.

“My turn?” he mouthed as he pointed to his chest.

“That’s what I said, didn’t I?” She snapped.

Angelo’s temper reached the boiling point. He glared at the clerk with fire in his eyes; if a pane of glass didn’t separate them, he might have slugged her.

She slipped a blank form into the Smith Corona and looked down at the keys. “Name,” she said.

“Ah, Angelo-

She scowled. “Not you, sir, your wife’s name.”

He bit his tongue. “I’m sorry,” he took a big breath. “I didn’t understand what you wanted. This is our first and I–

She repeated. “Name.”

When the insurance interrogation ceased, Angelo scurried back to the area where he left Rosalie. Her bed was empty. Panic rose in his throat.  He spied the nun he met in the hallway earlier and with a shaky voice he asked, “Sister? Where’s my wife? I left her here while I did all that insurance crap and now she’s gone.”

“Your language, young man!” She scolded as she looked down her sharp nose at him. “No need for that tone. Your wife is on the Fourth Floor. Labor Room 426. Follow me.” She escorted Angelo to the elevator, pushed button number four, and left him standing in front of the gray metal door.

“Thanks,” he growled as she walked away.

Angelo found Rosalie laying in one of the two beds in Room 426. An empty bed tightly wrapped in white sheets with square corners awaited the next patient. Angelo hoped no one else would be put in that bed because he wanted to be alone with his wife as they went through Rosalie’s labor.

“Did they tell you anything?” He asked.

“They say I’m three centimeters, whatever that means. The nurse said when I get to ten, the baby is ready to come out. She said it might take all day.”

“Okay. How can I help?”

She reached for his hand. “Just be with me. Nobody told me what will hap–

Before she finished her sentence, she let out a cry that reminded Angelo of a tortured animal.

“Oh, God, “She panted. “That was a sharp one!” She said.

Angelo never thought of the pain his wife would experience to bring their baby into the world. “Oh honey, what can I do?” As soon as his words left his lips, he thought he might be useless all day.

“Just hold my hand.”

When Rosalie endured each contraction, she squeezed his hand like a football middle linebacker. After the pain subsided, she didn’t want to talk because she needed to get ready for the next pain to stab her in the back.

Ten hours passed and still no baby. The nurse said first babies usually took their time and be assured Rosalie was progressing nicely.  Angelo wondered how much more pain Rosalie could take. She appeared like she worked all day in a sweaty factory. On top of her weariness, she lost her will to go on. Angelo encouraged her to fight. She screamed while she dug her fingernails into his arm as the contractions came and went. They both needed this baby to make its arrival soon.

Angelo said a silent prayer.  “Oh, God, please let this be over. She’s so tired and growing more fragile as time goes on. Please, Lord. I don’t want her to suffer any more. Let the baby come soon.”

The starched nurse who attended Rosalie since the beginning of her labor announced her shift had ended and she left. A petite woman wearing the same starched white uniform took her place. Unlike her prune-faced predecessor, Debbie O’Malley smiled at the couple and spoke to them with gentleness in her voice. “We need to check you, Rosalie, to see how much longer this little babe of yours will make us wait to meet his or her acquaintance. The doctor is here now, and he wants a report on how you’re progressing.” She turned to Angelo, “I’m sorry, Dad, please leave us alone for a minute.”

“I know. I know. I’ll be out in the hallway.” Angelo rose and stretched his legs before dragged himself from the room.  As he paced in the hallway, Rosalie screamed again. “Oh God,” he prayed out loud. “Please end this.”

After a couple of minutes, the nurse pushed a wheel chair through the door with Rosalie seated. She hung her head and appeared as white as the sheet covering her.

“We’re off to delivery!” The nurse announced. “Follow me, Dad.”

Another pain assaulted Rosalie; she arched her back almost propelling herself out of the chair. The nurse waited for Rosalie’s pain to subside before she continued to the delivery room. They passed a door that read, “Father’s Room,” and the nurse said, “You can wait here, Mr. Armani. Your baby should arrive shortly. Your wife is fully dilated, and I’ll come and tell you as soon as the baby’s born.”

Angelo kissed the top of Rosalie’s head. He whispered. “It’s almost over sweetheart. I’ll be here waiting.”

Rosalie didn’t say a word; her eyes expressed exhaustion and defeat. The nurse pushed Rosalie through another set of doors marked “Hospital Personnel Only.”

Chapter 5

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – March 22, 1940–The Father’s Room didn’t offer any more attractive or comfortable space than any other place in the hospital. Dated “Time” and “Life” magazines littered the only table in the corner of the room. A couple of tin ash trays sat on the table and the stink of stale smoke reminded Angelo he needed a cigarette. He took a Lucky Strike from his shirt pocket and lit up with the lighter Rosalie had given him for Christmas. He took a long drag and exhaled a billow of lazy smoke rings.

Even after a half pack of cigarettes, Angelo couldn’t erase Rosalie’s fearful, childlike expression. He wanted to be with her. Waiting in this dreary room seemed cruel to both of them, but at least here he found a little freedom from her gut-wrenching screams.

He thought nothing would ever scare Rosalie, but having this baby scared her plenty. He looked down at his scratched and bloody arm. He chuckled when glanced at his scratched arm thinking at least he gave some skin in the game. Angelo removed another cigarette from his pocket and held it between his lips.  He leaned back so his head rested on the wall, lit the fag, and took another long drag allowing the nicotine to work its magic. He tried to reassure himself the doctor would take care of Rosalie.

When the red-headed nurse returned, she shook a sleeping Angelo.  “Dad,” she said quietly. “Your wife is having a bit of trouble and things are taking longer than they usually do.”

Angelo got to his feet and stared at the nurse. His stomach flipped. “What’s wrong? I want to see her.”

The nurse calmed him. “Simmer down. She’s in good hands. The baby presented face up, and Rosie can’t push it out. The doctor gave your wife an anesthetic to remove the baby with forceps.” After relaying this information, the nurse returned to the delivery room.

Angelo sat and cried.

Thirty minutes later the nurse returned to the Father’s Room. Angelo sat in the corner with his head down.

The nurse touched his shoulder. “Mr. Armani?”

Angelo looked up to her freckled face. “Is my wife all right? Is the baby here?”

She laughed, “Your wife is resting, and your little girl is an eight pound, eighteen inch long ball of fire! She’s perfect.”

“A girl! Really?” He found the news surprising. Everyone prophesied the baby would be a boy. “And my wife?”

“Like I told you, she needed to be sedated because of the posterior birth, so she’s asleep. I guess your little one wanted to get a good look at the doctor who delivered” She chuckled at her joke.

Angelo appreciated the nurse’s attempt at levity.

“You’re saying she’s a nosy little one?” Angelo let out a laugh of relief.

“You might say that. As she grows up, you can decide.”

“When can I see her?”

“You can go to the nursery now. Come on. I’ll introduce you to your daughter.”

Behind a thick glass window Angelo read a card above a stainless steel bassinet reading, “Baby Armani.” A plump pink baby swaddled in a white receiving blanket slept. A thick crop of red hair made her stand out from the other infants. She tried desperately to put one of her clenched fists into her mouth. A surge of love rushed through him like electricity. He put his face up against the glass and whispered, “Thank you, God.”

He turned to the nurse with tears in his eyes. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she? We talked about naming her Mary, but she looks like a little angel. I think Angelina suits her better.”

“A pretty name for a pretty baby.” Debbie the nurse said, “Babies delivered by forceps usually get nasty marks on their heads, but not your daughter. I think she just needed a little coaxing to make her appearance.”

“Can I hold her?”

The nurse smiled. “Well, not right now. She and your wife need to get some rest.”

He said, “Where is Rosalie?”

The nurse said, “She’s in recovery and will probably sleep until tomorrow morning. The anesthesia takes hours to wear off.  I think the best thing you can do is to go home, get something to eat, call all your friends and family in the morning, and then come back tomorrow.”

“I want to hold both of them; I thought after the baby came, I could give both of them a kiss.”

The nurse said, “I’m sure they both will enjoy your kisses tomorrow. Go home and get some rest.”

Angelo looked down at his bloodied arm. “Maybe going home isn’t such a bad idea after all.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Armani. Your girls are safe and you did great.” She patted his shoulder and left.

Angelo turned toward the glass. “Pleasant dreams, my little girl. Daddy will be back tomorrow.” Daddy, wow!  Daddy. I’m really a Daddy!” He blew her a kiss and whispered, “I promise you sweetheart, I will be the best Daddy ever.” He left the hospital dog tired, but strangely energized. Wait ’til I tell my Pa!

*****

Angelo went home, cleaned up his wounds, and went to bed. The clock told him it was four o’clock in the morning and seeing the correct time splashed a wave of fatigue over him. He woke around eight and called his parents and Eduardo to tell them about his baby girl, Angelina. Both new grandpas wanted to rush to the hospital to visit the newest member of the family, but Angelo told them about Rosalie’s ordeal and said it would be better to hold off their visits until the next day.

