Today I’m wading through the aftermath of a horrible performance of the Green Bay Packers last night. Yes, I’m an NFL fan. I’ve loved the game since I was ten years old when I shared Sunday games with my Dad, learning the rules by watching and listening to the announcers.
At the time none of my girlfriends shared my avid interest in football; they played with dolls and I didn’t own one. I loved sports of all kinds, so when we attended high school games, I became the play-by-by commentator for the girls sitting near me. I explained what happened on the field and never speculated what the next play would be like so many professional idiots do today. (I love it when the know-it-alls are wrong.)
I told my eager students football is really a simple game. The team with the ball has four chances to make ten yards. If they don’t achieve that goal, they have to give the opposing team a chance to do the same. After the girls grasped Football 101, I went on to explain some of the penalties and other technical terms like touchdown, field goals, punts, etc.
The Packers are an amazing professional football franchise because they are owned and funded by the community of Green Bay and supported their fans. Every home game is standing room only, and there’s a waiting list to purchase season tickets. People with the coveted season tickets often will them to family members.
August brings preseason games so fans can glimpse the newbies in town who are trying to make the teams. September signals the start of the “real” season. Every Sunday we don our special t-shirts to stand in solidarity with the fans who are sitting in the stands to watch the green and gold go into battle. Luckily those girls I tutored in the stands on Friday nights in the 60s are still as nuts about the game like me.
People are so nuts about our gridiron heroes they flock to watch the team practice in the heat of the summer. It’s a tradition for players to ride kids’ bikes from the locker room to the practice field, and they will brag about who rode their bike for the rest of their lives. Lambeau Field has become a football shrine through the years. The whole country seems to attend a game there once in their life. We cheer with them and suffer with them — even after a string of poor coaches and players which took the field in the 70s and 80s resulting in one losing season after another.
What’s the real attraction? Who knows for sure. I think it might be we get to yell at the television at terrible calls by referees or bonehead plays by the players. We clap and jump to our feet when an exceptional play goes our way. We “tail gate” with finger-licking goodies at the dining room table. We might even have a beer.
In other words . . . football gives us a chance to have a party once a week as we muddle through the change from Fall to Winter. After the Super Bowl, we’re lost. Sunday afternoons become as barren as the weather has become brutal. The only activity left is to take a Sunday afternoon map and let the next six month pass and wait until a new season begins the fun all over again.
APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)
Lacrosse, Wisconsin – Summer—Rosalie cried for two days before she decided she mourned Angelo’s departure enough. She put her energy in sewing a Blue Star Service Flag to hang in her front window. Women sewed these flags to show a family member was off serving their country in the military. She made flags for her two brothers and the Schneider boys. When she presented the two blue stars flag to her father, he proudly displayed it in his restaurant window to honor her brothers. She gave Mrs. Schneider a flag with three blue stars for Johnny, Josie, and Peter. The Armani’s flag displayed a flag with one blue star and one gold one. The gold star represented Tony’s sacrifice and the blue star represented Angelo. Rosalie prayed both stars wouldn’t turn to gold.
Rosalie filled her days with mothering Gina and preparing for the new baby. She also prepared the upstairs for Donna with a good cleaning and a new paint job. Donna picked out a pretty shade of blush pink with the idea Gina would want a bedroom of her own someday; she and Rosie knocked off painting project while Mrs. Armani took Gina for an overnight.
The only person not happy about Donna moving in turned out to be Rosalie’s mother. She argued Rosalie should come home while Angelo was gone, but Rosalie refused. Her life would not be her own at her parent’s house. Her mother had a tendency to treat her like a child and take control of her life. Her mother would banish Rosalie from the kitchen and insist she clean her plate. She also didn’t want to listen to her Papa’s radio programs, instead of the ones she enjoyed. Worst of all, Gina would be spoiled rotten.
When Rosalie refused to move back with her parents, Mrs. Lombardo tried another tactic. She called Donna a “loose girl” and a bad influence on Gina. Rosalie defended her life-long friend and turned a deaf ear to her mother’s rants. Finally, Rosalie got angry and warned her mother to stop bad-mouthing Donna saying she didn’t know her friend.
