Tag Archive | friendship

Happy Saturday?

One thing I struggle with since I “retired,” is realizing what day it is. With every day presenting itself primarily the same without a work schedule, Ken and I ask each other “What day is it?”

Years ago I would have thought such a question was ridiculous. But unscheduled time is something a person must absorb a little at a time. If a person doesn’t watch out, they will become lazy and never accomplish anything. Working outside the home provides a ready-made schedule. When you’re at home, the schedule is up to you. I’ve never been a buttoned-up scheduler, so I struggle with the concept. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact my time is my own. I can be as productive or as laid-back as I want. But that doesn’t say I’ll accomplish the goal on the right day of the week.

My computer and phone keep me on the correct date, but neither tell me what day of the week it is. I guess that’s why we have calendars–huh? Just match up the date to an old fashioned paper calendar and a retired person will stay on the right day.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 9

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – April—Angelo always handled the family finances, but now the responsibility of paying bills and keeping a checkbook balanced fell on Rosalie. She also assumed the sole responsibility for Gina and would face giving birth to another baby without her husband.

In April 1942, the government set up a program so no American would go hungry during the course of the war. The rationing program provided a booklet of stamps which gave the bearer the right to purchase certain foods. Rosalie quickly realized being in a war meant daily sacrifice for everyone. People living “in the lower 48 states” couldn’t escape the fact the United States was at war. In the post office posters released by the Office of War Information said, “Do with less, so they’ll get enough.” Another pleaded, “Be patriotic, sign your country’s pledge to save the food. Rosalie’s pregnant body and empty bed was her personal reminder of her personal sacrifice.

Almost overnight basic stables disappeared from the grocer store shelves. Sugar and coffee were the first items to go. Rosalie’s favorite Coca-Cola also vanished. Rosalie wondered how she could face another nauseating pregnancy without an ice-cold Coke to settle her stomach.

One afternoon Rosalie heard a knock at the back door while Gina was napping. She couldn’t imagine who would be calling her at this time of day. When she opened the door, Donna Jean stood smiling. “Donna, what on earth are you doing here? Aren’t you working today?”

“I took the day off to go to the school to sign up for the rationing program. I thought you might like to go with me. Are you well enough to go today?”

“Actually, I’m doing fine. You must be a mind reader.  I didn’t want to go alone.”

“Let’s go together. We’ll make the excursion fun.” Donna smiled.

“Right after Gina wakes up. She’s a holy terror if she doesn’t get her beauty sleep.” Rosalie laughed. “Come on in and share a cup of tea with me.”

“Sure.” Donna slipped into the kitchen and sat down. For the next thirty minutes the girls enjoyed each other’s company.

Gina woke up in a happy mood. When Rosalie brought her into the kitchen on her hip, the little girl reached for Donna.

Donna’s heart swelled. “Come here to your Auntie Donna.”

The baby cooed and giggled.

Rosalie looked at the two of them with a smile. “You know, you are the only one beside her Papa she goes to.”

“She probably knows I’d let her get away with murder.”

“Probably.” Rosalie laughed. “We’d better get going. I think the school is only open until three o’clock.”

Donna rose with the baby and followed Rosalie out to the garage. She pulled the baby stroller and Donna put the baby in the seat. The two girls jabbered on as they walked the four city blocks to the school to sign up for the program. When they arrived, they waited in line over an hour to register. Forms needed to be completed which required their name and family size, so people would receive the proper war ration coupon book.

Donna studied her coupon book as she left the school. “Boy, this really makes everything real, doesn’t it?”

Rosalie answered quietly. “Yeah.”

“I’m sorry, Rosie. Sometimes my mouth and brain don’t work together. With Angelo gone, you already realize how real the war is. I’m so sorry sweetie.”

“Oh, Donna. Don’t worry.  Angelo is coming home after boot camp in a few weeks and that’s what I’m focused on. I’m going to think positive from now on. No more nervous Nellie.”

“That’s the spirit.” Donna said. “I need to tell you something?”

“What?”

“I think you’re the bravest person in the world, Rosie. I would be scared to death to give birth without my husband standing beside me.”

Rosalie smiled. “I think the bravest person we both love is Josie.”

Donna put her hand on Rosie’s as they pushed the stroller together. “Yeah, you’re right. But your tops in my book. Lots of people don’t really approve of my choices, but you can always depend on me. You just ask, and I’ll do whatever you need.”

“You’re so sweet, Donna. Thank you.” Rosie said with a warm smile.

Rosie offered Donna a cool glass of ice water when they got back to the house. They examined their coupon books at the kitchen table. Different colored stamps stood for different types of food. Each stamp specified a certain number of points and an expiration date. A “Red Stamp” coupon allowed the purchase of all meats, butter, fat, and oils, and with some exceptions, cheese. A “Blue Stamp” covered canned, bottled, and frozen fruits and vegetables, plus juices, dried beans, and processed foods like soups, baby food, and ketchup.”

“This will take some getting used to.” Donna said.

“Yeah, but the program makes sense. Food rationing will make sure people don’t go hungry. No one can hoard food.” She sipped her water. “Now that spring is here, I want to plant a victory garden to supplement the rationing stamps.”

“That’s brave of you. My experience with farming is very limited.”

“Oh Donna, you’re so funny. A victory garden is not farming, silly, it’s gardening.” Rosalie said. “You want to help me? We can grow all kinds of fresh vegetables and then can them in the fall.”

“Are you trying to domestic me, sweetie?” Donna said with a grin.

Rosie grinned back. “One can try.”

“I’ll help, but you might not want my brown thumb around.” Donna took a sip of her water and changed the subject. “When we stood in line at the school, I spied a flyer on the bulletin board advertising a training session to learn how to shop wiser, conserve food, and plan nutritious meals. Would you like to go?”

“Sure. I can always learn new things.” Rosie said absentmindedly. Then she turned to Donna and said, “I want you to think about something.”

“What’s that?” Donna said.

“Would you consider moving in with me after Angelo ships out?”

Donna never expected a question like that. “Are you serious?”

“The whole upstairs could serve as an apartment. There’s a bedroom with a huge closet and another room you can use as your private living room.”

“Why would you want me around?”

“I can’t think of any other person I would like to live with. We’d both be safer together, and to be totally honest, I’m afraid I might lose the house because Angelo’s marine wages are nowhere near what he made at the factory. I can’t work because of this new baby coming–at least not for the foreseeable future. And–,”

Donna interrupted. “I’m honored you want me to live with you. My lease is up in July, so I can come then.”

Rosalie got up and hugged Donna. “You are the best friend, ever.”

Donna hugged her back. “That goes both way, Rosie.”

