Everything Is Okay

April 5, 2012
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What is this world?
We don’t know
Or what’s coming
Or who will
Remain here
What is this world?

“Everything will be okay, honey.” My mother told me when I was young. Her soft words of comfort soothing my biggest eight-year old anxieties. Though, now, now was different. Those were simpler times. Now, with children of my own, I think of her words as I throw a measly breakfast to the plates.
“That’s it?” Jonathan asks, picking up the burnt piece of toast and dropping it back to his plate with a scowl of displeasure. His younger brother, Robbie, mimics the action. Though, he is not as upset at Jonathan. They say younger kids have a harder time, but at seven, Robbie is tolerating the changes much better than his older brother. Luckily at twelve, Jonathan is too young for the draft. It’s bad enough we are already short one of our numbers. In my book, it doesn’t matter what age you are. A war is a war, there is no escaping it.
“We’re rationing. You know that. There’s no more meat until Monday, baby.” I stop myself before telling them to talk to their father if they’re unhappy about it. He’s been gone for four months, I’ll never get used to it.
Everything will be okay. I think again. Dwelling on our worries never helps us. “Holy mackerel!” I glance at the clock, grab my shoes and throw on my coat. The elbows of the camel colored coat have nearly worn through, shoes are scoffed and once-black leather has faded to a worn charcoal. Before all this I could count on Walter to buy me new things, but, who really needs new shoes? For right now, I’m perfectly fine in what I have. When you’re husband is at war, you simply do not possess a plethora of options. Can’t dwell on it, keep moving.
Gas is rationed and tires, too. The factory is down the street, if walking to work in the cold means this war ends sooner then I ought to walk more. “I have to go.” I kiss my sons goodbye. They don’t like it but if there is one thing the war has taught me: it’s to love what you have, because you never know when it’s going to be gone.
“Jonathan, make sure you get your brother to school!” I tell him before heading out the door.
“I always do.”
“You can go to Mrs. Kellian’s when you get home.” I don’t know why I feel I have to say it. Our routine has been in stone since I started working. As I walk down the street I look towards the coast. I see the alarms. Men in watchtowers are dots on the horizon. The cold air carries the faraway buzz from the patrol plane. I spend every minute waiting for that alarm to go off.
I think back several months. At one point the suburbs of Santa Cruz were peaceful, my dream home. The time spent, laying beside Walter on a flamingo pink plastic recliner, watching the boys play on the beeches. Those were simpler times, times when we could only hear laughter and gossip with our neighbors lying beside us. For a moment, I can feel the warm sun on my nose, but it’s fleeting. This morning’s abnormally cold wind chases the sensation away as quickly as it came.
Work is dull, but better than sitting home and worrying. I get the latest dope about the war from my fellow ladies on the assembly line. I’m not sure it’s all true, as yesterday Molly told me Hitler was not real, just a publicity stunt from the Germans. Nevertheless, I like to believe the stores. Those are the only bright parts of work—my “job”, placing three screws into the propeller of an airplane as quickly as I can. By now, I can do the monotonous task while carrying on a full conversation. One hand grabbing the propeller base while the other crams in screws and shoves the unit to the right. The woman next to me drills them into place. At first, my fingers would swell and be sore, but now I’m used to the constant motion.
“How are your kids holdin’ up, Helen?”
I look up to Molly , and quickly back down to work, “Not bad. Could be worse.” She doesn’t have kids. Her husband may be out fighting like Walter, but she doesn’t know what it’s like to have to tell your children that everything is fine. I will take any solace I can in this destroyed world as long as it means I can get through another day without a breakdown.
When I get home, pull on my flour dusted apron and start dinner. A scrap of steak for the three of us, canned beans, and the last carrots I have from our victory garden. Less than I would like to make, obviously war does not allow for such small pleasures as a large, home cooked meal anymore. Sealing the cooking grease into an empty jar, I set it aside for Jonathan whose class is collecting fat for the war effort. They use the glycerin to make bullets.
“Today we had four bomb drills.” Robbie brags at our supper table, “They said two of them were real.”
“They are not real!” Jonathan shoots back, “There aren’t any planes in the sky!”
What world am I raising them in? They’re at school, being taught to crawl under desks while the teacher stands ready with a bucket of sand to put out fires. I suppose they must face the reality of our world, but I fear it’s eroding their childhood. What happened to the innocent games in the street? Now five year olds are playing ‘solider’, crawling on their bellies through the shrubbery behind the houses.
“I saw them!” Robbie insisted.
“Well, I take it back. There was a C-130 in the sky. I think they might have sent a few B-17’s over to Europe.” Jonathan explained
“Are you our plane hotshot now, Jonathan?” I reach to ruffle his hair but he turns away.
“’Course mom. I’m in boy scouts, we have to know how to spot planes to help the Air Raid Warden. We have to recognize the enemy.” To imagine we used to be worried about keeping up with the Joneses. Jonathan used to stress about nothing more than a good spot on the town baseball team. Times really have changed.
A blast of a siren rocks our world. Robbie lets out a yell and dives under the table, Jonathan scampers to the wall, turning off the lights and the radio on. Dishes fall to the floor but they are unheard with the loud, intermittent blast from the sirens. It takes me longer to get underneath the dinner table with my skirt, but I manage, and hold my sons close to be.
It is an agonizing wait, our hearts in our throats, waiting for something to fall from the sky but nothing comes. The radio reports a false alarm. Relief from the neighborhood can be heard up and down the street, lights in houses turning back on. Jonathan is the one who overcomes the shock to crawl out from under the table, I still cannot move. “Everything’s going to be okay.” I say out loud. To my boys, to myself, to even the air around me.
“When’s dad coming home?” Robbie whispers.
“I don’t know, baby. Soon. Go help your brother, let’s clean up this mess.” He reluctantly nods and slips out; Jonathan leans down and offers his hand to help me. Normally, I’d tell Jonathan to get the broom for me and Robbie to wet a towel to clean the floor, but for some reason I can’t tonight. Gathering the broken pieces of glass from the floor is harder than usual, the adrenaline shakes my hands. They both watch me, unmoving, Jonathan sighs and begins to head for the closet where we keep cleaning materials, “Get on out of here, get ready for bed.” I order them, and they go.
Now I’m alone, sitting on my kitchen floor in a pile of broken glass, watching life in the houses outside the window return to resemblance of normal. The pieces fall out of my hand as soon as I gather them. The war will end soon. I tell myself, the war will end soon, and Walter will be back home, and things will be normal again. Though, until that time, I will be here. Holding my life together, even if it feels broken into a thousand pieces.
I will be here with my boys. I will work and support my country. Jonathan will take the grease into school tomorrow so the war effort can make more bullets. Everything will be okay.
There is nothing else to say.

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