Petals Amidst the Thorns: A Day That Will Live in Infamy
I was recently asked by a client to write a post on what it would have been like for different types of people facing the events of Pearl Harbor and World War II. Some examples he provided were a Japanese American and how he felt about his interred brethren, an 18 year old male who is facing going off to war and whether he is fearful etc. I chose to write it about a young woman going to work in the factories. I decided to write it in first person from her point of view and though I have no first hand knowledge obviously, as to what it was like, I had a lot of fun writing it.
It was just a short piece which I later expanded for my own enjoyment moving back in time and starting the story when Pearl Harbor happens and the U.S. enters the war. At this point in time the girl is a junior in High School and her brother is a senior and facing the draft. This first piece includes a part that goes back a bit farther to provide a better idea of who this girl is and what her upbringing is like so the family dynamics are somewhat set out before they are seen reacting to Pearl Harbor and the war.
The expanded piece included some themes that seemed to just appear as I typed which will likely make an appearance in later installments — including civil rights and how African Americans might have responded (including what I think will likely become more than just mention of the 555th Parachute Infantry or Triple Nickels — the first black paratrooper unit) and the role of propaganda — here Rosie the Riveter joined in for the fun.
For some reason, the story stuck with me and I decided to start it earlier, and see where it went. The first installment occurs before the events of the story I wrote first and starts on the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. It’s such a new project I haven’t even named the protagonist yet (I’m taking suggestions) though her brother apparently does have a name. It’s told through the protagonist’s entries in her diary, begun because of her parents’ suggestion. The working title is Petals Amidst the Thorns but like everything in this story, that is subject to change.
The Day that Would Live in Infamy
Dec. 7, 1941
It seems rather silly to be addressing a book but I suppose that’s how it’s done. At least that seems to be the way it’s done in the movies. Anyway, my parents have told me it would be a good idea to start a diary today. I have never much liked keeping a diary. When I tried it last year, it made my life look so boring. Here’s one of the entries I found that I hadn’t scratched out which means it was one of the more exciting of the bunch:
I’m so glad we don’t have uniforms at my school so we can wear what we want. But it does make dressing every day a bit irritating. There’s only so many dresses and so many ways I can mix and match my skirts and tops. It’s not like we’re poor so I don’t know why my parent’s won’t let me have a bigger clothes allowance. Of course even if they did they wouldn’t hardly approve almost any of the dresses I would want to buy. Basically anything in one of the new styles is considered “unsuitable” by them. My argument is shouldn’t I be the one to decide what is unsuitable for me since I will be the one wearing the dresses? That didn’t go over well and the silence in the room at what they would have considered backtalk was deafening.
I am just getting to the point where I can begin to stand their silences. They’re intentional, you know. Trying to make me uncomfortable so I’ll see the error of my ways and apologize promising to not do whatever it is I did ever again. And until just recently it worked well. I would blather on a while as to why whatever argument I was making had merit then wind down to errant phrases followed by my own silence. Then with head hung low, I would pronounce the requisite apology and promise then head to my room where they would have sent me to think about my indiscretion.
One day I realized — They’re getting out of parenting completely on arguments! They don’t have to say a word and I do all the work for them — I start the argument, anticipate their responses, counter the responses I have anticipated, make a last stand based on what I know their final position will be, know they will refuse my request with disappointment that I asked in the first place, I feel shame and guilt for asking in the first place, make my apology and promise, then punish myself by sending myself to my room. And all without a word from them!
A few months ago Jeremy, my brother, he’s a year older than me but I suppose you know that, Dear Diary, got to talking and he realized he does the same thing. We decided not to let them get away with it anymore and have begun to try using our own silences to get them to respond, at least do some of the work if we are going to end up being punished anyway. Today’s one of the day’s I can expect some practice. I have chosen to wear a new blue dress I bought at the downtown department store, Lizzy and I snuck off to when we were supposed to be doing homework in the library a few Saturday’s ago. I haven’t had the courage yet to wear it, but today’s the day. The top hugs my new bust line, finally I have a bust line that doesn’t look like a ten year old’s, have I mentioned that to you before, Dear Diary? Well, I have, and I’m going to show it off for the first time ever.