Chapter 10

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June—Angelo came home unannounced before he needed to ship out for two years. He dressed in the Marine service uniform of green trousers with khaki web belt, short-sleeve button-up shirt, garrison and black shoes.  The marines shaved off his beautiful black curls along with his mustache. He peered through the back window to catch a glimpse of Rosalie before he knocked on the door. He saw her feeding Gina in her high chair, Angelo smiled and knocked for a second time.

She got up, wiped her hands on a dishrag, and opened the door. “Can I help you?”

The soldier smiled.

Rosalie stared at the stranger’s eyes before her face lit up.  “Angelo! You’re home!” She flew into his waiting arms.

“I’m home. I’m home.” He whispered as he held her baby-swollen body and kissed her. “Oh, Rosie. I missed you so much. Look at you!”

“Look at me-Look at YOU! They turned you into a grunt!” She laughed.

“You said it!”

She kissed him again and again. “Are you hungry?”

“You are such a good Italian girl.” He laughed.

The couple went into the kitchen hand in hand. Angelo moved toward Gina and tried to pick her up, but she screamed and kicked at him.

“What’s wrong?”

“She doesn’t remember you, Angelo. You look so different from when you left. Just give her a little time.” Rosalie said.

“She doesn’t remember me? I don’t believe it.”

“Babies sense of time is very different than ours.”

Rosalie thought ‘that’s what you get for leaving us.’ Instead she said, “Don’t worry. She’ll warm up to you.”

Angelo sat at the kitchen table disheartened. He waited six months to be with his family again and now his little girl, the apple of his soul, didn’t want to sit on his lap.

Rosalie picked up the baby. “Come here, sweet girl. This is Daddy. He loves you very much. You remember Daddy.” Rosie tried to put Gina in Angelo’s lap and again Gina screamed and clung to her mother. “I’m so sorry, Angelo.”

“I can’t believe she doesn’t remember me.” Angelo wanted to cry.

“A lot changed since you left us.” Rosie tried to change the subject. “Why don’t you call your parents and invite them over for tea and cannoli?”

“Sure.” Angelo picked up the phone and called his parents.

*****

Three days after Angelo’s return, Gina ran into the living room and eyed him from across the room. She stood on the fringe of the carpet. Gina appeared to be wondering where this stranger fit into her life.

Angelo put his arms out and kept his voice soft.  “Come to Daddy, sweetie.” Much to his surprise, Gina moved toward him. “Da-da?”

Angelo cried, “Yes. Da-da.” He picked her up and hugged her gently.

She put her chubby little arms around his hard body and cuddled into him.

Angelo held her close. “My sweet little Angelina. I love you so much.”

Gina gently slapped his face and smiled. “Da-da.”

Angelo’s heart soared. He kissed the top of her head as he prayed, “God please, no matter what happens, please let her remember me.”

He went to find Rosalie.  “Rosie! She finally remembers me!”

A slice of a smile crossed Rosalie’s face. “I’m happy for you, Angelo. I knew she would.”

*****

The week with Angelo being at home went way too fast. The day before he left, Rosalie approached him holding a large yellow envelope. Her stern face matched her determined eyes. Angelo never witnessed such seriousness in her before.

She handed him the envelope.” Angelo, I need you to sign some papers.”

“What papers?”

“Some legal papers. I learned wives with husbands in the service, especially a husband going off to war need to take legal steps before he leaves.” Rosie cleared her throat as her eyes filled with tears.

Angelo stared at her. “I’ll sign whatever you need, sweetheart.” He released the metal closure and pulled out the legal documents. The envelope contained a last will and testament, a power of attorney, and a deed to the house. “Geez, Rosie, is this really necessary?”

“Yes.” Her voice quivered. “Please sign the dang papers, Angelo. I must do this because of your choice to avenge Tony.” Rosalie’s true feelings rolled over her like a snowball going down a steep hill. “I don’t want to be alone, but I must. I don’t want to give birth alone, but I must. Just sign the GD papers, Angelo!” She took a deep breath pushing down the hidden implication of the documents.

Angelo signed the papers while Rosalie stood like a sentry next to him. Then he handed them back to her.

She said in a flat voice. “Thank you.” Without looking at the death documents, she slipped them into the envelope.

Angelo stood up and embraced her. “I realize my decision has made our lives harder, but I want you to realize I’m proud you’re taking steps to prepare for what might come.” He tipped her chin and placed a tender kiss on her lips. “I also want you to understand I will crawl on my belly for a thousand miles to come back home to you.  If you need these documents someday, well–” His voice cracked. “I love you Rosie. You’re the only girl for me.” He avoided her eyes, dropped his embrace, and headed for the backyard. He pulled a cigarette from the pack in his shirt pocket. He took a long drag before his eyes moistened. Rosie thinks I’m not coming home. Oh my God, what did I do?

*****

After the document encounter, Rosalie relaxed and cherished the little time left with Angelo. She attempted to remember his scent, his touch, and his kisses. They made love every night and fell asleep entwined. She woke during the night and listened to him breath. She stared at him sleeping peacefully and wondered what he would endure for the next two years. She prayed for his safe return home and put her head on his chest to listen to his heartbeat.  She went to sleep and dreamed the Marines didn’t want him after all.

Angelo’s mother came over way too often during Angelo’s one short week of leave. Rosalie understood her wanting to spend a lot of time with Angelo before he left, especially after losing Tony at Pearl Harbor. Angelo’s father vowed to protect Rosie. Gina, and the new baby; no one said goodbye. The word “goodbye” meant a finality nobody could face.

*****

 Rosie insisted she accompany Angelo to Chicago on a bus. She wanted to be with her husband as long as time would permit. Only God knew when he would be home again. She concentrated on saying “when” instead of “if.”

Angelo welcomed Rosalie’s company for the long bus ride to Chicago.  He needed to hold her as long as possible. He cradled her as she laid her head on his strong shoulder. Sitting so close together reminded him of their high school dating days when they sat in the car for hours watching the “submarine races” on the river. How did two years pass so quickly? High school seemed a lifetime ago.

As the bus roamed through one small town after another, Rosie and Angelo talked about everyday things– what she planned to do to keep busy, about names for the new baby, and how they imagined Gina might behave once the baby came. Rosie told him Donna would be moving into the house in July to help with the expenses and the new baby. Even though Angelo didn’t approve of Donna’s party girl reputation, he relaxed because she offered to stay with Rosie.

Rosie jabbered on about how she planned to can the vegetables growing in her victory garden and how her father helped her keep the plants healthy to make sure of a good harvest. Angelo recalled funny stories about different guys in his basic training group, and what life was like in a barracks full of guys from around the country. They avoided speaking about the war.

