Recap: The girls started school. They heard America is getting into the war.
Two months later…
Winter set in with blinding blizzards and freezing temperatures. When we woke at four a.m., the room felt like an ice box. I dreaded letting my bare feet touch the bone-chilling stone floor.
Mrs. Cantor bought us mittens and scarves and heavy winter coats. The coats were ugly gray men’s coats, but they were warm, and in this place that was the main thing.
Some nights, we listened to the radio with Mr. Cantor. The news was not good. Britain was still under attack with bombings day and night. Sophie cried when she heard the news. “Do you think my parents are all right?”
“We have to daven. I believe they are fine,” Mimi said.
One November night, we heard the Cantors talking in the living room. “That raid on Coventry was barbaric!” Mrs. Cantor said. They killed 380 people. I like that American journalist, Ed Murrow; he’s telling us Britain will not be beaten. They will continue to fight the Nazis.”
“G-d willing, I hope the man is right,” Mr. Cantor said.
Sophie and I exchanged glances. “Where is Coventry?” I whispered.
“It’s in England. It’s a small place around an hour or so from London. I’ve been there with my parents,” Sophie said.
One Year Later…
I glanced at the calendar in the kitchen one day, and I realized that Chanukah was coming. When I thought of Chanukah, I thought of when our family used to gather to light the menorah and the fun parties we would have together.
The sun had just risen and I was almost finished feeding the horses. My fingers were numb from the cold; even with the heavy knit gloves that Mrs. Cantor had given me, I couldn’t feel my fingers. Jason, the farm hand, ran into the barn. “The President is on the radio. Go listen.”
Mimi and I raced through the snow towards the house. My heart was pounding. Was America going to enter the war? Would this mean it would finally end?
Mr. and Mrs. Cantor were sitting in the kitchen. Their breakfast lay untouched on the table. They were both listening to the radio.
School was canceled. Everyone was sitting at home, glued to their radios. President Roosevelt’s voice boomed through the room.
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. … I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”
“Where is Pearl Harbor?” I whispered to Mimi.
Mr. Cantor turned towards us. “It’s in Hawaii.”
Just then, someone knocked on the back door.
Gloria and Margie both stood there, all bundled up. “No school today. Do you want to come over to my house?” Margie asked.
Mrs. Cantor nodded. “We need you back at four to help shovel the drive and the walkway by the furniture store.”
Sophie and Mimi and I all bundled up in layers of sweaters and stockings and scarves and headed out in the pure white world.
“I want to make a show for the children in the neighborhood. It will keep everyone’s spirits up. Fathers and brothers will be going to fight.”
Mimi, I want you to play flute in it; and Sophie, you can teach the dances to the girls. Bayla, do you want to write the storyline?”
“Hey, you forgot me,” Gloria said. “I’m painting the scenery.”
Margie nudged her friend with her elbow. “Yes, of course. Gloria is our resident artist, you know.”
“Yes!” I was excited. I plopped down on Margie’s wide canopy bed. She’d handed me some paper and a pen, and I lost myself in my imagination.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess with long, wavy, red hair and sky- blue eyes. She was so sad because a wicked ruler from an enemy kingdom had forced her from her palace and taken her to live in a faraway land. She missed her family so much and she wanted more than anything to find a way back to her home.
Margie leaned over my shoulder and read. “That looks amazing. I think I’ll play the princess.”
The day flew by, and when I glanced at the clock and saw that it was 3:30, I urged Sophie and Mimi. “We have to go back. Mrs. Cantor will be angry.”
The next day, I asked Mimi and Sophie, “I’d like to invite Gloria to a Shabbos meal. She’s never had a real Shabbos.”
“That would be great,” Mimi said. “We’ll cook up a storm.”
“They’re going to start more rationing like we had in England. I heard Mr. Cantor telling Mrs. Cantor about it. Let’s go to the store now so we can get the ingredients we need,” I said.
Mimi and Sophie and I took turns kneading the dough for challah. Marie helped us prepare the chicken, and we all chopped vegetables for soup. We usually prepared our own food for during the week and Shabbos. The Cantors ate in the dining room and we ate in the kitchen. Mr. Cantor would come into the kitchen to make Kiddush for us.
Occasionally on Shabbos, Mr. Cantor would come back in the kitchen before he bentched and he would share a d’var Torah from the parshah. He also would bring us each a Shabbos treat like a chocolate or a cookie.
Friday nights were the hardest for me. “I miss Papa’s brachah Friday night.”
The sky looked threatening. “I hope it doesn’t snow today,” I said. “Then Gloria won’t be able to come.”
“I think the sun will come out,” Sophie said.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams (a novel, Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines, including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). Fiction serial in The Jewish Press – Falling Star (2019), article in the Winter 2019 Jewish Action Magazine. She contributes to the community column for the Queens Jewish Link and writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivos and teaches creative writing to students of all ages.