War Stories Chapter 13
War Stories - chapter 13. (Home alone - again.)
We spend a lot of time listening to the news broadcasts on either the SA Broadcasting service on medium wave, or the BBC on short wave. Occasionally we even pick up Radio America - Africa Services, and some other stations speaking either German or some Asian language that we presume is Japanese.
Fierce fighting is taking place in Europe and Britain, the war in North Africa has moved into Italy. Thankfully, on the home front “terrorist activities” have all but ceased. South Africa is fortunate in that it is not being attacked by foreign nations and because of the demand for raw materials to keep the war machine going in Europe, the export of iron ore and coal has increased. Industry is also booming as the need for basic items such as uniforms and army equipment increases. Many of these new industries are using women workers, as most of the usual work force is otherwise occupied, digging trenches in the desert in Egypt, or fighting in the mountains of Southern Europe.
Somewhere in this mess is Hub and also Albert, our older brother and Jessie our little sister. Information is hard to come by and when it comes, is heavily censored. Then Dad hears that Albert had been awarded the Military Cross after he led an attack on a German gun post and saved many of our soldiers from imminent danger. Albert is the eldest in the family and the consummate soldier. He fears nothing, is cool under pressure and just the kind of person you would like to have leading you into battle. We are all very proud to hear this, but also know that if there is danger beckoning, Albert, or A as he is referred to, would be the first to volunteer. Hardly a strong recommendation to secure one’s safety in these already dangerous times.
On the home front at Fontainebleau, strange things are happening in my life. Little Johan is beginning to cut his teeth and take his first steps, much to the delight of Mom and Dad. Dad had returned to being a farmer and builder and the new house is just about complete. The bricks are being manufactured on site and the Italian prisoners of war, led by Giuseppe Francisco, are building a house of a quality unknown in these parts. They have even begun to plant some grape vines that will probably have little chance of survival in the harsh winters on the high veldt.
Then I realized that I am pregnant again. The short visit by Hub had been passionate and fulfilling, but now I feel the same symptoms that I last felt in North Africa. Would I again have to have our child without the presence of my beloved husband? At least I am not alone as Helen is also in the same boat, so to speak, and everyone is holding their breath and taking bets as to who would give birth first. According to the doctors it is going to be touch and go.
Today a parcel arrives with a post mark from Jerusalem. Hub had been able to visit Palestine and while in Jerusalem, he bought a copy of the New Testament. It has a carved wooden cover. Inside he inscribed a message to our first born and then posted it to me. How I love him for this thoughtful act and how I will look after and treasure it for Johan until one day he can appreciate it.
Life has developed a rhythm of stability here on the farm and I am kept busy helping Mom around the house. Looking after the little boy and running the home with its everyday activities is keeping us all busy. There does not seem to be as much time to feel the loneliness that I had felt when I first returned.
The words of a poem I learnt in English classes at Girls High, just a few years ago, keep coming into my mind; “Sleep and rest, sleep and rest, Father will come to thee soon”. I now find meaning in some of the poems we had to memorize under the watchful eye of Miss Beckman. These words come from the poem by Tennyson called “Sweet and Low”, that at the time had seemed rather meaningless, but now brings comfort to me as I recall it and it comes alive in my longing.
With my second child growing inside me, I am ready for the war to end and ready to start my own life with Hub. The “War” is now in its fourth year and we all are tired of it. When will it end so life can return to normal, if something like that does, in fact exist?