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The First Signs of Fall

This summer (I use that noun loosely) showed up about three weeks ago in our little corner of the world. Since the magical date of June 21st, we’ve had below normal temperatures while the rest of the country has endured hot temps. We had a one stretch of 90 degree temperatures for about five days, and then it was back into the 60’s and 70’s.

I’m not complaining because I enjoy cool temperatures. But the combination of cool temperatures and a backyard which is still in disarray, made this a summer of few at home pleasures. I don’t feel like I’ve had summer at all this year.

After the garage went up, the area around it looked like a disheveled heap. The long grass lays like a bad hair piece, and baby trees have sprung  up like weeds all around the yard. When I decided to hire a landscaper, I hoped we’d have the project done by the first of August. Well, that didn’t happen.The landscaper won’t start our project until the middle of September, so it looks like no “Taj Garage” picnic celebration this year.

The little bit of summer is fading away. Last night we needed to turn the lights on before eight o’clock. Mums have arrived at the garden centers. My planted pots look beautiful like they always do before a frost. Going back to school ads are blasted in the media,  and even Halloween decorations are up in the stores.

All of these signs of Autumn are coming too soon. Why do we have to rush everything? Doesn’t time go too fast as it is!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 6

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-May 1941—After her graduation party, a reunion with Johnny, and her promised weekend with Donna, Josie grew antsy to put her nursing skills to work.  The short break in her busy routine showed her she needed more than baking cookies with her mother and chumming with her friends.

Josie wanted to work at St. Mary’s hospital where she was born, but she learned no open positions for surgical nurses existed. Josie’s disappointment dragged her down; she thought she would step into a position right out of the blocks because of her high honors in college.

When the hospital didn’t provide her employment, she visited every place in town that might need a nurse. Her search uncovered an opening at the Allis Chalmers plant for a company nurse. Josie applied for the position, and two days later, the personnel director called her in for an interview. She dressed in a conservative navy blue shirtwaist dress and to interview with the plant’s doctor. The interview went on for over an hour; a day later she was hired as the night shift nurse.

A boxy plywood structure stuck in the center of the plant served as a medical station in the noisy factory. The office provided a desk and chair as well as several file cabinets. The adjacent examining room included a doctor’s table, a lighted magnifying light, a wash basin, and a cabinet full of basic medical supplies.

Most of the work Josie ended up doing seemed to be paperwork, with a sprinkling of minor plant injuries from time to time. The only good thing about the position centered on generous checks every Friday. But Josie wanted more. Instead of action she labored in boredom. She wondered how Donna Jean could be satisfied sitting behind a desk for eight hours  pounding on a typewriter.

A month after she took the position, a handsome man came into the office with one hand covering his left eye. “I got something in my eye. Can you help me?”

Josie jumped up and ushered him into the examining room. “You didn’t rub your eye, did you?”

He shook his head no.

She sat him in a chair and positioned the magnifier with a light beside him and said, “Just lay back and relax, and let me take a look.”

Josie searched his large dark eyes but didn’t find anything except longer lashes than a man should ever possess. “I can’t see anything, but to be on the safe side, let’s flush your eye.”

“Whatever you say, doc.” He grinned. The man in coveralls moved over a small sink which looked like a drinking fountain.

Josie instructed, “Turn your head and open your eye as wide as you can, and then I’ll spray it with clear water. The water might be a little cold.”

“Squirt away, doc.” He bent over and held his eye open.

After she finished flushing his eye, she handed him a small terry cloth towel. “Here. Dry your face. Is that better?”

“Yes ma’am. Much better.” He smiled and winked at her.

Josie ignored his wink. “I need to do a little paperwork and then you can get back to work.” She went to her desk.

He followed her into the adjoining office.

Josie pulled out an accident report form. “What is your name?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” He winked at her again. “My name is Mario.”

Josie kept her eyes on the keys of the typewriter. “Mario what’s your last name?”

“Venturini.”

“And what do you do in the plant, Mr. Venturini?”

“Mario, please. Mr. Venturini is my father.” He grinned. When he recognized she ignored him, he replied, “I’m a mechanic on the assembly line, ma’am.”

“And who’s your supervisor?”

“Dan James.”

“Okay, Mr. Venturini–I mean Mario–you’re all set. Here’s your pass to return to work.” She handed him a yellow note.

“I didn’t catch your name, nurse.”

“I didn’t throw it.” She smirked.

“Aw, come on. Give a poor injured guy a little pity.” Mario looked at her with puppy dog eyes.

“If you must know, my name is Josephine Schneider.”

He nodded. “Nice to meet you, Nurse Josephine Schneider. You’re a life saver. Can I have your number?”

“Nice to meet you, too, Mario Venturini. Now go!”

Even though he struck out with the new pretty nurse, he grinned and made up his mind he would make a point of seeing this spunky gal again.

“See ya around!” He gave her a little wave and winked one more time as he walked out the door.

Josie shook her head and realized Mario wasn’t used to women turning him down. He was a born charmer. She pretended to be disinterested. “Yeah, sure, Mar-i-o.”

Chapter 7

Paris, June — Marta searched the entire city to find Emma with no luck. How could she vanish into thin air? Marta’s fear mounted every day. She could not be too persistent because her interest in Emma might raise the suspicions of the Gestapo.

After a full day at the Louvre, Marta went home, made herself a cup of hot water, and poured some cream into her steaming cup. Nowadays, coffee disappeared. In fact, the cafe where Emma first found employment when they came to Paris went out of business.  As her thoughts drifted to Emma, Marta allowed herself to cry. She longed for her best friend and lover. She missed Emma’s quick wit and active conversations. Going forward alone was getting too hard.

Marta shifted her thoughts to concentrate on the daily mail. She found a letter from her mother and ripped open the onion skin envelope. She stood as she read her mother’s lines.

 My dear Marta,

 I hope you are well, darling. Your father sends his best to you, too. He softened up a bit since you decided to stay in Paris, but his German pride gets in the way of his own feelings. He truly does miss his little girl.

I need to tell you some sad news. Your friend Leisel Fuchs Reinhart miscarried her baby and died shortly afterward. The details are sketchy, but the newspaper reported her mother found in her bathroom tub. I went to the funeral because you could not. Her mother suffered a terribly at the funeral. Such a thing goes against nature; the young should not die before their parents. But I realize thousands of youngsters die everyday because of this war we are fighting.

My other news is that your father just received new orders; he is being sent to Stalingrad to fight the Soviets. Up until now, I did not feared where the Nazis assigned him, but this mission causes me to worry. Oh, Marta, he is not a young man for this fight. The Soviets are ruthless barbarians, and they will fight to the death. The Fuhrer thinks this campaign will be over in six months, but I fear it will last much longer.

I realize your father and you are not on speaking terms, but for me, pray for him. Ask God to keep him safe as he goes to war against this terrible enemy. I pray everyday he comes home to me. Our love is strong and has lasted a long time.  I cannot think of being without him.

Love, Mutter

Marta put the letter down on the kitchen table. She read it again–this time sitting on one of the kitchen chairs. The news about her father was troubling, but Leisel’s death shook her to her core. She wondered if Franz even cared if she died because of the things he said the night he raped her.  If true justice existed at all, Franz Reinhart should be made to fight the ruthless Soviets under the command of Leisel’s father.

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin, June—The phone rang at the Schneider house around six o’clock in the evening  and Josie answered. “Hello?”

“Oh Josie, I’m so excited!” Donna Jean screamed.

“What’s going on?” Josie asked.

“I got promoted to be the secretary to the President of the Company!”

“Gee, that’s really swell, Donna. I’m so proud of you!”

“The best part of the whole thing is, I’m getting a fifty cent an hour raise! I want to take you and Rosie out for a celebration. Can you get away with me on Saturday night?”

“Sure.”

“Peachy. Do you think Peter would bring you into town? Otherwise, maybe Rosie could pick you up? Afterward, you can sleep at my place.”

“I’ll ask Peter.  He usually buzzes into town on Saturdays. Where are we going?”

“I got tickets to hear Glenn Miller!”

“Really? Wow! He’s the greatest. I love his music.”

Donna exclaimed, “Me too. His music is dreamy.  A trombone never sounded so good.”

“Before the show I want to go out for dinner at the Palace. My treat.”

“Donna, that place is expensive.”

“Don’t you know? I’m rollin’ in the dough now, sweetie!”

“Did you ask Rosalie yet?”

“No, but Angelo never gets in her way. She’ll come.”

“What time?”

“How about seven o’clock? That’ll give us enough time to enjoy a big, fat T-bone steak before we go cut a rug to ol’ Glenn Miller.”

“Meet you at the Palace. Seven o’clock. Saturday night.”

“Swell! Gotta go.”

Josie hung up the phone. Donna’s invitation would be her first big outing since she returned home and she realized she had nothing to wear. Most of her college clothes were worn, and her work clothes were too dowdy. She owed herself a shopping trip and a new haircut to prepare for the big night.

*****

Saturday night came around fast. Josie chose a red shirt-waist dress and a long string of pearls to celebrate Donna’s promotion. She still didn’t walk well in heels, so she bought on a pair of red patent leather flats. She thought if she got asked to dance, at least her feet wouldn’t kill her at the end of the evening.

Rosie and Donna waited for Josie in the lobby of the Palace. A blue-eyed, blond man with an enticing smile showed them to their table. After he seated the girls in the chairs, he handed them over-sized menus to study. Josie scanned the prices.

Donna must have read her mind. “I told you two this is my treat. If I couldn’t afford the dinner, I wouldn’t invite you. Pick whatever you want. I want to celebrate top-shelf and don’t you dare order chicken!”

Rosalie said, “We can’t do that, Donna. This place is so expensive.”

“Hush, little mama. Let me feel like the rich and famous. I never got to send flowers or buy a baby gift when little Gina came along.  And Josie, I want to give you this evening as a graduation present. I figure being together for a fun night out is the best present any of us could get. Right?” Donna smiled.

Rosalie and Josie’s prior experience arguing with Donna usually ended as a no-win proposition, so the two girls said thanks and ordered dinner.

After a divine dinner, the girls drove to the Dance Hall at nine o’clock. The “warm-up band” played old favorites. Donna Jean handed the tickets to a woman at the door who led them to one of the small tables at the edge of the dance floor. The waitress placed cocktail napkins in front of each girl. “There’s a two drink minimum, girls. What can I get you?”

Rosalie ordered a Coke, Josie a glass of red wine, and Donna a whiskey cocktail.

“I wonder who we’ll meet tonight.” Donna said as she removed her white gloves and slipped them into her clutch purse.

“I didn’t think we came here to meet anyone, just to listen to the band.” Rosalie said.

“Well, you never can tell.” Donna winked.

“What is up your sleeve, Donna?” Josie asked as she noted Donna wore a come-hither smile as she stared across the room.

Donna came back with a quick retort. “I’m up to nothing. My dress is sleeveless.”

They all laughed at Donna’s quick come back.

The emcee introduced The Glenn Miller Band and as the famous band leader took the microphone to introduce “In the Mood” he invited everyone to dance. Couples rushed to the floor and whirled around to his signature song.

A handsome man in a dark suit came by their table and asked Donna to dance. She flashed him a warm smile, took his extended hand, and left Josie and Rosalie sitting together. “Well that didn’t take long.” Josie watched Donna foxtrot to the next tune.

A few minutes later, Mario spied Josie from across the room. He swaggered across the dance floor and approached her.

“Well, look who’s here!” He said, “Florence Nightingale!”

