Someday Is Here

I'll Tell You a Story

Every so often, you'll find a new story here just to read for pleasure or to give you a glimpse of my writing style to see if it's what you'd enjoy in a longer book. Feel free to give me your feed back! All stories will be archived here. 



Aloha, Arizona

As I grew older and, hopefully, wiser, I learned that friends come and go. So, too, did Kirsten, the pigtailed girl who sat in front of me on the first day of first grade when the war was in its second year. My father, like most of the fathers represented in Mrs. Bartholomew’s classroom was caught up in some way across this country and from Europe to the Pacific that September of 1943. Even Sara Bartholomew’s husband was, as she said, ‘flying a desk’ on the base in our hometown of Azleton.

I knew most of the children with whom I’d filed into the classroom that first day, but Kirsten’s face was unfamiliar. The teacher introduced her as the new girl who’d just moved to town during the summer and said she knew we’d all make her welcome. Taking the teacher’s words to heart, at recess I did just that.

Kirsten’s pale blue eyes were the only spot of color beneath her almost white hair. “I’m Dorothy Tom Galloway,” I said as we waited in line at the slide.

“That’s a funny name. “

I’d heard it before. “My daddy’s name is Tom.”

“My name is Kirsten Rebecca. Kirsten Rebecca Hadley.”

“Not Christine?” I countered, emphasizing the closest I could come to decoding her first name.

“Keer-sten,” she emphasized. “That’s my grandmother’s name. She’s dead though.”

I thought of my two grandmothers, very much alive, and felt sad for Kirsten.

“So’s my daddy,” she continued. It as her turn at the slide now, and she began to climb the ladder which, if laid on the ground, would have been taller than both of us put together.

I came down right after her with another question forming on my lips. “Did he die in the war?” A lot of people I knew had already died in the war, including my neighbor Mrs. Smith’s oldest son Mike.

“Uh-huh.”

“That’s sad.”

“Mommy still cries a lot.”

“Oh.”

“Sometimes I do, too.”

“I’d cry if something happened to my daddy, I guess.”

“Is he fighting the war?”

“He flies planes and drops bombs.”

“My daddy was on a ship. It sank.”

****

By Christmas we were inseparable. Some days we walked home together to my house where my mother always had cookies warm from the oven and glasses of cold milk waiting for us. Other days we went to her house which was really just a divided room on the second floor of Mrs. Miller’s family home which she’d turned into a boarding house before the war started. Since her mother worked at the munitions factory on the edge of town, Kirsten let us in with a key hung on a ribbon around her neck.

In the silent emptiness of the small space, we’d raid the tiny ice box for grape juice and eat cold hot water corn cakes from the back of the two-burner hot plate. We’d crawl up into the window seat overlooking the front lawn and count the cars going by on the street. Sometimes we’d pretend we were flying my daddy’s plane and shooting at enemy planes. And sometimes, if we got really brave, we’d open the window and drop bombs made of wadded up paper to the grass below. Then we’d have to scurry down and pick them all up before her mother got home.

The framed picture of her father fascinated me. He wore a dark sailor suit with a white cap tipped at just the right angle so his black curly hair showed clearly from beneath it. I couldn’t read cursive, but Kirsten could--at least she could read the inscription on the picture. “With love to my best girls, Leatrice and Kirsten. See you both soon!”

“Do you go to the cemetery and take flowers?” I asked.

She shook her head. “He’s not at the cemetery.”

“Where is he?”

“Mommy says he’s still inside his ship.”

I couldn’t hide my horror.

“It’s okay. He’s with all his friends.”

When I told my mother later she said, “He was on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor. The ship rolled over and sank. I heard there are over a thousand men still inside.”

A thousand was beyond my comprehension, but it sounded like a lot.

The war ended, and my father came home safely.  After the munitions plant closed that summer of 1945, Kirsten and her mother moved away. We’d just turned ten and were inconsolable over being separated.  For a while we wrote letters, but eventually when junior high and boys entered the picture, even that ended. I made new friends and so, I assumed, did she.

I graduated high school, went to business college, worked a couple of years, and then married Joe who’d done his time in Korea, finished college on the G.I. Bill, and moved to Azleton to work as an accountant for the telephone company. I quit work, produced the obligatory two children, both boys; and, when the country got involved in Viet Nam, I gave devout thanks that both were too young to be drafted.

Joe and I were grandparents five times over when he finally retired, and we took our dream vacation to Hawaii. That’s when I thought of Kirsten for the first time in too many years to count. The night before we visited the Pearl Harbor Memorial, I told Joe about her.

“Did you ever try to get in touch with her again?” he asked.

“I wouldn’t have known where to start.”

“Yeah, I’ve lost touch with friends, too. No one could even find them for our high school reunions.”

“People move on, I guess.”

“Life moves on.”

The next day we stood in line for the first launch to the memorial. First we went to the marble wall inscribed with the names of those who died on the ship. Over a thousand my mother had said. For the first time in my life, I realized how many a thousand really was when it meant lives lost. Joe slipped his arm around me. “Kind of overwhelming, isn’t it?”

“And Kirsten’s father was just one.” I moved to the H section and found a single Hadley--Harry B. “He was from West Virginia,” I said aloud. “I wonder how Kirsten and her mother found their way to Arkansas. They didn’t have any family there that I knew of.” I wished I could touch the name, for myself as much as for Kirsten, but the velvet rope held me at bay.

Eventually we migrated to the rail where we could view the ghostly silhouette of the great ship and watch the oil rising to the choppy surface even after almost sixty years. “I’ve heard those oil drops called the tears of the Arizona,” Joel murmured. “It’s weeping for its lost crew.”

I buried my face against his sleeve and wept, too.

We were just turning away when I saw her. The pale blue eyes which met mine were the only spot of color in the face framed by hair now truly white. “Kirsten?” My lips could only form her name because sound had frozen in my throat.

“Dorothy Tom?”

We stared at each other for a full thirty seconds before moving together in a tight embrace. “I can’t believe it,” I murmured. “After all these years.”

She held me away from her and drank me in. “I missed you so much.”

“How did we lose touch?”

“It happens. But I never forgot you.”

“I never forgot you either.”

“Remember bombing the front lawn of Mrs. Miller’s boarding house?”

“Remember when you fell off the slide and broke your wrist, and I insisted on going to the hospital with you?”

“Remember standing in opposite corners of the cloak room because we couldn’t stop talking that day in class?”

“Remember how we figured out a way to draw each other’s names for the Christmas gift exchange?”

We hugged again.

Behind me Joe said, “I guess I don’t have to ask who this is.” He reached around me to rest his hand on Kirsten’s shoulder. “And I don’t have to ask why you’re here.”

“I always wanted to come,” she said. “But there was work and taking care of Mom. She remarried when I was fourteen, but it didn’t work out. She died two months ago, so I said it was this year or never.”

“There was a reason,” I said. “This is our first and probably only trip here.”

We hugged a third time as the speaker boomed the warning to board the launches for the trip back to the mainland.

“We’ve got so much to catch up on,” she said, slipping her arm through mine.

“And we’re not wasting another minute.”

She pivoted briefly for one last look over the rail. “Goodbye, Daddy,” she whispered. “Finally goodbye.”

Joel took her other arm, and the three of us made our way through the crowd back to the launch.

 


 



Make a Free Website with Yola.