The dress isn’t very low cut but the line draws in just slightly, not indecently so, just enough to show I am a woman now and not a little girl. You’d never know it to hear mother and father tell of it. But what was the point of the bra shopping with mother at the beginning of the year if I can’t wear something that my new shape can at least be hinted at? Really, all that humiliating trying on and jiggling and tugging and exchanging and examining by both mother and the sales girl selling the bras. It shouldn’t take half a day to select a bra. But mother insisted it must fit just so or it would serve its purpose. To her a bra’s purpose is support. To me its purpose is to get me a date for the junior/senior dance! And between the bra and new blue dress that gives me a figure, almost hour glass as it narrows at the waist stays straight to hug my hips then flares our stopping just above the knee, I might finally catch the eye of that gorgeous Ira Morantz.
And the dress? It’s called, “Jitterbug”. How perfect! Jeremy helped me with a great strategy. He brought me a dress that is much flashier and revealing than the blue dress. I didn’t ask which girlfriend he’d gotten it from but it fit perfectly. It had a low v-cut neckline and tightly hugged my body past my hips immediately flaring and stopping a good two or three inches above me knee. And the best part? It’s bright red! Eye wincing Red! Candy Apple Red! They’ll hate it! I hate it! I don’t know how I’ll keep arguing without laughing! This is one they won’t stay quiet through! Then when they’ve put their foot down and are fully outraged, I’ll go back up change into my Jitterbug dress which will seem positively demure in comparison. They’ll never object after the first dress! Oh, Jeremy is so smart about things like this. Probably why he has so many girlfriends. Anyway, I’ve spent so much time writing to you, Dear Diary, that I shall have to rush to get through my entire plan so I’ll tell you how it goes after school. See you later.
I can’t believe I spent that much energy on describing what I was to wear that day, and how I would get mother and father’s approval. I remember the day quite vividly and it all come to a disappointing nothing. Father had already gone to work after all that time wasted writing, and mother had left a note saying she was taking something to a neighbor who was ill. Not even Jeremy had been there, probably off with one of those girlfriends I mentioned.
The whole incident consisted of me walking downstairs in the blue dress, which I felt ridiculous in by the way. Mother and father would never have believed I was serious about wearing it so it would have come to nothing anyway, When I realized I was alone in the house, I sulked back upstairs and put on one of my old flower patterned dresses. One with a modest neckline, long sleeves and traditional skirt flared and falling to mid-calf, I put the blue dress far back in the shadows of my closet. So I really don’t see the value of diaries. A bunch of jumbled thoughts that ultimately come to nothing but making you late for school or sleep. But I said I’d do it so at least I will give it a try.
Why did my parents suggest today, you might ask, Dear Diary? It’s because of what people are saying is a momentous event. Today, for the first time ever, the United States of America was attacked on its own soil and there is talk we are to enter the war. The Japanese attacked a place call Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and I must say I’m not sure why so much is made of the attack and it being on our own land. I don’t know anyone who has even been to Hawaii. I’m not sure I know anyone who knows anyone who has been to Hawaii. It’s supposed to be quite lovely but what is there of importance in Hawaii I couldn’t tell you.
Surely we wouldn’t be talking about waging war over the bombing of a prime vacation spot? Father won’t explain it to me as he’s too busy listening to the radio for more news and mother looks too worried, wring her hands and looking at Jeremy every time he comes into the room. The President will address the nation tomorrow so I’ll have more to report then.
Goodnight, Dear Diary, and thanks for letting me give it another try. There may be something to this writing about all those thoughts and feelings I can’t share with others and knowing I can write anything without fear of judgement. Goodnight. I promise to be back tomorrow to let you know what the President has to say.