Rosalie walked Angelo to the gate where he boarded the airplane to fly to San Francisco. She kept her eyes fixed on him as Angelo walked to the plane across the tarmac. She held her breath as he walked up the ladder and disappeared into the belly of the plane. Rosie lost the battle of keeping her tears away. She waved until the plane taxied away and then let her tears of their unknown future roll down her cheeks. She boarded the bus which would take her back to Lacrosse and stared out the window for much of the trip. Her Angelo was headed for war against a ferocious enemy.

As Rosalie headed home, Angelo fastened his seat belt waiting for the plane to lift off for San Francisco. Through the small plane porthole, he prayed. “Oh God, please take care of her while I’m gone. Please give her an easy time when the baby comes. Please be with her always. I love her so much.”

 

 

Hunkerin’ Down in the Heat

This summer didn’t show up until a few weeks ago. our temperatures were in the high 60s and low 70s–PERFECT.  But since Thursday, things have changed. Wisconsinites are not used to temperatures in the 90s, and the temperatures soared into the 90s with little “warm up.”

Usually when temperatures get this hot, we have a big thunderstorm and it cools off. Not this time. Oh, we did get a thunderstorm bad enough to haul out Ernie’s “thunder jacket,”  but instead of cooling off, the temperature returned to its intensity. As MS patients don’t do well in the heat, Ken and I are marooned until the weather gets more like Wisconsin instead of Florida. Luckily, we don’t have a problem keeping busy because we both have our own distractions. Even so, we do much better when we can get out and enjoy our friends. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed the temperature will drop and we will be able to escape our four lovely walls.

I hope all of you are surviving this goofy weather that seems to be happening all over the country. Have a wonderful weekend, and if you’re indoors like we are here’s the next two chapters of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3.

Chapter 25

Paris, France-October 1940—By autumn, the French people stood in line for food rations. Gasoline for cars and coal for heating required specific stamps to purchase any quantity. Electricity service became sporadic. Parisians even suffered a shortage of fabric and leather which caused department stores’ racks to be empty. The German occupation provided a lack of everything but fear.

The outside world never realized the reality Parisians suffered. Other countries never read stories about French citizens standing in long lines to receive weekly ration tickets for potatoes, carrots, and any seasonal fruit every month; they never realized the rations allotted amounted to a third of what they received before the Germans took control.  The rest of the world thought the French were soft because the Germans rolled over them so easily.

Marta wondered how much time would pass before Jewish property would be confiscated, and the owners would be deported on trains.

Marta carried her fear with her; she wanted to leave Paris and go somewhere else. But where? All of Europe fell under German control. And why should she leave?

The morning after Marta’s confession she might be pregnant, Emma felt compelled to avenge her.  She intended to join the French Resistance. Her German background would be a great help to the movement, and her fluency in French would pass for any native.

For some time she surmised her boss Pierre to be a leader in the movement, so when she got back to work after Marta recovered, she walked into his office. “Pierre, I must talk to you.”

“Yes, mademoiselle?”

“I need to speak to you in private.” Emma’s voice dropped.

Pierre turned on the radio. “What do you need?”

Emma said in hushed tones. “I want to get involved. I need to get involved. How do I start?”

Pierre smiled. Emma worked in the office making identity cards, passports, and other official papers, so her help would be essential to the cause. If a German officer requested to look at a citizen’s identification papers, he or she needed to produce them on the spot. Emma would now produce false papers for people needing to escape Paris. “You start from where you are already.”

Emma nodded.

“You possess numerous invaluable skills, Emma. Your penmanship is exemplary. Your ability to write with your right and left hands will also come in very handy. Above that, you speak German. Someday we may even need your translating skills. I am pleased you want to help.”

Emma agreed she would be very good at forgery.

Pierre rubbed his goatee as if deep in thought. “You are quite convinced you want to be involved in this dangerous work?”

Emma nodded. “I am most serious, monsieur.”

Pierre smiled. He hoped someday Emma would come to him and volunteer her exemplary her skills. “Beside forging identity cards when they are needed, you will also deliver documents and communiques in the confines your bicycle. Can you do that?”

Emma shook her head. “Yes, Pierre. I will do whatever you need me to do.”

“Good.” He handed her an identity card he received from another operative. “I need you to deliver this. Where is your bicycle?”

“Out behind the building.”

“Good. Show me.”

Emma went down two flights of stairs with Pierre in tow. She opened the ground floor door and pointed out her bicycle. “There it is.”

Pierre went right to work, schooling her on how to conceal documents in the handlebars of her bicycle. He removed the rubber grips, rolled up the documents, and slid them into the hollow tubing. As soon as Pierre secured the identity papers, he handed Emma an address. “Meet Edward Gessler at that address. He is a German national on our side. He got stranded in Paris after the Nazis attacked Warsaw. He realized he would be a dead man should he return to his homeland, so he wants to flee to England.”

“I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.” Emma rode her bike down a back street in the red light district. She went around the back of the building to meet the contact. A very tall man with blond curly hair appeared. He spoke fluent French. “Please miss, might you spare some bread for a hungry man?”

He used the correct password. “Of course.” She pulled a baguette from her basket and removed the handlebar grips to remove the documents. The man stood close to her as she transferred the documents in a slice made on the baguette.

“You are so kind.” He smiled.

“I am happy to help.” She smiled at the stranger and wondered would become of him.

He disappeared into the darkness and Emma pointed her bicycle in the opposite direction. After her encounter with Mr. Gessler, she experienced a moment of clarity. She vowed the resistance movement would be part of her life as long as the Nazis remained in France.

*****

Her next assignment came the following week. She met the mayor and police chief to procure their signatures. Her heart bounced inside her chest as she looked each man in the eye, but she remained cool and under complete control leaving them both with a smile. They just gave her what she needed to forge important documents.

Emma always kept to herself at work. As a lesbian, other French people didn’t wish to interact with her, which worked to her advantage. Even if someone ever suspected her as a spy, they wouldn’t tell for fear the Gestapo might associate them with her.

Emma thought it best not to burden Marta with her new role in the Resistance. This way, if Emma ever got arrested for her activities, Marta would be protected. The Nazis would learn nothing because she didn’t know anything about the operation. The strategy might save her life.

Chapter 26

Paris, France-October, 1940—Marta didn’t want to think about being pregnant. But every morning when she vomited, and every afternoon when she needed a nap in a closet at the Louvre, she realized denying her situation would not be an answer. She couldn’t let herself think about the mass growing inside of her as a baby; soon her body would give her secret away.

Emma stayed patient with her and did small favors to make Marta comfortable. She took the burden of preparing meals, cleaning the apartment, and other small chores off of Marta’s shoulders to allow her enough time to come to terms with herself. Marta appreciated Emma’s efforts to let her decide how to proceed without voicing her opinion.

