Tag Archive | perspective

Critics and My Soul

One thing I’ve never told my blogging friends is my love of classical music. It started back in high school when our choir sang pieces by the old composers like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. I had a dream someday I might sing on Broadway, but I listened to the dream dashers in my life and went on to work in an office instead of pursuing MY dreams in college.

Years went by and as a young mother, I was invited to join a semi-pro group of singers which performed entire movements by the same composers I enjoyed in high school. Up until then, I always had the best voice in the whole choir. Now I was surrounded by sopranos who could sing as well as I could.

After a year in the group, I figured it was time to let the director know I wanted to sing a solo in the Schubert Mass. He agreed and assigned me the Kyrie. I learned very quickly the piece required more skill than I possessed because every time I opened my mouth, unpleasant noises came out of me. As hard as I tried, I could not successfully sing the solo. Luckily, one of the women in the group was a voice teacher, so I asked her if she would take me on as a student. I knew getting help was necessary, but my ego got bruised admitting I didn’t know everything about singing.

Weeks of exercises, vocalises, and hours of practicing got me in shape to sing the Kyrie. When the big moment came, the first couple of bars were a little shaky, but after that, I relaxed and the high notes floated out on pitch. After the concert, the compliments came my way and I felt accomplished, but I wanted more chances to stand out so I continued my voice lessons.

At that point in my life, I needed to be recognized and my voice was the only tool I had. People wanted to listen to me, and that fact made me happy. I was something more than a daughter, wife, and mom. My voice let me be me. And if anyone ever criticized me, I felt wounded. Later on I confessed this fact with the director and he said, “Of course a negative comment would hurt you, Barb; it’s the artist in you; it’s your very soul.”

I don’t sing regularly any more; my arthritic hip doesn’t allow me to stand in one place for an entire hour. Instead I’ve carried my thirst to be special in my writing and in my art work. I “work” at both endeavors and luckily my soul has grown a thick enough skin to let the critics take their best shot because I know every time I sit at the keyboard or at the easel, whatever I produce will be better than it was in the past. It’s called growing. When you think you know it all, dive in and you’ll realize how little you really know.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 22

North Africa-November—When Josie completed the training in Arizona, she left Camp Young feeling strong, confident, and ready to get to work. She easily adapted to Army life, attributing her easy assimilation to growing up on a farm where she experience hard work and waking in the early hours of the morning.

After four weeks of Army hardening, Josie’s orders sent her to an Army hospital in Topeka Kansas. She cared  for retired and wounded veterans who returned home for rehabilitation. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, she would be one of sixty nurses attached to the 48th Surgical Hospital Unit. This would be her first job as a surgical nurse. She also was chosen to supervise the activities of ten other nurses. She called her mother as soon as she got her orders for deployment to North Africa.

“Hi, Mom!” Josie said with excitement in her voice.

“Josie, how wonderful! How are you, sweetheart?”

“I’m fine. I’m calling to tell you I received new orders.”

Mrs. Schneider held her breath. “Oh, that’s nice, dear.”

“I’m assigned to the 48th Surgical Hospital.” She took a deep breath before she uttered the next sentence. “We’re going Africa.”

“What?”

“Please be happy for me, Mom. I finally get a chance to use my training.  I’m going to be a surgical nurse!”

“You’re going to Africa? Isn’t it really hot there?”

“Of course the weather is hot in Africa; that’s why we trained in the Arizona desert for six weeks. I ship out in two weeks.”

Mrs. Schneider’s stomach churned. “Will you come home before you leave?”

Josie recognized a quiver in her mother’s voice. “Now, Mom. I’ll be fine. If I can survive boot camp, I can do anything.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“Yes. The Army is sending me home for a few days before I ship out. I bet after being under your feet for a few days, you’ll be glad to send me packing after you see what the army has done to me.”

“You aren’t going to sound revelry, are you?” Her mother forced a laugh. “A bugle will scare the chickens!”

Josie smiled at her mother’s attempt at humor. “I love you, Mom. I’ll be home soon.”

“I love you too, Josie.” Her mother sat down on a kitchen chair and took deep breaths. She closed her eyes and forced herself not to think her little girl going to war.

Chapter 23

New York – October—After flying from Kansas to New York City, Josie and sixty other nurses met at the dock where a transport ship would take them and hundreds of soldiers to the coast of North Africa. Once they boarded the ship, the nurses learned they would be part of the first wave of Operation TORCH to hit the beach in North Africa.

On the morning of November 8th, Josie climbed down an rope ladder on the side of the destroyer to a Higgins boat bobbing in the surf below. She and the other nurses were dressed in fatigues, army boots, and four-pound steel helmets. They were  indistinguishable from the men except for the Red Cross patch they wore on their sleeve. Instead of a rifle and ammunition, each nurse carried a backpack of medical supplies, a small canvas bag with a shoulder strap called a musette bag, a gas mask, and a canteen filled with drinking water, which hung on a belt around her waist.

The boats sped to the beach and dropped the ramps in waist-high water; soldiered ran ahead firing as the nurses followed them onto the beach. Gunfire whizzed by, and the unarmed nurses got down on their bellies and crawled on their elbows to the nearest sand dune. Josie huddled with five other nurses as the enemy snipers shot at anything moving. The girls lay pinned down for hours with no escape. When darkness fell, a handsome lieutenant and his patrol escorted them to an abandoned shack along the shoreline where casualties of the day waited for treatment. Josie gasped she got close to the shack they used as a hospital. Thoughts swam in her head. “How are we ever going to keep instruments sterile in such a place? Will our supplies be enough? How in the world am I going to organize such a dump?”

When they entered the “hospital” the odors of filth, dirt, blood, and urine lingered in the air. Seeing the deplorable conditions made several nurses gag and vomit. They soon learned the building had no electricity and running water. Worse yet, the medical supplies they ferried in on their backs didn’t provide nearly enough to properly treat every wounded man. Josie looked beyond the horrid conditions and took command. She assigned two nurses to cover the blown out windows with rough green army blankets to prevent snipers from picking them off in any light. Next she triaged the wounded, and  at her direction corpsmen  moved the most severely wounded upstairs to the make-shift operating room. The rest of the wounded  laid in pools of their blood on the concrete floor while nurses bandaged what they could while rats and other vermin nosed about. Some men cried out, but others bit their lips trying not to cry out in pain. None of them complained.  They understood help  finally was within reach, and they thanked the nurses for any kindness or pain relief.

