Yesterday I talked with my good friend Catherine who moved to Florida about three years ago. Her move was difficult for me because we had lived within an hour’s drive of each other for over twenty years. But the move was necessary, and I accepted the fact I might have lost her being close, but now I had a nice place to visit.
During our long conversation, Catherine asked me whether I thought her world had shrunken. I thought the question was queer, so I asked her why she would think such a thing. She told me another good friend of hers said Catherine was wasting away in the land of boredom.
I was shocked. How could a long-time friend say such a thing? Even if their life styles were different, I couldn’t imagine one friend being so cruel to another. I saw the comment as a lack of respect and knew Catherine was stinging from it.
This friend had just retired and was embarking on a new adventure and retiring in the Virgin Islands, so she probably saw Catherine’s day-to-day life at home as mundane. But even so, I told Catherine such a comment was cruel, and I reminded her never let someone else define her.
For years Catherine and I have followed a similar path. We even worked together on two different jobs. Now we are caretakers for our husbands, but our choice doesn’t by any means make us boring. In fact, we both have embarked on another course in life which is slower and more meaningful than when we battled every day in the nonsense of the corporate world. She’s adjusting to a new place to live and is learning how to navigate different people and surroundings. Believe me, at 65 that’s not easy. I don’t think I could do it.
Her friend, on the other had, never suffered job losses like Catherine and I did, which resulted in having to raid our retirement investments just to stay alive. Her friend never had to care for a sick husband. Her friend never had to reinvent herself, as both of us have done. In my book, her friend is the boring one!
It’s too bad such falling-outs happen, but I have found whenever your life takes a different turn, sometimes even old friends fall off the cart. It’s sad we can’t maintain every friendship we’ve ever cultivated, but that’s truly unrealistic, isn’t it? We bring friends into our lives because we gain something from them at that particular time in life. In turn, we also give them what they need from the relationship. If a friendship works one way –one is always giving and the other doesn’t reciprocate, it’s not a healthy friendship.
Who knows if Catherine and her friend will reunite again. Fences need to be mended if they want to regain what they had in the past. It’s always sad to let a long time friends go, but sometimes it is necessary. The good news is, another person will fill the void–not in the same way, of course–but in a new and exciting way of sharing and caring. It’s the way the world works.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)
Lacrosse, Wisconsin—July 1942—The mail proved to be a lifeline for everyone during the war, even though the government censored correspondence. The stringent rules prohibited writing anything about what factories produced or where goods might be shipped. All enlisted men and their officers needed to keep their whereabouts a secret. No one could write about weather conditions. Even private codes between couples shouldn’t be used because such messages might be some kind of espionage attempt, and censors would take them out. Consequently, most letters became a diary of everyday happenings. Rosalie guessed her news must seem uneventful and unimportant in the world scheme of things, but she wrote to Angelo every afternoon while Gina napped. Angelo wrote about fellas on the ship and tried to follow in his big brother Tony’s footsteps by keeping his stories light and humorous. Only their letters reached across the world and attempted to keep them close. Whenever Rosalie’s mailbox produced a letter from him, she couldn’t get in the house fast enough to read his lines.
My dearest Rosie,
I’m sweating buckets out in the South Pacific, but I imagine you’re doing the same in our little house, too. The daily monotony of life at sea is over. The officers tell us to enjoy the monotony of drilling because when we go ashore we’ll beg for a clean rack and a hot meal.
I think of you and Gina every minute. With all this time to think, I am glad you invited Donna to stay with you. She’s a good egg, and I can relax a little because you’re not alone. I’ll eat crow and admit she is so much more than a “good time girl.” I’m grateful she is helping you with Gina and the other household chores. I laughed out loud when you wrote about Gina calling her “Auntie Doe Doe.”
I dream of you, too, sweetheart, but we both know why I’m here. I love our life together, and in order to keep living with the freedom we enjoy, I must pitch in and do my part.
I’m proud you can handle everything at home, but please ask my parents and Eduardo for help. They need to help as much as you probably need them. Please my darling, do this for me.
Do me one more favor, okay? Would you write to my new friend Bobby? He’s a kid from Wisconsin with no family contact. His father is an SOB and his mother only writes once in a blue moon on the QT. He’s a good kid and deserves better.
By the time you get this letter, I’ll probably be a father again. How I wish I could be with you. My heart breaks when I think of not being able to hold our dear new baby. Oh Rosie, we built such a wonderful life together in such a short time. I promise I will fight hard to come home again to be in your arms again.
I love you sweetheart. Kiss Gina for me. And give Donna a hug, too.
Loving you forever, your Angelo
Rosalie put Angelo’s letter down and sighed. Because there were weeks between sending and receiving letters, her beloved Angelo might be facing an impending battle somewhere in the South Pacific. Rosalie prayed for his safety and vowed she would search the newspapers for any news about his division. She decided to keep a scrapbook about the war in the South Pacific, so she could remain close to him.
