Yesterday I blogged about saying goodbye to Betty my surrogate mother. Attending her wake was so important to me because her daughter was one of my best friends ever.
Today I have to say another goodbye, This time I needed to admit my favorite pair of sandals finally needed to be retired.
I bought the red Ecco sandals fifteen years ago in Chicago. I found myself in a high-end store when the little vixens called to me from across the room. When I slipped my right foot into the shoe, my foot sent messages to my brain not to leave the store without these bright red cuties. The only thing holding me back from buying them was the price: $85.
Long story short, I walked out of the store with the new sandals cradling my feet. And yes, I did pay for them, sort of. I put the expense on a charge card.
Every summer I look forward to exposing my toes in these favorite pair of sandals. I’ve received more compliments on them than any other purchase I’ve ever made. Through the years these shoes have accumulated dirty, sweat, and hundreds of walking miles, but I didn’t care. These sandals became old friends, and I accepted them with the flaws I inflicted upon them.
Yesterday I found pieces of black rubber on the new carpet. At first I thought Ken’s wheelchair blew a tire, but no, the rubber came from the soles of my worn pals. Time took its toll. I could no longer wear these shoes because quite literally they were falling apart. I felt like holding a wake for my dear soles, but no, that would be ridiculous. Instead I slipped them off; carried them to the kitchen, and dropped them into the trash with a heavy heart.
Parting with these shoes left my feet bare and alone. I doubt whether I’ll ever find another pair to take their place. None of my six remaining pairs of sandals have been able to provide the comfort of my old Eccos. The remainder of the summer might be tough.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS — Book 2
Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June—Angelo presented Rosie a sweet little bungalow on Main Street as her graduation present. He reclaimed a run down dwelling and renovated it into a sweet little home for newlyweds. The living room faced south, so during any season the sun would stream into the room giving the house a sense of coziness. The two small bedrooms sat at the back of the house, and an unfinished bedroom located on the second floor might be completed after children came along. Angelo and a group of his friends put a new roof on the house and painted the outside white. He made red shutters for each window and Rosalie thought the house mirrored a dollhouse she loved as a little girl.
Angelo wanted the best for his girl, so he equipped the kitchen with the latest gas kitchen range and a small Philco refrigerator. He refinished oak cupboards which lined two of the four walls and installed a white Formica countertop that sat over the lower cupboards. Angelo hoped the modern appliances and bright space might encourage Rosalie to start taking cooking serious.
Angelo left the inside decorating to Rosalie. When she saw the blank canvas of white walls, Rosalie saw the home’s potential. She envisioned how she would wallpaper the master bedroom, paint the living room and dining room shades of warm beige and cover the hardwood floor with a colorful area rug. For now, the white kitchen would be perfect with bright red cafe curtains.
The month after graduation and before their wedding, the couple spent every waking hour putting finishing touches on their love nest. The closer the house came to completion Angelo and Rosalie itched to move in and begin their life together.
At the same time the couple worked on their house, Eduardo spruced up the restaurant for the upcoming wedding reception with a coat of fresh paint. He showed Rosalie how he would arrange the tables around the periphery of the room to provide enough dancing room. Eduardo could let his little girl marry so young because Angelo proved to be a good, hard-working man who loved his daughter more than himself.
Rosalie’s mother Maria and her two sisters spent their time sewing the bridesmaid dresses and baking dozens of special Italian treats for the reception. Mary Ann, Rosalie’s closest sister insisted on making her a three-tiered wedding cake decorated with yellow roses and white icing to match Rosalie’s wedding colors. Angelo only insisted the cake be chocolate.
Most people in town made Rosalie’s acquaintance when she greeted people at the door of her father’s restaurant. Her smile warmed the crustiest of customers. Along with Angelo’s reputation of a good, helpful boy who achieved the Eagle Scout Award in Boy Scouts made him favorable with the townspeople too. Everyone got caught up in their young love story and wanted to come to the wedding.
Josie, Donna Jean, and two other bridesmaids, hosted a bridal shower for Rosalie at the Schneider farm. The girls thought of everything to make the event delightful. They decorated the Schneider’s living room with white and yellow crepe paper streamers. White balloons hung from the ceiling by invisible fishing line.
They planned silly games to warm up the guests. Before lunch the guests played “Take-away Bingo” and “Pin the ring on Angelo” blindfold game. Winning guests walked away with beautifully embroidered pillowcases and knitted slippers.