Doctors operated by flashlights held by corpsmen in the make-shift operating room. Surgical nurses stood beside doctors for hours repairing what they could with the limited supplies they carried ashore. When the doctors closed the wounds of one soldier, another wounded GI took his place. Surgery went on through the night. As the sun rose, six more soldiers held on for their turn on the table. But supplies dwindled. Morphine and either got to critical levels. The continued fighting on the beach prohibited getting the much needed supplies to the hospital. In the meantime medical personnel did their best to keep the men alive.

The doctors and nurses hung on for two days. With no sleep for forty-eight hours, Josie collapsed where she stood. A sergeant hoisted her willowy frame and laid her down on a blanket in the hallway. As she slept, a surging anger fired combative dreams. Why would any nation inflict such suffering and misery on so many?

Chapter 24

Anrath, Germany – December—Prisoners at the Anrath facility toiled sixty hours per week, while civilian workers only worked forty. They worked in abhorrent conditions. Rayon dust produced breathing problems. Vapors from the highly acidic material nearly blinded workers. If a civilian worker complained, she received treatment immediately, but prisoners did not get such care. German overseers forced prisoners to stay at their machines until they went totally blind.

As Emma toiled, the wardress stood in front of Emma and announced, “You received a letter from Paris, frauline.” She waved the envelope. In a glance Emma recognized Marta’s distinct handwriting. She lunged at the wardress and tried to snatch the letter from her. The witch pulled back and laughed. “You cannot read this, frauline. Remember no letters allowed. I just wanted to tell you that you got mail.”

Emma slumped back into her chair. She lowered her head as her vision blurred with tears. Up until now, nothing defeated her, but seeing Marta’s letter and not being able to read her words defeated her to the point of not caring any more.

*****

Viscose burns were a constant source of agony for the women who worked in the rayon factory. Civilians received gloves to protect their hands, while the prisoners received none. Working with bare hands produced cuts and blisters. Emma’s left hand developed six viscose wounds and her right hand suffered from three. The acid ate into her untreated wounds, making them swell and blister. She endured excruciating pain, and if she complained, the guards would beat her.

The wounds on Emma’s hands got worse as the weeks passed, but the factory doctor still considered her fit to work. She needed water to make a dressing for her wounds, but prisoners received no water for wounds or thirst.

After returning to her cell after a ten-hour day, Emma tore a strip of cloth from her work dress hem and soaked the fabric with her own urine. Then she wrapped the wet rags around her hands. Much to her surprise, the pain eased, and she fell fast asleep. After that first night, Emma repeated the process every night.  In a few days, her hands began to heal. The improvement empowered her to fight on. She outwitted the cruelty of everyone in power at the prison. Her cleverness brought a small miracle.

*****

Weeks after Emma’s hands healed, her eyes got so bad from the vapors, she not only experienced blurred vision but suffered debilitating stabbing pains in her irritated eyes. Splitting headaches accompanied the lingering neck pains. Then blindness and the pain made it impossible for her to work. Emma complained to wardress and didn’t care if she received a beating. Her reflection in the store windows attested she appeared half dead already.

The overseer shook his head and dragged her to the factory medic. The doctor probed her eyelids with filthy fingers. He deemed Emma unfit for work, but instead of receiving treatment for her injuries, she found herself in a group of women who suffered the same injuries.  The pitiful women sobbed in pain; Emma wanted to cry with them, but her pride wouldn’t let her. Worst of all, the time away from her machine gave Emma time to think. Of course, her first thought wondered what Marta wrote in her letter. Part of her wished to ignore the letter’s existence, but she consoled herself that now with inflamed eyes, she probably couldn’t read it anyway.

 

 

A “Holiday” Weekend

Labor Day. A day when those who labor take the day off. A celebration of the American worker. Interesting concept, huh?

The first Labor Day was held on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. Its origin stems from the desire of the Central Labor Union to create a holiday for workers. It became a federal holiday in 1894.

So that’s the story of how Labor Day came to be. I couldn’t resist digging up the historical aspect of this holiday, but I think most of us see this three-day weekend as something else. Some people believe Labor Day is the last hurrah of the summer. A time for a final picnic and day at the beach. Some recognize it as the signal autumn has begun. Kids go back to school. Women don’t wear white clothing any more — unless,  of course, they decide to get married after Labor Day. Leaves start turning colors and we start thinking about comfort food. You get the drift.

I don’t think most people even think about the holiday as it originated. We no longer have parades to celebrate the day. People love the three-day weekend, even though they know when they return to work on Tuesday, they’ll need to stay late for the next four days to meet their deadlines.

So Happy Labor Day everyone. Have some fun!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 20

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-October—The girls at the Autolite plant received orders to go to the cafeteria after their shift to attend a special presentation. Everyone was tired and hot after working their ten-hour shift. The last thing they wanted to do was sit at a meeting. But management made attendance mandatory, so if they wanted to be paid, they needed to attend.

Donna Jean and her co-workers sat in the front row, as the president of the company stood at the microphone. He tapped the device three times and said, “Testing, testing.” His voice reverberated through the cafeteria. “Ladies, please take a seat.” At the far end of the room women dashed to find an unoccupied folding chair. When their whispering ceased, the president cleared his throat. “Ladies, today we are lucky to listen to Mrs. Alleta Sullivan from Waterloo, Iowa. Won’t you please give her a warm welcome?”

A stout middle-age woman with a broad face and deep crow’s feet around her eyes stood up and walked to the microphone. She stood about five foot two and wore a conservative navy blue suit with white piping around the collar. A dark blue pill-box hat rested on her forehead. She wore no stockings and sensible flat black shoes. A white carnation corsage was pinned on her lapel.

The dowdy looking woman held the microphone stand for moral support as she spoke in a meek voice.  “Ladies, I’m here today to tell you about my sons. Perhaps you read about them in the newspapers.” She cleared her throat. “All five of my sons enlisted together at the naval office on Jan 3, 1942 after their childhood friend died on the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. My youngest son, Albert, was a father already, and he didn’t need to enlist, but he believed he should accompany his four brothers into war.  His pregnant wife begged Albert not to go off to war with his brothers. But he went anyway.”

Donna leaned over to her workmate and whispered. “My friend Rosie is going through the same thing.”

Mrs. Sullivan continued with her story. “But when Katherine Mary studied Albert’s face, she couldn’t say “no” to him. She and her little boy Jimmy moved in with my husband and me after all five boys enlisted. They insisted they be allowed to serve on the same ship and fortunately or unfortunately, the U. S. Navy honored their request.”

As her voice grew stronger, the audience leaned in.

“One night, I went to bed as usual. I found it hard to sleep even though I couldn’t keep my eyes opened when I sat on my chair in our living room. When I did fall asleep, a nightmare scared me half to death. I saw my sons reaching out for me.  Like any mother, I yearned to help them. Their voices called to me, “Mother, help me!” I woke soaked in sweat because the dream disturbed me so much. I jumped out of bed and got down on my knees. I prayed for all of my boys and asked to never experience such a nightmare again.

