Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Empty Space to Fill

I'm alone in the house now with the new kitten, who follows me from room to room mewing and tumbling about underfoot.  I know perfectly well that Bob won't have time to write from flight training in California, but I still want to rush to the mailbox every day.
I turn up the radio to hide the quiet: "Fibber McGee and Molly," "Texaco Star Theater with Fred Allen," even opera.  Anything but the ticking clock and rain pattering on the roof.
Everywhere there are exhortations to give all on the homefront for the war effort.  No one wants to do her bit more than I; every moment the war is shortened brings Bob's return a moment closer.
But I hardly know how to contribute.  I'm not a nurse or a teacher or anything else useful.  Somehow, "folding laundry for victory" doesn't have a very inspiring ring to it.  I know Bob's greatest desire is to come home to find everything exactly as he left it, but I have to find a way to to more or I will go stir crazy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Present of Time

My desk calendar is both a friend and an enemy. There’s still a comforting cushion of pages remaining before the date of Bob’s departure, but it grows thinner every day.

We distract ourselves with household chores to avoid dwelling on December 26. I’m busy with preparations for Christmas dinner, such as looking through unlabeled boxes for my never-before-used wedding china. After his brief visit to Portland to bid his father farewell, Bob’s in a flurry of household projects. He’s determined to have everything in perfect order so that I’ll have nothing to worry about for “The Duration.” I think he’s secretly hoping he’ll come home to a world unchanged from the one he left. Well, I’ll try my best.

I take heart from an editorial that appeared in the newspaper this week. It read as follows:

“Heads up, Seattle, smile! Sure, there’s a war, and those blacked-out windows are depressing. What of it? Broken morale in other countries makes the wheels go round in Hitler’s war machine. Long faces on Seattle streets are just what the Japs and Axis want. Snap out of it. It’s Christmas time. We have others to think of besides ourselves. And remember this: There’ll always be a Christmas. Win with good cheer! Win with hard work! We are Americans! Let’s do it the American way! He who laughs, lasts!”

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The the numbness and horror I’ve felt after the Pearl Harbor attacks have finally receded a bit. It’s one thing to read about daily disasters in the newspaper, but quite another when they come smashing into your quiet, mossy little corner of the world.

My husband Bob is joining the Army Air Forces after Christmas. Betty’s husband Joe’s enlisting in the Army at the same time. Widow Ina’s son David was killed on the USS Arizona during the Pearl Harbor attack. Her daughter Jane has returned from California to look after her, since her gardener Mr. Murakami seems to have disappeared. I don’t believe he’s a spy or a traitor like a lot of people seem to think. Jane says he went back to be with his family in Seattle’s Japantown. There’s certainly plenty of anti-Japanese graffitti around the neighborhood, and Jane showed m a “Jap Hunting License” that people in California were handing out.

Here in Seattle we’ve had blackouts for several days. They’re wreaking havoc with drivers; local defense wardens have threatened to confiscate any cars caught with lights on. Needless to say, all the Christmas lights that Bob so laboriously strung are off! The Army won’t allow weather reports in the newspaper for fear saboteurs will make use of them. Thankfully Seattle’s December is pretty predictable with or without official forecasts.

Bob went to Portland for a few days to visit his father before he enlists, and Joe’s finishing up his work at the Boeing B-17 plant. Betty and I are preparing to make do on our husbands' military pay. I read every day about the hardships endured by our brave counterparts in Britain, and am ashamed to even think of comparing any inconvenience we American housewives might feel. All I really care about is Bob’s safe return and winning this dreadful war.
Gosh, I realize it’s been just forever since I’ve written. Shame on me! There has been a lot going on. Bob and I took the train down to Portland for Thanksgiving with my parents. Mother is the same as ever; outwardly nice but still annoyed that I married an architect instead of a doctor. Bob put up with it nobly as he always does. Helps that my mom is a great cook, and that my cousin Nick joined us. Nick is full of stories about working in the Kaiser Shipyards down on the Willamette. Those relief ships they’ve been building for Britain have been christened “Liberty Ships.” Nick is so proud to have worked on one called “The Star of Oregon.“He says no one believed that ships could be welded instead of riveted, but that Henry Kaiser proved them all wrong.
The only really unpleasant Thanksgiving occurrence was the first real fight I’ve ever had with Bob. He and Nick both think it’s inevitable we’ll join the war. Nick can’t join up because of his bum leg, but Bob wants to be a pilot! I’ve never been so horrified in my life! How could he think of leaving me after we just got married? Besides, FDR promised we’d stay out of the war and I believe him.

Needless to say it was a pretty quiet trip back to Seattle. Thankfully Bob relented and said he won’t go, and there’s been no more ridiculous talk.

I had a visit from widow Ina’s gardener, that odd Mr. Murakami. He gave me a beautiful print by some artist named Hasui. It’s lovely but I don’t know what to do with it. It doesn’t go with our decor, and I’m afraid neughbor Betty would have a conniption if she saw it. She thinks Japanese imperial spies are hiding behind every lamppost!

All’s finally quiet now. Bob’s as busy (and bored) as ever designing offices for Boeing and housing for plant workers. We got all our Christmas decorations up. I’m really excited about the Christmas party Bob’s firm is hosting on Saturday night, the 6th. It will be in the Chinese Room in the Smith Tower!

I promise to write more frequently in the future. For now, merry Christmas to all, and I wish each of you a peaceful and prosperous New Year.


I just moved to West Seattle from my home in Portland, Oregon. My husband Bob, (who looks just like Tyrone Power!) is an architect. His firm is just swamped designing new buildings for Boeing; they’re growing so fast with all this Lend-Lease work! My parents still live in Portland, where my cousin Nick works as a welder in the Kaiser Shipyards.

My best friends are my neighbors Betty Wilkins and Susan Johnson. Betty’s husband Joe works in Boeing’s Duwamish plant. Poor Susan’s a widow (husband died in a logging accident) so she has to work in an office nearby to support herself and her son Jimmy, who has leg braces due to polio. Despite her hard life she’s a sweetheart, more so than Betty, who’s awfully brassy sometimes!

Down the street there’s a big old house, much grander than the bungalows on my block. The mysterious old widow Ina Sullivan lives there. Susan, Betty and I got up the gumption to pay her a visit; turns out she’s much nicer than we expected a timber heiress to be, and she’s lonely. Seems her daughter Jane, who’s about our age, has been away for some time for some scandalous reason, so Ina’s society friends are snubbing her. Ina won’t talk about Jane, but she’s really
proud of her two sons. Tad’s a Yale man, working as a physicist back East. David’s a naval officer stationed in Pearl Harbor, the lucky duck!

My favorite hobbies are reading and listening to music, especially Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo and Xavier Cugat. I also love baking. My least favorite activity is laundry – I hate running the linens though that mangle on my washing machine and having the house all damp and steamy while everything hangs to dry in the basement!

I met Bob in college, though I only had a year there before he graduated with his architecture degree. I’m interested in current events and read the Seattle Daily Times every day, though it’s depressing now with all the war news. As long as FDR holds to his promise to keep us out of it I’m sure we’ll be OK.