On the other hand, Rosalie kept her eyes opened. She recognized Donna tended to be a bit on the wild side and having Donna under her roof might create some problems, especially if Donna brought a “friend” home for a sleep over. But Rosalie figured Donna would use her good sense and not put her in such an awkward position.
The most important reason Rosalie didn’t want to leave her home was she felt Angelo’s love. He lived in the carpet he laid, the plumbing he fixed, and the electricity he installed. She sensed his presence in their bedroom. Even though he was a world away, Rosie felt close to him in the cozy home they built together. She found strength and independence there. She needed to stay where she belonged, and she would do everything possible to keep in their love nest forever.
San Francisco to New Zealand—Summer—Angelo swallowed his tears on the plane all the way to San Francisco. The possibility he might never be with her again proved to be too hard. During the bus ride to the airport, he memorized Rosalie’s sweet scent, her soft lips, the warmth of her smile, her large chocolate eyes, and how her red hair fell gently to her shoulders. He remembered how the baby kicked him when they kissed, as if to say, “Daddy, quit squeezing me!”
After the plane landed in San Francisco, a bus transported the untested Marines to the shipyard where they boarded the Erickson. On June 26th the ship would commence her voyage to somewhere in the South Pacific. Only the Captain of the ship and senior officers knew their destination. Angelo didn’t particularly care where they were going. Any place was a very long way from Lacrosse, Wisconsin.
Angelo never traveled more than one hundred miles from his home. He never rode in a boat bigger than a row boat, and his first sailing experience showed him the power of the ocean. On his free time, Angelo roamed the decks to try to shake the awful seasickness he suffered. For the first three days he thought he might die from nausea and dizziness, but a medic gave him some Dramamine to combat the effects and told Angelo to go up on the top deck and look at the horizon to equalize the pressure in his ears.
During the three-week voyage, a kid named Bobby tried to make Angelo his buddy. Bobby stood five foot six in his stocking feet. The sun bleached his blond hair to almost white and his vivid blue eyes broadcast his wild spirit. His fair ghostly white skin burned easily in the tropical sun. Angelo guessed the kid wasn’t old enough to shave, much less be in the Marines. But teenagers lied about their ages to join in the fight, and Angelo surmised Bobby to be one of them. He couldn’t be more than sixteen, although Bobby he insisted he celebrated his eighteenth birthday before he enlisted.
Angelo realized his young friend carried deep loneliness with him. Bobby still maintained a certain type of innocence, too. His biggest flaws proved to be a quick temper and eagerness to pick a fight. The youngster kept the crew laughing with his ability to tell off-color joke. He also played a mean game of poker. Angelo gave into Bobby’s pursuit and found himself taking Bobby Bobby under his wing. He was a good kid who needed a friend who could quell his wild side. Angelo believed adopting Bobby as his little brother was a way to honor Tony.
The ship dropped anchor at Wellington, New Zealand after three weeks at sea. Everyone disembarked with rubbery legs, and as soon as they stepped ashore, they became a part of ten thousand other Marines. At the port, their officers ordered them to unload the cargo on the ship then reload the needed supplies onto a Marine Transport called USS McCauley.
Soon after the supplies were transferred, battle preparation began. Sergeants led long, tiring hikes into the tropical jungle to give the grunts a small sample of what lay ahead. They honed their shooting skills and hand-to-hand combat. They used straw dummies to fine-tune bayonet training. The training at Wellington lasted over a week.
On the 21st of July Angelo and the others left New Zealand to sail to the Fiji Islands. After arriving at a small island, the next phase of their training kicked in–beach landings. The Marines climbed down cargo nets thrown over the side of the ship to awaiting Higgins Boats. The boats raced toward shore, but never dropped the ramp. Instead, the boat turned around and returned to the ship for the next group to complete the drill. Angelo thought this drill was useless. They needed to experience jumping off the boats into the cold surf and then to trudge through wet sand carrying heavy packs and loaded rifles to be properly prepared for what was to come.