Mrs. Sullivan drew in a deep breath. “A week after my bad night while we ate breakfast, someone knocked on our door.   My husband, Katherine Mary, Jimmy, and I gathered in the living room in our bathrobes and slippers to listen to a Navy commander say: “The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your sons, Albert, Francis, George, Joseph and Madison Sullivan are missing in action in the South Pacific.”

My sons served on the USS Juneau. The Japanese bombed the ship, while it sailed to bring badly needed supplies to the Marines on Guadalcanal. The ship sank the same night of my dream.”

Donna gasped. The rest of the audience sat in dead silence.

Mrs. Sullivan continued. “I hope none of you ever experience officers coming to your door. I hope you never hear those awful words of your son or husband being killed. I hope you never feel the overwhelming sadness which makes your knees buckle as you feel the life drain out of you. My grief paralyzed me. My world changed with the words spoken by those navy men that morning. My sons died. Everything I ever lived for vanished with an enemy bomb. I wanted to die to tend to my sons.”

“My sorrow paralyzed me. I couldn’t do anything for weeks. I didn’t get out of bed a lot of days. I didn’t eat. I didn’t even care if I combed my hair. My grief blinded me. I should have been a source of my daughter-in-law Katherine who suffered as much as I did. But I wallowed in my own self pity and didn’t reach out to anyone.  My husband Thomas took care of both of us. Finally, one day he held my hand and said, ‘Alleta, the boys wouldn’t want you to go on like this any longer.’ He spoke the truth.  My boys filled my life with love – and, of course, they also got into plenty of mischief–I guess that goes with being boys.” Mrs. Sullivan chuckled at her joke and then she turned serious. “I’m proud to say they never forgot a Mother’s Day or my birthday, and I realize all of them loved me. Now, when I look at my grandson Jimmy, I recognize his father Albert’s eyes. Jimmy needs me more than ever since he will grow up without a father.”

“After my husband opened my heart, God touched me. He put the thought in my head that I needed to continue the fight my sons started. That’s why I’m here today – talking to all of you.”

“Besides encouraging you all to buy war bonds, I want you to thank you all  for coming to work everyday. As you run lathes and punch presses, you provide the equipment our boys need. On top of that you keep your babies safe and put up with all the rationing. You all are deeply appreciated even though most people don’t say so. The hard work that goes unnoticed, and the lonely nights you endure, is appreciated by mothers like me. All of you who volunteer for the Red Cross, you are deeply appreciated.”

“You’re all doing important work. You may not be sweating in the jungles of the South Pacific, but you sweat here in the factories. You work hard to do everything in our power to increase efficiency and productivity to keep our boys going. Their missions and sacrifices will save our way of life.” Mrs. Sullivan took a sip of water from the glass on the podium. “I want to personally thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your service.”

“My son George wrote in one letter, ‘We brothers make a great team together. We can’t be beat.'” Mrs. Sullivan’s voice quavered. “My boys made a good team to the end, and you are a good team as well. When you think the world is ending, keep your chins up and support one another. We need to band together as our country and your men fight this terrible war. Your efforts are as important as every man in battle. You are our protecting the front lines at home.”

Mrs. Sullivan held the audience in her hand. She invaded the girls’ hearts as if she spoke personally to each one of them.  “God bless all of you for your fine work.” She stepped back from the microphone, and the entire cafeteria erupted in applause. One after another, the girls stood on their feet and cheered for Mrs. Sullivan. Tears rolled down cheeks as the little woman took her place under a banner with five gold stars – one for every son who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Chapter 21

Budapest, Hungary-November—A year had passed since Heidi and the children knocked on Rabbi Weissman’s door. Under his roof the children found happiness again and were free to get into mischief like children. Little Jacob learned to walk and chattered like a baby bird. David kept busy reading every book in the Rabbi’s library, and Ruthie practiced her ballet steps under Heidi’s instruction. Best of all, they played with Gavriella and the Rabbi’s five children.

Staying at with the Rabbi and Gavriella showed Heidi the fear and desperation of Jewish families. Families from every country in Europe drifted through the Rabbi’s home searching for a long-term answer to Hitler’s “final solution.” Many planned to seek asylum in Palestine, but such trips proved to be risky and expensive. Heidi wondered just how long she and the children would be safe with the Rabbi. If Hitler’s march through Europe was any indication of what was to come to Hungary, she would need an exit plan ready.

One day Heidi approached the Rabbi studying in his office. “Rabbi? I need to speak with you. Is now a good time?”

“He looked up from his text and smiled. “Heidi, please come in. Tell me what is troubling you.”

“I am concerned, Rabbi. What will we do if the Germans should overtake us?”

“Why do you trouble yourself with such things, Heidi? You are like a daughter and your children are like my own grandchildren. Do not worry. My people will take care of all of you.”

“But I think the children might be safer if I left with them? Let’s face the facts, Rabbi, everything is more restrictive and food rations are more stringent. We are a burden on you.”

“You are no such thing!” The Rabbi’s closed his book and stood up. “I promise you Heidi, you will not go hungry here. If danger rears its ugly head, I will take the necessary action. You are safe, child. I do have a plan for you.”

Heidi smiled, but she pursued her line of thought. “Wonder if all the Jewish people in Budapest are rounded up and sent to the camps like Poland and other places? The Nazis would take all of us and throw us onto the trains. I must keep my promise to Dora to protect the children.” Tears welled in her eyes. “The children will fare better if we leave.”

The Rabbi stood and gazed at the girl. “No. I do not want you to leave! A young girl like you traveling alone with three small children would be quite perilous.”

“But I am German, Rabbi. I speak with the right dialect. I can get them through to Switzerland where we will all be safe.”

“Heidi. Listen. A woman traveling without a man, especially in war is an easy target, my child.” The Rabbi spoke with concern in his voice. “You might be overpowered, beaten, raped or killed. I really wish you would not dwell on this subject.”

“How can I not?” Heidi paused. “What man who would go with me?”

The rabbi pulled at his long salt-and-pepper colored beard as he considered her question. “Right now, the Hungarian government will not deport any Jews from Budapest. Eichman made an agreement with my organization.”

“And you think the agreement will last?” Heidi thought the Rabbi deluded himself to think a Nazi like Eichman could be a man of his word.

“For right now? Yes. In the future, no one can predict.  So, I pray to God. He will keep me apprised of what I need to do and when I need to take action.”

“I pray, too, Rabbi-every night that God will protect the children. They deserve a chance to grow up.”

“Yes, Heidi.” The Rabbi smiled. “And so do you.”

 

 

A Shrinking World?

