We lie on the bed or sit on Daddy’s while he draws plans for our ideal house in Baguio or Shenandoah Valley. There is no food to prepare, no books to read, no strength for anything, so we all plan various futures, talk about the future and the past in order to forget the hunger and food and the monotony of living from day to day, waiting—.
Bede wants to talk about food all the time—how he will raid the icebox. Bread and butter—oh! says he—with chicken or ham or cheese on it! When we get under the net I let them talk food for an hour every night, then they must not mention it again. I can only stand it that long every day.
The dancing and general excitement of the day, not to mention the pitiful overeating (if one can call it that), was too much for Bede. As the last tune died away and he was sure he would not miss any more, he went tearing past us through the kitchen, sending word back by his sister that “I lost it but don’t tell Dad.” I guessed it was the Christmas feast and went out to hunt for him, just in time to hold his head over a Socony laundry tin. Poor kid, I felt so sorry for him, losing all that good food. Weak and shaky, he was soon asleep with a hot brick against his tummy.
Jerry says it is funny that three of us should get B-2 deficiency when he hasn’t had it yet. I tell him he has had the other kind, B-I, far longer than we have had ours. I don’t talk about a lot of things but I know them. He looked at me and didn’t say a word, for he had just been examining his swollen ankles, rubbing his aching hands.
June and Bede were still empty when they finished lunch, though the beef broth was good and sautéed radish better than it sounds with Jerry’s pickled onions. What would we do without Jerry’s versatility, his constantly sprouting ideas and practical efforts? I can do nothing but conserve the little strength I have, on a dirt couch, reading Durant on all the Chinese philosophers.
Poor Bede is so hungry. I told him to come to me when he couldn’t stand it and we would talk but not to ask Daddy for it drives him crazy to be able to do nothing, and we just haven’t enough to keep giving extras. I told him Daddy was a big man who needed a lot, that he was hungrier than Bede all the time because he denies himself for us constantly. I suggested that Bede try to keep busy to forget hunger, but not to run it off. He understood and almost wept but said he would be a soldier. I told him the last few weeks would be the hardest, but it began to look near, so he must tighten his belt another notch.
Yamato’s critique [published in the camp News ] is simply priceless. “Seeing the Camp Hamlet on Sat. Eve. Many years have passed since I was interested in Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Goethe’s Faust. This eve. (Sat) I had the chance unexpectedly to see Camp Hamlet — ‘the tragedic-comedy Hamlet.’ I have not yet acquaintance though I must, with those persons who acted the roles or the writer of the opera or the musician. Though I had already some ‘ahnung’ that it was changed Hamlet from the old drama, I went to see it, from curiosity and ennui, with Mr. Smith, the Camp Engineer. And lo! there the Hamlet was played! Within such limited dining room with little clothing (except those female persons) and, to make the matters worse, with no curtains or backscene, it must need the most skillful actors or actresses to play it’s performance. And then, it was played well, admiringly well, with profound humor. I like best the Cost’s monology, those musical melodies. And when all persons sang together in comical yet mournful chorus, tears involuntarily spread from my eyes. It is ‘Humor’ in psychological terminology. All persons’ roles were performed very well, each actor or actress having individuality and charmingness. The Queen’s garments were very beautiful as well as the nice gesture of Ophilia, King’s comicality and Hamlet’s ‘Voice.’ It took somewhat longer hours, and it made the play more interesting, and all passed smoothly without a hitch, except the carrying of Ophilia and doctor’s treatment. All combined, Camp Hamlet, the masterpiece was born. To conclude, you are very artistic, musical, profound in aesthetics and serene in this living. That is what I cannot help admiring you. God bless you! Good night. S. Yamato.”
Bede has brought me some small nasturtium leaves, knowing my hunger for green. He hides them and is almost in tears at finding something for me. I make him promise to pick no more leaves of any kind unless he is sure they belong to no one, for they are green gold now and one might be deprived who has raised it and needs it desperately. Every leaf counts in desperate days. These taste so good chopped into my pate. Both children are inspired over our bamboo and coconut shell gardens. They bring fresh dirt, plant new sprouts. They have seen a nasturtium in the grass and rush to dig it for our garden. Our days are composed of tiny items like this.
Like spiders crawling in every direction from the center of a web, all of the 450 internees were coming from the bodega with carts, sacks, poles, ropes—anything that would help carry forty-seven pounds or more [for the Red Cross packages]. If only the people at home could have seen it! Morale soared so high that people went out of reach—“exceeded grasp.” Before Jerry even knew the line had started, Bede had been down and carried his own case of forty-seven pounds, stopping only three times to rest between the bodega at the foot of the road and our space, where he deposited it. Dr. Shafer and others carried stretchers loaded with cases. Sacks, poles, wheelbarrows large and small, Christmas carts on wheels precarious for such weight—everyone smiling and sprinting back for the next one or to help others who had no strong arm. As fast as men put them from the bodega onto the counter out front, they were checked off as each was trundled away joyously. One man sat right down in the bodega and opened his box, stuck a cigarette in his face, took a slice of cheese in one hand, a slice of Spam in the other, then came striding up the hill with the heavy box on his shoulder, his mouth busy three ways and a wide grin besides puffs and chews.
Then the fun began. Fathers joined families and all commingling rules were off as cases were shunted about, opened and spread out in piles, stacks, and rows. Counting and sorting occupied the next forty-eight hours. Inventory was taken as each can and box was lovingly handled, felt, and gazed upon, exclaimed over. Exhilaration is not the word!
The box breathed American efficiency, even to the little brown envelopes with can openers. Nothing was forgotten, and the contents were concentrated essence of all we lacked for two years, all we need for now and perhaps three months to come. The care, thought, research, long development and planning that went into it oozed out of every corner. We could imagine every soldier and civilian prisoner in every occupied country opening one just as we were, singing with relief and bounding spirits. Each can is a meal in itself, perfectly balanced. Pride in America stretched out as we realized it was covering the world. No longer are we haunted by fear of famine. The cases stand for Security.
Jerry brought sub-coffee, fried mush, and pomolo in sugar for early breakfast. I tied my hair back, unbraided, which seems to make me look younger, with Sunday lipstick. I had to do something to take off that ten-year-aging feeling of the past fortnight. It has been the worst time in camp as to morale.
Bedie seemed homesick so we sat on the porch talking till he finally had a cry, which snapped the tension. He said Daddy had a boil now and had had so many things the matter with him—“Remember that first day when we were all so hungry and Daddy gave you and June and Tish and me the last crackers, and when we tried to make him take some he almost cried and said, ‘Don’t be damn fools.’” So Bedie remembers it all too—funny little boy who never seems to be taking in such things. This evening he was feeling full of omissions and sins. We held hands tight, and the tears washed away some of the sins.