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Close to the Heart

Discussion in 'Non-fiction' started by macrusk, Nov 14, 2008.

  1. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    Background Information:

    This is based on my parent's experiences during and after World War II.

    My story concept is:

    World War II was a pivotal time in human history. It affected and changed most of the world – physically, geo-politically, and socially; most importantly, it affected individual lives. This is the story of a man and a woman from two different countries and lifestyles whose youthful meeting during World War II would shape who they would become and their eventual life together.

    Olive was raised in London, England. She was the youngest of four children, whose extended family lived a middle-class lifestyle. In wartime London, 1941, she met Lloyd, who as an only child had led an itinerant life with his widowed father in Western Canada. Bombed and ravaged London was the setting for the development of their romance. Olive and Lloyd laid the foundation of their relationship in the events of World War II.

    You will be introduced to them as individuals, witness their meeting, and follow their life together as long-time partners, facing the challenges of their post-War lives; challenges which were rooted in the events that occurred in England and Europe between 1939 and 1945.


    I have been writing seriously and doing intensive research since September 2007; although, a short edited version of their story has been related in a War Bride publications or begun for my adult nieces and nephew. In some ways, I have been researching the story all my life.


    Name: Michelle Rusk

    Setting: See above

    Genre: I call it creative non-fiction, as it is based on a real couple and as much as possible it relates their interaction with real people and real incidents in their life. I was not there for conversations when they were 18 or so; nor did they leave detailed diaries - which is where the creative aspect comes in as I write creativley about situations based on their personalities, what they told me over my life time, and upon factual research learned from their personal and other public documents.

    I have an extensive collection of photos and documents which I have been using as illustrations interwoven appropriately with the text, i.e. the front cover of the Illustrated War News for September 16, 1939. Unfortunately, I cannot add them in here. A copy of their name in their own handwriting is used in my version as the divider when it is their specific experience as the story develops.

    As stated in the rules for this new Forum, all my material here is copyright.

    I submit this portion of the story for your feedback, and to see if you would find such a story of interest once it is complete.
     
  2. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    Close to the Heart


    Michelle Rusk


    CHAPTER ONE: ROOTS

    September 1939 to December 1939

    Olive

    London, Saturday, September 16, 1939

    “Eighteen today,” Olive thought to herself. “Not quite the birthday I expected. War declared, everyone wondering what will be rationed and when, children evacuated to the country, air raid sirens, and blackouts.” She inserted the tip of a bobby pin between her teeth to separate it, and used it to hold back her dark hair from above her left eye. “People are signing up for some branch of the service or other. Even Dad’s signed up as a fire warden.” Once more with the comb, then using the side of her hand she adjusted the waves. She threw herself a quick grin, smoothed her red wool dress over her hip, and slipped her feet into black high heels. “I better get moving!”

    Her brother Trevor waited patiently on the first floor. In his accustomed role, he would escort his baby sister on an errand – well, maybe not such a baby anymore. This time they were going to the photo studio in Willesden. Their older sisters, Edith and Marie, had a portrait taken at twenty-one, but with the advent of war Olive was determined not to wait. And she’d convinced him to have his done too.

    She dashed into the parlour to give her mother a quick peck on the cheek, and then she and Trevor were away. They both ran back to get their gas masks – another life adjustment. Olive linked her arm through Trevor’s. Being 5’ 7” and wearing her two-inch heels, they matched stride for stride. Trevor looked over at his sister, and asked “Aside from the photo, did you have other plans for today?”

    “To be home before dark!” she laughed. “I might go to the movies with Marjorie or Babs. The cinemas were reopened a couple of days ago and we haven’t gone yet.” Trevor avoided looking at Olive as he asked, “So, nothing firm?” He was supposed to ensure she was home for her birthday party with the rest of the family. Who knew if they would all be together for her next birthday?

    She gave him a sidelong glance, before responding, “No, nothing firm.” Her brother was not good at deception or keeping secrets, but she wouldn’t press him. It was a good thing he wouldn’t be in the same business into which she was going. He was in a reserved occupation as a Tool and Die maker at De Havilland, and couldn’t enlist. Their uncle Major Jack Fosbury had convinced her that she had talents better used by the “War Department” than working at the bank. Now she would be keeping secrets equally from strangers and loved ones. She would also need to keep still when she wanted to ask questions. Her employers had sworn her to a lifetime secrecy oath. Apparently, she would need to exercise the skill for a very long time.