Under the pressure from the Germans, the puppet government in Vichy passed a law making abortion a capital crime in France. Marta never thought she would break any law, but now she faced the realization if she terminated her pregnancy, she would do just that. But how could she in good conscience carry Franz’s Reinhart’s bastard child?

When she told Emma she had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, Emma hugged her and rejoiced. “You did not disappoint me. I believed given enough time you would not want to carry this child of rape. I understand how hard this decision is for you. For what it is worth, I believe you chose wisely.”

Marta’s eyes filled with tears. “If the situation happened differently–

“But it did not, Cherie.” Emma embraced her and said in an understanding soft voice, “You are very brave.”

Marta cried. “But how do I get rid of it? How do I do this? Everything I tried failed. I lifted heavy weights; I douched; I punched myself in the abdomen, but I am still pregnant.”

“Some of those methods are old wives’ tales, Cherie, and they are not reliable.”

Marta replied. “I cannot think about shoving a coat-hanger or a knitting needle up myself, either.”

“You should never think about hurting yourself; there are other means.”

The two women stared at each other as if searching for answers from each other.  Emma spoke first. “I do not want you to be angry with me, but I learned about a housewife in Cherbourg by the name of Marie-Louise Giraud who performs abortions in her home. I understand she is quite expensive but very effective.”

“We can barely get by now. Where will we get the money?” Marta said.

“Money is a problem.” Emma agreed. “But if we need to, my friends will help.”

“Before we borrow any money, what do you think of this?” Marta handed Emma a recipe.

Ingredients:

  •  Fresh parsley
  •  500 mg pills of Vitamin C
  • Treatment should last three days only: DO NOT EXCEED 3 DAYS!!
  1. Insert a fresh sprig of parsley as far as possible into the vagina. Parsley induces contractions. Change every twelve hours. The parsley will become soft and may be difficult to remove, but this is not dangerous.
  1. At the same time, drink parsley infusions. Two to six tablespoons four times daily.

To make the infusion: Boil 2 1/2 cups of water for every ounce of parsley. Add parsley to boiling water, remove from heat and cover. Do not boil parsley in the water because the infusion will be less effective. Steep for at least twenty minutes to two hours. (The longer the parsley steeps, the more potent it will be.)

3. During the three days (or until your period starts) take high doses of Vitamin C orally–500 mg every hour up to 6000 mg a day. You can continue using the Vitamin C for up to six days. Vitamin C can bring on menstruation even three weeks after a “late” period.

 

If successful you should start to bleed in two to three days. You may experience severe cramps.

High amounts of Vitamin C can cause loose stools. You may also experience “hot flashes” – A side effect of Vitamin C.

Watch for signs of toxicity specific to parsley: Nausea, hallucinations, vomiting, vertigo, hives, paralysis, swollen liver, scanty and darkly colored urine, and tremors. Contact a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.

After Emma read the instructions, she said, “The hardest thing about this will be to find the Vitamin C, and you are more than three weeks late.”

“A pharmacist comes to the Louvre often. I will ask him where to get it.” Marta said.

“This is worth a try.” Emma said. “If the treatment does not induce a miscarriage, then we will pursue Marie-Louise Giraud.

Marta sighed. “All right.”

Emma said something totally unlike her. “Amen!”

*****

The Friday after their conversation, Marta came home from work with a bottle of Vitamin C her pharmacist friend gave her along with a bunch of parsley Brigetta brought from her home garden.

Emma boiled the water on the hot plate and waited. Marta thought the water took an unusually long time before Emma removed the boiling pot from the heat. Marta tossed in the big bunch of parsley.

Emma looked at her wristwatch. “Six o’clock. We’ll begin in two hours. Are you ready?”

Marta looked at her with determination. “Yes. I want my body to be my own again.”

Emma nodded. “You are very brave, Cherie.”

Marta stuffed her vagina with the fresh green herb, and took six vitamin pills. She poured herself the required amount of the hot parsley water and kept up the procedure every four hours through the night. She slept periodically between doses, but when she woke, she prayed God would forgive her for ridding herself of this child.

The cramping started the next morning. Marta cried with pain and rocked on the floor holding her stomach. Emma shared every spasm. In any other circumstance, she would fill a hot water bottle to relieve Marta’s cramps, but in this situation, they wanted Marta’s uterus to contract and expel the fetus.

Marta continued the process all weekend. The pain grew in its intensity. Marta cried in pain. “He still is hurting me, Marta.”

Emma held her. “I know, darling. But the treatment appears to be working. Perhaps you will not suffer much longer. Hang on. Let’s put you to bed.”

Marta rolled back and forth unable to find a comfortable position to fall asleep. When she did sleep, nightmares of the rape haunted her. She cried out, sending Emma to Marta’s side.

The third morning, Marta cried from the bathroom. “Emma, come here!”

Emma raced to the bathroom and found Marta pale and breathless. “What is it, Marta?”

“Look.” She pointed to the water in the toilet where a bloody mass floated.

“Oh my god, the treatment worked!” The two of them cried in each other’s arms.

Marta flushed the toilet and put the most horrendous chapter of her life right where it needed to be.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

In With the New and Retire the Old

 I’ve been writing on a laptop since 2009. The operating system is Vista and the “Word” software is Office 2003. Dated? Yup. Besides having software from the stone age, my faithful computer is also broken in a couple of places. I’ve used this machine so much I’ve worn the paint off letters N, B, and E. That’s why I asked for a new laptop for my birthday. But I’m finding once again–be careful what you ask for.

Excitement filled me as I signed on the dotted line to take ownership of the package the FedEx guy delivered. I tore open the box and there she was. Bright, shining and virginal–the new little Dell was ready for action–well, not quite yet. There was a booklet of instructions included in the package and when I studied them, I decided I wouldn’t attempt initializing the machine right away because who wants to get frustrated on a perfect birthday. Right?

My birthday celebration and the aftermath have passed. The “Taj Garage” is halfway completed and poor new little Dell is still sitting untouched. I realize I must gear up and find some techie courage to begin making my new machine mine. I  must accept my first try loading software maybe a challenge. I also must accept I will need to transfer files and links to other websites I use all the time. I will bang my head against the wall trying to remember passwords and user names. See why I’m dragging my feet?

“Old Faithful” Dell has become a comfortable friend. She has produced eight novels, a blog with over 400 posts, over twenty short stories and too many emails to count. She’s entertained me with certain games and connected me with long lost friends. I haven’t the heart to replace her even though I know I must. Weaning myself away from my old friend a little bit at a time seems to be the only sensible way we will part. Perhaps if I set new Dell on the table and look at her for a while, I may gain some courage to make the replacement.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, April 1, 1940—Rosalie came home a week after Angelina’s birth. A nurse took her down to the exit the hospital in a wheelchair, and Angelo treated her like a fragile flower as he helped her in the car. The birth took so much of her strength and vitality; he wondered how she would ever be able to take care of the baby alone.

