Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Do you ever have one of those days during Spring cleaning (in my case the middle of winter) where you are reorganising cupboards and draws and suddenly you find something you forgot you had and it leads you on to do something entirely different for the next two days. I ran across some black and white yarn which was cheap and nasty and would break if you sneezed on it. I had started knitting a scarf which looked terrible so I unravelled it only to start knitting again. I like knitting but I don’t like patterns so when Mum asked me what I was knitting I told her it was a Wigwam for a Goose’s Bridle. Whenever she would say that to us as kids, especially near Christmas, I thought it meant “Tell me and we’ll both know”. Which would be a ridiculous thing to say so upon looking it up it was revealed to me that it meant “it’s none of your business”. It was usually meant to spark interest that something special was being made for me. Here I thought Mum was just being slightly batty making something when she had no idea of what it was. Where do kids get these thoughts? But then if you know my Mum you’d understand. I realise now that she always knew what and why she was doing something but I was constantly in the dark. I have to say that living with Mum and Dad for the past 5 years has enabled me to know them so much better, I don’t understand them any better but I know them and that goes a long way towards clearing up any misunderstandings. Or does it? You know that reminds me of the hazards of not being told when you've got the wrong end of the stick. As a child I grew up believing that I was telling my Mum that I was starving and not gorgeous. Ravenous vs ravishing. Mum never corrected me, she just smiled, laughed and said, "Yes I know you are". How can a parent do that to a child.
Well back to the spring cleaning and it just might last until Spring or Summer at the rate I'm going.
And Bridge is very happy with her new blanket.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I felt the urge to sit down and write yesterday but when I got in front of the computer nothing came to mind, well no that isn't strictly true, plenty came to mind but in a jumbled mess. I think I need a holiday. It is almost as if I need a holiday from feeling good. Sounds weird but since this new improved version of me turned up I have tried to cram in as much in a day as I can. I guess I'm concerned it will all blow up in my face and I'll be back to square one. What an odd sensation.
I started on doing my room yesterday and when I say doing my room, I mean reorganising everything. My bedroom is where I sleep, naturally, but it is also my work room for creative endeavours. It is not that there isn't plenty of room in Mum and Dad's house for me to have a separate workroom it's just that I only want to clean one room instead of two as well as the rest of the house. My dilemma is to reorganise so I can fit another two single beds in my room for my sisters who are coming next month not to mention all their luggage. Jeri is bringing her step daughter Tina and Diane is coming with her brood and an extra one who I believe will one day be my nephew in law. And then of course my son Ty is coming up for his holidays then. Four of the nieces and nephews are renting an apartment for the 12 days that they will be here. There will be 11 around the dinner table so no wonder Dad wants to buy a dishwasher. I will have to start cooking and put things in the freezer or maybe I'll just leave home. Poor old Ty, the oldest grandchild will have to sleep on the floor in the lounge room because we have run out of beds. While we are at it does anyone else care to visit at that time? Oh yes I forgot, my aunt and uncle from Melbourne are up here on holidays and will no doubt join us for a few meals. The more the merrier. We can't pitch a tent in the backyard, it's under water at the moment. There is always the garage after I back the car out.
Thank you for your comment Bruce, yes I had to laugh and I won't mention the fact that one day Mum backed the car out without noticing that the garage door was only half way up. To this day Dad still doesn't know why the door was so hard to get up and down.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I took Dad shopping this morning while Mum was having tests done at the local diagnostic centre. We went to a lighting shop as he has his heart set on buying a desk lamp in the shape of a lighthouse because his son in law John loves lighthouses and anything to do with the sea. I like observing how Dad's mind works, I can't figure him out but I like observing. We couldn't find one so he said, "Jan I guess you are going to have to make one". I like his confidence in my abilities, I wish I were as confident. While we were having coffee he commented that the area had changed so much that he was glad I knew where we were because he didn't and then he commented that when he was in Fort Pierre (his hometown) he always knew he was in Fort Pierre because it never changed. Is that why change seems so scary to people growing older? They suddenly feel lost? I felt that when I was 6 and now as I get older I dream of having a mobile home so the scenery constantly changes. I don't want change to faze me, I want to embrace change. Of course with the rising cost of fuel I just may have to be content with being an armchair traveller. Not if I can bloody well help it!
Well I've got to go because it's almost time for MASH. You just never know when we'll come across one we haven't seen.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
One day many years ago I was sitting at the station waiting for the train to take me to work when a young Somali woman who was in a student in my class came over and sat beside me. As she began to speak I noticed the silent tears streaming down her face. Two years previously she had been tying to escape the rebels in Somalia which was difficult due to being heavily pregnant and in labour. The aid workers preformed a Cesarean under a tree and then bundled her into a car. She woke 3 days later to find her baby gone. She only knew she had given birth to a little girl and no one could tell her whether her baby was alive or dead. She spent some time in a refugee camp where she was reunited with her husband and eldest daughter. While at the refugee camp they were put on the Australian list. It still took about 18 months to get settled in Australia. Red Cross had been trying to find her daughter or information about her but it was virtually impossible to find any trace of her. The train pulled up, she dried her tears and thanked me for listening. Words don't comfort at a time like that.
