I just completed my first draft. The emotions I’m feeling are so huge I don’t know what to do with them. I think I need to back away from the computer, take a shower and grab some dinner before I go teach my Monday evening yoga class. In the meantime, given the date, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the book.
It’s no longer a matter of “I Think I Can.” This is an “I Did It” moment.
The following are chapters 23 and 24.
23. December 1941
“What time is it?”
“About eleven, Mr. Winslow.”
“Dang it, Ginny, what’s keeping Rose? It’s time to tune in KQW – game’s starting in a tick.”
“Go ahead, Ted, tune it in,” Aunt Rose called from the kitchen. “We don’t want to miss kickoff.”
It was December 7th and the New York Giants football team was hosting the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ted Winslow had spent some time in Brooklyn as a child and he always rooted for the Dodgers. And since both teams were having a winning season, this was sure to be a great game. Mr. Winslow knelt by the radio and I headed into the kitchen.
“You want me to start making the sandwiches, Aunt Rose?”
“No, not yet dear – we’ll wait until halftime.”
I stood next to her and looked out the window. It was another beautiful morning.
“What did Grandma Connolly used to call these days? Days to…”
“Days to pin wishes on, Maggie. And you’re right –it surely is one of those days – just beautiful…almost a pity to be spending it inside listening to football – but whatever you do, don’t say a word about that to Ted Winslow – he’ll have your head.”
We both laughed. Neither of us cared about football. We just loved any opportunity to fill the living room with friends.
“Here, Maggie, take in this tray please, and then come back for the cups and saucers. I’ll bring in the coffee.”
Sam had arrived just before the Winslows. The Noguchi’s intended to join us, but at the last minute they had taken the train to San Francisco. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was more than coincidence. I had the feeling Mrs. Noguchi was working hard to keep Ben and I apart. Maybe she sensed that while we honored her wishes, the feelings Ben and I had for one another still ran deep. I also had the feeling that she may have heard some of my conversation with Anthony on Thanksgiving Day.
I walked into the living room with the tray just in time to hear the announcer proclaim that it was “Tuffy Leemans’ Day” at the stadium.
“Mr. Winslow, who’s Tuffy Leemans?”
“Who’s Tuffy Leemans?” He pulled such an astonished face I had to laugh. He asked again. “Why girl, he’s only one of the best fullbacks ever – the only rookie named All-League. He led in rushing his first year – how many yards, Tom?”
“Eight hundred thirty.”
“Only problem with Tuffy,” Mr. Winslow added, “is that he’s on the wrong team.”
“That’s all right – we got ‘The Bruiser’, right Dad?”
“That we have, son.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Bruiser Kinard, Mags. Now shush – it’s kickoff.”
We settled back with our drinks. The Dodgers made an early touchdown and it looked as though it was going to be a rout.
“He’s hit hard around the 27 yard line; Kinard made the tackle…”
Sam and Mr. Winslow leapt to their feet and cheered.
“That Kinard, by gum he can run…”
“Who’d he play for in college, Dad?”
“You don’t know?” asked Sam. “None other than ‘ol Miss.”
“That’s right son – played for Mississippi, he did.”
“We interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important bulletin from United Press…”
Sam and Mr. Winslow sat back down. We were quiet but not unduly concerned. There bulletins happened all the time and usually weren’t urgent.
I saw Aunt Rose take Sam’s hand. Mrs. Winslow looked at her husband. This felt different. Maybe it was something in the announcer’s voice, or something in the pit of my stomach. I began to shake.
“The White House announces a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”
Aunt Rose’s other hand reached for me. Mrs. Winslow buried her head in her husband’s shoulder and sobbed. Tom just stared at the Philco with an astonished look on his face.
Mr. Winslow said, “I don’t believe it.”
And then everyone, except for Tom, spoke at once.
“What do you think will happen?”
“Does this mean…?”
My Anthony…my Ben…
Mrs. Winslow wiped her eyes and said,
“Ted, quick, tune in ‘The World Today’.”