Mrs. Lombardo and his mother volunteered to care for both Rosalie and the child until the new mother regained her strength. They assured him Rosie just needed rest and a chance to bond with the new baby.

When Angelo brought Rosie home, her mother met the couple in the driveway with open arms. “Bambina! Welcome home!”

“Oh Mama,” Rosalie cried.

“Let me carry the bambina for you. You look so tired.” Mrs. Lombardo scowled when she saw the dark circles and pale complexion of her daughter.

Angelo carried the suitcase and helped Rosie get into the house. Mrs. Armani prepared a hot lunch for everyone, and Angelo’s father made sure a beautiful bouquet of yellow roses welcomed Rosalie home.

Rosalie sighed. “I’m so glad to be home.”

Mrs. Lombardo took charge. “Let’s get you out of that coat, sweetheart so you can eat lunch.” She handed Angelo the coat to hang in the closet. She continued with her orders, “Then you can nurse the baby before her nap.”

Simmering hot beef, roasted carrots, and potatoes made Angelo salivate. “Doesn’t the food smell good, Rosie?” Angelo lived on cold sandwiches while Rosalie recovered in the hospital, and now he planned to gorge himself on a hot, home-cooked meal.

Angelo pulled out a chair for Rosalie, and his mother put a filled plate in front of her. “Mangiare!”

As Angelo gobbled down a healthy portion of the meal, Rosalie picked at her food. “Mama, I’m sorry. I’m just not hungry.”

“But Rosalie, you must eat to make the baby’s milk.”

Rosalie threw her napkin on top of her food. “I’m sick of having to eat for the baby. The baby is out of me now, so why do I still need to eat for the baby?”

Her mother stared in disbelief. She tried to understand how Rosalie might be overwhelmed. “My sweet girl, the baby needs you as much now as she did before she came into the world, bambina. God planned it that way.”

“It’s not enough she tore me up inside and out? Now I am supposed to be a cow, too?” Rosalie screamed and stomped into the living room.

Angelo hung his head and stared at the good meal in front of him. He realized he didn’t possess the right words to calm her. He hoped Mrs. Lombardo and his mother might know the right things to say to bring Rosalie out of her funk.

Mrs. Lombardo followed Rosalie. She sat beside her daughter on the sofa.  “I understand this is hard right now. The first baby makes you learn so many new things. Being a mama is a big job, Rosie.”

Rosie cried. “I never wanted a baby! And now I must serve a life sentence taking care of her?”

Mrs. Lombardo’s mouth fell open and her hands went directly to her hips. Her voice took on a stern tone. “That is about enough, Rosalie. It is time to grow up. Stop acting like a spoil child. Maybe a nap might help.”

Rosalie pouted. She hated it when her mother made her feel small. She got up and dragged herself to her bedroom. She had been banished like a child who misbehaved in her own house! She pounded her pillow and cried.

Mrs. Lombardo returned to the kitchen and picked up the phone to call Eduardo at the restaurant. “Eduardo, you need to come. Rosie needs you. She is in such a state; I do not understand her. You always do.”

A couple of hours later Eduardo left the restaurant and drove to his daughter’s house. He conferred with his wife in the kitchen and then went to his daughter who sat in the rocking chair nursing his grandchild.

“What a beautiful sight, bambina!” He said.

“What’s beautiful about this, Papa? I’ve become a cow like Josie’s Betsy.”

Eduardo sat close to her on the floor. He spoke in a soft voice. “Oh Rosalie, no, you are a mama. You are not a cow. You are doing important work. You are feeding your little girl, my granddaughter. This is a great miracle.”

“Papa, would you think I’m a bad mother if I told you I didn’t want to feed my daughter? Or change her? Or rock her to sleep?” Rosalie spat the words like she bit into spoiled food.

Eduardo frowned. “How can you say such things?”

“Because. I hurt all over and now my breasts are cracked and bleeding from her pulling on me. I hate this! I want to quit being a mother.” Rosalie cried.

Eduardo knelt in front of her. “Rosalie, a mama makes many sacrifices for her babies. You are very young, but your mother was only sixteen when your brother Giovanni came, and her mama lived in the old country across an ocean; your mama is just around the corner. She will help you.”

“Mama thinks I’m hateful.” Tears welled in Rosalie’s eyes. “I am selfish. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, but right now I wish somebody would take this baby away from me. I can’t do this.”

Eduardo held her hand while he stared at his sleeping granddaughter. “No, my bambina, you are just afraid. Deep in your heart you love your little Angelina as I love you. You and Angelo will experience a wonderful life together, and now with little Angelina here, the love between you will grow even more. You are not alone, bambina. I am here, Mama is here. Angelo is here. His parents are here. Your brothers and sisters are here. Donna and Josie will help. When you get stronger, you will be the best mama in the world.”

“Oh, Papa.” She stared into her father’s moist eyes. “I want to believe what you say.”

Mrs. Lombardo came into the room and sat on the sofa. Rosalie looked at her mother with different eyes. “Mama, how did you ever do this?”

“One day at a time, my sweet daughter. One day at a time.”

Chapter 9

Lviv, Ukraine – April 1940—Heidi slipped into the bed she shared with Ruthie. She closed her eyes in the darkness and dreamed of the days in Berlin when she led a selfish, carefree life with her only desire to become a ballerina. Then overnight her life changed. She left her homeland and went on the run with three small children and their sick mother. In the still of the night she second guessed her decision to accompany Dora. She worried about the welfare of Uncle Hans and her three cousins. His only advantage might be his German background; perhaps his chances with the Nazis in power might better for him than other people. She prayed this would be the case. Some of the neighbors told her some non-Jews had been forced to work as slaves in mines and factories. Everyone needed to carry papers to prove their identity.  If people didn’t carry papers stating where they lived and worked, the Nazis would put them in prison.

The children woke before their mother at eight o’clock. Their hunger made them cry. She used the last of the cornmeal to make the breakfast porridge, and Heidi wondered where she would find more cornmeal.

Dora slept and didn’t stir for breakfast.  Usually the children’s activity would wake her, but today she lay still under a thin blanket.

Heidi bent down and whispered in Dora’s ear. “Dora, breakfast is ready.”

Dora didn’t respond.

Heidi shook Dora. No response. Dora appeared grey. Heidi gently shook her again. “Dora, please wake up. The children are asking for you.” Still no response. Heidi touched Dora’s forehead. She expected Dora to be hot with fever but instead her forehead seemed cold. Heidi pulled the blanket down to Dora’s waist and found a bottle of pills in the bed. The label on the bottle read, “Cyanide.”

“Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” Heidi screamed.