 

 

 

Finding Peace

Did you ever have a day when you just wanted to growl at somebody?Yeah. You read correctly. I wanted to growl yesterday, and as you might have also noticed, I didn’t post anything. My words might have come out toxic, so I skipped a day.

Realizing I was cranky, I made sure Ken was okay, and I got in the car and drove. Ordinary when I feel like this, I just go out to my backyard and drink my coffee as I enjoy my flower garden. But, right now, my backyard is a disaster because the garage isn’t up yet, and of course, landscaping is impossible before that building is done. But I digress . .  . I really didn’t have a destination for my car ride, except sometime during the day I needed to go to the grocery story for our weekly grub. Surprisingly my car turned into a garden shop.

I took a cart and sloooowllllyyy walked through the blooms. The color and fragrance calmed me. I took a couple of  laps around the place going up and down the long aisles. The discounts on perennials helped too. About a half dozen of them jumped into my cart.

Spending thirty to forty minutes in this beautiful place put my day right. I now felt at ease and ready to get on with my weekly chores. It’s a good strategy to let nature calm the inner beast. What do you do to bring peace into your life when other things are completely out of whack?

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Note: Because I was delinquent yesterday and didn’t post two chapters of Apple Pie and Strudel Girls, I’m giving you four chapters today. Have a good weekend!

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2 Continued

Chapter 31

Paris, France – December—Emma and Marta enjoyed a wonderful Christmas together. They invited their new friends to their apartment and celebrated the holiday with thoughtful gifts, good food. Emma requested everyone bring an ornament to dress Marta’s little Christmas tree for the occasion. Marta loved the ornament of the Eiffel Tower carved out of wood; Emma liked the Can-Can dancing girl ornament.

For New Years Eve they planned to meet the same friends at a nearby restaurant before they took in a show at Moulin Rouge. Marta bought an off-white woolen suit with a stylish rolled collar. Large covered buttons went down the front of the jacket which had a fashionable peplum flared at her waist. The pencil skirt flared into pleats at the knee which softened its lines. Her delicate eighteen-inch waist appeared even thinner in this outfit. She wore sheer silk stockings and matching off-white heels.  To complete her outfit, Marta wore an off-white wool beret she tilted to the side. Before living the bedroom, Marta checked her reflection in the mirror. A fashionable young women stared back at her.

Marta emerged from the bedroom, and Emma gasped. “Cherie, you are beautiful!”

Marta smiled. Whenever Emma admired her, she gained more confidence.

Emma gave her a kiss on the cheek and took her hand. “We should be on our way, or we will be late. I cannot wait to show you off tonight.”

A warm smiled crossed Marta’s face. “I am so happy we decided to stay in Paris, and I’m pleased you do not consider me a child any longer. ”

“I stopped seeing you as a child many months ago, darling. You are a strong, wonderful woman, and I am so lucky to be with you.” She put her arm around Marta’s tiny waist and together they took a leisurely stroll to the restaurant.

After enjoying a meal at an intimate bistro, the girls walked to the theatre. Marta’s heart beat faster as the tip-top of the famous red windmill of the Moulin Rouge came into view. The host sat them at small tables near the stage. Andre Ekyan and his band the “Kit Cats” headlined the show. Marta loved jazz, especially this musician’s famous hits “Rosetta” and “Sugar.”

When the famous can-can dancers took the stage, Marta sat shocked as they performed bare breasted. Their high kicks and antics kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The cabaret show also featured comedians who kept them laughing into the wee hours with bawdy jokes which certainly would be forbidden by her father. Marta still stung after receiving his damning letter. Marta told herself she should no longer care about his opinions.

The show ended at eleven-thirty, and the girls hopped a trolley to bring them to the base of the Eiffel Tower where a huge crowd gathered to ring in the New Year. Bright colors of blue, white and red, the French National colors lit the landmark and a big clock ticked off the seconds before midnight. When time expired, the crowd yelled “Bonne Ann!” at the stroke of midnight. The city’s bells rang in unison while Emma took Marta in her arms, and the two lovers kissed in public like all of the other couples. Marta would cherish this moment forever.

BOOK 3 – 1940

Chapter 1

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – March, 1940—The months after Christmas sped by for everyone except Rosalie. Her belly grew bigger, and she became clumsier as the months passed. When March arrived, she wanted to get her pregnancy sentence over.  She wanted to be free of the child growing inside of her who caused stretch marks, backaches and sleepless nights.

Angelo wished he could relieve Rosalie’s misery. He hid his tinge of guilt because his desire to make a family put her through such agony. He sensed her pain as she fidgeted to find a comfortable position in an overstuffed chair. He left the room when she shifted her weight from foot to foot to wash dishes. Every night he lay awake as she tossed and turned in bed, but worst of all, his sweet little Rosalie turned into a complainer. Unpredictable mood swings brought a stranger into their house. The closer she got to her due date, the sharper her tongue became.

Angelo rubbed out his Lucky Strike cigarette into the cement shop floor as the lunch break whistle sounded. He bounded upstairs to use his boss’s telephone wondering what kind of mood his Rosie would be in today. With six kids of his own, Angelo’s boss took pity on the soon-to-be new father and let him use the office phone every noon to check on his wife. Angelo dialed the familiar four-digit number on the heavy black rotary phone.

“Hello.”

Angelo smiled at the sweetness in her high voice. “Hi honey. How are you today?”

Rosalie sighed. “I’m as big as an elephant and my back is killing me. Sorry the news isn’t cheerier.”

He chuckled to himself, imaging Rosie’s pretty face on the body of an elephant.

“Don’t you dare laugh or next time you can carry the baby!”

“Angelo laughed even harder as he pictured himself pregnant.”If I could carry a baby, I would. Just for you, sweetheart. But then you would need to put up with this hot, stinky, dirty factory.”

“Today, I’ll trade with you.”

Angelo changed the subject. “What’s for supper?”

“I took out some ground beef. I usually don’t goof up hamburgers.”

“Perhaps we should go out for supper tonight. Give you a break.”

“What’s wrong with my hamburgers, Angelo?” She sounded cross.

“Nothing. I thought a change of scenery and a little relaxation away from home might hurry this kid along.”

Rosalie smiled. She loved her sweet husband. “Are you asking me on a date, Mr. Armani?”

“Yup.  What do you say?”

“Sounds wonderful. I’ll be ready when you get home.”

Angelo reminded her, “Okay, but I’ll want to wash up and get out of my work clothes before we go.”

“I guess I can wait that long.”

“Listen, babe, I need to go–the whistle is blowing. Don’t want to get docked when I’m married to such an extravagant gal.”

Rosalie giggled. “I love you, Angelo.”

“Love you too babe. Bye.” He made a kissing sound and hung up.

*****

At four o’clock sharp, Angelo turned his pickup truck into the driveway of their little bungalow. He always took a few seconds to gaze with pride at the house he and Rosie turned into a home. He didn’t want to be anywhere else–he loved his wife and his life with her. He looked forward to seeing their backyard in the spring when the trees and flowers they planted last fall would come to life. Best of all, soon their first baby would come home, completing their American dream.

Rosalie greeted Angelo in the mud room at the back of the house. She was dressed in a pretty blue cotton eyelet top she recently sewed. She wore a pair of blue slacks held up with a draw string tied around her enormous belly. Angelo remembered how hard he laughed when Rosalie showed him her first pair of pregnancy pants which included a huge hole where her belly would eventually fit. He didn’t believe her petite body would ever get that big, but by now her belly filled the hole and then some. Rosie pulled her thick red hair back into a pony tail while wisps of her bangs covered her forehead. She looked more like twelve years old, instead eighteen. Angelo’s love swelled in his chest as he looked at her; he also thought her baby bulge looked a little lower than usual.

She smiled and teased him. “Hi big boy, need a date?”

He played along. “As a matter of fact, cutie, I’m supposed to meet my wife tonight. We’re going out on the town. I’m looking for a swell time. Did you seen her?”

“Yeah. Some pudgy broad hung around here earlier. I told her to get lost.” She laughed.

“Now, why would you go and do something like that?

“Well, you see–” she put her hand on his face, “I got this thing for you.” She giggled and kissed him.

He patted her tummy, “Evidently.” Their playfulness reminded him of something they did when they dated. “If my wife comes back, tell her I’m in the shower. If she’s not here by the time I’m ready to go, I guess I’ll take you out.”

“I’ll be waiting, hot stuff!” Rosalie gave him a smile that drove him crazy. How he wanted to pick her up and carry her to the bedroom. He ran his hand through his thick black curly hair, drew a heavy sigh, and went directly to the bathroom.

With the promise of his happy wife waiting for him, he cut his shower short, dried himself, and dressed in ten minutes. He did a quick swipe with his razor on his five o’clock shadow and then slapped his cheeks with Old Spice aftershave. He combed his hair back off his face the way Rosalie liked, hurried from the bathroom to the bedroom where he picked out his favorite sweater and a pair of dungarees. He slipped on his penny loafers, put his wallet, keys, and coins in his pockets and then strutted into the kitchen.