    Olive continued, “We’ll probably stay in Edgeware or Hampstead – no need to go into the City. People haven’t got used to driving in the blackout yet, so I’d rather avoid the risk of being hit.”

    “They’ve been painting the curbs white - at least at the intersections. I heard it was because of the blackouts. We’ll be able to see the slight glow in the dark, but the German planes won’t.”

    Olive sighed. “I still haven’t adjusted to seeing the windows of the houses dark and shuttered at night, and vehicle headlamps covered to only show a narrow beam. I don’t relish walking alone on any of the streets after dusk – especially when I can’t use a torch to light my way. Things have already changed so much since my last birthday.”

    “We could pretend - at least for our walk - that nothing is different from last year,” said Trevor. “Let’s remember how you reached the ripe old age of 18. I seem to recall you frightening the parents that you wouldn’t make thirteen!”

    “Not all that much to remember,” she shrugged. “Only one was dramatic. The time I almost drowned at Brighton and Uncle George dove into the water to save me.”

    “Trips to the beach were cancelled for a couple of years, after that,” Trevor laughed. “I didn’t mind though. Some of the cousins and I went cycling or walking over the fells and crags of the Lake District when we went there instead of the beach.”


    “And I got to play tennis,” said Olive. “I would have liked to join you, but Mum thought it wasn’t ladylike for me to be cycling all over with you lot! Of course, Mum and Dad also ensured I was in swimming lessons for a long, long time!”

    “Speaking of lessons, didn’t you get some kind of award at school?”

    “I think it was ten I received the academic cup from the Mayor and Mayoress of Hampstead. It wasn’t that hard to concentrate on studies when I was going to Beckford – it was an all-girl school, you know!” Her blue eyes twinkled at him.

    Trevor started to laugh, “And now you probably have more boys trying to catch your attention than you know what to do with!”

    Olive blushed. “It’s not like I try to get their attention,” she protested. “Mostly they’re just the same boys who’ve always been around.”

    Trevor gave her a quick hug. “Never mind, I had to tease you. I’ve started to feel quite protective you know. Soon there will be so many of them in uniform, and I don’t want them turning your head.”

    “Most of the boys I’ve already met seem to try to impress me with nonsense, and I doubt the uniforms will change that!”

    Laughing, they continued on, until crossing Turner Road, they entered Queensbury Station.



    **********************


    Later that night, Olive stood in the dark garden and smiled as she heard the laughter coming from the house. The windows might be completely darkened, but the sounds of her birthday party still escaped out into the cool evening air. She really wasn’t that fond of surprise parties – even ones that weren’t for her. She had cancelled her planned evening at the movies when Trevor’s casual questions gave the surprise away. It was strangely peaceful out here. The advantage of the blackout was being able to see the stars as they began to appear in the night sky. Another burst of laughter almost made her chuckle aloud herself. She wondered what magic trick her cousin Ernie was showing the children now.

    The sharp tang of her father’s cigarette smoke preceded his voice. “Everything okay?” he asked. “Your mother noticed you slip away.”

    “Everything is fine, Dad. I just needed a few minutes to myself. I looked at the blackout drapes and the collection of gas masks on the entry table. It made me feel sad, yet no one else seemed to notice.”

    “My experience from the last war is that you have to enjoy the good moments. Everyone inside is aware that the madness of war is beginning. They only need to look at the headlines and stories in the newspapers. Today’s Illustrated News has stories about U-Boats and the sinking of the liner Athenia. Now that Poland has fallen, we will hear speculation on what will happen to France.” He took another puff on his cigarette, shielding its glowing ember with a cupped hand. It already seemed natural to revert to the survival habits from when he was a soldier.

    She sighed. “You forgot the uplifting discussions on rationing in the last war and what we can expect to do without in this one.” With a determined nod, she admitted, “Sitting out here I came to the same conclusion about enjoying ‘normal’ moments.”

    “And what inspired the sudden change of heart?”

    “I was listening to their laughter and realized I was able to see the stars. I realized that sometimes even when things are dark, like London is now, if I was willing to see it - I might find something special or happy.”

    “Rather like seeing the stars clearly, where usually the lights of the city obscure them.”

    “Exactly,” she shrugged. “I had to find my own way to accept what seems to come naturally to them.” With a wry smile, Olive gestured toward the laughter still emanating from the house.