The food included tantalizing finger sandwiches, fruit and potato salads, and relishes. The cupcakes decorated like little wedding cakes made a big hit with the guests. Lunch came between the game and the opening of the gifts.
Rosalie radiated beauty in a pale green dress. She tied her long, lush red hair in a thick pony tail with a green ribbon which matched the ribbon tied around her eighteen-inch waist. She used a soft touch of pale pink lipstick to highlight her small lips. Everyone thought she would make a beautiful bride, even though she still appeared too young to be married.
Rosalie fussed over every gift she opened–even the rolls of toilet tissue and Kleenex some of her classmates brought. Her mother gave her the new cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer as a kind of gag gift because people understood Rosalie couldn’t boil water. Josie’s brother Peter brought in a side table he found in the attic and refinished the furniture to a beautiful new luster. Other gifts for the kitchen and bathroom included sheets, pillow cases, wash cloths, and towels. She also received cast iron skillets, dishes, and glasses to equip her kitchen.
Rosalie saved Josie and Donna Jean’s gift for last. After she untied the yellow ribbon on the shirt box, she never dreamed of what could be inside. She lifted a sexy white silk and lace honeymoon negligee. Rosalie turned bright pink as Donna Jean said, “Admire it now, Rosalie, because once Angelo sees you wearing it, the negligee will be off in a second.”
The married women laughed loudly, while the high school friends blushed.
When the party came to an end, Rosalie gave her friends a big hug. “You two are wonderful! How can I ever thank you?”
Donna Jean teased. “Introduce me to Angelo’s brother Tony and we’ll call it even!”
Rosalie laughed. “Tony is not the boy for you, Donna. He’s a playboy. Not serious.”
“Who wants serious? I want to dance and enjoy a good time. Tony’s perfect! Did you ever look at his eyes? Having a gorgeous Italian hunk on my arm complements any outfit.” Donna giggled.
“I will talk to Angelo.” Rosalie promised.
“What good will that do? All he wants to do is marry you and make babies.”
“What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing, sweetie. He’s perfect for you.” Donna smiled and hugged her friend.
Berlin to Paris 1939—Marta and her cousin Emma woke before dawn to board the train to Paris. Marta’s parents drove the girls to the train station and stood on the platform waving until the train disappeared from sight. Only then Marta relaxed back into her seat and took a deep breath. Free at last she thought. Between the party events and excitement of her trip to France, made getting to sleep impossible for Marta.
Emma looked at the bloodshot eyes of her younger cousin and suggested they go back to their berth and get some sleep. Marta nodded and followed Emma down a down a long, skinny hallway. The train rocked like a ship on small squalls causing the girls to bump into the wall a couple of times. When they arrived at their berth, Marta hung their coats in the closet, slipped off her shoes, and crawled into the upper slim bed hanging off the wall. Marta lay down, closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. The soothing motion of the train let her reflect on last night’s encounter with Franz.
He cleverly cornered her in the backyard as the sun dipped into the horizon. “Marta-please, I waited all day to get you alone for a few minutes.”
“Franz,” she teased, “Father doesn’t approve of us being alone together.” She wagged her finger at him. “He doesn’t trust you, you bad boy.”
Franz’s patience waned. “Oh yeah? Miss smarty pants. Then why would he permit me to give you this?” The tall blonde boy extended his hand and dropped a small red velvet box in her hand.
“What is this?” She said surprised.
“My graduation gift.” He paused. “But before you open my gift, you must answer one question.” Franz got down on one knee.
Marta gasped when she realized his intention. “Oh Franz–”
“Marta, I love you now and I will always love you. I will be a good provider for you and our children. Marry me, Marta.”
She searched his pleading blue eyes and wanted to run. She didn’t want to break his heart, but she wanted no part of his proposal. “Franz.” She gulped as she opened the box. Her jaw dropped as she viewed a beautiful emerald cut diamond set in eighteen-carat gold. A large diamond sat in the center of the ring surrounded by blue sapphire stones. “Oh, Franz–it is so beautiful. The ring is too much. I cannot accept this now.”
“Of course you can. I guarantee the ring will be more beautiful on your hand than in the box. Let me slip it on.” He grinned.
She said, “You are probably right.” And then she closed the box with a snap. “But I cannot accept such a gift or proposal right now. Perhaps when I get back from France, we can talk more about an engagement.” She thought such a comment would smooth things over between them.