Josie looked up from her glass of wine, “Why Mario, who let you in here?”

“I bought a ticket just like you, sweetheart.”  He smiled.

Josie blushed. Rosalie recognized flirting when she saw it and wondered where Josie met the guy. She never spoke about a guy named Mario. He bent over with a sweeping gesture. “Would you do me the honor and dance with me?”

“Well, I don’t know, Mario. My friend will be left alone. That wouldn’t be nice.”

Rosalie piped up, “Go Josie, I’m fine. Go dance!”

With no graceful way of getting out of dancing with him, Josie took Mario’s hand. He held her in a tight dancing frame as he guided her around the room like a professional. She never guessed such a big man would be graceful and light on his feet.

Mario whispered, “My friend James would like to dance with your friend.”

Josie said, “I don’t think so. She’s married.”

“Where’s her husband?”

“At home with the baby.”

“Jesus, god.” He exclaimed. “She doesn’t look old enough to drink!”

“Please don’t say anything.  She already is awkward without Angelo being here.”

“No sweat. But you must promise me another dance to keep my mouth shut.”

Josie smiled. “You’re blackmailing me?”

“Sure. It’s fun to dance with you. I bet you thought I danced like a trained elephant before we got on the floor. Didn’t you?”

Josie blushed. “Well–

“Don’t worry, doll. Everybody underestimates my talents.” He winked and walked Josie back to her table.

Josie sat down beside Rosalie and took a sip of wine while she watched Mario stroll away to the bar.

Rosalie asked, “Who’s that guy? He’s really a doll.”

“Oh, he’s just a guy from work. Nothing special.

Rosalie sighed. “I wish Angelo was here. We haven’t danced since our wedding.”

Josie said. “Mario says his friend would love to dance with you.”

Rosalie hesitated. “No. That wouldn’t be right.”

“Rosie, why not? Angelo wouldn’t mind.”

“I think I’ll just say goodnight to Donna and go home.” Rosalie picked up her dainty evening bag and walked toward Donna where a group of good looking men surrounded her.

“I’m leaving, Donna. Thank you for a wonderful evening.” Rosie waved.

“You’re going so soon? Can’t you at least wait until the set is over?”

“No. My day begins early. We’ll talk soon.”

“Okay, Rosie. Thanks for helping me celebrate.” Donna hugged her.

Rosie walked toward the door and for the first time since she married Angelo, she wished she wasn’t married.

 

 

Knock, Knock, Knock

Many nights I sleep on the sofa. This is becoming more of a normal occurrence because many nights my arthritic hip seems to need a softer surface than our bed can provide. I really don’t mind resting on the sofa because I watch television to fall asleep to the “white noise” of a monotone narrator. I actually chose what I watch with that criteria in mind. But Ken finds the television keeps him awake, so this is the compromise I made on those sleepless nights that come often.

At 1 a.m. – just a short time after I fell asleep, someone pounded on the door. I sat up and shook the cobwebs from my mind. Flashing red and white lights slipped through the vertical blind and I quickly realized Ken must have fallen and pressed his life alert button to get some help. Yes, the fire department was once again on our doorstep. I opened the door to four burly men who had Ken in his wheelchair in a couple of minutes and saved the day once again.

I was so shaken by the situation I’m afraid I was not kind. I think my crabbiness with Ken was due to the fact I had just fallen asleep and now I had to clean him up from a failed trip to the bathroom. I hated myself for yelling at him. It wasn’t fair to him. He didn’t ask for M. S., but then again, neither did I.

In thirty minutes, Ken was clean and safely tucked into the bed, and I was alert and wide awake. I had to start the whole process of getting back to sleep on the sofa. Ernie jumped up into one of the recliners and the house quieted down. After six or so sound hours of slumber, I woke to another thud. I dragged myself up and trudged down to the bathroom to find Ken laying on the floor. Only this time, I was calm and patient.

I’m telling you this as a kind of confession for my bad behavior. I’m also sharing with those of you who might beat yourself up for being cranky with the person you might be taking care of. We all have our limits and last night for me was just too hard. I’m comforted by the fact Ken doesn’t hurt himself when he falls because as he says, he tries to ease into the effects of gravity. Little does he understand watching him struggle to command his body to stand is torture on both sides.

All we can do is roll with the situation. Pray for a better day and enjoy the good times when they present themselves.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 29

Budapest, Hungary–December 1940—Heidi fell into a comfortable space with the Rabbi and his family. The past six months sped by, and Heidi finally got used to the huge number of people who came and went as they made their future plans to save their lives from Nazi tyranny. Heidi was the only gentile ever in the house for any length of time.

David, Ruthie, and Jacob adjusted well. They enjoyed playing with the Weismann children. They stopped asking questions about their parents and called Heidi “mutter” most of the time.

“Heidi, will we ever be with Father again?” David asked one night as she tucked him into bed.

“I hope so, sweetie.” Heidi said.

“But I want to know for sure.”

“I cannot tell you for sure. The world is a very dangerous place right now, and your father does not realize where we  are. He would be happy we are safe.”

“That is why we came to the Rabbi’s house?”

“Yes. We are very lucky Fritz encouraged us to come here.”

“I wonder how Fritz is.”

“Me, too.” Heidi said as she looked away. “But now is the time to sleep, my sweet boy. Do not worry about things you cannot change.  As long as we are together, we will be safe and happy.”

Heidi blew out the candle and descended down the stairs to her room. The Rabbi freed up another room in the house, so Heidi could enjoy some privacy in a room of her own. She stuck her head into the library where the Rabbi always studied after the activity of the house simmered down. “Pardon the intrusion, Rabbi. I just wanted to say goodnight.”

The Rabbi looked up from his book and witnessed a troubled look on Heidi’s young face. “Something is wrong, Heidi?”

“Sometimes life is so difficult-,” she couldn’t finish before she choked on her emotions.

The Rabbi waved her into the room. “What is bothering you, child?”

Heidi took a seat next to him on the sofa. “Sometimes David’s questions are hard to answer. He is such a smart boy.”

“Yes, the smart ones are the challenging ones.” The Rabbi smiled. “Is that all that is troubling you, Heidi?”

Heidi confessed, “I guess I am a little homesick Rabbi.”

The Rabbi looked at her through his rimless glasses. “Of course you are, dear Heidi. You are too young for all the responsibility you assumed. I want you to know I think you are one of the bravest people I ever met. To protect three orphaned Jews at this time in history is amazing. You inspire me everyday.”

Heidi smiled. “I did what God asked me to do, Rabbi. The children need me.”

He raised his index finger. “Yes. But do not forget about yourself as you take care of them. Now, how can I help you?”

“This may sound crazy to you, Rabbi. But I miss the festivities of Christmas. I miss the Christmas tree most of all.”

He stroked his long white beard. “I understand.” He paused. “We will celebrate Hanukkah in another week.”

“Hanukkah? I never celebrated Hanukkah–only Christmas.”

“Let me tell you the old story which has been carried down generation to generation. Hanukkah dates back to more than twenty-one centuries ago when the Syrian-Greeks ruled the Holy Land. These people insisted the people of Israel assimilate into their culture and leave their religion behind. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth and drove the Greeks from the land. They reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of God. When they sought to light the Temple’s menorah, they found only one cruse of olive oil the Greeks didn’t contaminate. Miraculously, that one-day supply of holy oil burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.”

The rabbi studied Heidi’s face as she searched for something in her religion which was similar to the Jewish holy day. “It’s a preparation time? We celebrate Advent to get ready for the birth of Christ. Is that why eight candles are lit on the menorah?”

The Rabbi smiled. “Yes. We light one candle on the first night, two on the second and so on until all eight are lit on the night of Hanukkah. Our daily prayers offer praise and thanksgiving to God for delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of few, and the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”

Heidi nodded.

The Rabbi continued to explain. “And like Advent and your Christmas, we prepare special foods during this time. We eat latkes.” He searched for the right description. “Latkes are potato pancakes and sufganiot, is like a donut. The children will receive dreidels as small gifts and maybe a little gelt too, if they are good children during the past year.”

Heidi’s wrinkled forehead showed her confusion.

As if reading her mind, the Rabbi said, “Dreidels are spinning tops, which are inscribed with Hebrew letters standing for “a great miracle happened there.” We also give Hanukkah gelt, which are gifts of money or small presents to the children.”

“So you give presents like we do?”

“Yes, my child.”

Heidi rose to her feet. “Thank you, Rabbi. I’m sure I will enjoy my first Hanukkah celebration.” She left and quietly shut the study door.

The rabbi whispered. “Pleasant dreams my dear Heidi. May God bless and keep you.”

*****

            Heidi enjoyed her first Hanukkah with the children, the Rabbi, and his family. At the time no strangers shared the house, so the celebration became a family affair.  David received the honor of lighting the last candles of the menorah on Hanukkah night. After the prayers, everyone enjoyed the traditional foods the Rabbi spoke of and the children received the gelt the Rabbi’s wife prepared for them. Joy filled Heidi’s heart as the children enjoyed the holiday. For a short time, their young lives got to enjoy something normal.

The Rabbi said. “Heidi. We hope you will like the special gift Gavriella and I got you.” He rose from the table and went outside.

“I wonder what it is, Heidi.” David said.

“And why would he need to go outside to get it?” Ruthie said.

A cold blast of nighttime air filled the kitchen as the Rabbi returned. He came into the room with a blue spruce fir tree with two wooden planks nailed to its bottom so the tree would stand. Rabbi Weismann said with a grand smile, “Happy Christmas, dear Heidi!”

Heidi gasped. “A Christmas tree! How wonderful. Oh Rabbi, you did this for me?”

“Well, yes of course.”

A tear fell from her left eye. She ran to him and hugged him. “You are so good to me, Rabbi. Thank you.”

“You are very welcome, my dear. Now, I understand we need some decorations to hang on your tree.”

Heidi brushed tears of happiness from her cheeks. “At home, my family always strings popcorn or cranberries to make garland. Mama bakes decorated gingerbread cookies to hang on the tree, too.”

Gavriella said, “Well, we do not possess either one of those, but how would these do?” She handed Heidi a velvet box full of hand-painted antique glass ornaments.

Heidi gasped. “They are exquisite!” She lifted one out of the box. “I never saw such beautiful ornaments.  Where did you ever get them?”

“Some Christian friends who lived with us for a while gave them to me. They intended to immigrate to the United States and needed to leave many of their belongings behind. I accepted their gift, and put them away. I figured God gave them to us for a reason. You are the reason, my dear Heidi!”

Heidi’s joy danced in her eyes. “Thank you! Thank you, both so much. I will never forget this Hanukkah ever!” She hugged both of them.

“Nor will we, dear child. It is your first Hanukkah and our first Christmas!” The Rabbi kissed his wife and smiled at Heidi.

Chapter 30

Lacrosse, Wisconsin–December 1940—Rosalie and Angelo looked forward to their baby girl’s first Christmas. Angelina was too young to understand about Santa Claus, but she pointed and smiled at the Christmas tree, shouting “Pretty, pretty,” when Angelo plugged in the colorful tree lights. Rosalie couldn’t wait until the child opened her first present–a Raggedy Ann doll she sewed for her daughter.