Rosalie’s due date came and went, and she felt as big as a whale and as hot as a furnace. She wished she could write to Angelo and tell him he needed to pass out cigars again, but this baby decided he wanted to be close to his mother for a few more days. With Angelo away, she needed to name the baby. She chose to honor the two bravest people in her life. If the baby happened to be a girl her name would be Josie, and if a boy Angelo.
Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August—Two days after she received Angelo’s most recent letter, she received another. Getting two letters so close together surprised Rosalie.
My dearest Rosie,
By the time you get this letter, what I’m telling you will be long over, but I wanted to write and assure you I am well. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to write again, so I’m taking this quiet moment to tell you I love you so much.
I can’t say anything about where I am. But I can tell you soon I’ll be on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. Everybody is a little jumpy, wondering what will be in store for us once we land on the beach. Hopefully, the Japs got wind of our intent to land and will turn tail and run home. (Ha,ha)
I keep a picture of you and Gina close to my heart – right under my dog tags. The thought of getting back to your loving arms and our sweet little daughter keeps me going.
Don’t worry about me, sweetie. I’ll be okay, and I’ll come out of this first encounter just fine. Tell Ma I’m keeping my head down.
Rosie folded the letter and realized Angelo probably experienced his first taste of battle. Reading between the lines she understood he was scared. Fear took a hold of her too. She wiped away one tear rolling down her cheek.
After Rosalie finished her prayer for her husband, Donna blew threw the back door.
“Donna! You’re home so early! What happened?
Donna never hid her feelings. “Yeah.” Her snarl communicated something big. Clearly she got ticked about something. “I’m sorry Rosie, I didn’t mean to take my frustrations out on you.”
“Tell me why you’re so upset. I get the lemonade.”
Donna plopped down on the kitchen chair across the table from where Rosie sat waiting for her explanation. “I quit my job.”
Rosie’s face dropped. She counted on Donna’s rent to make the house payment. “Why? I thought you liked your job.”
“I couldn’t take Bates any more. He is a bastard in the first degree.”
“But Donna, you’re a skillful secretary! What are you going to do now?”
Donna took a long swig of her lemonade and wished for a shot of vodka. “I went over to Autolite and got an assembly job. They’re paying women almost as much as the men!”
Rosalie didn’t understand. “But why would you want a factory job especially after you just got promoted? I thought you liked secretarial work.”
“The work is fine. But it’s HIM. He’s stupid! He’s gross, and I’m done!” Donna took another long sip of her drink. She behaved like she couldn’t quench the fire burning in her. “Everybody is contributing to the war effort except me. Even you, Rosie. You cook around rationing; you tend a victory garden; you write countless letters to your brothers, Josie, Angelo, and his friend Bobby. And what do I do? Nothing. Well, I’m changing that baby. I got on board today. Besides, I’ll make twice as much on an assembly line as I do in the office. The money will really help us.”
“You should think of more than just the money, Donna. Working in a factory is hot and dirty. Are you sure you can take that?”
“The office is hot too, Rosie.” Donna said, took another swig of her lemonade and then continued, “And I won’t need to put up with Bates groping me.
“He grabbed you?”
“Yes. He came around the back of me and grabbed both of my breasts. I turned around and hit him with a right cross. And then he threatened to fire me. I said, ‘I’ll save you the trouble! I quit!’ Then I stormed out of the office slamming the door behind me.”
“I certainly understand why you don’t want to go back there. But the factory? Really? You?”
“Working in the factory is good. I won’t worry about wearing fancy clothes or caring whether my nylon stocking seams are straight.” She plunked a large bag on the table. “All I need to do is wear this.” Donna stood up and pulled out a navy blue pair of baggy coveralls. “Aren’t these all the rage?” Donna laughed through her tears.
“Such a shame your new outfit will hide all your curves, but if you wear that ugly outfit, I got just the thing to complete your ensemble.” Rosalie ran into the bedroom and returned with a red bandanna. She tied the scarf around Donna’s beautiful blond hair. “There. Now you look just like Rosie the Riveter!”
Donna laughed. “You’re so good to me!” She pranced around the kitchen with the bandanna on her head, holding the coveralls full length down her body. “I’m ready for the factory runway, don’t you think?”
“You’ll be a smash!”
The two friends laughed until their sides ached. Donna put down her “uniform” and said, “I’ll only be as ugly as the next girl, but what the hell. All the good-looking men are in the service anyhow, and the worst of the summer is almost over. Bates the Octopus can go to hell. What’s done is done. I start on Monday.”
“Well, then, let’s party!” Rosalie smiled.
“Yeah, I want to get a tan on the beach and get my nails done and . . .” she stopped in mid-sentence. “Well, maybe we won’t go to the beach; you probably don’t own a maternity swimsuit, do you?”
Rosalie said with a straight face, “No I don’t. Godske Tent Company stopped making them due to war production.”
Both girls laughed even harder than before. Laughter got them through whatever came their way.