Yesterday I talked with my good friend Catherine who moved to Florida about three years ago. Her move was difficult for me because we had lived within an hour’s drive of each other for over twenty years. But the move was necessary, and I accepted the fact I might have lost her being close, but now I had a nice place to visit.

During our long conversation, Catherine asked me whether I thought her world had shrunken. I thought the question was queer, so I asked her why she would think such a thing. She told me another good friend of hers said Catherine was wasting away in the land of boredom.

I was shocked. How could a long-time friend say such a thing? Even if their life styles were different, I couldn’t imagine one friend being so cruel to another. I saw the comment as a lack of respect and knew Catherine was stinging from it.

This friend had just retired and was embarking on a new adventure and retiring in the Virgin Islands, so she probably saw Catherine’s day-to-day life at home as mundane. But even so, I told Catherine such a comment was cruel, and I reminded her never let someone else define her.

For years Catherine and I have followed a similar path. We even worked together on two different jobs. Now we are caretakers for our husbands, but our choice doesn’t by any means make us boring. In fact, we both have embarked on another course in life which is slower and more meaningful than when we battled every day in the nonsense of the corporate world. She’s adjusting to a new place to live and is learning how to navigate different people and surroundings. Believe me, at 65 that’s not easy. I don’t think I could do it.

Her friend, on the other had, never suffered job losses like Catherine and I did, which resulted in having to raid our retirement investments just to stay alive. Her friend never had to care for a sick husband. Her friend never had to reinvent herself, as both of us have done. In my book, her friend is the boring one!

It’s too bad such falling-outs happen, but I have found whenever your life takes a different turn, sometimes even old friends fall off the cart. It’s sad we can’t maintain every friendship we’ve ever cultivated, but that’s truly unrealistic, isn’t it? We bring friends into our lives because we gain something from them at that particular time in life. In turn, we also give them what they need from the relationship. If a friendship works one way –one is always giving and the other doesn’t reciprocate, it’s not a healthy friendship.

Who knows if Catherine and her friend will reunite again. Fences need to be mended if they want to regain what they had in the past. It’s always sad to let a long time friends go, but sometimes it is necessary. The good news is, another person will fill the void–not in the same way, of course–but in a new and exciting way of sharing and caring. It’s the way the world works.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 14

Lacrosse, Wisconsin—July 1942—The mail proved to be a lifeline for everyone during the war, even though the government censored correspondence. The stringent rules prohibited writing anything about what factories produced or where goods might be shipped. All enlisted men and their officers needed to keep their whereabouts a secret. No one could write about weather conditions. Even private codes between couples shouldn’t be used because such messages might be some kind of espionage attempt, and censors would take them out. Consequently, most letters became a diary of everyday happenings. Rosalie guessed her news must seem uneventful and unimportant in the world scheme of things, but she wrote to Angelo every afternoon while Gina napped. Angelo wrote about fellas on the ship and tried to follow in his big brother Tony’s footsteps by keeping his stories light and humorous. Only their letters reached across the world and attempted to keep them close. Whenever Rosalie’s mailbox produced a letter from him, she couldn’t get in the house fast enough to read his lines.

July, 1942

My dearest Rosie,

 I’m sweating buckets out in the South Pacific, but I imagine you’re doing the same in our little house, too. The daily monotony of life at sea is over.  The officers tell us to enjoy the monotony of drilling because when we go ashore we’ll beg for a clean rack and a hot meal.

I think of you and Gina every minute. With all this time to think, I am glad you invited Donna to stay with you. She’s a good egg, and I can relax a little because you’re not alone. I’ll eat crow and admit she is so much more than a “good time girl.” I’m grateful she is helping you with Gina and the other household chores. I laughed out loud when you wrote about Gina calling her “Auntie Doe Doe.”

 I dream of you, too, sweetheart, but we both know why I’m here. I love our life together, and in order to keep living with the freedom we enjoy, I must pitch in and do my part.

 I’m proud you can handle everything at home, but please ask my parents and Eduardo for help. They need to help as much as you probably need them. Please my darling, do this for me.

 Do me one more favor, okay? Would you write to my new friend Bobby? He’s a kid from Wisconsin with no family contact.  His father is an SOB and his mother only writes once in a blue moon on the QT. He’s a good kid and deserves better.

 By the time you get this letter, I’ll probably be a father again. How I wish I could be with you. My heart breaks when I think of not being able to hold our dear new baby.  Oh Rosie, we built such a wonderful life together in such a short time. I promise I will fight hard to come home again to be in your arms again.

 I love you sweetheart. Kiss Gina for me. And give Donna a hug, too.

 Loving you forever, your Angelo

Rosalie put Angelo’s letter down and sighed. Because there were weeks between sending and receiving letters, her beloved Angelo might be facing an impending battle somewhere in the South Pacific. Rosalie prayed for his safety and vowed she would search the newspapers for any news about his division. She decided to keep a scrapbook about the war in the South Pacific, so she could remain close to him.

Rosalie’s due date came and went, and she felt as big as a whale and as hot as a furnace. She wished she could write to Angelo and tell him he needed to pass out cigars again, but this baby decided he wanted to be close to his mother for a few more days. With Angelo away, she needed to name the baby. She chose to honor the two bravest people in her life. If the baby happened to be a girl her name would be Josie, and if a boy Angelo.

Chapter 15

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August—Two days after she received Angelo’s most recent letter, she received another. Getting two letters so close together surprised Rosalie.

July, 1942

 My dearest Rosie,

By the time you get this letter, what I’m telling you will be long over, but I wanted to write and assure you I am well. I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to write again, so I’m taking this quiet moment to tell you I love you so much.

I can’t say anything about where I am. But I can tell you soon I’ll be on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. Everybody is a little jumpy, wondering what will be in store for us once we land on the beach.  Hopefully, the Japs got wind of our intent to land and will turn tail and run home.  (Ha,ha)

 I keep a picture of you and Gina close to my heart – right under my dog tags. The thought of getting back to your loving arms and our sweet little daughter keeps me going.

 Don’t worry about me, sweetie. I’ll be okay, and I’ll come out of this first encounter just fine. Tell Ma I’m keeping my head down.

 Love, Angelo

Rosie folded the letter and realized Angelo probably experienced his first taste of battle. Reading between the lines she understood he was scared. Fear took a hold of her too. She wiped away one tear rolling down her cheek.

After Rosalie finished her prayer for her husband, Donna blew threw the back door.

“Donna! You’re home so early! What happened?

Donna never hid her feelings. “Yeah.” Her snarl communicated something big.  Clearly she got ticked about something. “I’m sorry Rosie, I didn’t mean to take my frustrations out on you.”