Rosalie sat patiently. “You look good, sweetheart,” she said. “I’m sorry I am such a pain lately. Thanks for taking me out–”

He cut her off. “Shhhh-This pregnancy is tough for you, and I realize you want to get the whole thing over, but let’s forget about all of that tonight. Let’s just go and find some fun.” He slipped her coat over her shoulders, picked up his own jacket, and led her to the truck.

As he walked around the front of the vehicle, she slid over on the bench seat. She cuddled into his shoulder and gazed at him thinking.  Her fatigue and pain left her as he backed out of the driveway. Angelo put his muscled arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “I love you so much, Rosie.” He kissed the top of her head.

“I love you more.”

Chapter 2

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—(The next morning) The alarm clock sounded at 5:00 a.m. Rosalie rolled over and gently kissed Angelo on the cheek. “Time to get up, sweetheart.”

“Already?” he groaned. “We just went to bed.”

“I’m afraid so,” she said with a touch of sleepiness in her voice.

“Can’t we play hooky?”

“Come on, sleepyhead; we’re not millionaires yet. We need the money because I’m not working at Papa’s restaurant until after the baby comes.”

She rolled out of bed and pushed her feet into the scuff slippers waiting for her on the floor. Her cotton nightgown stuck to her bloated frame.

Angelo whispered. “God, you’re beautiful.”

“Your sweet talk won’t work this morning.” Rosalie patted his butt as she scuffed off to the kitchen and began her morning routine. First, she filled the percolator with water, put three tablespoons of Maxwell House in the coffee strainer, plugged the cord into the outlet, and let the peculator come to life. Brown liquid bounced in its glass cap and a rich robust aroma filled the kitchen.

She waddled across the room to the Frigidaire and pulled out the Oscar Mayer Bologna, Wonder Bread, and a head of iceberg lettuce, butter, and the brown horseradish mustard. At the counter she made two sandwiches and wrapped them in wax paper. She grabbed a banana from the bowl on the table and two oatmeal raisin cookies from the cookie jar. Then she piled the food in Angelo’s metal lunchbox. She followed this same set of steps since they came home from their honeymoon.

Next came breakfast. Rosalie grabbed the box of Kellogg’s Cornflakes from the pantry, two bowls from the cupboard, a couple of spoons from the silverware drawer, and put everything on the table. When the coffee finished perking, she poured two cups and poured the rest into a thermos.

Angelo meandered into the kitchen, absentmindedly kissed Rosalie’s cheek, and grumbled something about being too damn early to get out of bed. He dressed in navy blue coveralls, a flannel plaid shirt, and heavy steel-toed boots.

“You sure tossed and turned last night, babe. Did dinner make you sick?”

“No. My stomach is fine, but my back is still killing me. Last night gave me a boost. I actually forgot about being pregnant for a couple of hours.” Rosalie purred.”Thank you so much.”

He poured cornflakes. “I had fun too. I think the baby dropped.”

“What?”

“It means the baby will be here soon.” He placed his hand over her hand which rested on the table.

“Not soon enough. If I get any bigger, this kid will walk home.”

“I doubt that,” Angelo laughed.

“The doctor says we’re going down the home stretch.” A touch of fear crept into her voice.

“You aren’t worried, are you, sweetheart?”

“A little.”

“Don’t be. Mother Nature brings babies into the world everyday, and I won’t leave your side. Everything will be fine.”

“Spoken like a man. I’m sure you speak from experience.” She grinned before her tone turned serious. “Mothers die in childbirth, Angelo.”

“Well you won’t. My Ma gave birth to eight babies with a midwife in her own bedroom. We’re a lot better off than that.” He touched her swollen belly. “This little sweetie pie will be born in a modern hospital with a good doctor, and plenty of nurses standing by. Nothing but the best for my girl.” He kissed her.

Rosalie beamed. Her love for him grew more each day.

Chapter 3

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin-Later that day—Besides being uncomfortable, Rosalie’s boredom plagued her. She had worked in some capacity at the restaurant since age ten and staying home all day with only housework to keep her busy lead to boredom. Isolation and loneliness never left her. Only Angelo’s noontime call broke up the monotony.

“Hi Babe!” Angelo’s cheery voice greeted her.

“Hi Sweetheart. You sure are in a good mood. Did you get a raise or something?”

“What gave me away?” He frowned; she spoiled his surprise. “This morning Gus told me he promoted me to lead man, and with the title I’ll get an extra twenty-five cents an hour.”

“That’s wonderful!” Her cheerful voice turned in a second to one of fear. “Oh, my God!”  She dropped the receiver on the floor as water spilled out between her legs.

Angelo’s voice raised and octave and several decibels. “Rosie – Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” He waited several anxious seconds. Finally she picked up the phone.

“Something weird just happened. I got a really sharp pain, and I wet my pants.”

“Oh my God! Your water broke!” His heart beat faster.

“What?” Rosie didn’t understand.

Angelo said. “Didn’t the doctor tell you anything?”

“Tell me about what?”

“Didn’t the doctor tell you what happens when you go into labor?”

“Not about wetting my pants!”

“Gushing fluid means your amniotic sac that protects the baby broke. Are you having any pain?” Angelo volunteered for the rescue squad in the town and they covered childbirth in his first aid class.

“No.”

“This means labor will start soon. I’m coming right home! Call the doctor. Tell him what happened. I’ll be home in a minute.”

Rosalie shook her head, replaced the receiver in its cradle and called the doctor.

 

*****

Angelo prayed a cop wouldn’t “pinch” him as he broke all the speed limits to get home. He screeched into the driveway and ran into the house. He found Rosalie in the kitchen sitting on a towel with her packed suitcase at her feet.

“Well, we’re on our way, sweetheart,” he said with a broad smile. “You ready?”

“Not really.”

“Don’t be scared, babe. Just squeeze my hand. We’ll do this together.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Tool of the Trade

My birthday is on Friday. Since Ken lost his driving privileges, he always feels bad when he can’t go to the store and buy me a “just right” present. I miss his thoughtfulness too, but we’ve both accepted this is just one more challenge in our journey through the world of MS.

Everybody asks me what I’d like for my special day, but I have most everything I need. Really I love presents and I love surprises, but I don’t like asking for specific gifts. However, my present laptop is over six years old–ancient in computer land–so I asked for a new a new laptop.

Like an answer from the gods, I got an email from Dell. It turns out they are having a sale, so I asked Ken if he’d like to give me a new laptop for my birthday. He thought that was a good solution, seeing he got a new dishwasher for his birthday, so I ordered a new computer. Not only did I get a wonderful low price, they offered a free update to Windows 10, a $50 instant rebate, and free overnight shipping. I think Dell knew it was my birthday, too!

So have a good day, everybody. Mine started off pretty nice.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

 

Chapter 30

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-December—Christmastime on the farm always made Josie nostalgic as family traditions emerged. This year every special element of celebrating Christmas held more significance for Josie. Her months away at school made every emotion more intense. She forgot the tranquility she always experienced at four o’clock in the morning before sun-up when she milked the cows. The animals didn’t care if Christmas was near; they still needed to be milked everyday. Josie found it strange she missed the chore even though she always groused about her loss of sleep. Josie thought Betsy smiled as she put the milking stool beside the heifer.

Josie also enjoyed being with her mother in the cozy kitchen while they baked the family favorite Christmas cookies. Josie loved sampling the results over a cup of tea with her Mom after the last pan came out of the oven.

A week before Christmas, her brothers went with their father into the woods to cut down a blue spruce. The boys trimmed the tree outdoors before they placed the fir into the tree stand. Mrs. Schneider inspected their work to assure the tree stood straight before it was positioned in the traditional place in front of the living room picture window.  Josie helped her mother haul out the decorations they collected over the years. As she took out the ornaments from their boxes, Josie traveled to the past remembering when each ornament first appeared on their Christmas tree. Every year the Schneider Christmas tree lived as a testament to the family’s experiences through the years.

By evening, the fresh fragrance of pine filled the house, and the crackle of the fire in the fireplace brought Josie to a sentimental place. The fire lapping at the logs mesmerized her as she sipped a cup of tea. Her mother lit candles to add to the room’s ambiance, and Josie thought being home again couldn’t be more perfect.

On Christmas morning, everyone met in the living room in their bathrobes to open a plethora of presents. Frivolity and teasing between brothers and sister went on like every year, but this year a kernel of sadness lingered their happiness. In three days, Johnny would leave for Army Air Corps basic training in Texas.

*****

The family threw Johnny a farewell party one night in between Christmas and New Years. The party attracted almost everyone in Lacrosse. Johnny’s father made sure the beer flowed freely all evening, while his mother kept the food table overflowing. When Rosalie and Angelo arrived, Angelo teased Mrs. Schneider. “Mrs. S, are you sure you aren’t Italian? No one ever would leave your table hungry or thirsty.”

