One Dark December
Author's note: This book for me was a joy to write as I got to know a special little girl named Stephanie and... Show full author's note »
What Am I Supossed to Write in a Diary?Wednesday, October 17th, 1917-page 11
What am I supposed to write in a diary? My life is not so interesting and I am quite certain that if I did write about my life I would fall asleep in mid-sentence. Well, I guess I could write about myself and my family and the events of today. That is enough for today’s entry. I will worry about what to write tomorrow – when it is tomorrow. Just as Father says, ‘Take it one step at a time.’ Well, we are an average size family I will say. There are nine of us; Mother, Father and seven children. I will tell you about them in order, from youngest to oldest.
Emily Belle- Emily Belle is 5 years old. She has bright, brown eyes and long, black hair that she can sit on. She is very delicate and gets sick quite often. Being the baby of the family, she gets away with everything.
Susannah and Charlie – you are probably wondering why I put them together. Well, they are twins, and at the age of eight – quite mischievous – always partners in crime. Both have blue eyes and scarlet red hair and they are always together, as twins often are.
Stephanie and Aaron – I am Stephanie by the way, and I have a twin also. Yes, two sets of twins is what gets this family noticed! Well, my twin brother, or should I say almost twin brother? I was born at 11:59am and Aaron was born just as the clock had finished striking 12:00pm. We are not as close as Susannah and Charlie are. Also, we look nothing alike. Aaron has wild, curly hair while I have straight, calm hair. The only thing that is the same is our hazel green eyes. The last time grandmother came to visit she said she had never seen eyes so green.
Colleen – Colleen being next in line – is 15 and is what Mother calls, ‘the odd man in the family’ While the rest of us are loud and rambunctious, Colleen is the quiet one and would rather have her nose in a book than anything else. I am not saying that I do not like reading – I LOVE it, but Colleen is ADDICTED to it.
Hugh – last, but not least – was the first born. He is off in the trenches fighting the Huns in this terrible war. When he was younger, Father used to tell him all about when our great-grandpa fought in the War of 1812. Well, Hugh became so motivated that when he turned 18 he moved out and enlisted in the army training. He was shipped to France at the outbreak of the war. He has blond hair and is my favourite brother. Do not get me wrong, I love Charlie and Aaron too; it is just that he is special to me and if anything happened to him I would just be an empty shell. Hugh completes me.
Mother - Mother, let’s say, is a very strong woman who stands up for what she believes in. One time, when I was 10, I had bought a doll with my own money but it broke on the way home and I came in the door crying. Mother marched me right back to that store and demanded a new one, no charge. After a lot of prodding the storekeeper finally gave in and even threw in a yard of ribbon for my hair! I love my mother!
Father - Father kind of scares me just a little bit when he gets mad. He sometimes spanks us if we are bad. It is not hard or anything and Father hates doing it as much as we hate getting it. I do not think he knows what else to do. Whenever Father spanks one of us, Mother just gets up and leaves the room. One time when Charlie was getting spanked for stealing some money for some gum at the corner store, I peeked in to his study and saw tears in Father’s eyes. Father is very hard to figure out and he hardly ever cries except for the time that his mother died.
Anyway, that is the Bates family for you! Well, about today. Today, Aaron and I turned 12! We got up in the morning and came down for breakfast. We had cinnamon rolls, my favourite. Mmm! Then it was present time! Belle gave me a family of paper dolls she had cut out herself and had pasted on clothes she cut out from a magazine. I thanked her sincerely, even though at 12, I am now too old to play with dolls. Susannah and Charlie pooled their money together and bought me a new hat for church and 2 yards of ribbon for my hair! Aaron got me the china doll I had had my eye on. (Okay, you know how I said I was too old to play with dolls, well, I meant paper dolls.) Colleen got me a gift certificate to the salon to get my hair curled, since my hair is straight and I want a new look. Also, Hugh sent me a box of chocolates in the mail! Mmm! But the best present of all was from Mother and Father. After breakfast they took Aaron and me outside and presented to us … BRAND NEW BICYCLES! My old one was forever getting small. Aaron and I rode our bicycles to school to show them off and got hundreds of compliments on them. Our old bicycles will go to Susannah and Charlie. They are happy about that. Well, dear friend … I guess I could call you that. Mother is calling me to bed and my hand aches from writing so much. Good night and sleep tight!