“Tell me why you’re so upset. I get the lemonade.”

Donna plopped down on the kitchen chair across the table from where Rosie sat waiting for her explanation. “I quit my job.”

 

Rosie’s face dropped. She counted on Donna’s rent to make the house payment. “Why? I thought you liked your job.”

“I couldn’t take Bates any more. He is a bastard in the first degree.”

“But Donna, you’re a skillful secretary! What are you going to do now?”

Donna took a long swig of her lemonade and wished for a shot of vodka. “I went over to Autolite and got an assembly job. They’re paying women almost as much as the men!”

Rosalie didn’t understand. “But why would you want a factory job especially after you just got promoted? I thought you liked secretarial work.”

“The work is fine. But it’s HIM. He’s stupid! He’s gross, and I’m done!” Donna took another long sip of her drink. She behaved like she couldn’t quench the fire burning in her. “Everybody is contributing to the war effort except me. Even you, Rosie. You cook around rationing; you tend a victory garden; you write countless letters to your brothers, Josie, Angelo, and his friend Bobby. And what do I do? Nothing. Well, I’m changing that baby. I got on board today. Besides, I’ll make twice as much on an assembly line as I do in the office. The money will really help us.”

“You should think of more than just the money, Donna. Working in a factory is hot and dirty. Are you sure you can take that?”

“The office is hot too, Rosie.” Donna said, took another swig of her lemonade and then continued, “And I won’t need to put up with Bates groping me.

“He grabbed you?”

“Yes. He came around the back of me and grabbed both of my breasts. I turned around and hit him with a right cross. And then he threatened to fire me. I said, ‘I’ll save you the trouble! I quit!’ Then I stormed out of the office slamming the door behind me.”

“I certainly understand why you don’t want to go back there. But the factory? Really? You?”

“Working in the factory is good. I won’t worry about wearing fancy clothes or caring whether my nylon stocking seams are straight.” She plunked a large bag on the table. “All I need to do is wear this.” Donna stood up and pulled out a navy blue pair of baggy coveralls. “Aren’t these all the rage?” Donna laughed through her tears.

“Such a shame your new outfit will hide all your curves, but if you wear that ugly outfit, I got just the thing to complete your ensemble.”  Rosalie ran into the bedroom and returned with a red bandanna. She tied the scarf around Donna’s beautiful blond hair. “There. Now you look just like Rosie the Riveter!”

Donna laughed. “You’re so good to me!” She pranced around the kitchen with the bandanna on her head, holding the coveralls full length down her body. “I’m ready for the factory runway, don’t you think?”

“You’ll be a smash!”

The two friends laughed until their sides ached. Donna put down her “uniform” and said, “I’ll only be as ugly as the next girl, but what the hell. All the good-looking men are in the service anyhow, and the worst of the summer is almost over. Bates the Octopus can go to hell. What’s done is done. I start on Monday.”

“Well, then, let’s party!” Rosalie smiled.

“Yeah, I want to get a tan on the beach and get my nails done and . . .” she stopped in mid-sentence. “Well, maybe we won’t go to the beach; you probably don’t own a maternity swimsuit, do you?”

Rosalie said with a straight face, “No I don’t. Godske Tent Company stopped making them due to war production.”

Both girls laughed even harder than before. Laughter got them through whatever came their way.

 

 

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.”

 

 

Standing on a Soapbox

Does it bother anyone else that presidential hopefuls begin their rhetoric two years before the election in November 2016? 

This morning I got up early when the house was quiet. I fed the pets and made the coffee for the day, and then I turned on the television and voila–Donald Trump and the other Republican boys were the lead story. The local station reported Scott Walker was in Iowa. Why is he in Iowa instead of Wisconsin? Did he quit his day job? But perhaps it’s a good thing he’s out of the state. At least he won’t be destroying education, health care for the disabled, and breaking more unions.

I think this early campaign stuff is disgusting. It’ll be a year before they will impart their plans for our future. In the meantime they will put other candidates down as they dig up dirt on each other.

And what’s this “The American People” phrase? Every time I hear those three words it sounds like the speaker is separating his/her self from the rest of us. Are they ashamed to be part of The American People? Have they elevated themselves above us poor slobs who elect them? Perhaps they are. Once in Congress, they are set for life with self-legislated pensions and healthcare benefits. On top of that, they legislate their own raises. Who in the private sector can do that?

When our forefathers put this government together, they never imagined it would be a full time job for the rest of their lives. Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the rest of the Revolution boys must be pulling their hair out if they are observing the ridiculous campaign and election process which has evolved.

And another thing, once a person makes it to Washington, he/she is sworn in, given an office, and expected to work for “The American People” they love so much. Right? Well, it ain’t necessarily so–once elected they immediately start planning for their re-election. Then they plan their time away from Washington. It’s a miracle if anything gets done. Right?

I could go on, but I won’t because then I’d sound like a politician

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5

Chapter 3

Paris, France–January 1942—Emma suffered beatings and torture which broke most men. Day after day she protested she did nothing wrong. Six weeks since her arrest passed slowly. She sat in darkness most of the day, and shivered from the cold most of the night. Emma remained strong. Her only fear involved Marta. Did she do enough to protect her?. The Nazis already proved a young woman like Marta made an easy target.

On January 15th Emma’s trial commenced. Her captors led her into the courtroom and stood her in front of a Gestapo officer pretending to be a judge. The charges against her were subversion and espionage, but after months of looking for evidence to prove she provided false identification papers for people fleeing France, the Gestapo investigators could not substantiate the charge. However, the subversion charge stayed because the Gestapo found the French resistance newspaper in her apartment.

Emma stood straight in her chains before the judge. He spoke in a monotone voice. “Young woman do you wish to say anything in your defense?”

In a clear strong voice, Emma answered. “Yes, your honor. Since my arrest, I never uttered a word of truth to your interrogators. I concocted a web of deceit to protect my friends, not to exonerate myself.”

The judge shook his head in disgust. “You will be confined for the maximum period of three years in a Gestapo prison to be named later.” He slammed his gavel on a wooden block, and a bailiff dragged Emma away.

Marta witnessed the sham of a trial from the gallery in utter dismay. Emma appeared so thin and gaunt Marta barely recognized her. Her long hair had been cropped with a dull scissors, and her face appeared battered and bruised. But even though she appeared beaten, her strong voice showed her spirit had not been broken. The German thugs achieved no success in breaking her. At that moment, Marta’s love for Emma grew exponentially.

*****

After the trial, the Nazis immediately transported Emma to a prison in Anrath, Germany–a city near Dusseldorf. The train arrived in Germany after midnight. A bus awaited the prisoners for their final leg of their journey. After a twenty mile bus ride, the vehicle stopped at a building surrounded with barbed wire and bright search lights.