Johnny didn’t believe so many people wanted to wish him well, but his girlfriend Mary didn’t hide her unhappiness. A few weeks ago, Johnny asked her to be his girl, and since then, she wore his class ring around her neck on the gold chain he bought for her. She stood by his side most of the evening, but halfway through the party she excused herself going outside to hide her tears. The farewell party confirmed the reality of his departure.

Josie commiserated with Mary.  She dreaded saying goodbye to her closest brother. She always counted on Johnny to keep her secrets, and he always stuck up for her if she got in a jam. Twelve hundred miles would separate them in just a few days.

Like Mary, Josie escaped into the frigid night to hide selfish tears. The snow from last night’s storm crunched beneath her shoes, while the full moon lit the way. She shivered as the nighttime chill ran up her spine. Her fingers grew numb in a few minutes, but she stood like a stone statue and allowed her emotions to take over. Footsteps behind her jolted her out of the moment. Donna Jean came to check on her.

“God, Josie, what are you doing out here in the frozen tundra?”

Josie cleared her throat and wiped her face with the back of her hand. “I needed some fresh air. The cigarette smoke got to me.”

“That might work with somebody else, but not with me. Tell me what’s going on.”

Josie looked directly at her. “I never thought saying goodbye to Johnny would be this hard.” She sniffed. “It will be so long before we’ll be together again.”

“You left him in September and didn’t think anything of that. Why is his departure any different?”

“Joining the Air Corps is more serious than going to college. Germany is marching through one country after another in Europe. Anybody who thinks the U. S. won’t be involved in another European war is crazy. FDR is simply waiting for the right time.”

“That’s you’re biggest problem, Josie. You think too much.”

“I am who I am, Donna; you ought to realize that by now.”

“Yeah, but I love you anyway. Be realistic. The only thing that is for sure is the present. The past is over and the future we can’t control. If we get involved in a war, we’ll deal with the consequences then. Johnny’s going to need you to be positive and strong. Boot camp is no country club affair. Stop being selfish. Go inside and celebrate.” Donna’s tone sounded like an army drill sergeant.

Josie pouted. She hated being admonished, especially when she knew she deserved it. Leave it to Donna to get it right.  “You realize you’re the only one who can talk to me like that.”

Donna smiled. “It’s a gift.” She laughed and put her arm around Josie’s shoulders. “Come on, sweetie. Your butt’s going to get frostbite if you stay out here any longer.” She giggled. “Besides, my beer is getting warm!”

Chapter 31

Paris, France – December—Emma and Marta enjoyed a wonderful Christmas together. They invited their new friends to their apartment and celebrated the holiday with thoughtful gifts, good food, and a cute little Christmas tree Emma found on her way home from work. Emma requested everyone bring an ornament to make Marta’s little tree dressed for the occasion. Marta loved the ornament of the Eiffel Tower carved out of wood; Emma liked the Can-Can dancing girl ornament.

For New Years Eve they planned to meet some friends at a nearby restaurant; then the girls planned to take in a show at Moulin Rouge. Marta saved for months to buy an off-white woolen suit with a stylish rolled collar. Large covered button went down the front and a fashionable peplum flared at her waist. Her delicate eighteen-inch waist appeared even thinner. The pencil skirt flared into pleats at the knee which softened its lines. She wore sheer silk stockings and matching off-white heels.  She completed her outfit with a off-white wool beret she tilted to the side. Before living the bedroom, Marta checked her reflection in the mirror. She had achieved the high-fashioned look she desired.

Marta emerged from the bedroom, and Emma gasped. “Cherie, you are beautiful!”

Marta smiled. Whenever Emma admired her, she gained more confidence.

Emma gave her a kiss on the cheek and took her hand. “We should be on our way, or we will be late. I cannot wait to show you off tonight.”

A warm smiled crossed Marta’s face. “I am so happy we decided to stay in Paris, and I’m pleased you do not consider me a child any longer. ”

“I stopped seeing you as a child many months ago, darling. You are a strong, wonderful woman, and I am so lucky to be with you.” She put her arm around Marta’s tiny waist and together they took a leisurely stroll to the restaurant.

After enjoying a meal at an intimate bistro, the girls walked to the theatre. Marta’s heart beat faster as the tip-top of the famous red windmill of the Moulin Rouge came into view. The host sat them at small tables near the stage. Andre Ekyan and his band the Kit Cats headlined the show. Marta loved jazz, especially this musician’s famous hits “Rosetta” and “Sugar.”

When the famous can-can dancers took the stage, Marta sat shocked as they performed bare breasted. Their high kicks and antics kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The cabaret show also featured comedians who kept them laughing into the wee hours with bawdy jokes which certainly would be forbidden by her father. Marta shut him out and rarely thought of him since his damning letter. Marta told herself she no longer cared about his opinions.

The show ended at eleven-thirty, and the girls hopped a trolley to bring them to the base of the Eiffel Tower where a huge crowd gathered to ring in the New Year. Bright colors of blue, white and red, the French National colors lit the landmark and a big clock ticked off the seconds before midnight. When time expired, the crowd yelled “Bonne Ann!” at the stroke of midnight. The city’s bells rang in unison while Emma took Marta in her arms, and the two lovers kissed in public like all of the other couples. Marta would cherish this moment forever.

 

 

A Good Day

I’m happy to say Ken had a great day yesterday. He felt strong enough to attend the club he enjoys twice a month. This group has a lot of Alzheimer patients, which are several decades older than he is, but he says he is making some new friends and likes the time away from our familiar surroundings at home. Participants are paired with a helper, so I can leave with confidence he will receive good care while he has lunch and plays games and does a craft project. The time away from each other is good for me too..

Yesterday on my “day off” I went to see my dear friend Marie. Her birthday was Saturday, and I didn’t get a chance to give her the orchid I got for her. Marie doesn’t talk about her age, but I estimate she’s several years past eighty (88?). I’ve enjoyed Marie’s company since my late twenties. Through the years we’ve discovered we are compatible, having the same interests–singing, writing, and painting. We always laugh together and enjoy each other’s company. Our age difference has never been a problem. She’s a person I can tell anything, and I know if I ask her to keep a confidence, she will take my secret to her grave.

Last year, she returned home to Racine to be close to her large family after living twenty years in Florida. Her holidays got empty as she out-lived her friends. Now they are full of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She is surrounded by many old friends who are delighted she has returned. Marie’s an easy person to love.

But like many people her age, she suffers from ill-health, so I know I must see her as much as our time allows. Even on the days when she’s not in top form, she welcomes my visits. I’m lucky. Having a friend like Marie is a gift.

#####

Chapter 28

Paris, France, December, 1939—December in Paris brought magical moments to Marta. Snow fell from the heavens like confectioner’s sugar which transformed the city into a wonderland you might find in a snow globe. Marta viewed her first winter in Paris as the happiest time in her life. After her father’s nasty letter, she needed to make Paris dearer to her than her homeland.

After a long day at the Louvre, Marta picked up their mail and dragged herself up the stairs to their flat. Along with the monthly bills and advertisements, she found a letter from Leisel in the box. She ripped open the envelope and read news from home.

December, 1939

 Dear Marta,

Many changes took place since I last wrote to you. I told you Franz and I dated a few times. What I didn’t tell you is in November he asked my father for my hand in marriage.

It was not surprising my father gave him his blessing with a big hug. Father is so impressed Franz is an SS officer. He told me I am lucky he enrolled me in bride school. That’s right. Instead of going to the university, my father made me take a six week course to turn me into a proper Nazi wife.  Believe it or not, getting into this “special school” proved to be more involved than entering the university.

First, the SS Race and Settlement Office assessed my pedigree to make certain I carried no Jewish or mixed blood. They even measured my nose and upper lip to ensure my features conformed to the correct Aryan type. Finally, I needed to complete a number of forms detailing any family history of conditions such as tuberculosis. This process is so humiliating, Marta. How can a loving father make me go through such a demeaning process? 

I must admit Schwanenwerder Island is quite romantic. The Grunewald area is named after beautiful white swans which swim on the sparkling clear lake. I stayed at a stately white mansion at No. 28 Inselstrasse. The house and grounds are most impressive not unlike all of the houses on the island, which are surrounded by high brick or stone walls. Many of the party leaders live in nearby  villas, so I am quite at ease now as I rub shoulders with the likes of Albert Speer and Rudolf Hess. The twenty girls I am housed with are very nice, and luckily a girl named Gretchen Heinz reached out to me. She helped me find peace here and opened my eyes. My fate could be far worse.

As you know, attending this school is difficult for me because the course work is like a continuation of our BMD training. Sessions include how to polish your future husband’s boots and dagger, how to  fatten geese and arrange flowers. They even teach us how to make conversation at dinner parties, change linen, polish a floor and, above all, how to exhibit proper obedience to a husband. Every bride must memorize the ‘Ten Commandments for the German Woman’, which included ‘Keep your body pure’ and ‘Hope for as many children as possible’. We also learned a prayer to teach our children after they are born. Here are the words: “Mein Frer, Ich kenn dich wohl und habe dich lieb wie Vater und Mutter’ – My Leader, I know you well, and I love you like my father and mother.”

