From the Improvement Era, March 1944 –
By Sadie H. Greenhalgh
Ada knew the small traveling bag was still open on the bed. She knew what was in every corner, though her eyes were now blurred with tears so that she could no longer see. There was such a little bit these soldier boys could take with them.
It had been different putting things in Donald’s case when he left. She had smiled, and felt comforted, as she placed his worn Bible with the other contents. For two years he had used it in the mission field. He knew its contents and he loved it. She pictured him reading it at camp, and finding strength in its messages, along with the comforting promises they had read together from his patriarchal blessing.
Yes, she had put a Bible in with Vance’s things also, but it was a brand new one, only opened to the fly leaf where she had written the few sentences she hoped would be read. Beyond that she had no assurance that Vance would take time to read further – or understand, if he did read.
She had approached the subject of a blessing, and she couldn’t help loving this young reckless son of hers as he had smiled, tilted her chin up, and said:
“Blessing? With you praying for me three times a day? How many blessings do you think I need?”
True, she had prayed, it seemed a hundred times a day, hoping some avenue would open up, before Vance’s time came to go, that would give her some hope and faith that he would be steadfast while in the army, and return to her the same clean, strong youth that was leaving. Now the last evening was here.
Donald had not had room to take all the books he would have liked to, the keepsakes, and remembrances that had always been a part of his life. Vance’s case seemed lacking in these things he had failed to cherish all his life.
Perhaps the doorbell had rung twice, or three times before Ada finally became aware of its tinkling. Mechanically she made her way to the door and opened it.
“Good evening, Mrs. Allen.” It was the lovely face of Nadine Brown that looked up shyly at the older woman.
“I had a few things I would like Vance to take with him – if you – think it would be all right. I knew he would be at the banquet with his father and thought you might slip them in while he was away.”
“Come in, dear, of course you may. I was just checking over his things now.”
Ada had put her arm around the girl’s shoulders and was guiding her toward Vance’s room, as she spoke.
Nadine took three white envelopes from her purse. She looked up shyly at the mother of this boy she loved. It was hard to know what to do, or say, at times like this. As she looked at Ada the smile she received in return strengthened her. They should know each other’s thoughts; after all, they both had the same hope in their hearts. They could help each other through the lonely days ahead.
Nadine’s head went up a little higher and there was a bolder look in her eyes as she reached in the envelope and brought out a lone cigaret.
Ada couldn’t help looking puzzled. Youth was so hard to understand these days. Nadine laughed a little shy laugh.
“I guess it does look funny, but you see, it will have a meaning for Vance. We were in the canyon together the first time we really seemed to notice each other. The two of us were sent to the creek for the cream that was cooling, and while there he asked me for a date. Then he took this from his pocket to put in his mouth. I’d been admiring him during the afternoon. When he smiled he showed white teeth. Somehow I didn’t like the idea of this cigaret discoloring them, so I took it away and told him it was a date if he threw this in the creek. He looked at it awhile and then said: ‘Better than that, I’ll give it to you. Next time I want one I’ll ask you to give it back to me.’ So you see, it’s a challenge to him. I’m not really worried though. We’ve discussed the matter since and he admits it was only a manner of showing off and thinking he was impressing someone.”
Ada’s heart filled with gratitude as she realized what she owed this young girl before her.
There was a fat envelope, all sealed, and on the outside the words: “When you feel like giving up, read this.”
“I hope I’ve said things in the right way to encourage him when he needs it,” was the explanation she made as she tucked it into his case.
From the last envelope she took a pressed rose. A little card attached to it read: “I’ll be waiting to hear the other chapter.”
Her cheeks were flushed as she raised her head. “It’s from the corsage he brought me for the dance last week. It was a lovely evening, after he told me there was a lot he’d like to tell me if there wasn’t a war, and his country didn’t need him; but as it was, the last chapter would have to wait until he returned.”
There were tears in her eyes as she added, “I’ll pray every day that he’ll return. I want him to tell me the rest.”
Ada’s eyes were wet, too. Her arm tightened around Nadine and she kissed her white forehead.
“We’ll both pray,” she said, “and God will hear our prayers. He always does – and answers before it is too late.”