Last year I was created two characters- Caro and Randy. I based them on a couple who had lived in the little town of Mandarin Florida. Caroline died last fall and her four daughters came in to plan the funeral. The women spoke of the their parents courtship and marriage.
In honor of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, here is Caro and Randy’s story of that day.
Caroline and Randy set up housekeeping on the Jones’ property. The old cabin was just right for the two newlyweds. Tucked in the woods beyond the main house, its front porch opened to the creek. A footbridge spanned the creek at its narrowest point. Caro loved the sound of the water and the wildlife that surrounded the woods around their little home.
Randy and his Daddy had updated the cabin for Caroline. The small bathroom was expanded to hold a tub and the old wood burning cookstove had been replaced with a gas oven and stove. Randy promised Caro a real Frigidaire someday.
In the meantime, the Jones’ had a deal with the local iceman. He came twice a week for sawdust that they saved from the sawmill orders, and in return he supplied both iceboxes with fresh ice.
On this cool Sunday afternoon in December, Caro was stirring a pot of chicken and dumplings on the stove. She was waiting on Randy to come in from the woodpile. This morning they had lit the first fire of the winter. Randy wanted to make sure there was plenty of wood to keep them warm tonight. The forecast called for the lows to dip into the high ‘40s.
Caro turned on the radio; Sammy Kay’s Sunday Serenade, kept her company while she finished supper and set the table with Grandma’s china. She loved keeping their little cabin neat as a pin. They did not have a proper bedroom, but the curtain around the corner of the cabin hid their bed during the day, and Caro was grateful to be close to the fireplace, as winter stretched its icy finger into North Florida. She knew she would be warm with the heat of the fire as she snuggled close to Randy under the layers of quilts.
Caro hummed and swayed to the music, as she imagined dancing again at the Elk’s Lodge. Randy and Caro were going to the fancy Christmas Dance the Elks were hosting next weekend. She had been sewing with Mamma and would soon have a new party dress.
Caro and Randy would be celebrating their one month anniversary and Caro’s school term ending. One more semester and she would be done with high school!
Caro surveyed the table with a nod of approval. She placed a mason jar with a few late blooming wildflowers in the center and stepped back to study the effect. The music stopped and the announcer broke in, “From the NBC newsroom in New York, President Roosevelt said in a statement today that the Japanese have attacked the naval station at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii from the air.” Caroline dropped the silverware in her hands and ran to the front door screaming, “Randy, Randy come quick.”
Randy ran around the side of the cabin and leaped up the stairs to his wife, “What is it, you’re white as a ghost.”
“Randy, it’s happened,” Caro began to sob. “It’s war.”
Caro walked out to the porch wiping her hands on her apron. The Spring breeze lifted a lock of hair off her brow, and she reached up to tuck in back under the kerchief tied around her head. She was cleaning and scrubbing, again.
She found the days long and the nights even longer when Randy was on duty at the base. Since that dark December day, the day that would live in infamy, according to the President, she and Randy had been adjusting to their new lives. A life that now included a nation at war with the Japanese and the Germans. Caro sighed as she stood looking through the trees towards the creek that met the St. Johns River just up the road, and separated her from her husband who was drilling and learning how to take care of the battleships and carriers that would soon leave the river and head out across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe or the Pacific.
So far, Randy had been working shifts, and often had a weekend pass to come home and take his wife out on the town. The city was filled with men in uniform: soldiers from nearby Camp Blanding, the Coast Guard from their temporary barracks in St. Augustine, and of course, sailors stationed at the Naval Station across the river.
The Servicemen swarmed downtown, often with a girl, or two, draped on their arms. They sang, they danced, they ate and drank and they brawled, and then they were gone- shipped out on the next troop train or carrier.
Caro knew that Randy would be shipped out eventually, but for now she was grateful that he was close to home. She knew she was one of the lucky girls, whose sailor was still safe in the United States, but as the war quickly escalated it was only a matter of time before Randy waved goodbye dressed in his sailor shirt and dungarees; white hat perched on top of his blond wavy hair.
Caro shook herself and wiped her eyes with the hem of her apron. All this worrying would not get supper fixed. She straightened her spine, and turned to go back in the cabin to start supper. Catfish, fried in cornmeal, hushpuppies and fresh peas from Mamma’s spring garden. All of Randy’s favorites. Later they would go to town to see a movie, or go dancing at the armory, or maybe they would take a drive and enjoy the cool spring night.
Caro treasured each minute they had together, gathering up and hoarding these precious moments deep in her heart, for she knew that too soon, the memories would be all she had, until this war was over.