The bus driver turned off the ignition and stood to face the downtrodden women. “Stand and file off one-by-one.”

The clanking of dozens of chains was the only sound as the women shuffled off the bus. Everyone kept her head down.

A female warden received them. She wore a stern expression like someone woke her from a sound sleep. She yelled at the prisoners to form a queue and led the women into the prison to another matron who stood behind a desk.  This stout woman with a square face and hateful eyes glared at Emma. “Name?”

“Emma Schiller.” Emma said in a strong voice.

“You are not Emma Schiller any longer, frauline. You are now prisoner number 3103. From now on you will answer to this number.”

Emma stared straight ahead as another guard dragged her to a six-by-six cement cell in another dark, dank basement. The guard unlocked her shackles and pushed Emma inside the cell. A small cot with bare iron springs would serve as her bed. A bucket sat in the corner, which would serve as her toilet. She thought surely the guard would drop by with a mattress and blanket later, but he never did.

When morning arrived, the cell remained dark.  Emma realized no natural light would ever penetrate the dungeon she would call home for the next three years.

Emma slept little her first night in prison. A harsh male voice jarred her from her thoughts. “3103, get up. It is time for your examination.” The guard unlocked the cell door with a large iron key. He shackled Emma and dragged her to the prison doctor.

Emma waited alone in a small white room. After being in the dark for so long, the brightness of the overhead light made her shield her eyes.

After she waited twenty minutes on the examining table, an old man in a white coat came into the room and asked, “Are you sick?”

Emma said. “No.”

“Do you have any diseases?”

“No.”

“Then you are fit to work.”

He made his diagnosis without ever touching her.

 

*****

Emma’s months of incarceration taught her how to cope with the cruelty and loneliness of being treated like a caged animal. She commanded her thoughts to focus on a routine. She needed to shelve the good times in her life because when she drifted into the past, her depression grew unbearable. Memories of falling in love with Marta in Paris or recalling Marta’s delight when they decided to live together in the city of lights brought thoughts of how much she lost. If she pictured Marta’s smile, Emma broke down.

Her experience in the Paris prison showed her the best defense against her captors was never showing the guards see her soft spot. She needed to stay detached, cold, uncaring, and strong enough to endure her sentence. Emma realized she had to live in the moment to get through the next three years.

Everyday the police paraded Emma and other prisoners down the middle of the street on their way to the factory. On-lookers glared at them with disdain. Their stares puzzled Emma, but when she passed a window of a dress shop and caught a glimpse of her reflection she understood. She had become a wretched creature like everyone else in her group. Emma choked down the tears and marched forward with a blank expression on her face.

The work the prisoners did was dividing large skeins of rayon thread and then wrapping it by hand onto smaller spools. Rayon dust hung in the air like poison gas. Workers swallowed the fumes with every breath, and the toxic air made their throats so dry swallowing became difficult. Civilian workers, who sat beside Emma, sipped from bottles of fresh water during the course of the day to soothe their thirst, while prisoners needed to endure their work hours with dry tongues. A water fountain hung on a nearby wall, but prisoners were forbidden to take a drink. One day a woman prisoner attempted to drink from the fountain, and she received a beating which left her bloody and unconscious lying on the floor. All of these hardships were intentional to get the women to breakdown and die.

Even with the many rules and hardships, which destroyed prisoners everyday, Emma’s tunnel-vision determination and strong spirit helped her get up and report to work. After studying the operation of her work for a few days, she discovered how she could continue her Resistance work while in prison.

Her job required her to tie flat weaver’s knots when rayon skeins were joined together. Any other knot would jam the looms and cause costly downtime for the weavers at the parachute factory. Emma made sure her spools included lumpy knots to cause a fine mess for the German weavers, but she hid her sabotage by making sure the outside of her spools appeared smooth, neat, and correctly tied.  Every time she turned in one of her spools she imaged the frustration of the weavers when her sabotage jammed the looms and set production back. This self-satisfaction served as Emma’s purpose to stay alive.

Chapter 4

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-January—After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Josie joined the Army Nurse Corps. War meant her surgical nursing skills were needed overseas a lot more than her tedious clerical work the Allis Chalmers factory. She thought any LPN could do the work she did, keeping charts, taking out slivers, washing debris out of eyes, and bandaging small cuts. The most exciting event every week occurred when Mario came in with his weekly phantom ailment. After a month, he finally invited Josie to a movie, but she had already made plans with Donna for Saturday evening. He went away dejected but he was not a person easily discouraged.

Josie received her letter of acceptance to the Army Nurse Corps in January. In a month she’d be sworn as an officer. But now she faced the hardest part–telling her parents she had enlisted.

The perfect time to tell her mother presented itself in the kitchen one snowy afternoon.

“Mom, I need to tell you something important.”

“What’s that Josie?” She said absentmindedly as she stirred a pot of soup.

Josie took a deep breath and blurted, “I joined the Army.”

Mrs. Schneider laughed. “You’re such a kidder, Josie. They don’t let girls into the Army.” Her mother turned away from stirring her soup and stared at her daughter. She recognized Josie’s stone-like expression which told her daughter wasn’t kidding.

“Mom, I’m serious. I joined the Army Nurse Corps. I’ll be training in Arizona in a couple of weeks.”

Her mother’s face dropped. “No!”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Oh my God! You can’t do this, Josie. Isn’t bad enough that Johnny is gone?”

“Now that we’re at war, Mom, the Army needs medical personnel to serve the needs of our soldiers. I possess the training they need. I need to go.”

“I thought you liked your factory job.”

“Mom, any monkey can do that job. My surgical skills will be in high demand. Thousands of soldiers are wounded every day. What if one of them turns out to be Peter or Johnny? Wouldn’t you want a nurse like me to take care of them?”

Her mother shouted.  “Don’t say such things! I can’t think about my sons being wounded.” She sucked in a deep breath and plopped down in the nearest chair. She held her head with both hands choking down tears. Josie stood beside her mother and rubbed her shoulder. “Oh Mom.” She said quietly. “Please don’t cry.”

In a few minutes Mrs. Schneider composed herself.  “I’m sorry, Josie. When I think about my children going to war, the thoughts are too vivid.” She stood and faced Josie. “I guess I can only blame myself. I always encouraged you to follow your heart. If this is what you must do, you be the best damn nurse in this man’s Army.”

“You mean this ‘woman’s’ Army, don’t you, Mom?”

Her mother hugged her. “Yes. I guess I do.”

 

 

 

The First Signs of Fall

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

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

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

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

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

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shook his head no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He followed her into the adjoining office.

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

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

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

“Venturini.”

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

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

“And who’s your supervisor?”