All of this must seem strange to you, but I recognize becoming a Nazi wife is my only destiny so I must make the best of the situation. Thank goodness Franz came along. At least he’s a man I can love, and I escaped the embarrassment of being assigned to some other SS member. I’m resigned to the fact I will be a wife and mother and nothing more. I left all my dreams behind; carrying them is too hard.

My parents and Franz attended my graduation ceremony where I received my certification to become a Nazi wife. As graduates, we all stood and pledged four things. (1) Loyalty to Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Nazi Party superiors ‘unto death; (2) Remain a “Sustainer of the Germanic Race; (3) Promise to become proficient in cooking and housekeeping, sewing, washing, ironing, childcare, nursing and home design; (4) And finally, promise all children born in the marriage will be raised in accordance with the ideals of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party.

Other than the bride school, the other  news is Franz entered the Academy for Officers in September and will graduate before Christmas with the rank of Second Lieutenant in the great Nazi SS organization.

After his graduation, we will marry. The ceremony will not be held in a church in front of a priest like I always imagined. Instead we will stand before an altar bedecked with SS runes and oak leaves. We will exchange silver rings engraved with mystical runes, and receive a copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” A little sugar figurine of Hitler will sit on the top of our wedding cake. Sometimes I don’t believe I’m doing all of these things, but if it means Franz will impress his superiors and advance him sooner, I am willing to go along without any protest. 

My only regret is that you and Heidi are not here to be my bridesmaids. Gretchen agreed to be my maid of honor and Franz enlisted one of his SS comrades for his best man. I don’t even remember his name.

Now I live in a very nice house near my parent’s place. I look forward to the day we will add a child to carry on the Great Fatherland.

Germany conquered the Poles since I wrote last. Franz wrote and said the Poles attacked us in twenty-one campaigns so we needed to retaliate. I wonder if that is true. I cannot imagine any country picking a fight with our modern army. After the invasion, Franz is assigned to police Jewish activity. That is good. I cannot think of him in battle. I worry someday a bullet will take him away from me, and I will be alone again.

I hope you and Emma will enjoy a good Christmas. With the churches closed here, we will celebrate the winter solstice with Aryan traditions. Such celebrations are so foreign to me. But then again, I barely recognize my life these days.

Merry Christmas, Love Leisel

Marta sat down in the overstuffed chair. She read Leisel’s letter twice and cried. Clearly Leisel didn’t stand a chance to follow her dreams, so with no other choices she gave into Nazi ideology. Worst of all, she married an uncouth brute like Franz.

Chapter 29

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – December, 1939—Josie and Anna lived through final exams without any more altercations, and they left campus without knowing their final grades. Grades were always mailed sometime in January. Their winter break would last six weeks, and the two girls  never imagined saying goodbye would be so difficult.

Silence hung like wet laundry as the two girls stuffed their suitcases with dirty clothes.

Anna broke the silence. “I never dreamed going home would be so hard.”

“Me neither. I guess we’ve done a good job living together in this dinky room, huh?” Josie forced a grin.

“I guess.” Anna paused. “Merry Christmas, Jos,” Anna faced Josie and handed her a gift wrapped in bright red paper.

“What did you do?” Josie smiled as she reciprocated and handed a gift to Anna.

They both laughed and in tandem yelled, “Boy do we think alike or what?”

Josie shook the box.

“Do you always need to be a smarty pants?” Anna said. “Just open the gift.”

The girls sat down on their beds and tore open the wrapping paper.

When Josie gazed at the contents inside the box, she laughed out loud. She pulled a new pair of handmade knit socks.

Anna joined her in laughter as she opened the same gift.

In tandem they yelled, “Socks!” Then they hugged each other.

Josie smiled broadly. “Merry Christmas my friend. Now I’m certain you are the brightest and most terrific girl I ever met! A mere mortal never read my mind before!”

“Ditto.” Anna said.

They picked up their luggage and dragged their heavy suitcases down the three flights of stairs, still chuckling at their private joke. Anna’s boyfriend Tommy waited outside to take them to the train station.

Tommy opened the front passenger’s seat for Anna and the backseat door for Josie. “What are you two laughing about now?”

The girls looked at each other and said together, “You wouldn’t understand.”

*****

Josie rode the train from Minneapolis to Lacrosse for the first time. Butterflies churned in her stomach like they always did when she tried something new, but she calmed them with the thought she would be with her friends and family faster than if she went home in a car.

Her brother Johnny stood on the platform as Josie’s train approached the station. When she found him in the crowd, she ran to him as snowflakes drifted down. “Oh, Johnny, I’m so glad to be home. Thanks for picking me up!” She hugged him.

“No problem Sis. I missed you. I didn’t have anybody to tease!”  He put his arm around her shoulder and led her to the car.  “I hope you’re hungry. Mom’s prepared a feast for you. Hell, somebody might think your homecoming is an event to celebrate.” He teased.

“Well put the pedal to the metal my dear brother, I’m starving!” Josie laughed.

*****

The next morning Josie phoned Donna Jean and Rosalie. They agreed to meet  at Joe’s Diner later in the afternoon. Josie left the farm in the family truck and as she drove along, the buildings along her route remained the same, but for some odd reason they appeared different. At that moment she realized her four short months at the university changed her and life at home went on in her absence.  She pulled into Joe’s parking lot and walked inside. Donna and Rosalie were waiting in the corner booth.

Hugs and kisses went around. Then Josie scrutinized Rosalie. “Oh my god! What happened to you, little girl? I go away for a few months and you get yourself in trouble?” She laughed.

Rosalie blushed. “What can I say? I’m a good Catholic.”

Josie slid into the booth. “So tell me when the baby is due?” Josie said.

“March 10-on your birthday.”

Josie laughed, “Good planning! You are an expert on how to spring a wonderful surprise! Why didn’t you tell me in your letters?”

“Getting used to being pregnant isn’t easy. I wanted to surprise you.”

“Well, you certainly did that!”

They ordered root beer floats for old times’ sake as they caught up on the latest news of the past few months. Donna Jean, Rosalie, and Josie remained the same girls who grew up together and shared everything. Life changes didn’t mean a thing when it concerned their friendship.

“So, Josie, tell us about college.” Donna leaned closer to Josie.

“I wrote to you every week.  So you must understand I study, walk from class to class, and study some more.” Josie said. “I seem to remember you said my letters are boring.” She sipped her root beer float.

“I never said anything of the sort!” Donna protested. “But I believe you need to explore the campus more. After all, aren’t there any good looking guys at U of M? You never write about that subject.”

“I’m at college to get a nursing degree, not an MRS degree, Donna.” Josie laughed.

“But surely, somebody must pique your interest. Come on! Where’s the fun?”

“The good looking boys play sports, and they don’t even look at me. I’ll probably get my degree, come home, and marry a farm boy.”

“Over my dead body!” Donna said. “You’re going to do better than that!”

“Are you saying farm boys aren’t good enough?” Josie teased. “Danny’s a farm boy. You seem to be keen on him.”

Donna blushed and stayed silent.

Josie turned to Rosalie to change the direction of their conversation. “Did you and Angelo pick out baby names yet, Rosie?”

“A few. We’re not locked in on anything yet. Angelo wants to name the baby boy Giovanni, but I say our baby needs an American name; we’re still discussing this topic.”

Donna said, “What if the baby turns out to be a girl?”

Rosalie answered, “We both agree on Mary-after the Blessed Mother.”

“Ah-another Catholic girl named Mary! How original.” Donna laughed. “Didn’t our grade school class include six girls named Mary? Anyway, I hope the baby is a little girl,” Donna said. “Then I can buy frilly pink dresses and tiny patent leather shoes for her. This Armani child will possess a sense of style from the very beginning.”

“I don’t think Angelo would agree with you. He’s already talking about going to baseball games with his son.”

Josie said, “You tell him girls like baseball, too!”

Everybody laughed and dug into their burgers as the conversation went on.

*****

Rosalie left the diner at ten o’clock. She promised Angelo she would be home to kiss him goodnight before he went to bed. Lately, he worked a lot of overtime hours.

Donna and Josie hugged Rosalie before she waddled to her car.

Donna Jean said, “I don’t understand how she does it. She’s a baby herself.”

Josie said, “Lots of girls her age are married with babies. She’ll be all right.”

“Maybe. Having babies right now wouldn’t be my choice.” Donna Jean said.

“Mine either. I want to enjoy work as a nurse before I tie the knot with anyone.”

“I do like sex, though.” Donna said under her breath.

“What?” Josie gasped. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m dead serious. Danny and I are lovers.” Donna whispered. “Sex is fun.”

“But aren’t you afraid you’ll end up like Rosalie? The only difference is she’s married and you’re not! Donna, really, you do some of the dumbest things. Why would you take chances?”