“What is wrong Heidi? Is Mama sick?” David held Ruthie’s hand, and she sucked the thumb of the opposite hand.

Heidi stared at the innocent faces of the two children. “I think your mother is very sick, David. You stay here. I will get some help.”

Heidi ran down the hallway and banged on a friend’s door. “Fritz! Fritz! Please open the door. It is Heidi!”

A thin young man with a gaunt face came to the door. “Heidi, whatever is wrong?”

“Dora won’t wake up! I think she is dead.”

“Oh no!”

Heidi cried. “Yes! Oh my God! What am I going to do now?”

Fritz pulled up his suspenders attached to his tattered trousers and followed Heidi to her room. He approached the figure in the bed and one glance told him Heidi had guessed right. With urgency in his voice, he said, “I will go down and get the landlord. You keep the children calm.”

David cried, “What is wrong with Mama, Heidi?”

Heidi bent down and hugged the six year old. “She is very sick, David. We must fetch a doctor to tell us what is wrong.”

David looked at her with frightened puppy eyes.

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. I will take care of you.”

The landlord came to the room and went to Dora’s bed. He wore a stone face as he looked at the body. He turned to Heidi. “I will call the coroner.”

Everyone in the apartment complex came out of their rooms. A horse-drawn wagon pulled up in front of the building, and two men dressed in white uniforms came to the third floor.  They gently placed Dora’s body onto the stretcher as Heidi and the children stayed out in the hallway. David held her hand while Ruthie clung to Heidi’s skirt still sucking her thumb. The men struggled down the staircase carrying their mother away. Only baby Jacob seemed oblivious to the situation.

David cried. “Where are they taking my Mama?”

His tender young voice broke Heidi’s heart. She decided she must tell him the truth. “I am so sorry, David. The man with the stretcher told me your mother died in the night and went to heaven.”

“Where is heaven?” David cried. “I want to go too!”

She stooped down and held David close. “I’m afraid we can’t go there, David. God will send us a special angel when it is our time. Without the angel’s help, we can’t find heaven.”

“That’s not fair!”

“I know, sweetheart. It is definitely not fair.”

Frantic thoughts rushed through her brain as she tried to soothe her young charges.

*****

After she tucked the children in for their afternoon naps, Heidi found an envelope addressed to her in Dora’s handwriting.

My dearest Heidi,

You are right. God did send you to me because he realized I am not strong enough to care for the children alone.  I did not realize my own weakness when we departed from Warsaw. I cannot accept this situation.   We live like peasants in one dreary room. There is no food and little hope of ever going back home. But I am sure I made the correct choice to leave. 

I cannot go on like this any longer. Everything I loved is gone; the future holds nothing for me in this world. I am a burden to you. I must leave.

Please love and care for my children and forgive me for leaving you with such a heavy burden. I believe you are strong enough to protect yourself and the children. You are wise beyond your years. Perhaps you can make your way to Palestine or Switzerland.

 I leave you my car, money, and jewels. A large rare diamond is sewn in the hem of my coat; it may help you someday.

Be safe my child. I will wait for you in heaven.

Love, Dora

Heidi read the letter again and again in disbelief. Oh Dora? How could you? How could you trust someone so young with your three little ones?

During the past few months, Dora and Heidi grew close. But Heidi didn’t recognize Dora’s deep despair. Life had become more difficult than either of them imagined. And what would she do now? She may not be Jewish, but the new laws stated anyone who protected Jews would be punished by the Nazis too.

Heidi stared out into space as the children took their afternoon naps. Dora taught her more about art, music, and literature than she ever learned in formal schooling; she enhanced Heidi’s life so much in the little time they shared together. She and Dora planned exciting things in Warsaw, but now all those dreams disappeared. Heidi never would dance on the biggest stages in Europe with Dora looking on in the audience. Instead, she now bore the sole responsibility of caring for Dora’s three little children.

A few pills changed everything for Heidi and the children, and she couldn’t hide her fear and anger. Why couldn’t Dora be stronger? Why couldn’t she accept the harsh treatment the world dished out to her as so many others? As Heidi gazed at the orphans asleep, she promised someday she might forgive their mother; in the meantime, she would do her best to keep them safe and promised never to abandon them.

 

 

 

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.

####

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

 

 

 

A Good Day

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

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

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

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

#####

Chapter 28

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

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

December, 1939

 Dear Marta,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas, Love Leisel

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

Chapter 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josie shook the box.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ditto.” Anna said.

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

“March 10-on your birthday.”

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

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

“Well, you certainly did that!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donna blushed and stayed silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, sure, but-

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

“So you love him?”

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

“Can we please change the subject?”

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

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

 

 

A Better Day

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

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

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

Enough is enough already.

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

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

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

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

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

Chapter 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Of course.” Heidi paused. “Dora.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heidi nodded.

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

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

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

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

 

Reunited and It Feels So Good

I can’t believe a month has passed since my class reunion. This reunion was not a high school get together; it was an eighth grade graduation from our Catholic parochial school. Yes. You read it right. If I was vain, I wouldn’t tell you it was our 50th.

The idea to put on such a party started about four years ago when some of my classmates from high school partied together. Two guys thought it would be wonderful to get as many of the 34 students who graduated from Saint Sebastian’s together again.

So they went to work. David W. had a website created so once a week classmates could chat together. Then after he found a few of the students, he went on a merry search to find other people who scattered around the country.the class0001

Dyann, Debby, and I worked here at the base station of Sturtevant, Wisconsin putting the details of the party together . . . you know, the work. We figured out how to provide a tent, tables, chairs, and porta-potty. Then we turned our attention to the food. All three of us are good cooks, so consequently, we could have fed the whole village with the leftovers.

The day before the party, we decorated Dy’s backyard with a poster of the class from 1965; I volunteered an artifact — the hated beanie we girls had to wear to church everyday. Debby made a mobile with pictures of all the crazy dances we used to do, and she also put signs like “Nitty Gritty,” “Sock it to Me,” and other colloquial teenage words on colorful tag board and hung them around the tent.

I got together old pictures and created a “movie” which represented everybody in the class using background music from 1965. After dinner, we had a premiere showing on Dy’s big screen TV and gave each guest a DVD as a parting gift for everybody to take home.

How did it turn out? Pretty cool.

Even though we’re all 64 or close to it, nobody looked old. . . at least not to me. Nobody stood apart from the group; everyone mixed well–even the spouses who were brave enough to come along. Half the girls were teachers, the other half nurses. Most everybody had two kids, and were married going on 20 to 45 years. I joked I had been married 42 years–but I accomplished such a feat with two men. I also didn’t fall into the teacher/nurse occupation. I guess I’m still an odd ball. I had 20 years in corporate communications and website development, and then six years as a financial adviser. I also joked it took me until I was over fifty to finally grow up and admit I’m a died-in-the wool writer.

