I have been visiting Grammy Martin and am half way across the field to home when I hear the airplane’s roar. I run in terror, jump the brook, run inside and up the stairs to my bed where I pull the covers over my ears. I am terrified of airplanes and I don’t dare tell my mother and father. I stick my head out of the blankets and it is quiet. The plane has gone. Last week, I was at the pond by Mr. Kenyon’s cottage when suddenly a big plane swooped down over the ledge and I thought it was going to drop bombs. I ran for the house and my bed. I could hear my heart pounding and knew it was going to pop through my shirt. I wonder if I will ever stop being afraid of airplanes.
I don’t think Ma and Dad realize that we hear when they talk about the war. I am only seven years old, but I know Dad is worried about his two brothers, Dwight and Glenn and feels guilty that he could not join in the fighting. The sawmill made a mess of his left hand so he can’t even play the guitar the way he used to. But you know my Dad! He just tunes it differently, lays it on his lap and holds a bar in his left hand.
Every night after work, Dad goes across the pasture to get the latest news of his brothers and to see if Grammy has heard. Their letters are blacked out and holes punched in them, but they try to figure out where they are and what they are doing.
I have the stove going, coffee water hot and potatoes are boiling. Ma and Dad are stopping at the grocery store to get things “on the cuff” until they are paid on Friday. The only meat we ever buy is hamburg and hot dogs. Dad hates hot dogs so they aren’t on the table very often.
Groceries are brought in and Ma empties the few things on the tiny cupboard counter. There is the oleo..white in its little plastic bag with the yellow coloring tablet for one of us to squish with our hands to make sure it is an all even yellow color and looks like butter. While Ma gets the hamburg all in little patties, I sit and squish, squish until she is satisfied it “will do.” There are the cans of milk. I am so tired of canned milk and on the days I can have cereal, it tastes awful. She mixes it one can of water to one can of milk. Ma buys Puffed Wheat for Curt and if there is enough money, the rest of us can have a box of Shredded Wheat. I call them hay bales but I like it because between each layer of bales are pictures to color. Most of the time we have fried potatoes and eggs, except for Curt, because Ma says he needs cereal and milk for his bones.
It is a treat when we have a piece of bread with some of the “butter” spread on it and just a tiny sprinkle of sugar on top. Ma says she won’t touch molasses as that is all she had when she was growing up, but she makes molasses cakes on weekends and we kids eat it.
Last year our teacher asked us to pick milkweed for the service men and it had something to do with making parachutes. I picked all one weekend. Ma gave Rex and me some change to buy stamps to put in a little booklet to help the war bond effort. We are saving metal, too. It seems everyone in the neighborhood is trying to help all the soldiers in the war. The newspapers have pictures of our villages’ soldiers and sailors and always report if they are wounded.
That is why I am afraid of airplanes. I can’t understand where the bombing is going on. Some days there are lots in the sky and Grammy says they are doing some practicing for the war. Dad seems very happy tonight and Ma says it won’t be long before we won’t be using ration stamps. Dad says he is going to Grammy’s to tell her the good news. What good news are they talking about, I wonder and why is Dad acting so happy? He says, Muff, the war is over. Your Uncle Dwight will be coming home soon. Does that mean the airplanes won’t come anymore, I ask myself. Does that mean I don’t have to be scared any more?
It is almost time for snow to fly again and many months have passed since Dad told me the war is over. A tall man comes into the house and we are in the kitchen. The Aladdin kerosene lamp is casting a glow on the painted sheetrock wall. The man is shaking Dad’s hand and Dad is slapping him on the back. He sits in one of our big chairs by the wall. Dad tells me this is my Uncle Dwight and to come meet him. I cannot remember him, but he is very handsome and smiles. He beckons to me and I go to him very slowly because I am shy. He hands me a beautiful fan and says that he brought it home just for me. I thank him. This Uncle would never let the planes bomb me. I should have known. I sit next to him and hold the fan tightly. I am safe.