The radio was unnervingly silent at first, and then,
“The Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor Hawaii by air, President Roosevelt has just announced. The attack was made on all military and naval activities on the principal island of Oahu.”
Mr. Winslow muttered, “My God, it’s finally happening…”
“A Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor would naturally mean war.”
Sam pulled Aunt Rose close; Mr. and Mrs. Winslow held their embrace. Tom hadn’t moved – he still sat slack jawed and staring at the radio in disbelief.
In those first few moments I felt entirely alone. I moved from the chair to sit by Aunt Rose’s feet. She began to stroke my hair.
“We’re fine, Maggie. We’re just fine.”
“Hostilities seem to be opening over the entire South Pacific.”
Sam leaned toward Aunt Rose and in a voice just low enough for her and I to hear said,
“I’ll send Harry White a telegram tomorrow morning, Rose. He might need me at Eagle Field early.”
“No – Sam…”
“Japan has now cast the die.”
With sudden realization Mrs. Winslow asked,
“The Noguchis – do they know what has happened?”
Again the room erupted.
“Where are they?”
“They went up to the City again.”
“Ken’s cousin is ill.”
“Well, they must know about the attack if they’re in San Francisco.”
“Maybe not…oh the poor dears…”
And then, at last, Tom spoke.
“They went to San Francisco again? Weren’t they just there at Thanksgiving? That’s odd…a few trips to the City in a few years and then suddenly two trips in two weeks?”
“Yes, Tom” his father answered. “Like I said, Ken’s cousin is ill. So whatever you’re trying to imply it stops now.”
Tom put up his hands to protest.
“Hey, I’m not implying….”
“Tom.” Mrs. Winslow warned.
By now ‘The World Today’ had ended and the ‘New York Philharmonic’ was beginning.
“Rose, is there any other news?”
“Try NBC Red – Kaltenborn is on in a few minutes…”
The coffee was cold, the Pepsi warm. Aunt Rose and I went into the kitchen to do the one thing we knew we could do. We replenished the drinks and made sandwiches. That simple task promised us a small sense of control.
I think we all felt something more than just shock. We were numb of course but in addition to that there was a combination of bewilderment and a fear that skewed our sense of right and wrong – our sense of balance.
I buttered my tenth slice of bread and then paused. I needed to ask the question, but it terrified me.
“Aunt Rose…” I hesitated. “Aunt Rose…what about Anthony?”
“Hush, darling. We’re not going to jump to any conclusions. We’ll keep the radio on, listen to the bulletins, and wait. We don’t really know how bad it is – it could be nothing. All we can do is wait. I’m certain your brother will be in touch in a few days.”
We returned to the living room. Sam stood to take the tray of food from Aunt Rose’s hands. And then we all huddled together and listened. The sandwiches remained untouched.
“It says that the air attacks on Hawaii were staged by unidentified planes…Bombs fell near the building housing The Honolulu Advertiser. So far, there are no reports of damage… Antiaircraft guns sent showers of shells into the air.”
Between announcements we were allowed to breath. And then new information would arrive.
“…The President called in Secretaries of War and Navy, and is trying to contact congressional leaders. The attack is still in progress.”
This news chilled us to our bones:
“Breaking news from Washington: An army transport carrying lumber has been torpedoed 1300 miles west of San Francisco. This is evidence that the attack was planned long ago.”
Just then there was a knock on the door. I opened it and found the Noguchis. Mr. Noguchi stood in the middle, his arms gripped around his wife and son.
“Oh my God – Aunt Rose, it’s the Noguchis. Please – please come in, come in.”
The women stood to embrace. The men stood awkwardly for a moment, until Mr. Winslow put a hand on Mr. Noguchi’s arm and said,
“I’m sorry about this mess, Ken.”
Mr. Noguchi’s shoulders shook. He bit his lower lip but refused to cry.
Except for Tom, I think we were all desperately holding back our tears. We gathered by the radio once again, this time making room for our dear friends.