About a week before Christmas, Rosalie helped her mother-in-law decorate the Armani Christmas tree, while Angelo assisted his father to set up the outdoor nativity scene. When Angelo’s father unpacked the statues, Angelo drifted back to his boyhood when his Pa surprised the family with the figures of the holy family he secretly ordered through the Sears’ Catalog.  That first year they put out three statues—the baby Jesus in the manager, St. Joseph, and the Blessed Mother. At night the statues were lit with a bright flood light.  For the next several years, Mr. Armani surprised the family every Christmas with another piece of the nativity scene–an angel, a donkey, a cow, a lamp, a sheep, a shepherd, three wise men, and of course, the Bethlehem star. In later years, Angelo constructed a lean-to stable out of scrap lumber to house the Holy Family. Arranging the nativity set in the front yard with his father was Angelo’s favorite part of their traditional Christmas celebration. He looked forward to the day he could tell little Gina the Christmas story.

Right now, his baby daughter kept her mother on her toes because recently she learned how to crawl. Gina got into everything, learning the world through touching different objects, which most of the time brought the phrase, “No, No!” from an adult. Keeping the child safe from herself proved to be a full time job for the adults around her. Her grandparents never complained about Gina because in their hearts their granddaughter was the most gifted and beautiful baby God ever made.

This year, the Armani and Lombardo families decided to celebrate Christmas Eve together. In the Catholic tradition, everyone fasted until midnight and after mass, they enjoyed a great feast.

Everyone congregated at the church where Angelo and Rosalie got married the year before. Together they made a congregation within a congregation filling up a half dozen pews on the left side of the aisle. The scent of fresh pine wafted through the sanctuary and red, gold, and white ornaments decorated the trees beside the altar.  Flood lights placed on the floor shone a warm light on the trees while a beautiful nativity scene imported from Italy sat to the right of the altar. Gina found everything around her extraordinary and pointed to the decorations, shouting “Pretty, pretty!” Eventually, Rosalie took her out of church.

When the family got home around 1 a.m., everyone brought a hearty appetite to devour a feast which covered two long banquet tables. Mrs. Armani, Mrs. Lombardo, Eduardo, and Angelo’s grandmother worked all week to prepare the food. Shrimp scampi, lobster tails in garlic butter, fried calamari, broiled eel, meat balls, and spaghetti in marina. Large bowls of lettuce, canned tomatoes, banana peppers, and black tossed with homemade Italian dressing filled the largest bowl in the house. Cakes, pies, and dozens of different Italian cookies stood by after dinner for dessert. Rosalie wished Donna Jean and Josie could join them to experience a real Italian Christmas Eve because no words could express the abundance.

Rosalie and Angelo took a sleeping Gina home around 3 a.m. They gently placed the child in her crib and covered her with her favorite blanket. Rosalie smiled as her baby comforted herself by sucking her thumb to go back to sleep. Angelo put his arm around Rosalie and whispered, “I never dreamed I could ever love anyone the way I love the two of you.”

Rosalie smiled up at her husband and cuddled into his chest. Her heart swelled with love for him.

Angelo gently closed the door to Gina’s room and led her mother to their bedroom. The young couple celebrated their first Christmas by making gentle love before they fell to sleep in each other’s arms.

 

 

 

No Friends Like Old Friends

I don’t think I blogged about a big event I helped sponsor in June. My grade school class celebrated our fifty year reunion. Yes, you read that right– it has been 50 years since we graduated eighth grade after being together since first grade. Most of us even went on to high school together.

the class0001

Surprisingly, most of the classmates who attended had come from great distances. We had two from California, one from Arizona, three from Florida, one from Connecticut, one from North Carolina, and a host of others who drove over an hour to get to our location. Four of us “locals” never moved away from home.

 

It was a wonderful time to grow up in a small town, and for those of us who stayed here, we now appreciate the innocence we all had at age thirteen. We were safe from most of the ugliness the larger world had to offer. And yet, we weren’t pampered. Good behavior was expected on all levels of our lives. If anyone got in trouble at school, they would receive a worse punishment at home.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m not exactly sure. I want to share this experience because I think this gathering was unique. I don’t know of any other grade school class who ever got together in such a big way. We all formed strong bonds as children limping through eight years of Catholic education, having to attend mass every day for the duration. And everyone who lived through the reign of Sister Eloise the principle was a strong kid!

By eighth grade we all had our favorite musical group and used to argue which band was better than the other. In 1965 we had a lot of choices — Beatles, Stones, David Clark Five, Beach Boys, Kinks, and the beat goes on. We played on a playground without equipment, except for the supplies we brought from home — chalk for hopscotch boards we drew on the asphalt and ropes we used as jump ropes and double dutch ropes. If somebody brought a ball and bat, we’d divvy up sides and play a hotly contested baseball game.

It was surprising to me that we all got along so well after so much time elapsing and so many changes happening to all of us. It didn’t surprise me that half the women were teachers and the other half nurses — and then there was me, a communication specialist turned author turned caregiver. Married classmates typically had two children. Most everyone attended college, most graduated. Three girls accomplished this feat as adult students — Debby, Debbie, and me.

In fifty years so much has changed. We never dreamed we’d carry a phone in our purses or pockets. Heck, that was science fiction! We never thought we’d have a zillion channels on the television; the three major networks were the only ones to chose from and they only came in when the weather was good. All of our families had little money, but we never thought we were poor.

Maybe we didn’t produce world class scholars, professional athletes, Nobel prize winners or scientists — we’re just a group of educated, well-adjusted, and happy adults–thanks to involved parents and dedicated teachers. Who could ask for more?

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 23

Paris, France – September—Almost a month passed since Marta’s brutal rape: she healed physically as the bruises diminished, but the nightmares persisted. She returned to work appearing like the same girl, but her changes ran deep. She appeared skittish at any small noise. She constantly checked her surroundings, insuring her personal safety. When left alone in the apartment, she double-checked the locks. The only problem still existing proved to be the absence of her period.

Marta began to think perhaps she should have followed Emma’s caution to see a doctor the night of the attack. Could she be pregnant? And if she happened to be in such a state, would she be shunned by her friends? If others ever learned about Franz, would she be seen as a collaborator instead of a victim of rape? After all, any good woman said no to sex out of marriage. But Marta did say “no” again and again.  Her racing thoughts made her crazy. She gave up eating breakfast because of the nausea every morning. By mid-afternoon she would sleep in a broom closet. Marta didn’t want to face the truth and chalked up the symptoms to stress.

Every night after supper, Emma and Marta washed and dried the dishes. The chore always evoked lively conversation before they settled down to listen to the radio.

Marta began the conversation with hesitation. “Emma, I need to talk with you about something important.”

“Yes?” Emma scrubbed a stubborn spot on the soup pot.

“I need to talk about a problem.”

“What?”

“I am ashamed to say.”

“Just tell me.”  Emma glanced up at Marta whose forehead wrinkled with worry. “What is wrong, Cherie? Did you encounter Franz on the streets again?”

“No.” Marta’s eyes fell to the floor. She didn’t want Emma to witness her moist eyes.

“Did you get in trouble at work?”

Nein... I mean, no.”

“Was the soup too thin?”

“No.”

“Well what then? Do not keep me guessing.”

Marta took a deep breath and blurted, “I think I am pregnant.”

Emma dropped the large spoon she held. The loud clunk on the wooden floor made Marta jump.  “Oh no, Marta.”

Marta looked at her feet and picked up the spoon. When she stood, she gazed at Emma.

“How late are you?”

“Two weeks. First I blamed the healing process my body endured; then the stress of it all, but I am never late, Emma. Never-

Emma took Marta in her arms. “That bastard! I wish I owned a pistol.”

Marta dropped into a kitchen chair.

Emma stared at the girl she loved more than her own life as her brain worked to solve this problem. “What do you want to do if your suspicions are right?

Marta appeared like a whipped puppy. “My mother brought me up to be a mother, but how can I be a mother to a monster’s child?”

“You cannot. His seed is satanic.” Emma said. “We will need a doctor to confirm if you are indeed pregnant. If you are, then we will worry. A few ‘working’ girls with whom I am acquainted understand such things. They are very discreet.”

“We might go to the doctor down the street.”

“I do not think he does abortions.” Emma said.

Marta stared at her. Hearing the word abortion brought her situation into focus. She never seriously considered abortion, but hearing the word made her situation real. “I do not think I can go through with an abortion. The baby is blameless; the father is the devil.”

Emma couldn’t believe Marta would consider anything other solution. “I do think you need to consider what might happen if you carry this child to term. What will people think of you? Worse yet, what if Franz finds out you are carrying his child? He might take the child. Plus, we receive so little rations, how will we feed another mouth? Who will care for the baby during the day when we are at work?”

Marta cried. “I do not know! I do not know!” She screamed. “Maybe I should go home to my mother.”

Emma’s softened her voice. “No. No. You cannot return to Germany! Your mother will think this is your fault. Your father will kill you. We will solve this problem together.” Emma hated pressuring her. She engulfed the girl in her arms again. “I am sorry Marta. Whatever you decide, I will stand beside you. I promise.”

A silence hung in the air like wet laundry the entire evening. Marta retreated to her favorite chair, curled into a fetal position and closed her eyes. Why was Franz Reinhart assigned to Paris? Did he request to be here to ruin her happy life?

Somehow she needed to toughen up and take action.

Chapter 24

Minneapolis, Minnesota – October—One day about two weeks in to October, Josie picked up her mail and recognized Donna Jean’s familiar “loopy” scrawl on a business envelope. She smiled and wondered what her wild friend wrote. She ripped open the envelope and looked forward to a juicy tale from back home.

 

October, 1940

Dear Jos,

How do you like this? A typewritten letter from me! I’m using my lunch time to slip a piece of company stationary in my new Smith Corona to tell you I sure miss you. Summer provided long, hot days and I kept thinking about the fun we enjoyed at the old swimming hole. I’m being quite selfish, of course. I understand you want to get through your studies as quickly as possible to join the “real” world as a fully qualified registered nurse.  But I do think, we all need some fun, too.

Things for me are good. Work is going great!  I got promoted to Senior Secretary, and I got an office with a window and a decent boss. Best of all I got an extra twenty-five cents per day! Not exactly a fortune, but I can buy an extra beer per week. (ha,ha)

The pay raise allowed me to afford a bigger apartment in a nicer part of the city. The place is perfect for me–a bedroom, a kitchen (your mom taught me what’s done in there) a living room, and my own bathroom. No more going down the hall and having to share the toilet with grubby men who don’t clean up after themselves!

The place is freshly painted stark white. Thank god for Rosalie. She’s a genius for taking old stuff and making something new. She made some pretty pink bedroom curtains out of some old sheets which matched a “rosebud” quilt we found at the thrift store. Her Mom gave me a gray carpet that used to be in Rosalie’s old bedroom. Now my tootsies no longer need to step on the cold bare wood floor in the mornings.

The real drag is that you’re not here so I can show off my place! So, plan on staying with me at least a couple of nights when you come home at Christmastime. We’ll indulge ourselves with an old-fashioned PJ party and gossip about the latest romances around town, curl each other’s hair, and maybe even get out the Ouija board so we can see what the future holds. Since Mary and Johnny are now engaged, she and I are getting closer. We are both are office working girls, so most days we meet for lunch.

Your whole family is so great to me. Your Mom gave me dishes, pots and pans, along with some cooking lessons. Your dad gave me a kitchen table, a bed and small dresser he refinished.  Your brother Peter helped Danny move all the stuff into the new place, and for a change, things worked out for me. Your folks are so special, Jos. I hope you realize how lucky you are. My own parents still aren’t talking to me.

The only sad news is, Danny’s been drafted. Just my luck. Leave it to him to be chosen in the first peace-time draft in American history. I never got serious about Danny, but I will miss him. He’s grown on me over the months we’ve been dating. But since he got the news he’s leaving soon, he’s gotten so serious. I just hope he doesn’t propose before he leaves. I don’t want to send him off with a broken heart.

