Elissa Gathman - Truro Home school Group, April 2001“Where is Henry?” my mother asked.
“I just told you, he had a soccer game this after noon until it started raining. And won't be home till - well he should be home about right -”
“I'm hooome,” Henry called from the doorway, slamming the door behind him.
“- now,” my sister finished.
“Guess what happened today!” said Henry
“Please change first,” sighed my mother, “You're dripping mud.”
“All right.” Henry said, and ran up to his room singing Over There.
I picked up the diary I had been writing in and looked at the date: October 8, 1942. The war had been going on for almost a year now, and our ration booklet was thick with things like fabric, rubber, and all sorts of food.
“Bonnie! Bonnie Jean come and set the table!” called my mother.
I began putting the plates down, the forks, knives and spoons, our only ones since metal had been rationed and all the others had been given to scrap drives. I inhaled, sweet potatoes - probably from the victory garden and some of our rationed sugar and apple butter! Delicious!
“Bonnie! You won't believe what happened today!” said my brother.
“Oh, I can't wait to hear about it,” I mumbled under my breath. Each week we went through this, he would go on and on about what happened or how he had won the game.
"Well the score was 9 to 9. And I kicked the ball so high it flew right over the goalie's head and our team won!”
He's so lucky! I thought. I could never kick the ball as high as the goalie's knees, and if I was a boy and happened to be picked to be on the the soccer team, I could never help win the game! Suddenly I felt a rush of envy. It is so unfair!
I decided I needed some time alone and ran up to my room.
I stared out the window and kicked one side of the bed, then got up and looked in the mirror. I stared at my reflection, my bright blue eyes, my brown hair that was rolled into what Evelyn, my older sister, called “the latest style,” my sky - blue midriff and tablecloth jumper to save fabric. I reached down and scratched my legs which were covered with the leg paint that Evelyn begged me to wear and bits of it came off in little flakes under fingernails.
I began to talk to my reflection. “It's so unfair, just because he's a boy and the oldest, he gets to be a doctor and a great athlete. He'll get to have a diploma, and since I am the youngest, I might not get to go to college because ”What would a girl do with a diploma?” and ”Men take care of the fighting and the doctoring.” I felt so confused inside, like somebody scooped out my insides, jumbled them up and put them back in.
I wondered which instinct to follow, the one that said, “Be jealous, be angry,” or the other one that said, “It's wrong to be jealous. Don't be angry!” Finally, I decided that the only thing to do at this point, was pray.
”Bonnie! Dinner's ready!”
Oh well, the praying could wait, I decided.
“Coming mother!” I called.
The school bell rang.
Lunch break! Finally!
I ran outside to find my friend Judith, who is the quickest and is always the first to be outside at lunch break. I saw her near a corner of the school yard under the cherry tree which no longer had the beautiful soft pink flower petals and mossy green leaves on it but but a few brownish reddish leaves, for all the others were on the ground.
I shivered, and began to wish that it was the spring of last year before America had joined the war...
“Bonnie! Bonnie come here!” Judith called. I ran toward her.
“Didn't you hear? The teacher just made Henry captain of the tenth grade soccer team and she made him in charge of the fifth grade soccer team!
“Great.” I groaned.
“What's wrong?” Judith asked, “Aren't you glad your brother got picked to be” - but was interrupted by the ringing of the school bell. Groans came from all over the school yard. Time to go in!
My thoughts wandered as I walked home from school. Henry the soccer captain - how could it be? But then I thought of how good he was in sports. Of course he would be captain! But it wasn't fair! Girls weren't even supposed to play baseball!
I looked up and saw a note on the door.
Dear Bonnie,Your father and I have gone to pick up Evelyn from the knitting circle.
I slipped the note from my Mother in my pocket and took the shiny gold key from my pocket, and opened the forest green door, and romped into the kitchen to make a snack of tomato soup for myself and decided that since Henry was so great he could make his own snack.Love, Mother
“Hi Bonnie! Can I have some soup?”
“You can swallow can't you?”
“May I have some soup?”
"Why can't I - "
”You seem to be able to do a lot of things, like becoming the greatest sports player in the whole school,” I said, “so you can make your own soup.”
“Bonnie what's wrong with you? You've been like this all month, do you want to tell me something?” For a minute I wasn't sure whether to start crying and tell him all my feelings, or to get angry and yell at him. Jealousy took over.
“Tell you? Can't you tell?
“Bonnie, I thought - ” But I wasn't finished.
“You thought! Don't you know? You're captain of the High school baseball team and in charge of the fifth grade soccer team. And you're taking that class and you're going to get to be a doctor and I might not get to be! Plus, you're famous among everybody I know!”
“Really?” Henry said, his eyes now flashing with anger. ”Well you're the popular girl at school. You're the one who all the guys ever talk about. They say 'Your older sister is beautiful and nice, but your younger sister is something! She is both of those and more.' ”
Still angry, I said, “I wish you would go away and never come back!”
I ran up to my room slammed the door then threw myself on the bed, sobbing.
Just then I heard my parents and sister come in the door. I jumped up, wiped my eyes the best I could, and when I heard my Mother have another one of her coughing fits, I hurried down the stairs.
I sat beside my mother's bed and wiped her forehead. I looked at the clock: 11:30 PM. Suddenly mother started coughing, and didn't stop.
“Henry! Henry come quick!” By the time he got to mothers room, she had stopped coughing but she was having trouble breathing. Her face was was blue and she was very still.
“Henry, what do we do?”