Franz couldn’t believe Marta would turn him down. His voice took on a tone of authority. “Put the ring on, Marta.”
“What? You are commanding me?” Her voice ended on a shrill note.” Listen, Franz, I am going to France in the morning for the entire summer. In the fall you will enter the army academy. We should really consider this later.”
His stubbornness showed as he clenched his jaw and his eyes grew icy blue. He promised himself he would get a “yes” out of her one way or another. “Your parents blessed our union when I spoke to your father a month ago. We can be wed in September before I leave for the academy. Your mother will plan the wedding during your time in Paris. We will be the talk of Berlin!”
“You spoke about this with my parents before me?”
He didn’t want an argument and his face took on the hardness of granite. “Yes. I understand your father makes the decision in such matters.”
Marta’s rage rose in her chest. “That is what you think! How dare you! You think you can marry me and then hop off to school with your Nazi pals? Never!”
His anger bubbled up in his throat. “Your father assured me you can live at home while I am gone.”
“Oh, is that so?” Her anger burned, but she needed to be cautious. “I will not say yes, Franz. We both will change a great deal before autumn comes. You probably won’t want me when I return.”
“How do you think we will change in only three months?”
“Being exposed to more of the world can do that to a person. I realize I will be a different person after living in Paris. Surely you understand.”
“How can you be so cruel? You go away for the entire summer, leaving me alone with my comrades and now you will not make a promise of marriage to me?”
“I cannot Franz. No.” She tried to give him the ring back, but he waved her away.
“I will make you a good husband, Marta. You must have some feelings for me.” His voice quavered, but a German man would not cry.
“No, Franz. I do not. Since you joined “the party” you changed. You used to be a good friend. Now you are bossy and all you talk about is politics, soldiering, and the ‘New Germania.’ I find the talk boring.”
“Be careful of what you say, Marta. People have landed in jail for less. Don’t you realize Germany will rule the world?”
Marta mustered all of her resolve to keep her voice soft. “Franz, clearly we do not belong together. We look at life differently. How can you even think of marriage when we never courted? We never even kissed.”
“What? A kiss? I did my best to respect you all of this time and now you tell me you want a kiss!” He shouted the last word with a hiss.
“Yes. A boy shows his girl affection with a kiss. A boy’s kiss unveils how a girl feels about him. I’ve never had that chance with you.” She spoke in a hushed voice.
“Okay then.” Franz grabbed her shoulders with both hands, thrust his face into hers, and pulled her thin body to him with a punishing grip. He pressed his lips to hers with the force of a bulldozer.
She pushed him away with all of her strength and slapped his face. “You are nothing but a bully, Franz. Take your damn ring and get out of here. I never want to lay eyes on you again.” She heaved the ring box across the yard and ran toward the house with tears streaming down her face. Why would he think I would every marry him? I want tenderness. He possesses none. I want someone to care for me. He won’t. He is just a brute dressed in a uniform. I hate him!
Franz stood stunned by Marta’s behavior. He didn’t chase after her as she ran away. Instead he stood paralyzed. He hated himself for letting his temper get the best of him. He assured himself no one else could see him crossing the yard to retrieve the small red box. Why would she do this to me? Does she not realize how she drives me crazy? Does she not understand one day I will be a decorated soldier and make her proud? I want to give her the world and she turns me down. Any woman would kill to be with me.
Klaus sat in the parlor of the house when Marta burst through the door crying. He expected her to be ecstatic with Franz’s proposal.
He rose from his chair and met her before she went up to her room. “Things did not go well with Franz?”
She screamed. “He is a brute, Vater!”
“What? What did he do?”
She sobbed. “He kissed me–hard!”
“Well engaged couples usually seal the deal with a kiss. Your Mutter and I did.” Klaus said with a soft voice.
“Did you force yourself on Mutter?”
“Well Franz did. I never want to lay eyes on him again. You keep me away from me!”
“You misinterpreted his actions, Marta. Franz loves you. He comes from a fine family, and he will be an important part of the party. He is accepted for the SS. He will make you proud.”
“No, father. Franz Reinhart is not the man for me.”
“But this is your chance to become someone important, Marta. You cannot pass up this opportunity, Leibster. Be sensible.”
“No! I will not marry such a man!” She ran up stairs to her bedroom.
Klaus Schmidt appeared dumbfounded as he muttered, “As long as I live I will never understand girls.”