Write when you can spare a minute.  Say “Hi” to Anna. All the best for a productive semester.

 Love Always, Donna

Josie smiled as she thought of her vivacious friend. Danny getting drafted. Yow! What a drag! Then she thought of her baby brother, Peter and prayed the government wouldn’t take him too.

 

 

There is Hope

Every summer I enjoy decorating my backyard with annual flowers in pots and a few more perennials in the garden. This year I even spruced up the benches with new cushions. I do my best to make my yard a sanctuary to enjoy the three short months of warm weather in Wisconsin.

New Bench Cushions

This summer I have had a hard time sitting outside because my joy of looking out to my yard is too difficult.

For those who of you who follow me, you’ve probably read the saga about trying to build a new garage. I wrangled with the city over the sewer and water lines that were put on private property way back in 1953. This dispute caused a delay of a month. During that time the builder took another job remodeling a kitchen, which delayed us another week.

But last Monday the crew arrived and now I have a good looking garage without a door because the builder forgot to order the right size when we had to change the garage dimension because of the city’s interference. At least I have a place to park the car and the garage looks good.

And after so many delays, we’re still not done (besides the door). We have a foot deep  trench where they put the electrical wiring from the house to the new garage. See for yourself.

We also have mounds of dirt beside and behind the garage. This mess has taken away my desire to go outside and capture a little zen.

Because I’m not physically able to be pushing dirt around, I hired a landscaper yesterday. I got a couple of quotes, but this man demonstrated he really new his stuff. He explained how the space would be graded for drainage. He saw our window well on the south side of our house was too low. He listened to my desires and showed me how he would make my vision come to fruition. So in another four or five weeks I hope to have my Shangri-La  Too bad it couldn’t happen sooner, but oh well.

To hedge my bets, though, keep good thoughts for me, okay?

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 21

Paris, France—Marta woke screaming twice during the night. Emma embraced her and reassured her in a soft voice. “You are safe, darling. Go back to sleep. Leave the monsters to me.” After Marta realized she rested in her own bedroom, she fell asleep again.

Emma left the apartment as soon as city hall opened. Her boss Pierre sat at his desk, and Emma related the few details of Marta’s attack with tears in her eyes. “I need some time off to nurse her, Pierre. She is like a frightened little bird.”

“Take the time you need, Emma, but understand I need you here, too. You are a most valued employee. My best.” His grave face spoke without words. “When you return, I want to speak with you about something very important.”

Emma nodded and left. She pointed her bicycle in the direction of Marta’s favorite cafe and bought fresh croissants and coffee for the two of them. She hoped the food would help put a spark back into her lover. Emma set her purchase down on the small table in the kitchen before she checked on Marta.

Marta sensed Emma’s presence and opened her one good eye.

Emma smiled. “Good morning, sleepy head.”

Trying to smile caused pain in Marta’s face. She spoke barely above a whisper. “Good morning.”

“I bought your favorite croissants for breakfast.” Emma said softly.

Marta turned toward the wall. “Thank you. No.”

“Marta, you must eat.”

“I want to die.” Marta cried.

“You cannot die. You are too dear to me.” Emma took her hands and kissed them. “You cannot let this animal destroy you. You must fight back.”

“Too late. I am destroyed already.” Marta whispered through her thick lips.

Emma needed to understand what happened.  “Please tell me what happened.”

Marta lied. “I do not remember.”

Emma gently turned Marta to her. “Marta. Sweetheart. Tell me. Talking will help. Who did this to you?”

She said one word. “Franz.”

“Franz Reinhart? He is here? In Paris?” Emma’s surprise sounded in her voice with a pitch higher than usual.

“Yes. For a long time I suspected someone might be watching me. I heeded all your warnings, Emma.” Marta cried. “I never let myself be alone. Brigetta and I always met outside the Louvre to walk to the trolley together, but for some reason she never arrived yesterday.” Marta closed her eyes before continuing. “When I realized a Nazi  SS man was coming toward me, I scurried for the trolley. But–.” Her voice cracked and she wept.

Emma waited for Marta to continue.

Marta cleared her throat choking down the tears. “Franz cornered me before I got to the stop and insisted he buy me a drink. When I told him no thank you, he manhandled me into Le Chateau. He scared the other patrons away with shouting and carrying on; then he forced me to drink wine. Even the bartender ran away. Franz locked the doors, and then he poured wine down my throat and ripped off my blouse.” Marta whimpered.  “He bent me forward over a table and pounded his thing into me. Then he spun me around, and attacked me from the front. He called me a French whore and screamed I wanted it.”

Marta paused and took in a deep breath. “After the two attacks, he fell asleep, I tried to escape out the back door, but he caught me. He threw me onto the floor and raped me again. Before he left, he spat on me.” Sobs shook her body.

Marta’s story proved to be worse than Emma imagined. Her anger flared into an inferno as she pictured Marta’s attacker. She had always disliked Franz Reinhart because she considered him crude, but now she hated him from deep within herself. He brutalized the woman she loved, and he should be punished for his crime.

After Marta calmed herself, she released herself from Emma’s embrace. “How do I heal from this? The pain is so great. Tell me how I will ever wash off his stink. Tell me how I will ever be able to get him out of my head.”

“Sharing the horror with a trusted friend and taking time to heal is all anyone can do in such a situation. But understand this. Your wounds will heal and you will get stronger. The nightmares will stop some day, and I will be with you through all of it.” She continued to speak softly. “Marta, we need to get you to the doctor, and you should also go to the police.”

“No doctor. No police. No one will believe me.”

“But, Marta, be reasonable. I can handle your superficial injuries but what about the internal ones?  Wonder if he made you pregnant? We need to go.”

“No doctors.” Marta turned away. “I couldn’t bear a man touching me again.

Emma didn’t try to convince her of reporting the rape to the police. She realized Marta didn’t want to face anyone right now.

Chapter 22

Minneapolis, Minnesota – August—The summer months proved to be oppressively lonesome for Josie, especially after saying goodbye to Johnny in June. She returned to campus for the summer session, and stayed in the dorm room she shared with Anna for the last two semesters. Without Anna, Josie battled her worst case of homesickness she ever experienced. She suffered emptiness. Most students on campus now needed to make up classes because they failed in previous semesters, while other new students commuted from home.

Josie tried to occupy her waking hours with classes, labs, and research, but she missed Anna’s quick wit and lively conversation. Most nights Josie fell into bed so tired she didn’t dream. But other nights, Johnny’s letters kept her awake. He shipped out two weeks after he returned to Texas. He told everyone he would fly supply missions to help the Brits, when in fact, he got assigned to fly combat missions with the Royal Air Force. His superiors charged him to learn combat formations and attack techniques from British pilots,  so when more American aviators came to Britain, he would be ready to train them, provided he lived through the experience.

After the summer session ended, Josie stayed on campus to save train fare for a trip home at Thanksgiving. Her mother and Donna Jean wanted her to come home for the two weeks in between semesters, but Josie told them she wanted to use the time to get a jump on the classes she would take next semester.

When Anna came back to school a week before classes started, she cured Josie’s loneliness. The two girls fell into step like no time had elapsed. Their reunion helped both of them put the long summer behind them. They enjoyed swimming in the school pool during the afternoons. They frequented a nearby malt shop most every night as the jukebox kept the place jumping. They sipped their Cokes and tapped their feet to the beat of the big bands when they chose to sit and visit instead of dancing.

Anna and Josie enjoyed sleeping late during their “free week,” after they chatted well into the wee hours of the morning. They giggled and forgot about the hard work both of them did over the summer. Anna received her scholarship renewal, and all the blisters on her feet from serving A & W Root beer on roller skates finally healed.

Classes began again the day after Labor Day. The trees on campus started to turn fall colors, and the days grew shorter. The girls took the new changes in stride and fell into an easy routine.  Debilitating homesickness never set in like it had last year. Now letters from home seemed to be enough to keep them connected with family and friends. They both looked forward to a productive happy new year.

 

 

 

Some Times Ordinary is Extraordinary

The sun is shining, the oppressive humidity turned to rain, and voila — I have a perfect day to go grocery shopping. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? Just an ordinary chore I do each week. The forecasters warn the weather will resume its “Miami-ness” on Thursday, so seeing I’m a frozen tundra kind of girl, I must get out there and do my duty.

Have you ever thought of how much of our lives we spend just doing ordinary chores? When I was a stay-at-home mom, my entire day was filled with them. Once in a while I’d take a day and do something fun away from home, but I usually had two little girls in tow.

When they went to school and I decided to go to college, the ordinary became anything but. As a full-time student with a part-time job, the ordinary chores had to be distributed among family members — and believe me, everybody got mad at me for that!

After graduation, a divorce, and now a full-time job, the ordinary chores I did for my family for over twenty years fell on the shoulders of my “ex” and my daughters. After all, I was exiled by them and little did they realize how much ordinary stuff I really did. Now I only would do these things for me.

The only time we even think about these normal ordinary chores is when we can’t do them. Ken used to always do the laundry and cut the grass. He still putters at the laundry, but often becomes too tired before he’s finished. I pick up whatever he has left and add a couple of loads to my usual cooking, vacuuming, and cat litter duty. And of course, the grass cutting chore has fallen onto my ordinary plate.

I’ll never win the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” by any means because I really hate housework. I dream someday my novels will propel me into the arena where I might get some help in that department. I love a clean house, but I have no propensity or desire to work at it everyday. And that’s okay. I have to save some time open for extraordinary stuff. Like writing. Like painting. Like going out to lunch with girlfriends. Yeah. Those things are much more fun.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 16

Flushing Meadows, New York – June—Donna Jean and Danny left Lacrosse on a train just after sunrise on the first Saturday in June. They looked forward to what they would experience at the New York World’s Fair. Donna had never traveled on a train before, and she marveled at the experience like a little girl. She gave her ticket to the conductor and then settled back into her seat.

Donna’s parents stayed furious with her from the time she told them of her intentions to enjoy the fair with Danny until the day he picked her up to get to the train station.

Her father yelled out the window as she put her suitcase in the trunk. “Don’t come back here! I’ll have no whore living under my roof.”

Donna shouted back. “Why don’t you sober up for a minute and think like a normal human being!”

Danny slipped behind the wheel as Donna got in the passenger’s seat; he glanced at her and witnessed she was fighting tears. “Don’t worry, babe.  He’ll cool off after the booze leaves his system.”

Donna tried to smile. “The booze never leaves his system. Let’s get out of here and enjoy our trip.”

“Anything you say, sweetheart.”

“My old man is hateful. This display is only a warm up for some of the stuff he pulls. Can we please leave?”

Sure thing, sweetheart.” Danny pulled his old Packard away from the curb. “Let’s paint the town red.”

Donna stared ahead. She wiped a tear away with an embroidered handkerchief and promised she wouldn’t let her drunken father spoil this trip like he had so many other times.

*****

Once settled in their berth, Donna took a fat book out of her bag and started reading. Her father’s words still stung and she wanted to escape to another time. Since seeing the movie “Gone with the Wind” she always wanted to read the book but she never seemed to find the time. As she turned the pages, she transported herself to a southern plantation where life was luxurious for a feisty southern girl named Scarlet O’Hara.

Danny rested his head on her shoulder and tried to sleep as she read, but his tall six foot frame didn’t fit well in the seat. Every few minutes he fidgeted to get comfortable. Donna smacked him with the book. “Will you please sit still? I’m trying to read here.”