“Dan James.”

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

“I didn’t catch your name, nurse.”

“I didn’t throw it.” She smirked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 7

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

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

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

 My dear Marta,

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

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

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

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

Love, Mutter

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

Chapter 8

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

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

“What’s going on?” Josie asked.

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

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

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

“Sure.”

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

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

“I got tickets to hear Glenn Miller!”

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

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

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

“Donna, that place is expensive.”

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

“Did you ask Rosalie yet?”

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

“What time?”

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

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

“Swell! Gotta go.”

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They all laughed at Donna’s quick come back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s her husband?”

“At home with the baby.”

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

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

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

Josie smiled. “You’re blackmailing me?”

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

Josie blushed. “Well–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

What’s in a Letter?

Yesterday I received a letter from a childhood girlfriend who has lived around the world. She married a sailor and her military life took her places neither of us ever envisioned when we were girls. As she will retire in a few months, she decided she’d rather write about her plans than talk about them on the phone. And I understand.

When I was young, I loved writing letters. I started when I was in grade school writing to my Aunt Mary who lived in San Diego. In high school I wrote to a cousin in Colorado. She was an extraordinary girl. At sixteen she was the only girl on the ski patrol at Aspen. It was fun learning about a sport I never tried to conquer.

When I met a boy from a different county, we corresponded through letters in between our dates on the weekend. After high school, I wrote to friends who moved away from home. I wrote to the boy next door who opted to join the Marines after high school. Through letters I stayed in touch and learned about living in different parts of the country. Whenever the mailbox coughed up a response, it was always a good day

What I learned from writing letters is people say things in writing they don’t speak in words. Letters are also a permanent record of a space in time, and people write about things that are on their mind from their hearts. That’s why I’ve included numerous letters in my novels between characters.  (Also, the only correspondence during the war years were letters.) Soldiers a world away needed to keep their loved ones close through letters. And letters and answers to them gave the boys a slice of home.

Nowadays email. Skype, and digital phones discourage letter writing because we have morphed into a culture which demands immediate satisfaction. Time to write a letter is too long and waiting for an answer is even longer.

But I do miss letter writing. Sometimes I’ll drop a line to a friend just for fun. The anticipation of getting an answer to my letter still does it for me.

######

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 1

Budapest, Hungary-January 1941—The Rabbi came into the classroom Heidi set up for the children. He waved a letter in the air. “Heidi, a letter for you!”

Heidi couldn’t hide her surprise at his announcement.  “Who is it from, Rabbi?”

“Open the letter and find out.” He seemed as excited as she.

Heidi’s hands shook as she ripped open the paper envelop and read aloud.

December 1940

 Merry Christmas, my dear niece, Heidi.

 I hope this letter finds you well and safe. I got your letter just a few days ago. Thank you so much for writing. You must be very proud, Heidi, because I do believe you saved the lives of the Gesslers. I hope you are still safe with the Rabbi. I imagine life in Budapest is very different from Berlin.

 Life in Warsaw changed a lot since you left. The Germans bombed the city almost to oblivion as they pushed forward. Unlike the Parisians, I’m happy to say we Poles fought back. I developed blisters on my hands from digging trenches and erecting barricades as the Nazi leaflets fell from Luftwaffe planes ordering us to cease or evacuate. We did our best to hold the invaders off, but I our fight seemed hopeless from the beginning.

After the battle cooled down and the Germans controlled the city, non-Jews received a chance to enjoy the same benefits as German citizens only if we signed the Volkliste – a declaration of membership and loyalty to the German racial and cultural community. I did not sign such a document. My reward for not signing turned out to be a sentence to work in a labor camp, but I am holding on.

 The Nazis took my poor neighbor Helga away. The bastards used her and other neighbors as guinea pigs for medical experiments. This is the worst nightmare of my lifetime, and it goes on awake or asleep.

Even though my situation is terrible, I am not suffering like my Jewish friends. The first thing the Germans did after they paraded down our streets was to  force Jews to identify themselves by wearing Star of David armbands. Then they forced them to live in a walled off section of the city. The resulting ghetto is filled with starvation, malnutrition, and disease. Jews live with hopelessness is in their eyes. I am sure Mrs. Gessler and her children would never survive such terrible treatment. It is a blessing you and she took the children away from here.

I am happy to tell you that your parents consented to take in my children until my situation changes. I rest easy because they are far from the bombs and hunger. I also sent your letter on to your parents because they are very worried about you. Please understand my sweet niece; you are brave beyond your years.

Somehow we all will get through this nightmare. Sending you my love,

Uncle Hans

Chapter 2

Paris, France-April—A year passed since the Nazis marched into Paris. Tension, hunger, and suffering lay beneath the facade of normalcy. The “Resistance,” a small secretive army, fought to undermine the invaders. Unfortunately, the movement only mustered a small irritant to the massive German military regime. Savage beatings and killing of local people working for the Resistance usually discouraged others from joining the clandestine fight.  His Maquis arm of the resistance movement supplied the Allies with vital intelligence reports, as well as, created a huge amount of sabotage to disrupt the German supply chain and communication lines within France.

Emma served in any capacity the movement needed. She delivered documents, forged identify cards and carried messages to other factions of the resistance movement in Paris.  She never told Marta of her activities, but Marta recognized Emma often got preoccupied with thoughts she wouldn’t share.

One afternoon before Marta got home, Emma heard a knock on the apartment door. When she opened the door, two men clad in black stood with grim faces.

“Mademoiselle Emma Schiller?”

“Yes.” Emma said with apprehension.

One of the men flashed a badge and said, “German police.”  We need to carry out a small search of your apartment.” The two officers pushed Emma aside and barged into her home. They emptied drawers, closets, searching all the usual hiding places people used. Their efficient and systematic behavior told Emma such a search must be a normal occurrence for them.

Under a false bottom of her underwear drawer, one of them found a copy of “Resistance” the underground newspaper published by a Parisian group headed by Madame Agn Humbert.

“And what is this?” The officer stared at Emma with disdain. “So, you are part of the resistance against Germany.”

Emma stared ahead and didn’t answer. The larger of the two men handcuffed her hands behind her back, and shoved her out of the building. Neighbors closed their curtains after seeing the strangers in long, black trench coats escort Emma away.

One of the men pushed her into the backseat of a large black car waiting at the curb. Emma tasted real fear for the first time in her life. She assumed her arrest stemmed from her resistance activities, but they didn’t let on the real reason for her capture.

The car skidded into traffic and drove to the other side of the city. They entered a brick building with thick iron gates. When the car parked in a courtyard, the taller of the two men dragged her from the car and hurried her into the building. She stood in front of a tall desk where a SS officer glared down at her from above.  “Mademoiselle, you are arrested by the Gestapo for acts against Germany. You will be held here until your trial comes up.”