    Bill looked at his youngest child fondly, “Now that’s settled, do you feel that you can put aside your heavy thoughts and enjoy the company of your cousins and friends?”

    “I know that most of the boys will be somewhere else by this time next year. I can’t be sad now about what may have happened by then. I heard a girl at work telling another that she was going to “live for today, for tomorrow we may die.” I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to go that far, but I’ll try not to worry so much about what is coming.”

    With that, she linked her arm in his as they began the walk back up the garden path to the party.


    **********************


    Lloyd

    Vancouver, September 16, 1939

    It was late in the afternoon, when Lloyd got off the bus outside the apartment block on Davie Street. He looked up at the red brick façade. It was still damp following days of rain. He was coming home as a visitor with only one day of leave prior to rejoining his militia unit. After being in hospital for nearly two weeks he’d been allowed time to see his family before he went back on duty. He entered the building, and went up the stairs.

    “Dad?” he called, as he unlocked the door to the small suite. His voice echoed in the sparsely furnished room. Lloyd noted that his Dad’s jacket was missing. “He must be checking the job postings again,” he thought. With relief he took off the heavy black boots of his uniform. “To think that signing up for the militia to get a pair of boots would lead to wearing them nearly every waking minute,” he smiled wryly.

    Whistling softly, he wandered to the kitchen table. The letter he’d sent from the hospital lay open. Its many creases indicated how often it had been read. Lloyd opened the cupboard door and helped himself to a piece of his Dad’s homemade bread.

    “I hope you aren’t just here to eat and run,” his Dad inquired, as he came through the front door.

    Lloyd grinned, “I wish they’d made bread as good as this in the hospital.”

    Lane walked over and patted his son on the shoulder. “You’re better now?” he asked, trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice. Sometimes it was tough giving the lad room to grow. Lloyd was all he’d had since his wife died fourteen years earlier.



    “Mmm,” Lloyd murmured as he finished the last bite. “They said they kept me in hospital because I got dehydrated and they also wanted to keep us from spreading the measles to the rest of the Battery.”

    “No side effects?

    “No. I got lots of sleep and ate pretty well. It’s too bad you don’t cook for the military!”

    Lane chuckled. “You survived my sister’s food; you’ll survive on army food. As for me, since there’s nothing in insurance, perhaps cooking in one of the logging or mining camps might be an idea. For now, I want to stay in Vancouver - at least until I know what you are going to be doing and where you are likely to go.” Lane pulled out the enamel coffee pot and carefully spooned some of his hoarded coffee into it. He looked at Lloyd, “From your letter, I gather you’ve started drinking coffee now?”

    “Nothing else seemed all that drinkable,” Lloyd laughed. He turned his chair and straddled it as he watched the comforting sight of his Dad’s economical movements preparing a simple meal. “Have you been keeping up with the news, Dad?”


    “I go down to the library to read the newspaper. As soon as anything happens you see people hurrying to the newspaper boxes, so I head over and catch up as soon as I can.”

    “Easy access to the newspapers was one of the perks of being in the hospital. I even got to see a week-old copy of the London Times from when they declared War. It was a different view from what was written in the Vancouver Sun.”

    “You picked quite the time to be laid up. You go into hospital the day after Britain declares war, and nearly a week before Canada did.”

    “I know. Those thirteen days may be my only break for awhile! Even though I only joined the militia last spring, I was still mobilized with everyone else in August. I guess I’m going to have to decide what I want to do. It seems like it would be too much trouble now to tell them I won’t really be eighteen until December. Most of the others are already talking about signing up for the duration.”

    “What are your plans?” Lane turned his back to stir the beans. He didn’t want his expression giving away any of his trepidation.

    Lloyd watched the tension in his father’s back as he told him. “I’ll return to the militia for now, but I will probably join the permanent forces. They really need men. I might only be seventeen, but I was doing a man’s job for the last year as a blacksmith apprentice.”

    Letting out his breath slowly, Lane asked, “You’ll stay in the artillery?”

    “I like it there.” Lloyd ran his fingers through his sandy hair, “It’s an opportunity to do more than just slog in the mud. They say that I will probably qualify for other training because I already know how to ride a motorcycle and have played around with short wave radios.”

    Lane turned from the stove to face his son. “I still don’t like that you are under age and that you aren’t being completely honest with the authorities. It may come back to haunt you at some point.”