On August 3rd, Angelo and the other enlisted men learned about their mission. They would land on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. When live ammunition was distributed, the mission became real. By August 6th, the marines believed they were as ready as they ever would be.
Lacrosse, Wisconsin, Summer 1942—Donna moved into Rosie’s house on the hottest day in July. She drafted a couple of young, strong male volunteers from the brewery to move her bed, dresser, and clothes. She decided to store the rest of her furniture and kitchen pots and pans, dishes, and utensils at the Schneider’s storage shed.
After a full day of moving and organizing, little Gina insisted Donna put her to bed. Rosalie kissed her daughter and wished her sweet dreams as Donna lay the baby down in the crib. Rosalie filled two glasses with ice and poured fresh squeezed lemonade over cubes before she went outside to the front porch. A slight summer breeze brushed her face.
Donna joined Rosalie on the porch. “That’s one sweet little girl you have, Rosie.”
Rosalie handed Donna the glass of lemonade. “She’s sweet, but she’s got her father’s stubbornness. Just wait.”
Donna laughed and took a long drink from the cold glass. “Rosie, this is the lemonade is so good! It hit my thirsty spot.” Donna took another sip. “When I put Gina to bed she gave me a new name.”
“She said Nigh-Night Auntie Doe-Doe.”
Rosie tried to hold her giggle back, but she failed because unknowingly Gina hit the nail on the head. “That’s really funny!” Rosie smiled as she fidgeted to get comfortable on the cement step of the stoop. “I’m sorry, Donna.”
Donna said. “Don’t be sorry. I think it’s the cutest nickname I ever got.” She sipped again. “I stored a couple of porch chairs with cushions at the Schneider’s. I’ll go get them for summer nights, if you like.” Donna said.
“A cushion sounds good right now. I swear I’ll never be comfortable again.”
“I’ll pick them up after work tomorrow.”
“That’s swell. Aren’t the Schneider’s just the best people in the world?”
“Yeah. They sure saved my bacon when parents threw me out.”
“For what it’s worth, Donna, I thought your parents made a terribly cruel mistake.
“I guess being pushed out of the nest a little prematurely made me grow my wings faster. To be perfectly honest, I wanted to leave.” Donna never told her friends her about her father’s abuse when he got drunk.
“You’re such a good egg. I can’t imagine any parent treating their daughter so harshly. I’m so glad you’re here with me.”
“Thanks, Rosie. That means a lot.” Donna sipped the tart lemonade and sighed. “Someday I want to own a house and settled down. I want a family, like yours.”
“Why does that surprise you?”
“Well, when you and Danny went off to the World’s Fair, I thought the two of you might be running away to get married. When you didn’t marry him after he got drafted, I wondered why.”
“Danny and I are friends. He wanted more, but I wanted more than he could give. I want the fairy tale, like you and Angelo.”
Rosalie rubbed her hand over her swollen abdomen. “You think this is a fairy tale?”
Donna laughed. “I guess that’s part of the story they left out, huh?”
Rosalie laughed. “If the stories ended like . . . and the princess got pregnant and spent her life cleaning up messes, changing dirty diapers and washing grubby hands and faces all day . . . do you think any of us would want the fairy tale?”
Donna laughed hard at the picture Rosie painted.
Rosalie stared out into the darkness again. She listened to the crickets sing their evening song. “I wonder what Josie’s doing right now.”
“I just hope she’s safe. I worry about her all the time.”
“Me, too. But if anyone can do the job she’s chosen, Josie can.”
“Yeah.” Donna’s voice trailed off. The girls sat in silence for a few minutes.
Donna picked up her glass of lemonade and said, “A toast.”
Rosalie picked up her glass.
“To Josie. A woman who follows her own mind and possesses the courage to deal with the consequences.”
They clinked their glasses before Rosalie added, “To my friend Donna who will make my abandonment tolerable and fun.”
The girls smiled at each other and then stared out into the night with their private thoughts before they turned in for the night.