At that time I was teaching in a little community school right next to the building of a new freeway and as the pile drivers rammed support structures into the ground so many of my students thought bombs were being dropped and would dive under the tables. Their terror was real. My students were from Somali, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, China, Timor, Philippines and the former Yugoslavia. Some were migrants but most were refugees trying to get their heads around a new language but for most the effort to concentrate was very hard.
So many untold stories, so many too hard to hear and for them so very difficult to forget.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
We left Milne Bay on a Liberty ship bound for Oro Bay on the west coast of NG. The next morning out at approximately 7 a.m. as I was preparing a ‘tasty breakfast’ with my C rations, the Liberty ship came to a screeching shuddering halt in the middle of the ocean. We were threading our way through a chain of island and there we were high and dry on a reef, wedged tight. We were about fifty miles from our destination and apparently an SOS was sent out because within a few hours two destroyers arrived and ready to take us off.
After all personnel were transferred to the waiting ships, the navy fed us a hot meal, handed out cokes, candy bars and a carton of cigarettes each. Then they told us to sit tight up against the ship’s superstructure and not to go near the railing as this was going to be a fast ride. It was an exhilarating ride for the 50 miles we had to go.
Oro Bay was an uninviting, rat infested hell hole. We were camped just metres from the ocean, no beach to speak of and just plain yuk as far as I was concerned. From there our second invasion occurred – Gasmata on the island of New Britain. In we went on the second wave. When my turn came to go off I drove to the elevator and it lowered me to the exit point and as I drove off the ship three navy planes were bombing and strafing Japanese positions about 50 metres on my right. I shot out of the ship’s orifice, past Japanese bunkers, not knowing if any of the enemy were still in them. I found the supply dump where I was supposed to go. With gun fire crackling all around me the truck was unloaded. I didn’t waste any time getting out of there and back to the ship. As I approached the ship they were getting ready to depart but sailors on duty waved me on and I made it. Once on board I discovered we had four prisoners taken from the bunkers I passed on the way out. I sat in on an impromptu interrogation between a Marine sergeant and one prisoner. It was interesting but nothing much was accomplished. That night I was down below in a sleeping compartment when a general alarm was sounded. We were under attack, a sailor came through dogging down all exits and there I was, stuck down below. I heard a lot of gunfire and bombs dropping but we were not hit. It didn’t do my claustrophobia any good though.
Back in Oro Bay I had a couple of nights sleep, a few meals and it was back to Gasmata with another load of supplies. This time I remained in that location for a week, transporting marines from one place to another. While there we experienced an air raid one night when three enemy bombers came over and the air was filled with tracers and anti aircraft explosions as the searchlights picked up the planes right away. It was like a fourth of July fireworks show. Another day a lone Zero came down the coast about 100 feet up until it came to where our trucks were parked, then 40 mm guns opened up on it and it veered out to sea while thumbing it’s tail at us and disappearing.
That was the last invasion I was involved in and it was time to move on. This time it was Finchhaven and I was glad to get away from Oro Bay.
We moved into a campsite built by Seabees in a coconut grove on a slight incline and completely terraced. It was a top notch camp site but the occasional falling coconuts were a menace.
In 1944 the big push north was on and we were busy running our trucks on a 24 hours basis with drivers working 12 hour shifts. There were two large dock areas to service and ships were coming in all the time with machinery, equipment and food to be stockpiled and then sent on north when needed. There were no furloughs given out that year. Late in 1944 things started to ease up and in early 1945 the war started to wind down for most of us. The men who started out with the 147th had enough points, gained through overseas service, to be sent back to the States for a furlough of 45 days and possible discharge. One by one the old faces started to disappear, replaced by new ones. I was relieved of truck duty and given an office at the motor pool and the title of truck master. There I assigned drivers to trucks as needed and dispatched same.
In April of 1945 I received word that Ruth was sick and that she had lost her memory and the possibility of marriage was questionable. Well, I didn’t know how, why or when but I was determined to find out. I got in touch with the Red Cross, chaplains, the Battery commander and anybody else who would listen. I had a lot of sympathetic ears but nothing happened. A few days later something akin to divine intervention occurred when a directive from the War Department came down that all eligible soldiers could have their 45 days in Australia and then be sent back to the States from there. All I could say was I’m OUT OF HERE!!! And I was packed and ready to go.
I arrived in Melbourne on May 16 and when Ruth and I got reacquainted all doubts, fears and reservations vanished and it was on with the marriage. The ceremony took place in the Congregational Church in Glenferrie on the 26th May, 1945. Two weeks after we were married Ruth got her memory back. It was then I found out why.
After our honeymoon I had to get back to Brisbane to wait for orders. Ruth flew to Sydney with me and we parted the next night when I took the train to Brisbane.
I then settled into a routine life waiting for transport back to the U.S. June went by and then July was history. Then in August atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. One night in that month on the 15th I decided to go to a movie in the Valley, a suburb of Brisbane. I don’t remember what the movie was, but about half way through it, four words were flashed on the screen- THE WAR IS OVER. The theatre was devoid of patrons in a matter of minutes and as I sat there alone I decided to finish the movie. Afterwards I made my way through a deserted foyer and into an empty street, because everybody had rushed off to central Brisbane.
It was a warm springlike night and I walked slowly towards the centre of Brisbane, breathing in clean free air.