Thursday, October 18th, 1917
Why hello, faithful dear friend. Did I mention that my brother, Hugh, is at war? Well, if I did not, would you like to hear of the exact day he left? It was two years ago today. I think all of us knew that because mother went around all morning with her face scrunched up tight like she had tasted something bitter. Father locked himself in his study and said he had a new case to work on (If I have not mentioned it before, he is a lawyer). I have to admit our dog Cassie was even quiet today and even though Emily Belle is too young to remember Hugh, she was not her normal happy self. Oh, there, I got off rambling! What was I going to say? Ah, that’s right – the day Hugh left to join the army. Well, I know it was two years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. Okay, well not that clearly, but you know what I mean. It was a cold October day and a few flurries fluttered down from the sky. It was a school day, but we skipped the morning. We all woke up an hour before dawn because the soldiers had to be there by 6:00am to board the Olympic, the sister ship of the Titanic that went down in 1912. We were all hopeful this one would not have as tragic a journey as its sister. Well, the air, as I said, was cold but crisp. The autumn leaves swayed in the wind and slowly fluttered to the ground. It was a slow walk to the waterfront. We did not know if we would ever see Hugh again. Emily Belle would have been only 3, the twins 6, Aaron and me 10 and Colleen 13. The Olympic gave one last blow and Hugh boarded the ship with the other soldiers in his group. As he disappeared, Mother burst out crying and Father blew into his handkerchief. Emily Belle and Susannah were wailing babies. Charlie, who was ‘too tough’ to cry, I think sniffled a bit. Aaron just looked rejected that his big brother was leaving him and Colleen dabbed her eyes and sniffled. I simply just stood there trembling. When we got home I ran upstairs and burst into the room Susannah and I share and jumped on the bed. I stared at the wall and I remembered feeling like all my insides were being sucked out of me. It was the worst feeling I ever experienced. Oh, I remember not speaking, hardly eating and hardly sleeping for seven days straight. It seems like life did not matter anymore. Sometimes I blamed myself for Hugh leaving and sometimes I blamed him. It was not until about a week later that Susannah came into my room and started laughing and talking about something funny at school. Well, as I listened, it just started to boil up in me and I suddenly exploded. I mean I was absolutely furious. I screamed, ‘How can you be happy when Hugh deserted us? You should be grieving. Do you even care, you worthless brat? Or are you a devil who has a mean enough soul not to care?’
I know dear friend, how cruel could I be? Well, poor little Susannah burst out crying and yelled back a stream of … well, let’s just say the words she said got me out of my trance.
‘Me? I am the worthless little brat? Well, you have not been helping out with the chores all week. You just sit around feeling sorry for yourself and you do not care one little bit! You know Hugh would be disappointed in you, Stephanie Aaron Bates!’ (That’s right, Aaron is my middle name. As bad as that may seem for me, poor Aaron’s middle name is – well – Stephanie!) Anyway, back to the story. Well, Father stormed up here, his face red as a beet and he added to the yelling by belting out, ‘Hush up a bit and act ladylike, people can hear you two screeching all the way to Timbuktu.’ (Well, isn’t that a funny expression dear friend? I wonder if there really is a Timbuktu?) ‘Now smarten up or I will use the strap on the both of you!’
Well, Susannah and I shut up after that! But after both Father and Susannah had left I just burst out crying and oh, dear friend – the crying did not stop! I was like that for weeks, always bursting into tears over the silliest of things, like when Mother had told me I missed a spot when I was cleaning the parlour window. After two weeks of crying, I finally ran out of tears and life returned to normal. Well almost. Susannah was mad at me for over two months! But she finally broke down one day on the way to school and just hugged me and said she was sorry. I hugged her too and felt better. Well, I should stop writing; Mother is calling me to bed!
Friday, October 19th, 1917
Same old routine. Woke up, said morning prayers with Mother, got dressed by the fireplace – all before school chores, then breakfast, school, after school chores, knitting group (working on socks for the troops overseas), piano lessons, getting ready for supper, bedtime prayers, then bed – which is right now dear friend. Good night.
Saturday, October 20th, 1917
So far, dear friend, I have not missed a day yet. Has it only been four days that I have started this diary? It feels like a lifetime! Oh, you would think the one holiday of the week would be restful, but oh no. Chores, chores, chores! Mother told us to pick the last of the raspberries for this year and we spent the whole day making jam and putting them in jars down in the cellar to use come winter. We would have done it earlier this year but we just did not have time with Mother always helping out at her Red Cross meetings-knitting socks, putting together care packets for the wounded soldiers and rolling bandages. Finally, around dinner, I got a break and decided to I walked up to Abby’s house to see if she wanted to come down to the creek with me. But she was too busy caring for the new baby and all. Oh, I have not spent one good decent minute with her at all since her mom had Rose. She has even taken days off school to help look after her little brothers and help with the house work. Her father left them when Abby was only a little girl. Well, I went to the creek myself and what do you know, Alexis was there from school. I do not know her that well, but since Abby has been so busy I have been hanging around Alexis a bit more. She is a nice girl. Maybe a bit too nice because whenever I complain about my brothers she always shakes her head and says, ‘Well Stephanie, at least you have brothers.’ Well … imagine yearning for a brother. Who would want such a thing? I guess being an only child she does not know all the work they are, but seriously – I mean she could have at least wanted sisters instead of brothers! Well, that is typical Alexis for you, always pointing out something you would not even dream about! Well, that is enough for tonight – with all that jam making today I am too tuckered to write more!