Only five classmates remain in the area; everyone else came from long distances. Two made the trip from California, one from Arizona, one from Connecticut, one from North Carolina, three from Florida, and one from Virginia. Three others live in Wisconsin, but had to drive four or more hours to get here. And finally, four classmates looked down from heaven.  We all were glad we made the trip. There’s nothing like spending time with the kids who played “Red Rover Come Over,” jump rope, double dutch, and hopscotch on the playground.

Where did fifty years go?

#####

APPLE PIE & STRUDEL GIRLS — Book 2

Chapter 10

Warsaw, Poland – July, 1939—Heidi enjoyed her young cousins during her first weeks in Warsaw. She took them swimming, picnicking, and biking during the warm summer days while her uncle worked. Uncle Hans proved to be gentle and kind. After his wife died from pneumonia the year before, he went on raising his children alone. Right away, Heidi trusted her uncle and realized she could confide in him.

After the children went to bed, Heidi relaxed with Uncle Hans in the parlor.

She cleared her throat before she spoke. “Uncle?”

He put down his newspaper and gave Heidi his undivided attention. “Yes, Heidi?”

“Is now a good time to talk?”

“I will always make time for you, Heidi. What’s on your mind?”

She fidgeted trying to work up the courage to tell him about her desire to become a nanny in Warsaw. She decided to talk about the children before broaching the subject. “Gertruda loves her daily ballet lessons. She is so fun to teach.”

Uncle Hans chuckled. “Yes. When I tucked her in tonight, she said you and she are performing tomorrow evening in the parlor.”

“Yes. That is the plan.”

Hans smiled. “Shall we invite the neighbors?”

Heidi paused. “Not just yet. She still is a bit—uh, how do I say this delicately?” Heidi searched for the right word. “She still is a bit niezdarny—clumsy.”

Hans chuckled. Heidi went silent and sipped her cup of nighttime tea.

“Is something troubling you, Heidi?”

“When Papa and Mama wrote to you about my visit, did they tell you I might want to find a nanny position here in Warsaw?”

“I wondered when you would mention your intentions.”

“So they did say something.”

“Yes.”

“Good.” She relaxed and took out the ad her mother received in a letter from her cousin.

“I would like to apply for this position with the Gessler family.”

Hans studied the ad. “Heidi, this ad is weeks old. Perhaps the position is filled already.” Heidi’s face fell. She remained silent. Hans read the ad aloud. “Wanted: A nanny for three young children – ages six, four, and thirteen months.” Hans paused. “This position comes with a lot of responsibility, Heidi. Do you think you are up to such a challenge on your first job?”

“I am qualified, Uncle. I brought my certificate from school, and I always cared for my brothers and sisters. I want to apply.”

“You do not need my permission, dear Heidi. If you can handle three little children, you must apply. The address is a very good part of Warsaw, and you are wonderful with your cousins. I will give you a good reference if you want one.”

“Thank you Uncle Hans. That is a generous offer I’ll accept.” She rose. “I’ll call the phone number right now!” She ran into the hallway and picked up the phone.

“If you get an interview, I will drive you there.” He shouted after her.

A few minutes later, Heidi returned with a broad smile. “Uncle Hans, I’m so excited!” Hans once again put the nightly newspaper down. “I can see that.”

“My interview is tomorrow at nine o’clock! I must get ready.”  She bounced up the stairs to pick out an appropriate outfit for the occasion.

Chapter 11

Berlin, Germany – July 1939—Leisel fell into a mild depression with both of her close friends so far away for the summer. She filled her time by helping her mother with the household chores and exploring new hairdo’s she found in fashion magazines. With the majority of her free time, she studied for the entrance exams to the university.

Since Marta encouraged her to pursue her dreams, Leisel began to believe she possessed what it took to be successful in college. She found housework and cooking tedious and wished for something more exciting to do. Her strict father forbade her to go out at night without a chaperon. When she asked to go out with one of the neighborhood boys, he said “no” and sent her to her room for the evening. He had bigger plans for her, He expected her to marry well and not fall in love with any neighborhood boy.

One balmy evening Leisel mustered enough courage to tell her father of her intentions to sit for the entrance exam, but in one sentence he quashed her dreams. “I forbid it!”

Leisel’s eyes filled with water, and she stomped her foot. “You are not being fair, Vater. I will be a good student and make you proud.”

He stood up and puffed out his chest. “I will hear no more of this nonsense. You are going to Schwanenwerder.  No where else. I enrolled you. When you graduate from there, you will make me proud.” He strutted out of the room mumbling girls had no business at the university.

Leisel dropped to the floor and sobbed. Her father just told her he enrolled her into a premiere bride school. Instead of studying academics, this school stressed the social graces. Upon graduation Aryan-looking girls like Leisel became perfect mates for SS officers in order to perpetuate the Aryan race of blue-eyed blond children.

 

Pet Therapy

The title of this blog is probably misleading, but it’s the best I’ve got this morning. I’ve had my first cup of coffee as the television keeps me company. About every third commercial had a dog or cat in it, and these ads made me think of my friends and their pets.

March 30 038Most every day I tell Ernie he is the cutest pug in the world. He’s so lovable. As you can see, he really hams it up once we put on a silly hat or other apparatus on his head. His happiest time is when he’s sitting on my lap or Ken’s lap. He is content to just be near us. At eight years old, he could care less if he plays. He doesn’t even want to chew on rawhide bones any more.

poeYesterday I visited with Jackie who took in a boy Maine Coon cat who has quite a personality. She is the process of moving and “Poe” is totally confused because she keeps eliminating his hiding places. She said he looked at her when he went to one of his favorite spots and it had vanished. He let out a loud “meow” as if to say, “What the heck?”

Then there’s my friend Kay who recently took in three stray cats to go with her one house cat. Yes, she has four cats, and no, she’s not nuts. She moved to Florida last year and has found the move more difficult than she ever imagined. I believe the universe sent her these three little boys to keep her laughing and happy. If you have cats, you know you don’t need any other entertainment when a kitten is in the house.

I think we all have these little creatures in our lives because none of us has any grandchildren. Our pets fill a deep seated need to spread our love onto some little being. We always talk about our four-legged children, catching each other up on the latest antics of our pets. A little crazy? I suppose. But that’s okay. When our animals follow us from room to room, none of us feel alone. These little souls give us unconditional love just what we all need.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June, 1939—A few weeks into her summer vacation, Donna Jean became bored with hanging out at the beach, listening to the radio soap opera, “Ma Perkins,” and writing in her diary. Since graduation, her father nagged her every day to go out and find a job, but Donna Jean refused. In retaliation for disobeying him, Donna’s father got physical with her. Any saucy comment resulted in a hard slap to the face.