“Don’t they teach you how not to get pregnant in nursing school? ”

“Well, sure, but-

“But nothing. Danny and I like to make love, and we’re doing it-safely.”

“So you love him?”

“Love? What’s love got to do with anything?”

“Can we please change the subject?”

“Sure.” Donna saw Josie didn’t want to discuss sexual matters any more. “Let’s go ask if those guys want to dance.”

“Fine.” Ordinarily Josie wouldn’t ask a stranger to dance.

 

 

Patience — A Hard Learned Virtue

Every morning I listen to national as well as local news. And every morning I am thankful I do  not have to deal with traffic and all its frustrations. For years I drove almost an hour one way — first south to Illinois and then a few years later I drove north. Both commutes took a lot of patience.

When I was younger, I wanted everything “right now!” I found it difficult to wait for anything, and considering my birthday is in July, and Christmas is in December, waiting for gift getting seemed like an eternity. So, on the advice of my teachers, who were Catholic nuns, I began to pray for patience.

What a mistake that was! Ever since, it seems my creator has sent me a continuous stream of exercises to learn the virtue of patience. And then, I pick a profession that REQUIRES patience. Writing, rewriting, rewriting–well you get the picture if you’re a serious writer. I also dabble in painting. I want to improve, so I practice and practice and practice–another exercise in patience and persistence. And then, of course, as most of you have read if you are out there reading in the blogging world, I am a caretaker for my husband, and I must stand back and wait for Ken to attempt doing something first before I step in to help. Needless to say, I’ve learned to count beyond ten.

Moral to the story: Be careful of what you ask for–you most likely will get it.

Have a good day, everybody!

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS — Book 2

Chapter 26

Minneapolis, Minnesota – November—The biting wind and snow of Minneapolis came early in the fall of 1939. By now, Josie and Anna fell into a comfortable routine on campus. Learning something new everyday excited both of the new freshmen. Josie especially enjoyed biology because peering through a microscope seemed like entering an unexplored world. She tolerated Art History class, and found calculus challenging.

The pressure to do well on final exams caused Josie and Anna to be testy with one another. Their little jabs grew into a knock-down-drag-’em-out shouting match one day over socks. After the blow up, the two stubborn girls refused to talk to one another and simmered in their own stew.

Josie replayed the scene in her mind the next day and couldn’t believe they argued over something so inconsequential.  How can two intelligent girls fight over something as foolish as socks lying on the floor?

At noon Josie guessed Anna would be in the cafeteria sitting at the same table they chose everyday. She glanced around the cavernous room and spied her roommate sitting in the corner staring out the floor-to-ceiling window which overlooked the snowy campus. Josie placed her tray on the table next to Anna and said, “Is this seat taken?”

Anna looked up at her. “No, but are you sure you want to sit with me? I’m such a bitch.”

“No you aren’t; I am.” Josie sat. “Two are needed to argue.”

“But-

“But, nothing.” Josie said. “I’m sorry. I’m blaming my bad behavior on the pressure of my first college finals. I keep studying, but I still worry I’m not prepared.”

Anna looked at Josie and recognized a genuine apology on her face. “You too? Oh, Josie! I’m so sorry. The minute those hateful words left my mouth last night I wished I never said them. I need to get A’s or my scholarship won’t be renewed next semester.” Anna confessed.

“Why didn’t you tell me? We attend a lot of the same classes; we should study together. So what if we drew different professors?” Josie touched Anna’s hand. “I am confident you will do fine. You’re one of the most brilliant students on campus . . .  next to me, of course.” Josie cracked a smile.

“I don’t think I’m brilliant.” Anna pouted.

Josie scowled at her. “How dare you put yourself down! Stop it.” She paused and took a bite of her sandwich. “Here’s a thought.”

“What?”

“You’re working too hard. You need a break.”

“I can’t take a break now with so much on the line.” Anna protested.

“Nonsense. If you cram too much into your brain, some knowledge will leak out of your ears. Then you’ll really have a problem!” Josie chuckled. “Then I would have to take you to a doctor and he would prescribe two aspirin and a good rest.”

Anna was drawn into Josie’s banter. “And if I refuse to listen to the doctor?”

Josie put on a serious expression. “I would have to drag you to the union.” Josie paused. “Then you’d probably bump into Tommy, and he’ll take over. He’ll dance with you till your feet get blisters and your ears ring from the loud music. By the end of the night you’ll wonder why you kept reading the same paragraph over and over.” Josie teased.

“You do that too?” Anna laughed. “I am so lucky you’re my roommate, Thanks for being such a good friend.”

Josie smiled. “No problem. Any time Doc Josie is needed, she races to the rescue. So we’re on tonight?”

“You bet!” Anna slammed the cover of her Chemistry book. “Enough of this stuff!”

The two girls finished their sandwiches and drank their hot chocolate. Anna smiled. “Back to the salt mines.”

“I’ll be back at the dorm around five.” Josie waved goodbye as she watched Anna leave the cafeteria. Relief set in. She chuckled when she thought their first fight ended without bloodshed.

Josie returned to the dorm and before she went upstairs, she picked up her mail. She was delighted to find Donna Jean’s loopy scrawl on a pale pink, scented envelope.  Donna’s letters always put her in a good mood.

November, 1939

Dear Josie,

Hope all is well at U of M. Things here are pretty much the same. I love my work, but I can’t say the same for my boss. I swear that man is another species of octopus. So far, my street smarts and quick reflexes have held him at bay, but I don’t know how long I can last.

The biggest change since we last corresponded is I’m dating Danny every weekend. We went to the movies last night. Took in “The Wizard of Oz.”  Danny thought the movie was a kids’ show. But I loved the picture. Dorothy reminded me of you. She got lost in this strange land called “Oz,” and all she wanted was to get home. She made friends along the way and together they searched for the Wizard who possessed the power to send her home and grant the others their wishes. When she landed in Oz, she pissed off the wicked witch because Dorothy put on the ruby slippers which belonged to the old bag’s sister. When old green face tried to take the shoes off of Dorothy, she got hit with a spark of electricity. She needed to kill Dorothy to get the shoes back. I wish you could be with me, Josie. Then we could rave about how wonderful it is to watch a movie in color!  I loved every minute!

 Before the movie, a newsreel presented a story of the New York World’s Fair taking place in Flushing Meadows. The name of the exposition is called “Building the World for Tomorrow.” I suggested to Danny we should go. He agreed the fair would be a gas, so we made tentative plans to take the train to New York. If we’re still together in June, we’re going to go. Won’t I be the talk of the office-a single girl going off with a boy without a chaperon? How scandalous! (Ha, ha.)

After the movie, we went to Pudgy’s for a beer. Danny and I played the jukebox and danced to “I’ll Never Smile Again.” I just love Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra is such a babe. Now why can’t I meet a guy like him? (Ha, ha.)

Rosalie’s been a stranger lately. I called her but she said she didn’t feel well enough to meet. I guess she and Angelo must be hunkered down in the bedroom.

Well, gotta go. Want to get this in the mail for pick up tonight. I miss you lots. Can’t wait to hug you at Christmas. Be sure and save me some time when you come home.

Your friend forever, Donna

Chapter 27

Paris, France – November, 1939—Emma and Marta found a small flat near Napolean’s Triumphal Arch at the end of the Champs-Elysees.  The apartment’s convenient location proved to be perfect. Emma could walk to city hall, and Marta could hop a trolley to get to the Louvre. Cinemas, theatres, and luxurious shops which displayed the latest fashions in lovely windows surrounded their new home. Beautiful gardens and fountains made the area enchanting in spring and summer, but now that winter settled in, the girls made a habit of meeting after their work day at their favorite cafe to sit in the warm glow of its fireplace while they discussed their day.

“Do you think we can get a Christmas tree?” Marta asked.

“Where will we put a tree in our little flat, Cherie?

“If we got a very small one, we might put it by the window.”

Emma witnessed Marta’s enthusiasm for the German tradition. “Don’t you think buying a tree now is a little early? The fir will drop its needles before Christmas.”

“I did not intend to buy one now, but I would really like to celebrate our first Christmas in Paris by decorating a Christmas tree together.” Marta sipped her espresso as her eyes grew moist.

Emma moved her chair closer Marta. “Oh, Cherie, what makes you cry?”

“I am a little homesick. I got a letter from Vater yesterday saying he never wants to lay eyes on me again.” Marta brushed away a tear rolling down her cheek. “I miss my mother’s Christmas cookies and all of the things we did together to get ready for the holiday. As much as I love Paris and being with you, I miss these things.”

Emma put her arm around Marta. She lifted the girl’s chin to search her eyes. “Homesickness is not a sin.  Please do not be sad.” Emma hugged her. “We can bake cookies and put up a tree. Anything you want to do to celebrate Christmas, we will do. Now we must make our own traditions, ja?”

“I hate being such a baby, but up until now we kept busy visiting all of the sights, fixing up our apartment, and just going on with life. I did not think about holiday traditions.  But with Christmas around the corner, I am remembering the good things about being with my parents.”