Ben sat next to me, our hands locked together. Mrs. Noguchi, if she noticed, no longer cared. By now it was early afternoon, and Upton Close was broadcasting from San Francisco:
“As to, the uh, watch over the Japanese community, it’s interesting that we learn that on the Atlantic coast in New York and in Norfolk, special watch–police watch–has been put over the Japanese…”
Tom watched me take Ben’s hand in mine. He looked at me, questioning, and then he looked at Ben.
“…I think we can take the word of the local San Francisco Consulate General that the Japanese community has been totally surprised by this action, and so far there is no, uh, indication here whatsoever that any sabotage has broken out or that any Japanese spies or saboteurs were warned in time to go into action.”
“Mom, I have to get out of here.”
“What?” his mom asked, “No Tom, you’re staying with us.”
He grabbed half a sandwich, stepped around us and found his coat on the bench in the hall.
“I won’t be long, Mom. I just need some fresh air.”
“Listen to your…”
Mr. Winslow stopped in mid-sentence. He knew that no matter what he said, Tom was leaving.
None of us wanted him to leave. It was more than simply wanting him to stay – we needed him to stay. The thing is, the moment the radio announcer interrupted Bruiser Kinard’s tackle to tell us bombs were falling on Pearl Harbor, time was suspended. It hung there, just like The Bruiser, in mid-flight. And as long as we were all cocooned in Aunt Rose’s living room, we didn’t have to think about what happened next. If we were lucky, we might even be able to turn back time and start over again. But the moment Tom opened that door it would all change. That’s why we couldn’t bear for him to leave. The moment he stepped over that threshold clocks would tick once again; time would move forward and as much as we didn’t want to we would move forward with it.
24. January 1942
The Dodgers won the football game twenty-one to seven.
On Monday, December 8th, 1941 at 9:30 in the morning, we gathered around the Philco once again to listen as President Roosevelt declared war on Japan.
After that, tit for tat declarations of war roared around the world like rival playground bullies choosing friends. Canada declared war on Japan. So did Britain. Germany and Italy declared war on us. And so it went. Of course it was more complicated than that. We knew that.
For most of that first week we stumbled and rallied, stumbled and rallied. We kept the radio on and shared meals with the Noguchis and the Winslows, and we waited.
At Stanford, President Lyman encouraged students to stay in school. He asked for tolerance of all Japanese Americans. They didn’t listen.
By the end of the week three thousand Japanese living along the West Coast had been detained. Earl Warren, the California Attorney General referred to the Japanese population of California as “the Achilles heel of the entire civilian defense effort.”
A telegram arrived from my parents – there was no word from Anthony.
It was clear to everyone that we were saying goodbye to the certainty of what our world had been and exchanging it the chaos of black outs, sirens, suspicion and fear. We were constantly on edge.
The following week a telegram arrived from Harry White in King City. Just as Sam thought, he was to leave for Eagle Field as soon as possible. There was a swarm of new recruits eager to defend the country by air. Sam would teach them how. So we said goodbye to Sam and consoled Aunt Rose. And we waited.
We said goodbye to dear Bob, too. He left his family in Palo Alto and followed Sam to Dos Palos to teach ground school.
There was no Christmas, just a church service on Christmas Eve and a quiet toast to the New Year one week later.
I hoped Anthony was in a hospital somewhere unconscious, unable to say his name. I prayed his face was bandaged, his dog tags lost.
Tom finished his semester at Stanford and then he and most of his friends enlisted. Mr. and Mrs. Winslow were proud and terrified. On the first Monday morning of 1942 we said goodbye to Tom when he headed south to Fort Liggett. That evening Mrs. Winslow cried through her dinner.
When the call finally came, almost one month later, we were tired of goodbyes.
“Yes, she’s right here, Katherine.”
Aunt Rose gave me the phone.
“Hello Margaret dear, how are you?”
I tried to hear something in her voice, anything to offer a clue – to give me the answer I needed. Did they know? Was my brother alive or was he dead?
She couldn’t hold her tears back and between sobs said,
“You’re father…he needs to…”
“Maggie darlin’, is that you?”
“Maggie, the telegram arrived yesterday. I’m afraid I have some bad news.”