Without speaking, he hurried over, turned onto her still stomach, and gave her a slap on the back. She shuddered and started breathing.
“What do you think you do to someone who has tuberculosis and can't breath?”
I stared at him. Tuberculosis? He hadn't told me anything about that, but how could my mother, of all people? What if - I stopped. I didn't want to think about what might happen. So instead, I began to think about what to do. Suddenly I remembered what I had learned in the little class I took after school for those who wanted to be doctors and nurses and help in the war: They need lots of sun, Cod liver oil, and - mustard Plaster?
I wasn't sure, but at this point I was willing to do anything.
We worked side by side late into the night. We hardly said a word unless it was necessary. Then sometime very early in the morning, maybe 2:30, I fell asleep. When I awoke, Henry wasn't there. Henry! I called I went down stairs to see if he was in the kitchen, and found a note on the dining room table:
I have left a list of instructions for you in the Kitchen, should you need them.Henry
I dropped the note on the table and ran into the kitchen. Yes there was the list. But Henry was gone!P.S., give my love to mother.
I woke up to the smell of hot oatmeal and lay in bed think of all the had happened in the last few weeks. I got the diary from under my mattress and began to write:
October 25 1942,
Two weeks ago, my mother got tuberculosis and my brother disappeared two weeks afterward. My mother got better, and I had to tell her about him - and that he had joined the war to fight. I found this out when I went to buy stamps, and the postman gave me a letter from him. With all the comings and goings I missed Halloween, not that I mind much. Well anyways, I have to go, to breakfast.
BonnieI put my diary back under the mattress, got dressed and went downstairs to the kitchen only to find my mother sitting at the table her face white, at first I thought she was getting sick again but then I noticed that she was holding something and realized that that was not so.
“What's wrong Mother?” She said nothing and handed me the piece of paper. It was a telegram. It said:
Henry Young died at war October 20 1942.I put the paper on the table and ran up to my room. Henry dead? How could it be?
At school the next day I was very quiet and only talked when I had to, but Judith kept pestering me, finally, I shoved her a note telling her my brother died.
She took the note read it quickly and scribbled a reply.
I took the note and started to read it when the teachers shrill voice filled the room. “Can either one of you explain what you have been doing?” I shrunk into my seat, but Judith marched up to the teacher and said something in a low voice and the teacher answered. Then she said,
“Bonnie, Judith, please take this note to the principal and then you are excused to go home.”
Before I went inside I noticed that the blue star that had been on our window to symbolize that we had somebody fighting in the war had been changed to gold to symbolize that someone in our family had died, and I burst into tears.
Then I took a bright red blanket from my bed and crawled into a corner were the sun shone brightly on to me because there was no heat, and began to talk to myself,
“Bonnie look at the mess you've gotten yourself into. What are you going to do about it?” I went to the bookshelf and got out my Bible, then searched through it till I found what I had been looking for:
Proverbs 27:4I went through all that had happened from beginning to end, and realized that it was my jealousy (saying I wish you would go away, and my actions and all, and his own desire too) that had caused Henry to run off to war - especially when he was too young. Finally I resolved that if it was jealousy that had caused all this to happen, then it was jealousy I should stay away from - or at least try to. I silently prayed asking God to help me be happy for others. Then I trotted down to the kitchen.
Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
As I walked into the kitchen, I heard my mother finish her sentence.
I glanced into Evelyn's lap and saw the thing I had wanted ever since I went into a friend of Evelyn's house and saw it - a kitten.
“That's not fair!” I shouted, and flounced out of the room, furious that she should have a kitten when I was the one who wanted one. Just outside the kitchen, I remembered what I had just decided in my room. I marched right back into the kitchen and said I was sorry for my outburst and asked if they would forgive me.
“Of course we'll forgive you, Bonnie,” answered my mother, but that kitten does not belong to Evelyn.”
“It doesn't?” I exclaimed.
“No.” my mother answered. ”It belongs to Martha, one of Evelyn's friends. She went to visit her Grandmother in Florida.”
”Really?” I asked, embarrassed
“Really.” answered my mother, smiling.
“Would you like to hold him?” Evelyn asked.
“Would I!” I breathed. Evelyn smiled and handed me the kitten.
“Judith! Where are you?” I called for the tenth time.
“I'm over here!” came a muffled voice from a corner of the schoolyard.
“Why are you all the way over here?” I asked
“Because of this,” she said and pulled out a stick of gum, “My uncle gave it to me.”
“Gum!” I gasped. Nobody had gum right now! Then remembering my prayer, I said, ”I am glad that you have such nice uncle,” I said.
Judith laughed, “I take it you would like the other piece?”
I stared at her for minute, realized she was serious and gratefully grabbed the other piece, murmuring my thanks.
It is almost Christmas. I am giving Mother a book of coupons that I made, Evelyn a new pair of knitting needles, and Judith a small little booklet with blank pages that I somehow found at the store.
For Christmas I got, a new pair of stockings from mother, a ball of wool yarn from Evelyn, and from Judith I got - the same thing I gave her!I walked out of the church on Easter morning thinking about the Pastors sermon. Suddenly, I saw someone coming toward me. Could it be -
“Henry!” I shouted, aghast. I froze and screamed, and everybody turned to stare at me, but I didn't care. “Henry, you came back!” I shouted again. I ran to hug him but then drew back. His leg was - gone! I decided to pretend I hadn't noticed and continued to run toward him. Henry was home! Even if he couldn't be a great athlete anymore, he could still be on a team - he as a doctor and me as a nurse.