Emma stayed silent.

The officer screamed. “You do not contest the charges?”

“I will wait for my lawyer.”

All of the uniformed men laughed. “She thinks she is entitled to a lawyer! What an idiot!

The officer at the desk pointed to a door on his left. “Take her to holding.”

Emma was dragged down a flight of stairs and thrown into a cold, dark, cement room with one bare light bulb hanging by a single cord from the ceiling.

“Welcome to Prison du Cherche-Midi frauline.” Growling and laughing the two arresting officers left her alone and locked the door behind them.

Emma sat on a small wooden stool. A thick chain wrapped around her hands and waist was secured with a padlock. Every time she moved the chains pinched her skin and the clanking sound broke the heavy silence of her isolation.

Hours later a tall, burly Nazi pulled her to her feet and escorted her to a six-by-six foot cell. He slammed the iron bars and locked them with a huge iron clad key. He threw his shoulders back and puffed out his chest. In a thick German accent he informed Emma of the rules of the prison. “You will get no letters, visitors, books, cigarettes, newspapers, or food from the outside. Furthermore, you will be subject to a regime of “extreme harshness” if we are not satisfied with your answers to our questions.” He turned on his shiny heel and left her alone, still shackled.

Alone in the damp darkness Emma allowed a second wave of fear to run through her. She imagined how they might torture her. She began preparation for the coming days. Over and over she repeated to herself she would not let her captors discover her role in the resistance movement, nor would she give them names of the others. She intended to die first.

*****

When Emma didn’t appear for supper, Marta’s intuition told her she might be in trouble. Emma often went out after their evening bowl of thin soup and bread, but she never missed a meal with Marta. When she didn’t come home by morning, Marta panicked. She went door to door in their building, asking if anyone knew what happened to Emma. One old man on the first floor told her in hushed tones he saw the Gestapo police put her in a big black car and drove away.

Upon hearing the account, Marta felt sick.  Why in the world would the Gestapo want Emma? What did she do? Where did they take her? How will I ever find her? 

Chapter 3

Lacrosse, Wisconsin–May, 1941—Rosalie and Angelo settled into a wonderful life with their little girl Angelina. The baby proved to be the main attraction at Eduardo’s restaurant whenever Rosalie worked as a hostess. Her proud Grandpapa set up a playpen in the back storage room where the baby played and napped when Rosie worked.

The staff called the baby Angel saying the never met such an alluring baby.  The tiny girl smiled and gurgled at anyone who held her. Waitresses flipped coins for who would feed or change her the next time. But more often Edwardo overruled all of them, proclaiming a Papa should care for his bambina.  Needless to say, Angelina didn’t use her playpen very much. Rosalie soon realized her baby must be the most spoiled grandchild ever.

With Angelo’s promotion at the plant, and Rosie working again, the couple put away a little bit of money each month. Angelo said they should probably think about a bigger house, while Rosalie just wanted to accumulate a little stash for a “rainy” day.

One Friday afternoon after her shift, Rosalie picked up the mail and found a letter from Angelo’s brother Tony. Tony joined the U. S. Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, and his letters painted humorous tales about his life there. Tony and Angelo shared a close relationship, and Rosalie realized Tony’s letters meant the world to Angelo.

As soon as Angelo got home, Rosalie sat his customary cup of coffee and cannoli from the restaurant on the table. She had propped Tony’s letter up against the cup. Angelo kissed Rosie and smiled when he recognized Tony’s scrawl. He ripped open the envelope and read aloud.

My Dear brother Angie, Rosie and most importantly, little Gina,

Here I am in my skivvies writing to you before chow. I’ll be very busy all day as we will leave port this afternoon and sail the USS California to Pearl Harbor on Oahu. (That is in Hawaii, in case you slept during geography class.) I’m told the trip should last about four days providing we experience smooth seas.

A few guys are boasting about being in the islands before and they say Oahu is like the Garden of Eden.  Beautiful beaches, beautiful girls, beautiful sunsets, beautiful girls, lush green mountains, beautiful girls–oops said that already, huh?

I’m seeing palm trees in my dreams. I tacked up some pictures of the place in my locker. Those hula girls drive me crazy! I’ll be glad when this brutal boot camp is over. Somehow I always attract the attention of the DI and end up doing push-ups until my arms want to break. I can say “Yes, Sir!” with the best of them.

I’m about as trained as I can be. Nobody can expect miracles. After all Ma tried for twenty-one years to train me and most of her lessons didn’t take. (ha,ha) I’ll kill you if you repeat that last sentence to her.

While I’m in port, I’ll “post the guard” and be a gopher for the captain and executive officers. While we’re at sea, I will man a five-inch gun on the port side of the ship. (That’s left for you land lovers. Ha, ha.) Hopefully, while we’re on maneuvers I’ll get a chance to fire the GD thing.

That’s about all for now. My seasick pills and my “Mae West” life jacket are packed, so don’t worry. I’m fine. Looking forward to buying one of those loud Hawaiian shirts for you, brother! (Ha, ha), and I expect you to wear it when I get back home.

 Give my little beautiful niece Gina a kiss for me. (God, I love being an Uncle.)

 Until next time. . . Love you all, Uncle Tony

 Angelo laughed as he read his brother’s letter. “What a guy, huh Rosie? I think he’ll never change. Always an eye for the ladies, only now it’s on land AND sea! Angelo laughed at his own joke.

Rosalie giggled. “I don’t think he’ll find pretty girls at sea, unless he bumps into a mermaid!”

Angelo laughed at his wife’s clever rebuttal and took a bite of the cannoli. “Maybe you’re right.”

 

 

Knock, Knock, Knock

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

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

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

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

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

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

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 29

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

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

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

“I hope so, sweetie.” Heidi said.

“But I want to know for sure.”

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

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

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

“I wonder how Fritz is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heidi nodded.

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

Heidi’s wrinkled forehead showed her confusion.

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

“So you give presents like we do?”

“Yes, my child.”

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, yes of course.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Back to Normal, Now It’s Catch Up Time

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

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

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

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

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 3 (Continued)

Chapter 14 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 15

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

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

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

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

“I pray he is.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you.” Heidi said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where did he go?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ruthie sucked her thumb and refused to move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The short, stocky woman blushed. “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Normalcy on Monday?

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

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

Sounds like a Monday morning, yes?

Enjoy your MONDAY.

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

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 6

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Uncle Hans,

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

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

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

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

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

I love all of you.

My best, Heidi

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

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

 

Chapter 7

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

March, 1940

 Dear Marta,

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

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

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

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

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

Love, Leisel