    “I know, but like I said a few minutes ago – it is so close to my turning eighteen in December that it would be more of a bother for them to discharge me and then have me enlist in only another couple of months.”

    “Okay. I’ll have to trust that you are making the right decision. Disagreeing would only delay the inevitable. I haven’t been able to provide you with the formal education I wanted for you, perhaps the army will be able to do it.” Lane paused and nodded towards the pan on the stove, “Grab your plate and serve yourself.”


    *******************


    For the next twenty minutes, conversation was sparse as they concentrated on eating. Lloyd helped himself to the coffee, “I’ll wash and dry the dishes, Dad.”

    “That’s a surprise!”

    His green eyes twinkling, Lloyd replied “Enjoy it. I don’t mind so much now that I don’t usually have to do them. I try hard to avoid kitchen duty in the Coastal Brigade - it’s usually a punishment.” He grabbed one of the towels and tied it around his waist to protect his uniform.

    Lane poured himself a coffee and sat down to roll a cigarette. He enjoyed just having his son there.

    Lloyd whistled as he finished putting away the supper dishes. “What were you just whistling?” Lane asked.

    Somewhere Over the Rainbow. It’s from the movie, The Wizard of Oz.”

    “There have been quite a few write ups about it in the paper.”

    “The song’s been played on the radio quite a bit. The words are hopeful, especially considering the times.” He sang a brief chorus in a pleasant baritone.

    Lane smiled and turned on the radio, “Speaking of the radio. I don’t have this on as much with you not at home. I usually catch the news - although it’s only a squib compared to the full stories in the papers.” The last few notes of Jeepers Creepers carried through the air. Laughing, Lloyd joined in, “Where’d you get those eye-eyes? Where’d you get those eyes?”

    “That’s one of the things I miss with you away,” Lane said, “The laughter and your singing.”

    As the day’s war news began, their laughter stilled.




    *******************
     
    texson66 likes this.
  3. Lias_Co_Pilot

    Lias_Co_Pilot Member

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    Good job Macrusk. I wish many more could chronicle their family's addition to history, a you've done here. I tried doing that with my dad, but he was so full of B.S., that I just gave up.
     
  4. Firefoxy

    Firefoxy Dishonorably Discharged

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    In my family, i'm the only person that loves and is interested in History.
    Pretty shameful compared to Macrusk Family!:eek:

    I wounder if that's her in the wedding pic!:)
     
  5. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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  6. Firefoxy

    Firefoxy Dishonorably Discharged

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    You're album ist's great! I can see there close to you're heart.
    You're Mother is very pretty,and was you're dad inlisted with the British Army during ww2? You're Father's unifrom look's very British.

    I just learnt how to put my Avatar up,iv'e got no hope of putting an album up.
    If you got anymore you should put more ww2 pic's of you're family up, i'm very interested in other people's ww2 family pics, not cause i'm a stalker, please don't get me wrong but it get's boring just looking at you're own family's ww2 family pics.:)
     
  7. texson66

    texson66 Ace

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    Nicely done, Michelle! Thank you for sharing the story and the photos!
     
  8. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    Thanks, texson. I need to spend more time writing. I find it far too easy to get side-tracked doing the research. I know I will be looking for critiques and editorial assistance here when I get to when my Dad is fighting in NW Europe.
     
  9. PattieThomas

    PattieThomas Member

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    Michelle,
    I would be very interested in reading more of your story. Do you have plans to post more here, or are you intending to publish? I love what you have here. Thank you for sharing.
    Pattie
     
  10. bigfun

    bigfun Ace

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    Would I be interested in reading this story.............YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES, YES..................................YES!!!!!

    Just wanted to make sure i got my point across there................YES!!!!!

    Ok I'm done.


    Thanks Michelle! I would buy that book!!
     
  11. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    I'd be interested too Michelle, please we want more!
     
  12. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    Thank you for the encouragement.... With my ankle injury many of my outdoor plans for the summer are done, so I shall have to ensure I spend some time working on the story that I hope will turn into a book. The hard part is that every time I find out more facts about my parents, I also learn that I need to revise something I already wrote!!

    I do hope to one day publish, so at some point I'll probably have to leave you hanging! and if I dont' get published I'll finish sharing the story here. I've learned much and made connections on the forum that are invaluable, so it only seems fair to share!
     

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