“Ow! That hurt!” Danny sat up straight.

After thirty minutes of silence between them, he made a couple attempts at conversation. Donna ignored him.

He complained. “Are you going to read that damn book all the way to New York?”

“Yeah. That’s why I brought such a fat book.” She gave him a smirk.

“Am I that boring?” He said.

“You really don’t want me to answer that, do you?” she teased.

“Come on, Donna. Be nice to me. Let’s talk.” He pleaded.

She slammed the cover shut. “Okay Jabberjaws. What do you want to talk about?”

“I don’t care. Just stuff.”

“Stuff, huh. What stuff?”

“Tell me what’s going on with Rosalie and Angelo. How’s the baby?”

“The baby is a little girl named Angelina. She sleeps, eats, poops and sleeps some more. She is cute like all Italian baby girls. Anything else?”

“Why are you being so mean?  What’s buggin’ you?”

“Beside that fiasco with my father? Well, when I want to read I want to read. It’s simple.”

“I just wondered how Rosalie and Angelo are doing. Since they got married, I don’t get to see him very much.”

“The baby’s birth turned out to be really rough for Rosie, and it is taking her a long time to want company.  She looked awful in the hospital, and I only saw the little rose bud for a couple of seconds through the nursery window. When I called Rosie after she got home, she said they had the baby’s ears pierced. There that’s all I know.”

“No kidding? That seems mean.”

“Rosalie said the babies don’t feel a thing.”

“I wonder how Angelo is handling being a Daddy. I can’t imagine being a dad at nineteen.”

“Parenthood is not for me, either.” Donna Jean said.

“Ever?” Danny’s face showed his surprise. He loved Donna and wanted to build a family with her. He didn’t ask her to marry him yet because Donna often talked about having a singing career. Danny thought her desire was a teenage pipe dream.

“The whole scene just doesn’t interest me. I want a life of my own before I get tied down. My dream is to sing. I want to perform.”

“I’d be your biggest fan.” Danny kissed her cheek. “I want a family some day.” He continued in a low voice. “Just not now. I’m having too much fun with you.” He reached over and put his hand on her thigh.”

She pushed his hand away. “Watch the hands, buddy.”

*****

The train trip took about twenty hours, and both Donna and Danny left Penn Station exhausted as they lugged their suitcases to a bus which would drop them at the hotel. “At least we’re on the last leg of the journey.” He tried to sound cheery.

Donna smirked. “You always look on the bright side; I’ll give you that.”

“Come on crabby. We’ll get to the hotel in a couple of minutes if you put a wiggle on.”

They chose a new Holiday Inn for their stay in New York. The front door opened to a lobby with a long mahogany registration desk. To the left four leather chairs sat around a round oak table covered with magazines. Donna grabbed a brochure sitting on the desk which pictured the hotel’s amenities–a typical double room, the indoor pool, and a dining room. Danny and Donna’s room turned out to be on the fourth floor, and the only elevator was out of order.

Danny trekked up four flights of stairs carrying all of the luggage, He waited for Donna who trailed behind him to open the door. “Come on, sweetie, these bags are heavy!”

“Keep your pants on, sweet cheeks.” She slipped the key into the lock and the door clicked open. Danny dumped the bags in the corner and flopped onto the bed. Donna dropped down beside him, and both fell asleep in a few minutes.

When she woke, Donna turned on the light on the night table to glance at the clock. Midnight. She looked at Danny who lay on his back with his mouth wide open. He snored as loud as a steam engine, and she shook him awake.

He sat up abruptly. “What?”

“Cut it out!” She said.

“Huh?” He said drowsily.

“You’re snoring. Stop.”

“Is that all?” He fell back on his pillow and flipped on his side.

She snuggled next to him and went back to sleep too.

*****

Donna woke at eight o’clock and patted the space beside her. Danny was gone. She heard water running and realized Danny was in the shower. She threw the blanket and sheet back and crawled out of bed. She looked in the mirror and made a face. She appeared a mess–hair ratted and knotted, make-up smudged, and old mascara providing her with two black eyes. Her dry mouth made her yearn for water and a date with her toothbrush.  She needed a complete overhaul.

Donna knocked on the bathroom door, “Hey good-looking, you just about done? I gotta pee!”

A towel clad Danny opened the door. “Sure-wooo, look at you!”

“Shut-up!” She rushed past him and waved him away.

He laughed and let her take over the bathroom.

The toilet flushed and then the shower started. He hoped Donna wouldn’t be too long because his hunger made the wax fruit sitting in a bowl on the dresser look good enough to eat.  In a few minutes, Donna screamed. Danny jumped up and rushed into the bathroom.

“What’s the matter?” He said.

With the shower curtain wrapped around her she screamed. “You jerk! You used all the hot water!”

“Sorry.” He backed out of the bathroom. “Really, babe, I’m sorry.”

“Get out!” She screamed at him.

“Jeez, I said sorry.” Danny chuckled under his breath, grabbed his clothes, and dressed for the day.

*****

Donna emerged from the bathroom at ten o’clock. Danny never understood why women took so long to get ready, but when Donna emerged from the bathroom looking like a model straight out of “Vogue,” he got it. She wore a soft pale peach dress and hat to match. She pulled her blond hair into an “up do,” and her perfect make-up used a soft peach blush on her cheeks to match her outfit. Danny thought he never saw such a pretty girl.

“There’s my beautiful doll!” Danny said.

“I’m not your doll.” She pouted. “I’m not anybody’s doll!”

Donna bruised his feelings. After dating for almost two years, Danny believed Donna to be his girl, but her behavior lately told him otherwise. “I’ll tell you what. Tomorrow, you can shower first, and I’ll take the cold one. We’ll be even then.” He kissed her on the cheek.

She smiled. “Okay.” She never stayed mad at him for too long.

“Let’s get something to eat. I’m starving.”

Chapter 17

Flushing Meadows, New York-June, 1940—Donna and Danny arrived at the fairgrounds at noon having to change buses twice before stopping at the front entrance of the World’s Fair. The theme of “The World of Tomorrow” presented an idyllic picture of the future.  Donna prepared for their trip by reading magazines and newspapers ahead of time to plan an itinerary of which exhibits they would visit on which day.

Excitement swelled in Donna as she spied a glimpse of the white orb and tower in the center of the fairgrounds. They bought tickets and entered the fair grounds gawking. A huge white globe called the “Perisphere” could be seen from a long outdoor escalator which brought them into the park. The Perisphere covered a whole city block, and once inside visitors could see a model of a future city. Pleasant, quiet, one-family homes surrounded a large centralized city. The planned city provided painted a picture of easy living. After Donna and Danny took in the sights of the future, they exited on a broad sweeping ramp called the “Helicline.”

“Wow! What a gas!” Donna said to a smiling Danny.

Danny said. “I’m so glad you talked me into this trip. Can you imagine living in a city like that?” He laughed. “We’re not in Kansas any more, Dorothy!”

She playfully slapped his chest. “What is your first clue, Toto?”

Donna wanted to experience everything, especially a new invention called “television.” Almost a year ago, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the opening day speech talking about the virtues of America’s ingenuity, but few saw the broadcast because nobody possessed a television; Donna wished she could buy a TRK-12  after seeing one, but its price was in the stratosphere.

Beside the Perisphere, a seven hundred foot, three-sided tower called the “Trylon” shot up into the sky. Donna stared up at the icon. “Wow, Danny! I can’t see the top of that tower. Can you imagine a city so big where all the buildings are so tall?”

Danny looked up at the Trylon with Donna. “No, sweetheart. I can’t imagine a place like that. Let’s see what else the fair offers.” He took her hand and led her to a serious of buildings constructed by the biggest U. S. companies.

The National Cash Register presented a building that resembled a cash register. A giant igloo served as the Carrier Air Conditioning building. The Glass Incorporated Pavilion taught them about the history of glass making with models encased in glass bubbles. In every direction the fair exhibited unbelievable things. Donna loved the walk-through waterfall by the Electric Utilities. Danny’s favorite exhibit was the huge bronze-colored smoking robot that talked and turned. As they walked through a new Douglas DC-3 airplane, Donna dreamed someday this big silver bird would take her away from Lacrosse and her father.

After a light supper of hot dogs and Coca Cola, Donna and Danny held hands as they stood in line for two hours to enter the General Motors Pavilion and get on a ride called the “Futurama.” Once inside, the ushers strapped them into chairs which moved like cable cars over an exhibit below.

A narrator began the presentation in a deep radio-type voice. “Ladies and gentlemen. I give you the future.”

The lights dimmed and a futuristic model of an ideal United States came alive. Donna said with excitement in her voice, “This must be how a person feels in an airplane, huh?” Magically they flew from coast to coast over cities of the future. Cars motored on spacious roads and pedestrians walked on elevated walkways.

Donna said, “So this is what 1960 will look like. I hope I’ll still be alive then.”

Danny looked at her curiously. “Where do you think you’ll be in twenty years?”

“I have no idea. When I get home, my father will probably kill me. ” A tinge of nervousness filter through her laughter. She pointed below to a red sports car. “But before I go I want a car like that one!

Chapter 18

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-June—After Danny brought Donna home from their trip, Donna Jean waved to him as he drove away. She tried her key at the backdoor and it didn’t fit and mumbled under her breath. “Oh, come on. Really? They changed the locks?” She banged on the door. “Oh, come on! Let me in.”

Her father yelled, “I warned you not to go off with that boy. Your clothes are in the garage. Take them and get the hell away from here. No whore will live under this roof.”

Donna yelled back. “Mom, open the door.”

“I can’t Donna. You made your sinful bed. Now lay in it.” Donna realized her mother wimped out again to protect her own hide. She wouldn’t challenge her husband because she refused to take a beating over Donna’s foolishness. Donna’s mother suffered a fist to her face way too often. The beatings usually came after a night of drinking, and today he began the day with whiskey instead of coffee.

“You’re damned to hell, Miss Donna Jean. Damned to hell. Now GIT!”  Donna stood in shock. She never expected her father would make good on his promise to kick her out of the house. She left her suitcase in the driveway and walked to Joe’s Diner to use the payphone.

“Hi, Jos. What’s new?” Josie immediately guessed something serious happened. Donna’s voice produced a tone of forced frivolity.

“I’m putting the finishing touches on my paper for English class. What’s up with you?”

Donna dodged the question. “I know you don’t like to write.”

“Yeah, but this too shall pass.” Josie laughed. “This is really a surprise call. Is something wrong, Donna?”

Donna cleared her throat to stifle her tears. “I’m kind of in a jam, Jos.”

Josie thought, again, but said softly, “What happened?”

“Danny and I took a wonderful vacation together to the World’s Fair.”

“And. . .

“Well, my parents locked me out because my father says he won’t allow a whore to live under his roof.” She mocked her father’s voice. “Jos, I can’t think. Tell me what to do.”

“Oh boy. You are in a jam.”

Donna cried. “I’ll think of something. I guess. I just needed to talk to a friend. That’s all really.”

Some of Donna’s choices bordered on poor, but she was a good person deep down. Nobody would find a more generous, helpful and fun friend. Josie loved her. She realized Donna’s wild rebellious streak usually got her in trouble. Going on vacation with her boyfriend turned out to be one of those times. Donna didn’t commit a crime. If anybody committed a crime her father did. Everybody in town understood he was a hopeless drunk.

“Call my Mom, Donna. I’m sure she’ll let you stay in my room until you can find a place.”

“That’s an awful big imposition.”