“Sweetheart, no matter what you chose to do after graduation, your life would never be the same. Everyone must learn how to live away from their parents at some stage. Do you want to go back to Berlin?” Emma said softly.

“No.” Marta said in an instant. “I love Paris; I love you. I want to stay.”

Emma interrupted her, “I love you too, and I want to make you happy. We will get a Christmas tree as big as a Sequoia if you want.”

Marta took another sip of her espresso. “No matter what happens in the future I want you to understand this time with you is the happiest period in my life.”

Emma placed a quick kiss on her cheek. “I feel the same,” she whispered.

*****

A few days later, Emma picked up the afternoon paper and the front page headline shouted at her. “Nazis Smash, Loot, and Burn Jewish Shops and Temples.”

November 9-10, 1939 –The assassination of a German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, by German-born Polish Jew, Herschel Grynszpan, gave the Nazis an excuse to damage Jewish homes, shops, towns, and villages. As the violence escalated, German civilians joined in the destruction with sledgehammers, leaving the streets covered in pieces of smashed windows-the world is calling the event Kristallnacht or the “Night of Broken Glass.”

Ninety-one Jews died and the SS storm troopers deported 30,000 Jewish people. Approximately 1,668 synagogues across the country suffered damage and 267 burned to the ground.

Emma gasped and threw down the paper in utter disgust. “Marta. You must read this.” She pointed to the headline.

Marta read the article, and no longer questioned her decision to stay in Paris.  Neither of them wanted to return a society that beat defenseless and innocent people. “This is terrible.”

“Yes.” Emma didn’t say she thought Marta’s father probably gave the order to attack the Jews. He made it no secret he hated them and now the Nazi leadership acquired an excuse to persecute the race.

Since 1936, each large city in each Germany specified where Jews could live. If they strayed away from this area, they faced beatings, jailing, or they might be shot in the street. No Jew could attend movies, plays, concerts, or other public social gatherings. All of these new laws isolated the Jewish population from other German citizens. A propaganda campaign of posters and newsreels portrayed them as less than human.

The political changes led to two goals. Eliminate the Jews from Europe. And expand Germany’s borders with another world war.

A Better Day

The statistics of my blog are pretty dismal, especially after my unveiling of the crappy things that have happened this week. I think that statistic means people don’t relish reading stuff about ordinary tough times. But color me confused. Why does the news media focus on the worst things that can happen to humans every night? Why do they focus on building fear–even with the weather? They lead story every night is about a shotting, a fire, a flood, an earthquake, a mudslide–you get the picture. Even worse, if nothing of the sort happened in the local area, they’ll dig up stories from other communities across the country to fill their quota of daily horror.

However, if I am going to use this medium as a possible vehicle to help other caregivers, I must relate. If I only talked about all the wonderful things in my life and my relationship with Ken, that would sugar-coat reality. Other caretakers might think they must be doing something wrong because they experience bad days. Their times are anything but good everyday. Understand?

But I also get the point that others don’t want to be slapped in the face with sad stories all the time. So today, I will refrain from any more terrifying stories.

Enough is enough already.

Yesterday I went to “Sam’s Club” with my dear friend Jackie to pick up three months of paper products, a few groceries, and a couple of other things we “needed.” After spending too much money, Jackie and I sat down for lunch. We love Sam’s hot dogs, and of course, we always have chips for a “side,” and soda as our preferred beverage. To top off our indulgent lunch we ordered a decadent frozen yogurt. After sharing a few laughs, we headed home. Our trip lasted about two hours.

When I got home, Ken was sitting in his chair. I put away all the purchases and then made him lunch. The problem was, he was too fatigued to eat. Then I also heard he needed to use his “life line” button to call for help. Yup. He fell again.

First I felt guilty about not being there when he had trouble, and then when I thought about the situation more rationally, I realized what I had put in place to keep him safe had worked. The guilt flew away.

Today he seems fine. Hopefully it will stay that way and we’ll go outside to our patio and enjoy a hot game of Scrabble. Life can be so good in between the crap. Have a good day, everyone!

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 24

Warsaw, Poland – September 1939—Heidi and Dora packed the car during the morning and in the afternoon they sewed money and valuables in hems of coats and dresses. They woke the children after midnight and carried them into the garage at the back of the house. When the children settled down, Dora put the key in the ignition of the Rolls Royce Edward bought the year before. She offered a prayer for a safe journey and backed the car out of the driveway. She choked down her fear of what might come. Would she be able to escape? Would she ever be able to come back to her home someday?  She gave birth to their children in their bedroom. She decorated the place with her art work and made delicious meals in their kitchen. She and Edward would never eat by candlelight in their dining room again, while their children slept safely in their feather beds. She would never play her grand piano again. She would never make love again with Edward in their bedroom. She and Edward built a wonderful life together. But would they ever find each other again? Dora drove away with her memories and fears as she clenched the steering wheel with white knuckles.

Refugees crowded the roads leading away from Warsaw. People of all ages carried suitcases. Horse-drawn wagons and pushcarts of all sizes cluttered the road. When Heidi witnessed so many down trodden people fleeing, she thanked God Dora owned a car. Heidi couldn’t image this journey with three pre-school children on foot.

After they left the city limits, the roads became very dark and unfamiliar. She concentrated on heading south and commanded herself to get to Lviv as fast as possible. Dora tried to focus on the future, not what she left behind. She focused on keeping her children safe.

At the same time Heidi did her best to mask her fear and sadness. They cut the darkness in silence, alone with their private thoughts. Heidi prayed for her Uncle Hans and the children. The invasion would certainly make their lives difficult. For a few seconds she second guessed herself. Perhaps she should have stayed with Uncle Hans and help him with the children. But no. He and the children would be safe. Dora probably wouldn’t be. I’m doing the right thing. God wants me to help Dora. She is a gentle woman. She never experienced a harsh life and the ugliness of the world. She’s privileged and well-schooled, so she needs help with household chores, and I can do those for her. Mutter would do the same if she found herself in this situation. Uncle Hans will understand. Only Vater will be angry.

In the distance heavy artillery shells exploded lighting up the sky with thunderous blasts. The road rumbled. Dora squeezed the steering wheel harder. Her instinct demanded she drive faster, but with the stream of refugees, she maneuvered the car slowly. The moonless night engulfed the travelers in uncharted darkness. Dora prayed. Two women traveling alone with three children provided an easy target.

After an hour, the crowd of refugees thinned as Warsaw faded miles behind them. The starless night seemed to be an omen of dread; nobody desired an uncertain future, but that’s exactly what everyone in Poland inherited from a blood thirsty neighbor.

As Dora’s fear escalated, she drove faster. Her thoughts kept repeating: I’m doing the right thing. I must save the children. I must get out of Poland.

The high speed frightened Heidi. “Mrs. Gessler, I think we should slow down; we don’t want to attract attention with your fancy car.”

After listening to Heidi’s comment, Dora laughed. “I will slow down, Heidi, but I think we can drive as fast as we want with no other vehicles on the road.”

Heidi laughed with her. Some how the ridiculous comment broke the tension each of them felt. Heidi took a deep breath and settled back into the soft leather seat. The two women retreated back into their own thoughts as the miles passed. Heidi read the map with a flashlight and instructed Dora to make the proper turns to reach their destination. With every mile behind them, Dora thought, “What will I do if we’re stopped?”

*****

After driving nearly three hours, Dora found enough gas to get them the rest of the way to Lviv. Heidi gave herself private pep talks to assure this adventure would be positive. She hedged her bets by praying to the Blessed Virgin Mary for a safe journey into a foreign land.

After filling the gas tank, the rest of the trip proved to be uneventful until they entered Lviv. The streets overflowed with tired, hungry refugees. The sight of their dirty faces and blank stares alarmed Dora as she realized professionals and peasants existed on an equal plain. In a few short days, Lviv turned into a ghetto of people with no where else to go.

Chapter 25

 Lviv, Ukraine – September, 1939—Dora and Heidi were luckier than most people who came to Lviv for Soviet protection. Along with their clothes, they packed enough food for a couple of weeks. Shortages of food and water drove people to fight in the streets.

Heidi suggested they stay in the car on the outskirts of the town until Dora found a place to live. While Dora searched, Heidi attended to the children and distracted them with games and stories. David cried to go home; Ruthie wanted her toys; even baby Jacob seemed to understand things had changed.

After two days, Dora still searched for suitable housing. Every place offered rundown, crowded, conditions. Very few clean rooms existed. On the third day of her search, Dora settled on renting one room in a newer apartment building. The windowless room only offered two beds. They needed to share a bathroom at the end of the hall with four other families.

Dora returned to Heidi and the children before lunch. The petite, beautiful woman appeared much older than she was the day before. Tears formed in her eyes as she told Heidi about their new residence. “I found a place for us to sleep. The room is clean, but Spartan. We should be safe living there.”

“I am sure it will be fine, Mrs. Gessler.” Heidi said in a calm voice.

