Rosalie awoke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom after a vivid dream. She had been at the train station. It seemed to be Union Station. It wasn’t explicit, but that was what she had sensed from the dream, even though she had never actually been. Rosalie sensed she was older from the way she dressed and carried herself. She had a train to catch, but was running late. It was busy and she couldn’t find her gate, for it hadn’t been printed on her ticket. Then she found herself lying in her own bed without any resolution.
As she started walking back to her room from the bathroom, she felt an aute sense of awakeness and figured that she was going to have trouble in falling asleep again. As Rosalie passed her mother’s room, she thought she heard her stirring. Then, the sound of crying. She was definitely awake and she was crying. Rosalie paused, wondering if she ought to do something. She vividly remembered a similar scenario once after they had just moved to Chicago.
They’d only been in their apartment for a few weeks, and it was still filled with boxes. It was springtime. May 8th, 1945. VE Day. She still heard the voice of the radio announcer. Germany has surrendered unconditionally to the allied powers, led by General Eisenhower….
She and her mother and Sean had been sitting on the couch. Rosalie remembered her mother’s face. Elation that quickly turned into uncontrolled sobbing and then nothing. Walking silently to her bedroom. Later that night, Alison had not emerged from her bedroom and Sean and Rosalie were beginning to get hungry. Sean had gone to check on her, and when he returned to the living room he told Rosalie that Alison had told him to make peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches.
“Want to get a hot dog?” Sean asked. Rosalie nodded, and they took the train into the city.They got their hot dogs from a stand and sat on a hemspherical jungle gym in a park, looking up at the sky. It was a warm night and they sat there for a while, not really talking. Then, Rosalie turned to her brother.
“Do you think mom will ever be happy again?”
Sean didn’t answer.
It had been like that rather regularly for the past six months. And now, even though they had won the war, and many soldiers would be coming home, there was one soldier who wouldn’t be.
They’d gotten the telegram two days before Christmas. Their father had been away for a year at that point, and the last correspondance from him had a month earlier. He was tired, and he missed them all terribly. He didn’t know when he was going to be able to come home, but he hoped it would be soon. And although he wouldn’t be able to make Christmas, he would be with them in spirit. Still, they’d done it the way they always had. Gotten the tree from the tree farm. Brought down the box of decorations. Listened to the classics on the radio. Snow fell softly outside against the black night. Rosalie remembered it so vividly she could hear the music playing, feel the texture of the ornaments in her hands, see the pale yellow of their walls, taste the aftertaste of the roast Alison had made for dinner. It was perfect, and the only thing missing was him.
The doorbell rang. Alison set down her ornament. “I’ll get it,” she told her children.She opened the door. Sean and Rosalie both saw the Western Union man hand Alison the telegram and quickly walk away. Alison drop it into the snow. Weakly pick it up. Close the door. Walk over to her children, and hug them tightly as she sobbed.
Only a year before they’d all been together. They’d been happy. No, it had been better than that. They’d been blissfully happy. And in their household, Christmas was the best time of the year. Jim was the only person Rosalie had ever known that preferred winter to the summertime, a fact that Alison often reminded her children of in the following years.
One day, about a week before their last Christmas together, they’d been sitting around the radio after dinner. Earlier that day, they’d been sledding, and Rosalie had gone down by the hill by herself. Rosalie had tried to sit in her father’s lap.
“You’re getting a little big for that, pumpkin,” he told her.
Alison motioned for Rosalie to come sit next to her and Sean on the couch, and she did. Before, Jim stopped his daughter and kissed her on the forehead.
“I was thinking that tomorrow we could all drive up town to see the Christmas lights. Maybe stop for some hot chocolate after?” He said, winking at his children.
They both enthusiastically agreed. Nevermind the hot chocolate didn’t taste as good as it did before the war due to the sugar rations.
Alison smiled, standing up. “I’m going to make a pot of tea. Does anyone want any?”
They all shook their heads. She walked into the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later. Her face was pale and her step was heavy.
“Rosalie, Sean, it’s bedtime,” she said, giving Jim a look.
“It’s only eight o’clock,” Sean protested.
Jim looked at his children. “Listen to your mother.”
So they did. Not able to sleep because it was still early, they heard their parents arguing downstairs. They rarely, if ever argued, so it had to be serious.
Rosalie went downstairs. They were in the living room, and she hid around the corner in the entryway.
“I was going to tell you tonight,” he said. “I wanted to wait until it was for sure.
“You could die.”
“I’m a survivor, alright?” He looked at his wife lovingly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “We both are. This is just one more thing. And we’re going to get through it.”
Alison started to say something, but she ending up crying, finding herself in Jim’s arms. That’s when they both saw Rosalie.
“Go to bed,” he said in a stern voice he rarely used.
“I heard everything,” Rosalie said.
Jim sighed. “Get your brother.”
He explained that he’d been drafted, so this is what he had to do for the good of the country. He would miss them every day, but they would write letters and before they knew it, he would be home again.
It was not to be.