“Stop being ridiculous. My mother loves you. I’m sure she’ll help. Call her.”

“What should I say?”

“Tell her the truth.”

“Yeah, but she’ll probably think I’m a whore like my parents.”

“Donna Jean! My mother doesn’t judge. She’s loved you since you turned ten. She understands your spirited soul, and she would never turn you away.”

“All right.” Donna sniffled. “If you think she’ll understand, then I’ll call.”

Donna’s sniffles upset Josie. “Oh, sweetie. Don’t cry. Things will work out.”

“I hope you’re right.”  Donna said through her tears. “I sure got lucky when I got you for a friend. Thanks, Josie.” Donna hung up and dialed the Schneider’s number.

 

 

 

Back to Normal, Now It’s Catch Up Time

The nasty virus which attacked me on Friday has taken a step back. Thank goodness! I’m not up to full power, but 85% is pretty good, but I might need a nap on this ridiculous dark, dreary day.

Ken did his best to take care of me by fetching water and pills which might help. He scrounged his meals from leftovers he could microwave. But what is left in his wake are piles of messes. He can’t help it for two reasons — one he’s not able to keep things neat and clean because his disability doesn’t allow too much leeway, and two, he’s a man who doesn’t think of such things.

So today, the post is short again. After all there’s dishes and laundry to do.

But at least I can give all of you the next few chapters. I still haven’t heard if anybody is enjoying or hating them, so I’ll just stick to my original plan and keep publishing the chapters every day until we finish the story.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 3 (Continued)

Chapter 14 

Paris – June—Marta and Emma always listened to their radio after dinner. In between a comedy and a selection by France’s Royal Symphony, they listened intently to a broadcast by a French tank general named Charles de Gaulle.

“The leaders who, for many years, led the French armies formed a new government. This government, alleging the defeat of our armies, made contact with the enemy in order to stop the fighting. It is true; we got overwhelmed by the mechanical, ground, and air forces of the enemy. Infinitely more than their number, it is the tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans which are causing us to retreat. The tanks, the airplanes, and the tactics of the Germans surprised our leaders to the point of bringing them to where they are today.

“But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final? No!  Believe me, I who am speaking to you with full knowledge of the facts, and who tell you that nothing is lost for France. The same means that overcame us can bring us victory one day. For France is not alone!

De Gaulle repeated the line: “La France n’est pas seule!”

“She is not alone! She is not alone! She has a vast Empire behind her. She can align with the British Empire that holds the sea and continues the fight. France can, like England, use without limit the immense industry of the United States.

“This war is not limited to the unfortunate territory of our country. This war is not over as a result of the Battle of France. This war is a worldwide war. All the mistakes, all the delays, all the suffering, do not alter the fact that there are, in the world, all the means necessary to crush our enemies one day. Vanquished today by mechanical force, in the future we will be able to overcome by a superior mechanical force. The fate of the world depends on it.

“I, General de Gaulle, currently in London, invite the officers and the French soldiers who are located in British territory or who might end up here, with their weapons or without their weapons. I invite the engineers and the specialized workers of the armament industries who are located in British territory or who might end up here, to put themselves in contact with me.

“Whatever happens, the flame of the French resistance must not be extinguished; and it will not be extinguished. Tomorrow, as today, I will speak on the radio from London.”

The unknown French General’s appeal moved Marta and Emma to tears as he called upon the French people to rise up and resist the Germans. Since coming to Paris two years ago, the girls now thought of themselves as French citizens, so this message made a strong impression on them.

The first order of business of the Vichy puppet government decreed a death sentence for Charles de Gaulle.

Chapter 15

Budapest, Hungary – June—After dinner, Heidi packed the children into the car for what she hoped would be one last time. Baby Jacob, who she now called Jake, fell asleep immediately once the car rolled down the unfamiliar road.

David sat in the front seat with Heidi. “Mutter, where are we going?”

“In all honesty, David,” Heidi said, “I do not know. Fritz gave me the name and address of a person we must contact. I trust Fritz. He is a good man.”

“Ya, Fritiz ist ein guter mann.” David said in perfect German, and he then added, “Do you think Fritz is okay?”

“I pray he is.”

“Me too.” He paused. “Heidi, why do people hate us so much? Why do we need to run away?”

David surprised Heidi with his mature question. “Sometimes people are just so full of hatred they become stupid. Remember hate is very dangerous.”

“Oh.” David seemed satisfied with Heidi’s answer.

Heidi breathed a sigh of relief when David didn’t ask further questions. Sometimes his grown-up questions proved to be too tough to answer.

After stopping a couple of times for directions, Heidi found the address on the note Fritz had given her so many weeks ago. The unpainted wooden structure sat in the heart of downtown Budapest. Heidi turned off the car engine and instructed the children to wait while she went up to the front door and rang the bell.

A man with a long white beard came to the door. He wore the traditional dress of a rabbi with a black kippah resting on his bald head. “May I help you, miss?”

Heidi cleared her throat. “A friend of mine in Lviv gave me your address. He said we would be safe with you.” She handed him Fritz’s letter of introduction.

The man read the note; then he looked at the car parked at the street with three small blond children. “Please, pull your car around to the back of the house, and we will talk.”

“Thank you.” Heidi said.

Once Heidi got her brood into the safety of the house, the man welcomed the family. “I am Rabbi Weismann. Welcome to my home. This is my wife, Gavriella, and my children-Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, and Hannah.”

Heidi replied, “I am Heidi Schiller from Berlin. I am the nanny for the Gessler children. They are from Warsaw. When Mrs. Gessler died in Lviv, and all of the Jews got sent to Siberia, Fritz told me to come here.”

The Rabbi’s eyes widened with surprise. “These are Jewish children?”

“Yes, Rabbi. Their last name is Gessler. I dyed their hair blond so no questions would be asked if we encountered trouble at the checkpoints. I wanted the Germans or Russians to think they belonged to me. I even taught them a few Catholic prayers and some basic German.”

“You are a very brave girl to come alone this far alone.” He said in amazement.

“I begged Fritz to come with us, but he thought he would put us in danger if he made the trip. I pray he is all right.”

“Where did he go?”

“When he wouldn’t pledge allegiance to the U. S. S. R., the Russians sent him to a place called Siberia.”

The rabbi’s face fell. “I understand.”

Gavriella asked, “You must all be hungry. Come, let us share some bread.”

Heidi smiled. “Thank you, but we just ate.”

The rabbi studied the young girl and the three children. Even with the blond hair, the Rabbi noted Jewish features in the children. Why should she take on such a burden if her story is not true?

The rabbi nodded to his wife. “Gavriella, would you please make a room ready for our newest guests? They appear very weary from their long journey.”

Gavriella nodded in agreement. Her husband thought he bore the responsibility to help Jews escape Nazi tyranny. Many strangers from other parts of Europe came to him for help, but these three children and their young nanny made an exceptional case. “I will prepare the room in the attic.”

The Rabbi smiled. “Thank you, my dear.”

Gavriella said. “Come with me, Miss Heidi and children. I will show you to your room.” The rabbi went ahead of them to pull down a hidden staircase from the ceiling.  He lit a candle and began to climb the stairs. Gavriella followed and motioned for Heidi to follow.

David pulled on Heidi’s skirt. “Mutter, is this the wizard we are looking to find?”

Heidi’s face turned red. “Shhh, David. We will talk later.” She nudged David to climb the stairs.

Ruthie sucked her thumb and refused to move.

“Ruthie, what is the matter with you?” The fatigue of holding a sleeping Jacob strained Heidi’s arms, and her patience waned. She didn’t want to deal with a tantrum from Ruthie.

Mutter I am scared. Monsters are up there.” She cried.

“David and I will keep you safe. I am sure the nice rabbi would not give us a room with monsters.”

The rabbi overheard Ruthie’s complaint and came to Heidi’s aid. “Ruthie, we save this special room for our most honored guests. I scared all the monsters away before you go here. Come. See the toys upstairs. Perhaps you will find one you like.” The rabbi offered his hand to the little girl.

Ruthie put her hand into the rabbi’s palm. Her short little legs strained to propel herself up the steep ladder while the rabbi followed her. Gavriella lit candles in the sconces on the outside walls of the large room; the attic revealed itself to be a beautiful dormitory. The spacious room offered several beds and a toy chest at the far end. “We can really stay here?” Ruthie asked in her four year old squeaky voice with her eyes wide open. “I can sleep in a bed by myself?”

“Yes of course.” The rabbi smiled as he led her to the toy box.

Heidi’s eyes widened with surprise. The white plastered walls made the attic appear cavernous. Colorful floral curtains covered the one large window in the room.  Paintings of country scenery decorated the wooden walls. on every wall. A wooden rocking chair stood beside a handmade crib. Heidi laid Jacob in the crib and covered him with a colorful handmade quilt. When she turned around, she realized beautiful quilts covered all of the beds.

Heidi glanced at Gavriella. “Did you sew these wonderful quilts?”

The short, stocky woman blushed. “Yes.”

The rabbi interjected. “Gavriella does many things to make our guests comfortable. I would never be able to help so many without her special help.” He and Gavriella shared a special look only couples understand.

“How do I thank you for opening your home to us?” Heidi smiled.

The rabbi put his arm around his wife’s shoulder and held her close. “We both hope you will be happy and safe here, You are very brave, Miss Heidi. If you need extra blankets, tell Gavriella. The night can get chilly -even in June.”

All at once the emotion of the past few days flooded into Heidi’s eyes. “God brought us here, Rabbi. We may practice different religions, but we share the same loving God.”

“You are right, my dear. All of the prophets say to love one another. I too believe He sent you here.” He smiled. “Sleep well, children. Tomorrow we will eat a nice breakfast.” He climbed down the ladder.

Gavriella stayed to help Heidi get the sleepy children into their bed clothes and tuck them in. Heidi kissed them all and hugged Gavriella.

“Goodnight, everyone. Sweet dreams.” Gavriella waved as she descended the ladder.

The soft candlelight in the large room put Heidi at peace. Her weariness allowed her to let go of any fears of what might come next. She extinguished the candles in the sconces with a soft breath and undressed by the light of a single candle beside her bed. She lay down on the soft straw mattress and studied the reflection of the flame dancing on the white ceiling. Gavriella’s warm quilt wrapped her in the warmth of a mother’s love. Heidi slipped into the twilight of sleep and her tension floated away; she blew out the last candle and quietly said her prayers. “Dear God, Thank you for bringing us here safely. Bless Fritz. Without his friendship with the Rabbi, I never would be here.  Thank you for introducing me to Rabbi Weismann and Gavriella. They are most kind. Amen.”

 

 

I’m Not Running Just Trotting

Since I parked the car in the garage on Friday afternoon — yes, Kevin was true to his word — I’ve been existing on the living room sofa with trips down the hall to the bathroom. Somewhere I picked up a virus, flu, or just basic yuck that has left me feeling weak and miserable. Headache, body aches, fever, and digestive problems laid me low. I haven’t been this sick since I had a ruptured appendix.

I haven’t left you hanging like I did a year ago, but I haven’t anything to say right now. So, I will instead, post the new few chapters to Apple Pie and Strudel Girls.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 11

Traveling from Lviv, Ukraine to Budapest—April 1940—Heidi realized she prepared the children as much as possible for the long journey to Budapest. Heidi never drove a car before because of the excellent public transportation in Berlin. In fact, she never sat behind the wheel of a car. Her only driving instruction was watching Dora push the clutch in, shift the gears, and press on the gas pedal. Heidi remembered she repeated this procedure three times before she reached a good speed.

