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.




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.



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