After the Fourth of July celebration, Josie and Donna met at Joe’s Diner for a Coke and french fries.

Donna sipped her Coke. “The fireworks knocked me out! God, I think every year they get better.”

“Yeah, I love fireworks. So many colors against the dark sky. I only wish I had a boyfriend to keep me warm in the damp summer night.” Josie teased Donna.

“Just because I came with a date and you didn’t doesn’t mean you get to give me the raspberries.” Donna grinned.

Josie said in a dreamy tone. “I can’t believe in six weeks I’ll be off to college.”

“At least you got to enjoy a little bit this summer. Rumors at Joe’s tell you and Bobby did some sparking in the cornfield.”

“You bad girl. I did nothing of the sort.” Josie blushed.

“Josie, you aren’t as pure as you pretend to be. ‘Fess up.”

“I won’t ‘fess up.  Bobby just helped me get the tractor started when the old thing stalled in the middle of the field. That’s all. Nothing happened.”

“Oh, really.” Donna didn’t believe a word.

“Yes. Really. Besides, he’s too old for me. Good looking, I’ll admit. But too old.” Josie got a dreamy look on her face.

“You realized with that dreamy look you just confessed the rumors are true, don’t you?”  Donna said with confidence.

“You and your gossip. One of these days you’re really going to hurt someone by spreading stories that aren’t true.”

“I’ll never hurt you, Josie.” Donna said seriously. “You’re my best friend.”

“Then as your best friend, I’m telling you the truth. Nothing is going on with Bobby.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll drop the subject.” Donna Jean said. “After graduation I vowed I would enjoy my summer and not look for work until you left for school.” Donna never talked about her father’s abuse.

“Yeah.”

“Well, right now I’m bored. I can’t be with you because you’re working on the farm. So, how would you feel if I got a job?  I’m going stir crazy with all this alone time.”

“I think you should go for it. I’m surprised you think you need my permission to go to work, especially with the way you like new clothes and shoes. I’m surprised your Dad hasn’t kicked you out of the house by now.”

“Gee. Thanks.” Donna pouted.

“Go get the best job you can, Donna, and I’ll be very proud of you.” Josie said.

Donna said, “First thing Monday morning I’ll be out pounding the pavement, but right now, let’s go down by your pond and skinny dip for a while.”

Josie jumped out of the booth and headed for the door. “Last one to the pond is a dumb blond!”

*****

Donna Jean started her job search early Monday morning. She dressed in her navy blue “career girl” dress, a pair of sensible high heels, and a smart hat to make a good impression. She submitted applications with the city’s biggest employers including Autolite, Allis Chalmers, Northern Engraving, and G. Heileman Brewing. Several of the personnel managers gave her a typing and shorthand test. All day she filled out applications and other paperwork as she walked from one company to the next. By evening the soles of her feet burned, and she acquired a couple of blisters on her heels.

Three days after visiting G. Heileman Brewing, Donna received a phone call from the personnel manager. He told her she scored high on both the typing and the shorthand tests, and he wanted to meet with her for a more informative interview. Donna maintained a calm voice as she spoke with the manager, but the second she hung up the phone, she jumped and screamed, “Mom! G. Heileman wants to interview me!” She grabbed her mother and whirled her around the kitchen. ”

Her mother frowned and broke Donna’s hold. “Don’t get your hopes up. You’re  not as good as you think you are, young lady. At least now I your father might stop screaming at you.” She walked into the living room.

“Gee, thanks, Mom.” Donna’s eyes moistened. Why did her mother enjoy bursting her bubble?

Chapter 9

Berlin, Germany — July 1939—Heidi sat in the kitchen with a glass of milk and piece of strudel as she dreamed about escaping Germany and getting on with her life in a different country. The nanny position might be a good experience. She loved children. She enjoyed teaching and caring for them, and she even didn’t mind doing some light housework, if required by her employer. A job in Poland would also give her a chance to meet some boys who didn’t fall under the spell of the Nazis.

Since she spoke with her mother about working in Poland, Heidi got more excited about leaving home. She went to the library and read about their neighboring country and wrote a letter to her Warsaw cousins. The day she received a reply from her Uncle Hans inviting her for a visit, she and her mother went straight to the train station to buy a ticket.

Heidi’s father didn’t think his daughter should be influenced by  the inferior Poles. He never understood why his brother didn’t return to Germany after his Polish wife died, but Heidi’s enthusiasm to see her uncle and cousins made denying her difficult. But at least she didn’t talk about dancing so much any more.

Heidi kept her eyes on her parents through the train window as the train pulled away from the station. Her father put his arms around her mother as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. For a second, Heidi wondered if she shouldn’t take the trip.

When her parents faded away, Heidi pulled out a book from her bag and began to read in Polish. At an early age her father insisted she speak two languages, so she learned Polish. Learning a new language was fun, so Heidi learned French and English too.

Between children screaming and the jostling of the train, Heidi didn’t sleep the entire ten hours of the trip. She thanked God the train trip ended as she stepped onto the Warsaw train station platform. All around her other languages bombarded her; and her fear of speaking Polish and making a mistake when asking for directions scared her. All of a sudden crippling shyness took over. How strange to hear foreign words. Before she could understand the conversations around her, she needed to translate each word into German. And because the native speakers talked fast, she fell behind and got lost.

Out of the din, a man shouted in German, “Heidi-hier dren!”

She turned around to see a man waving. When she studied his face, she realized he must be her Uncle Hans. His image matched the photograph her father kept on the mantel at home.

“Uncle Hans!” Heidi shouted and ran toward him.

The tall man with bushy eyebrows took her bag. “Did you enjoy your trip?”

“No.  I am so tired. Between the train noise, passengers talking, and children screaming, the journey proved difficult to sleep.”

“Perhaps you are just a little bit nosy to block them out?” Her uncle teased and chuckled.

She laughed with him. “Perhaps a little.”

He escorted her to a waiting car with three children in the backseat. “Heidi, these are your Warsaw cousins – Gertruda, Michal, and Anka.”

Heidi said with a broad smile, “Hello everyone.”

Anka spoke first in German. “We are very glad you are here, Heidi. Father told us about where you live.”

Then Michal said, “Yes. Papa told us that you live in Berlin. What is the city like?”

Gertruda, the youngest said. “Papa said you are a dancer. Will you teach me?”

Heidi appeared a bit flustered at the bombardment of questions.

Her uncle came to her rescue. “Heidi is very tired. How about we let her rest and after dinner she can answer all of your questions.”

“All right, Papa.” They said in unison and settled into the backseat.

Heidi sat forward in the passenger seat to avoid their disappointed faces.

Hans smiled as he drove home.