Dora made operating the car look easy, but Heidi quickly realized keeping the car moving without killing the engine or grinding the gears proved to be more difficult than she ever imagined. Before they actually left Lviv, Heidi practiced on back roads with the children giggling in the backseat as the car jerked and hopped like a rabbit or groaned as she killed the engine. The children also learned when Heidi mumbled bad words, they shouldn’t laugh at all.

After the first fifty miles on the road to Budapest, Heidi shifted and clutched the car like a professional driver, and as they drove along, she kept the children entertained by teaching them German folk songs.

She feared she might run out of gasoline, but she told herself God would provide. Just to be safe-in case God might be busy–she filled several gas cans holding three liters a piece and put them in the trunk before she left Lviv.

The exhausting journey required Heidi to drive and read the map at the same time. She longed for adult conversation as she listened to the high-pitched voices of her young passengers. She chastised herself for not convincing Fritz to come with her, no matter what the danger.

The first checkpoint took place at the Ukraine-Slovakia border; she took a deep breath when a handsome Russian officer approached the car. She smiled at him. “Good evening, officer.” She spoke in German.

He spoke perfect German flavored with a heavy Russian accent. “Good evening, frauline. Papers please.”

Heidi handed him their documentation and remained silent as he looked over the papers.

“You are from Budapest? You sound like a Berliner.”

Ja. I am. I attended a funeral of a relative up north and am going back to my home in Budapest. My husband is waiting for me.”

“Why are you out so late with three little children?”

“I hoped to get back earlier, but finding petrol is hard these days.”

His brow furrowed as he turned and entered the guard station. Heidi held her breath. She wondered why the officer returned to the small building. What a tragedy it would be if she failed to gain entrance to Hungary.

The guard handed Heidi a small note.  “You can get petrol here, if you should need more to get home. Just tell the attendant Alexander at the border sent you.”

“You are very kind. Dunke.” Heidi flashed him a warm smile.

He stepped aside and waved her through the gate. She put the car in gear and her sweaty hand slipped on the shift lever as she pulled away from the guard shack. “Thank you children. You behaved perfectly. I am so very proud of you.”

A few miles after their encounter with the guard, David said, “You are a very good liar, frauline.”

Heidi laughed. “Ja Sohn, du hast recht.” (Yes, son; you are right.)

David laughed too. “Mutter Ich liebe dichand.”

“I love you too, David.” Heidi turned and gave him a quick smile.

*****

Heidi drove west another two hours before arriving in the city of Budapest. She searched for a store to buy some bread and cheese because they all needed to eat. She fixed sandwiches and washed the food down with a bit of milk. She thanked God in a silent prayer for bringing them through to Budapest without incident. Now the last step of the journey lay ahead–finding the address of Fritz’s friend.

Chapter 12

Minneapolis, Minnesota – May, 1940—The spring semester for Anna and Josie went faster than the fall semester. They spent less time being afraid of everything and more time becoming part of the campus. Both girls spent more time socially; in fact, they decided to pledge a sorority. They confessed their relief to each other when neither one of them got accepted. They surmised farm girls didn’t possess the posh clothing and manners the sororities wanted.

Classes went well. Josie didn’t experience any homesickness this semester; instead she stayed focused and happy. Her happiness faded the day Josie got a letter from her brother Johnny.

May, 1940

Dear Sis,

Hope this note finds you studying hard and not drinking too hard. (Ha, ha). Basic training is almost over, and I’ll be coming home for a couple of weeks around the first of June. Then I’ll ship out for Britain. We’re really needed because the Krauts are giving the Brits fits since France surrendered.

Mom said you planned to stay in Minneapolis for the summer. I’m enclosing train fare for you to come home. Please don’t disappoint me.

Love, Johnny

            Josie’s eyes filled with tears as she gently put Johnny’s note down on her desk.Anna immediately noted the change in Josie’s demeanor.  “Jos, what’s going on?”

“Johnny’s intending to fly with the RAF. He doesn’t say so in so many words, but I know him. If he can help someone. especially while flying a plane. Johnny will be the first in line.”

Anna studied the European situation in her Poly-Sci class, and even though Roosevelt said he would not declare war on Germany, he covertly sent ships, planes and tanks to Britain.  The equipment not only aided one of the U. S. allies, producing the military weapons put vast numbers of Americans back to full time work. Churchill begged Roosevelt to start sending troops, but popular American opinion held fast not wanting to get involved in another European war.

Anna hugged Josie as she cried over Johnny’s letter. “He won’t be in combat. The letter doesn’t say anything about that.”

“He sent me train fare to go home.” She waved a few bills in the air. “I’m afraid he’s thinking we might not get another chance to be together for a very long time.”

“Then you go home. The summer session doesn’t start until the end of June. You can still keep your plans to take extra classes to graduate early.”

“I guess.” Josie sniffled. “I only wish you could be here, too.”

“I need to work to earn enough money for next semester. You can find me at the Hayward A & W on roller skates.” Anna tried to lighten the mood.

“Is Tommy going home too? You planning to date him?”

“He talks about driving up, but I don’t think his father will let him come. His family owns one car, and his father is tight with the keys. We’ll probably end up writing.”

“That’s too bad, but people tell you things in letters that they can’t say in person. That’s why I love letters.”

“True.” Anna said. “I’m counting on your letters, too. Don’t forget about me.” She smiled.

Josie took a tissue and dried her eyes. “I would never forget about you.”

“Just making sure, my friend.”

Chapter 13

Paris, France-June—Few Parisians seemed concerned about the fighting going on between the French military and the Germans only two hours from Paris. Most people believed the French military possessed the numbers to fend off any German attack. After the Great War, the French invested in a line of concrete fortifications, obstacles, and weapon installations along the border with Germany. The fortification became named the “Maginot Line” and the French government believed their efforts would prevent their war-minded neighbors from successfully overrunning France again. Because they put all of their resources in the Maginot Line, they neglected to invest in tanks and other modern weaponry.

Germany had spent the last thirty years blaming the French and British for the rampant unemployment and hunger in their country due to the treaty of Versailles. Since Hitler became chancellor, Germany put her energy into building an efficient military machine. Their leader instilled a sense of national pride in the Germans with the desire to reunite all German-speaking people in Europe. Hitler also made it his quest to ensure the military was the best in the world. The result of his focus produced a strict, disciplined, up-to-date fighting machine. To enter France the Germans circumvented the Maginot Line and pushed through Belgium.

Normal day-to-day life went on in Paris. Theaters and music halls stayed open every night. Restaurants stayed crowded, and couples still walked hand-in-hand through Tuileries Gardens enjoying the perfume of the lime trees. People shut out the threatening sounds of six-inch guns that thundered in the distance because understanding war was coming again proved to be too hard. Most people didn’t realize the French military was ill-equipped and ill-trained and no match for their warring neighbors. While French soldiers rode horses, their attackers ran them over with tanks.

After certain defeat, the French government made an agreement with the Nazis to set up a puppet government in Vinchy. Marshal Henri Philippe Tetrain took charge and made a radio announcement in a feeble eighty-four-year-old voice telling French citizens the failure of their defense. “My heart is heavy as I tell you we must stop the fight.”

Emma gasped as she listened to the new leader’s speech. “Marta. We are defeated. The Germans are coming to Paris. Our army surrendered!”

Marta sat silent staring out the window. She had tried to put Germany and the Nazis behind her and now they would be in her life again.

A few days after the radio announcement, the Nazis marched into Paris with great fanfare. Emma came home crying.  “Why did this happen, Marta? The Nazis parade up and down the streets with their synchronized heavy goose-steps in their properly creased uniforms. If I didn’t hate them so much, I might call their appearance impeccable. Their parade lines are perfect, projecting how superior they believe they are. They stare straight ahead, ignoring us like we are invisible. When I went for lunch, they still paraded. Even tonight, they parade. Oh, Marta, what will we do?”

Marta took Emma in a close embrace. “We will get up tomorrow and face the day. But we will keep our eyes wide open.”

*****

After their initial show of grandeur, the Nazis paraded through Paris for three more days. Parisians looked on as their lovely city changed in front of their eyes. Tanks rumbled through the cobblestone streets. The swastika flag flew over the Eiffel Tower. Throughout the entire city Nazis spread their presence like an untamed virus.

A week after the occupation, Emma and Marta shared a light supper of soup and bread.  Out of the blue, Emma said, “We must be careful of what we do in public from now on. We must keep our affection for each other behind closed doors. At work Eloise spoke about how Nazis persecute homosexuals in Germany by deporting them to camps.”

Marta added. “Give them a few weeks and Jews will be ordered to wear gold stars on their jackets to keep them separated from the general population.

Emma continued. “I think you are right. After the Jewish stores suffered destruction in Germany, I didn’t think the situation could get worse, but then the SS herded large numbers of Jews and relocated them somewhere. I never learned where they went. Asking about the whereabouts became strictly forbidden.”

Marta frowned, “It is so hard to believe my father follows Hitler. How can Vater swallow such lies about a superior race?” I saw Hitler speak many times, Emma, and Hitler oozes power and charisma which hypnotizes audiences. He tells the throngs what they want to hear, and they blindly follow.”

Emma said, “Your father is looking for a savior. Hitler professes he will raise the German race to greater heights than any civilization in history. I say; if you tell a lie, tell a big one because people are more apt to believe the myth.”

Marta added, “Especially if one eliminates any opposition.”

*****

A letter from Leisel arrived shortly after the Nazi takeover of Paris. As Marta slit the envelop open, she wondered what her old friend thought about the invasion.

Dear Marta,

I am so happy we are sisters once again now that Germany triumphed over France. You must be happy you are once again united with the Fatherland.

Franz marched into Belgium and onward to Paris. I believe he is in your adopted city right now. Wouldn’t it be lucky if you reunited your friendship? He is so handsome in his uniform; he must stand out. Oh Marta, I love him so much. Thank you for giving him up.

In his letter before the battle he wrote, “Our destiny pushed us all the way to Paris. We never doubted we would be victorious over all of Europe.” All of Germany is rejoicing in our military success.

During Franz’s deployment, I keep myself busy painting and stenciling the walls of our little home. Franz sent me several pieces of artwork he acquired. I love the way the rooms are turning out with these beautiful additions.  If I did not read the newspapers, I would not believe we are at war. People are jubilant and we suffer no shortages.

A group of officer’s wives accepted me into their clique.  My letters often speak about my loneliness without you and Heidi, so hopefully this group will put an end to my complaining. We meet once a week for a fine dinner; this week we enjoyed a bottle of French wine one of the girls received from her husband. I must admit the French do make fine wine!

Up until my marriage with Franz, I hung on to getting approved to enter the university. Now, though, I realize studying in Berlin proved to be a delusion. Plus, I can’t wait until Franz returns home, and I can give him the happy news we are expecting a baby around Christmas time. I hope you’ll share in our good news, too.

 I hope you and Emma are well.

 All my best, Leisel

 Marta felt sorry for Leisel. Her loneliness and disappointment blinded her to the truth and broke her spirit. Even the brightest person can rationalize lies when they suffer alone. Does she really think the French willingly invited the Nazis to overrun their country? No one wants to be invaded by a foreign power.

Day Four of the “Taj Garage” Saga

It occurred to me this morning that I should have been taking pictures of our garage construction, but I’m about four days too late. Kevin told Ken that I would be able to park in the garage tonight after they finished their work day. I’ll have to see it to believe it.

