War stories Chapter 12
War Stories - chapter 12. (Hub’s furlough at home.)
We are sitting on the back veranda of the house on the couch with the green cushions that Crene had given Mom for Christmas. The baby is lying in his cot in front of us. Every now and then Hub gets up to look at him. It is as if he cannot get enough of him. ”He looks a bit like your Dad”, he says again and I honestly cannot see the resemblance, so I just smile and nod my head.
The time is flying past at breakneck speed and I am counting the days and hours. The desperate longing of the past 18 months has turned into a peaceful feeling of contentment. This is how it is meant to be with a child and parents, but in my mind I know it cannot last much longer. When Hub has to go to Military Headquarters to deliver messages that he brought from the front I long for his return even as he leaves. I do not want to share him with anyone. On Sunday, when everyone comes for lunch, I long that they will leave so that I can have him to myself; just him, the baby and me. Am I being very selfish? Yes, but that is how I feel.
The house is progressing well and when Hub wants to go and help I forbid it. “Let it be, you will only get in the way and you need to be with us. Let’s go for a walk down to the river.” As we pass the grave of the unnamed baby of Boet and Helen, I notice that Helen has put some flowers on the simple grave. I noticed that she had been crying when, after tea, they left to return to town. My healthy baby must make it even more painful for her and I wonder if she will be pregnant soon. Everyone is hoping so.
News about Jessie in Egypt and Albert in Italy is scarce and we pray every day that they will be safe. So far as a family we have been incredibly lucky as we hear of so many others who are mourning the loss of family members buried in foreign lands. What about Hub going back to Egypt? Recent news is that Rommel is being stopped by South African and British forces in spite of our troops being out numbered, and the Suez Canal, for the moment at least, is safe.
When I ask Hub if he has often been in danger, he just laughs and refuses to give any information, a ploy that the soldiers coming home on leave have been coached in. “Don’t worry my darling”, he tells me, “before you know it the war will be over and I will be back”. While his lips mouth these words of comfort his eyes tell me that he is speaking in hope rather than certainty. He has helped bury too many of his mates in the desert sand, even to convince himself.
The farewell at Pretoria is in sharp contrast to the welcome home of 13 days ago. Now Mom and Dad stand in the background as Hub and I hold on to each other and the baby in a last desperate embrace. The station attendant blows his whistle and waves his flag and the train begins to leave the station. My heart is going with him. All my love combined with joy and fear makes a strange mixture as I wave to him. Will he return soon as he promised or is this the last time I will see him? I try desperately to put these thoughts out of my mind, but they keep jumping back.
On the way back to the farm I weep softly, knowing that I need to be strong for our little boy, but also knowing that I have few reserves to draw on. My parents are silent as they feel the separation with me. The future seems so uncertain!