“My dear, Heidi. From now on, please call me Dora. We are partners in this adventure, not employer and employee. Our roles changed overnight, do you not agree?”

“Of course.” Heidi paused. “Dora.”

Dora’s voice went higher as she spoke to the children. “Time to go. Mama found a place for us to sleep. We do not want the landlord to rent our room to someone else. We must hurry.”

David asked, “Why are you crying, Mama?”

“They are happy tears, my darling. Do not worry. They are happy tears.” Dora lied.

Dora drove into the bulging city while people stared at the car. If they drove through the center of town in a red fire truck with sirens blaring, their appearance wouldn’t have caused as much attention as the brand new Rolls did.

Heidi whispered. “I think we need to hide the car.”

“Yes, but let us first get the children settled into the apartment.”

Heidi nodded.

Dora parked behind the apartment building and instructed David and Ruth to grab a bag and follow her. Heidi brought up the rear with the baby and whatever else she could carry. Dora led them to the third floor and put a key in the lock. When the door opened, six year old David cried. “Mama, this is our new house? I want to go home!”

“Now David, don’t be fresh. We must stay here until I can find something better. I need you to be a big little man.”

Ruth stomped her foot. “I want to go home too!”

Dora hugged her daughter and whispered, “Me too, sweetheart. Me too.”

 

A Day at a Time

For those of you who read this blog yesterday, you might have left feeling down. That is not my intention. Most often I write about good times, but to be realistic, no life is always good. There are times of indecision, confusion, frustration, and the list goes on. If I didn’t write about the bad experiences MS gives a spousal care-giving the reader might think their bad times were unique.

What’s so challenging about MS is you never know what kind of day your going to get. Yesterday Ken woke feeling well, but as the morning went on, a crushing wave of fatigue washed over him and his day changed drastically. It happens.

Unless you see this transformation up close and personal, you might not believe it truly happens. You might think I use his bad days to punk out on things I really don’t want to do. Perhaps I use his bad days to take on the martyr mantel. Nope. Far from it. During the bad times, we pull together. He stays safe in his wheelchair, and I do everything I can to keep him comfortable.

So for all you caretakers out there in the universe, deal with the disappointments as best as you can. Surround yourself with other people who can raise you up. Eliminate negativity from your life in all the ways you can imagine. You need to do this step otherwise the bad will get worse. Be good to yourself. Take time for yourself.

Remember a union takes two. Equal parts make a whole. Find peace. Find happiness in small things.Tell caring friends and family the truth. They will help. I know it. And above all else, take one day at a time. The phrase is not a clique; it is a survival tactic.

#####

APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 22

Paris, France – September 1939—The original plan of Marta’s Paris trip required her to return to Germany during the first week in September. The summer sped by entirely too fast. Emma and Marta found themselves in a comfortable routine, and with the approaching autumn months Paris grew even more beautiful. Colors of gold, orange, and red, cast the magical city with a whole new appearance. Returning to Germany proved to be unthinkable, especially for Emma.

As they drank their morning espresso, Emma said, “I need to tell you something, and you will probably be disappointed.”

Her tone commanded Marta’s undivided attention. “What is bothering you so deeply, Emma?”

“I made a decision not to return home. I am staying in Paris, my dear Marta. I secured a job at the city hall, and I plan to make Paris my new home.”

Instead of being distressed, a broad smile crossed Marta’s face. “That is very curious!” This afternoon I wrote to father and told him I am staying in Paris for the next year. I also secured a job. I will be a docent at the Louvre–a job I would do for free! I learned I can take art lessons at no cost because I am an employee now.”

Emma became elated on one hand, but fearful on the other.  “Do you really think your father will allow you to stay? He might goose-step from Berlin to Paris and drag you back to Germany by your hair.” Part of Emma really believed Marta’s father would do such a thing, but imaging it made her laugh.

“Emma, our time in Paris showed me a world I can never leave.” Marta put her hand on Emma’s and searched her eyes. “Let us make a beautiful life together here in Paris. We fit here. People do not stare when we walk together hand in hand. People accept us for who we are. I do not need to hide my desires for you, and I can be true to myself.”

A week ago Emma and Marta grew closer than either of them ever dreamed they would. Their friendship deepened into romantic love for each other. Making a home in Paris together seemed a good choice. After all, if they went home and wanted to live together they might find themselves in prison.

Chapter 23

Lacrosse, September, 1939—Rosalie thought she suffered a terrible bout of flu, but when the nausea, vomiting and overwhelming fatigue lasted more than a week, she made an appointment to see the doctor.

When the doctor announced his diagnosis, Rosalie fainted. She woke to smelling salts which a nurse waved under her nostrils.

The doctor stood above her on the examining table. “Mrs. Armani, Congratulations! You’re pregnant. The baby will be born around March 22 next spring.”

Rosalie left the doctor’s office in a daze.  She wanted Angelo’s babies, but she hoped she wouldn’t get pregnant for at least a year. She just celebrated her eighteenth birthday at the end of August and becoming a wife proved to be harder than she expected.

As the youngest girl in the family, she never did laundry or ironing. At home her responsibilities included setting the table for dinner and keeping her bedroom neat. She never cooked. Her mother taught her how to dust and make her bed, but she never learned how to vacuum. Her older sisters absorbed all of the other household responsibilities. Rosalie still worked in her father’s restaurant during the day, so her true skills included how to hostess in a restaurant.

Angelo proved to be a patient husband and he never complained as Rosalie learned how to be a wife. He realized she tried her best to please him, even though he ate a lot of inedible meals.

Rosalie loved her life with Angelo. While he worked at the factory, she worked at her father’s restaurant. They made dinner together, and after their meal they curled up with each other to listen to the radio. Rosalie loved to end her day in his arms. Saturday they shared household chores and on Sunday they went to church and spent the afternoon at the county park enjoying an ice cream cone before returning home. Now all of their wonderful routine would end because of the doctor’s news. In six short months Rosalie would be forced to share her husband with another person.

Rosalie made herself a cup of tea to absorb the doctor’s news. She laid her hand on her abdomen. “Oh little one, how will I ever be able to be your Mama?” She felt so alone. Her best girlfriends wouldn’t understand her conflicted feelings because both of them seemed to be years away from motherhood.

Rosalie decided to keep the pregnancy a secret until her body would tell the story. But she had to tell Angelo right away.  Perhaps she should make his favorite dinner, and over a bottle of wine, drop the bomb he would soon be a father. But no, she hated wine. Maybe she should tell him in the privacy of their bedroom right before they went to sleep. But no, he usually fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow; telling him then wouldn’t be fair. As she sipped her tea, she daydreamed dozens of scenarios to break the news, but none of them seemed right. She sighed and vowed to think about her dilemma tomorrow.

At four o’clock Angelo’s truck pulled into the driveway. He opened the back door and yelled. “Sweetheart, I’m home.”

Rosalie met him in the kitchen, stared at him. She burst into tears.

Angelo dropped his metal lunch pail on the counter and scooped her into his arms. “What’s wrong, baby?”

She sniffed a couple of times and brushed the tears away. She tried to speak, but words refused to come out. “It’s-it’s-

“What? Come on honey, just tell me. What’s wrong? You can tell me anything.” He held her close.

Rosalie took a deep breath and blurted, “I’m pregnant. Oh Angelo, I’m pregnant.” She sobbed.

The news hit him like someone slapped in the head with a two-by-four. A baby? Holy Cow! He lifted her tearful face and kissed her. “Really? We’re having a baby? When?”

“In March next year.”

“Oh, my sweet Rosie. You just made me the happiest guy on earth. Please don’t be upset. Having a baby so soon is a surprise, but a wonderful one!”

Rosalie smiled through her tears. “But Angelo, I’m not even a good wife yet, how in the world am I going to be a good mother?”

“Your mother is a good mother, so you will be one too.” He kissed her again. “Rosie, you are the most loving girl in the world. Love is all a baby needs. I’m so lucky to be blessed with a child with you.” He rubbed her back to comfort her. “The doctor’s sure?”

“Yes, sweetheart, he’s sure.”

Angelo loosened his embrace and stared at her middle. “How do you know for sure? I don’t see a lump in your belly.”

“Wait two or three more months. I’ll probably get as big as your pickup.”

He laughed with her. “I’m so darn happy; I want to shout the good news to the whole town.” He paused for a moment as he grinned at Rosalie. “Let’s go out and celebrate!”

“Why? I don’t want to celebrate just yet.”

“This is the best news. I’m going to be a papa!  Of course, we’re going out to celebrate.”

“Where should we go?”

“Lombardo’s Restaurante, of course. Your father will feed us for free, and I can’t wait to see your Pa’s face when we tell him he’s going to be a Grandpapa!” Angelo kissed her again and went to the bathroom to wash and shave.

Angelo’s genuine happy reaction couldn’t be demolished even though Rosalie preferred to keep the baby a secret. She needed time to believe she really would be a mother in six months.