After all we’ve gone through to get this structure built, it almost seems like a dream that we’ve come this far in four days. But there it is standing proudly on it’s cement slab with four walls and a roof. Hippee!

The only hiccup we’ve experienced happened yesterday. I looked out the window to see the progress and witnessed a man digging a trench along the edge of the patio so the electrical service could run from the house to the garage. Ouch. (Look deep into the hole to see the wire.)

Wire in trench

Wire in trench

I just planted three bunches of perennials in the same place. I searched the yard to find out what happened to my newest babies and saw them dumped in a heap next to a bed of weeds. taj garage 006

I thought, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” took a deep breath, and closed the blind. Even though I was horrified the guy digging the trench obviously didn’t revere my flowers as much as I did, I calmed myself knowing if the poor phlox and daisies died, the garden center still had some left.

When I went out to take these pictures this morning, I noticed my new bench cushions are now covered in saw dust.

taj garage 004

So before we invite hordes of people to help us celebrate our new building, I have a couple of chores to attend to. But I certainly think such an accomplishment deserves a party. I haven’t had a good excuse to have a party all summer.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 10

 Lviv, Ukraine – April—Russian occupiers in Lviv dictated the Jews needed to swear allegiance to the U. S. S. R. or otherwise, they would be sent to Siberia. Train cars full of Jews started to leave the city everyday, and Heidi’s intuition told her she should get ready to leave too. She returned from her afternoon dance lesson with the children and witnessed Fritz throwing his meager belongings into a flour sack.

“Fritz, where are you going?”

“To Siberia. The Russians are deporting me.”

“No!” Heidi gasped. “You cannot go. You must run!”

“Run where, frauline? I cannot go back to Poland. I do not possess the money to get to Switzerland or Israel. Where should I go?”

“I will help you, Fritz.”

“You are not Jewish, Heidi. You are German so take advantage of it. You must leave with the children.”

“Where? Where would we go, Fritz? I can’t possibly go on the road alone with them.”

“You must go to Hungary. My friends in Budapest will help. I will write you a note of introduction.”

He searched for a scrap of paper and wrote a few words in Hungarian.

Heidi pleaded with him. “Please come with me, Fritz. Together we can succeed in such a journey.”

“No. I would only be trouble for you sweet Heidi. The Russians will hunt me down. and I would put you in jeopardy. I cannot take responsibility for you ending up in a gulag, and what would become of the children? The Russians might even hand us over to the Nazis for deportation to the concentration camps.”

“I cannot travel alone with three children under the age of six, Fritz.”

“You can and you will. You are strong, Heidi. Stronger than you realize.” He handed her an envelope with a Hungarian address. “Take this. These people will help you.”

She bit her lip to hold tears back. “Please reconsider Fritz. You are my friend. I cannot lose another friend.”

Fritz touched the side of her face and studied her blue eyes. “I am a true friend, my sweet Heidi. I am letting you go for your own good.” Fritz kissed her forehead. “Be careful. Leave as soon as possible.” He grabbed his bag and left her standing in the hallway sobbing.

*****

Since the burial of their mother, David and Ruthie remained sad and quiet. Heidi tried to soften their loss, with stories about a girl and three children who went off on a long journey to a new magical land. People believed the new land was beautiful, and best of all a wonderful wizard lived there, and he would protect them from the terrible wolves in the forest. With the wizard’s help, the children would be safe and happy.

David asked a lot of questions about the three young heroes, and when Heidi told him he could be just like them, David perked up. “I am ready to go and find the good wizard. Let’s leave, Heidi!”

“Soon, David, very soon.

*****

Heidi planned the next two weeks carefully. She decided to turn David and Ruthie into German Catholics. First she dyed the children’s hair blonde. Then she bought newer clothes and shoes and discarded all of their Jewish books and clothing so no signs of Jewry existed.

Denying the children of their heritage made Heidi sad, but to protect them, she needed to disavow their parents and their religion. Heidi found a children’s catechism book in some books at the church and began drilling them on Catholic beliefs. David and Ruthie learned new prayers by rote. Heidi taught them the sign of the cross and how to use a rosary saying the prayers they learned–The Hail Mary, Our Father, and Glory Be. When Heidi sensed they absorbed enough, she took them to Mass each Sunday and introduced them around town as her children.

She also taught David and Ruthie simple German words and phrases which might come in handy if they met any Nazis on the road. By the time they would leave Lviv, Heidi would transform these children to look and talk like German gentiles.

Heidi drilled David everyday. “Remember, David, you must never tell anyone that you lived in Warsaw. You must never say we lived in Lviv. You must not speak of your parents. We are from Berlin. We are going to visit relatives in the next town. Do you understand?”

David shook his head to the affirmative. “Yes, Miss Heidi.”

Heidi said, “One more thing. I realize this is hard, David, but you must call me Mutter.”

David screwed up his face. “Why?”

“Because your mother would want you to. That’s why.” Heidi hated herself for being cross with David.

She turned to Ruthie and spoke softly. “You must remember the same, my sweet girl.”

Ruthie smiled. “Ja, Mutter.” She said with a perfect Berliner accent.

Heidi smiled and then turned stern in an instant. “Most importantly, you must never tell anyone you are Jewish. Do you understand?”

The two small children looked at Heidi with wide eyes. They didn’t understand why Heidi demanded such silly things, but they loved her and understood their mother would want them to obey her.

Heidi hugged them. “Oh my sweet children. This is so hard; I understand. You must not be afraid. As long as I am with you, I promise to keep you safe. We are going on a great adventure, and someday, you both can tell Jacob about our travels.” She forced a lilt in her voice.

David hugged Heidi around her legs. “I love you, Heidi. I will like you to be my mutter.”

Heidi smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Bedtime, my dear children. Let us say our prayers.”

The children knelt on the bare wooden floor, bowed their heads, and folded their hands. “Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. . . .

 

 

 

Normalcy on Monday?

After the surprise of my life on Saturday, I slipped back into normalcy today. As I watch the television new show sipping my morning coffee, I am so glad I’m not one of the gladiators fighting traffic to get to work. Like many of commuters, I did this for over ten years. Caregiving does have some advantages.

The big news today is the contractor is here. He arrived at 6:45 a.m. and you guessed it, I was still slumbering. Thank goodness Ken was up. Kevin (the contractor) needed to move my car, so he could park his truck and tools in the space my car occupied in front of our house. The commotion woke me, and yes, Kevin saw me with disheveled hair in my pajamas.

Sounds like a Monday morning, yes?

Enjoy your MONDAY.

Here’s the next two chapters of the book for your reading pleasure. Let me know if you’re enjoying me unfolding the book in this way.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 6

Lviv, Ukraine – March, 1940—With every passing day, Dora spiraled down from a beautiful, cultured, professional woman to a defeated person who couldn’t face the day. She didn’t care if she got up in the morning, combed her hair or got dressed.  She ate little. She slept over fourteen hours every day. During her few waking hours she gathered the children to her bed and told them stories she made up from her imagination.

Heidi found it difficult to watch Dora’s despair. Coaxing her to go get out of bed and get some sunshine fell on deaf ears. Instead, she would stare into nothingness for hours. Her large dark eyes sunk into her face. Their safe life in Lviv slowly ate away at her.  Saddest of all, Dora chattered everyday that Edward would come and rescue them. But even young David understood his father would never find them.

The children adapted to their situation with the help of Heidi. She kept them happy with games and songs she remembered from her childhood. She taught them simple lessons every day after they ate their paltry breakfast. With baby Jacob sleeping in a dresser drawer, Heidi took David and Ruthie outside to run and play with the other children who lived in the building. When Heidi ran out of stories, she taught them all basic ballet steps. Before long, Heidi acquired a dance class of over forty children.

The neighbors thanked Heidi for keeping their children occupied during the day as they looked for work. The few who found some kind of employment shared their meager wages with others to buy bread. With the influx of so many refugees food shortages affected everyone. Many nights people in the apartment went to bed hungry. Only laughter from the dancing classes kept Heidi and the children wanting to get up the next morning.

Seven months had passed since they left Warsaw even though it seemed much longer. Periodically news about Poland trickled into Lviv. None of it was good, and getting messages outside of Ukraine proved difficult and expensive. Nonetheless, Heidi wrote to her uncle and prayed the message would reach him.

Dear Uncle Hans,

I am writing this letter from Lviv. Gossip tells us the Nazi’s are in complete control in Warsaw, so I pray everyday you and the children are safe and affected little by the invasion.  

I made a good decision to accompany Dora on this journey because she couldn’t possibly go alone.  She has succumbed to dire sadness and has become so weak many days she does not get out of bed. She worries about about her husband, her parents who stayed in Warsaw, and her many friends. No matter how many times I tell you she did her best to get her family out of Poland. The worst part is when David and Ruthie ask when their father will come and get them. 

My few talents entertain the children in the apartment building while their parents are at work. I’m teaching them dancing and some of the girls are very good.  I hope Gertruda is still practicing her dance steps. Please tell her I miss her and hope someday to return.

The future is uncertain. I pray every night that we will remain safe. Even though food is scarce, the Soviets do not separate the Jews from everyone else, so we are somewhat protected. One thing is for sure, living in Lviv is better than Warsaw.

Please advise Vater and Mutter I am all right. I would write to them, but I fear writing to Berlin might be dangerous for Dora and the children.

I love all of you.

My best, Heidi

Heidi entrusted her letter with the landlord who said he would give the correspondence to the mail carrier the next day.

Changes continued which made normal life anything but normal. Lviv city officials instituted blackouts and curfews which seemed like a promise of war. Heidi needed a new plan to keep them save from the Nazis. Dora drifted farther away with every passing day.

 

Chapter 7

Paris, France – March, 1940—Marta found another letter from Leisel in her mailbox after a long day at the Louvre. Her letters since she had married Franz were full of Nazi propaganda about how superior Germany was. Her friend succumbed to her father and husband’s demands to accept Hitler’s ideology. She thought a brilliant girl like Leisel would see through the ridiculous lies and practices of the Third Reich. Marta also realized Leisel needed to find happiness which meant fitting in with the people around her. She gave up her true self and allowed her father and Franz control her. Marta sighed and half-heartedly slit open the envelope and read:

March, 1940

 Dear Marta,

You’re the first person I wanted to tell I am pregnant! I am so happy, but so sick. I’m happy Franz is not here because I vomit every day and sleep a lot. The doctor tells me after the first three months, this sickness should subside. Now I am just miserable. I’m sure Franz would say I am no fun any more.

He’s still stationed in Poland. He is in charge of walling up part of the city to imprison the Jews. What a terrible assignment. I feel fortunate not to be born Jewish. Being a pregnant blue-eyed blond will make me very superior, even though I did nothing to merit such honor.

 I will now put my energies into preparing a nursery for our new child. After I finish this letter, I plan to tell my mother she will become a grandmother sometime in October. She will be over the moon; I am quite sure. I wish I could be happier about this situation. I wanted to remain childless a little longer to enjoy Franz alone, even though he gets very little time away from the army.

 I hope you are still happy in Paris. It is selfish of me to want you closer as I go through this exciting time in my life. Letters are not the same as face to face visits. I try not to be lonely, but I am. A friend named Gretchen from the bride school received her assignment to marry an SS officer, now she lives a few blocks away, so we meet most everyday for tea. But, spending time with her is not the same as being with you; after all, a short-time acquaintance will never replace a long-time friendship like ours.

Pray for me that this morning sickness goes away soon. I look forward to being well again.

Love, Leisel

 

 

 

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?

#####

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.”