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 earns camotes [for extra work details], which help the family meals. He seems to like the garden and has his second wind like Bede. I have mine and wish June would get hers.
I sat up reading pages of my toilet paper — Women in Love . There are many pages of majestic writing.
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.
We watched the dancing. I had one waltz with Jerry and he danced many with his daughter who is learning fast and adores dance-night. Bedie learns fast but painfully. He wore his long trousers made to fit his welfare coat, and plugged away at dancing. He finally took the plunge and asked Eloise for two dances, which grew to four by morning in his estimation.
I went to see Bedie move up to 8th grade. One more year, then high school. Sometimes there are only three study books to a class.
Church Scott feels low. He said he couldn’t see anything funny about the Japanese anymore, couldn’t even laugh over the masticator story. He is so equable, with such balanced humor, that times are bad indeed when he is low. Everyone is hungry all the time. Meals are less and less. No vegetable for my bag for three days, only enough to put in stews for camp. Many are losing their sense of humor and out of funds which should be here. June wakes up ravenous.
Helga hemorrhaged for 20 days, terrible headache, low blood count and is taken to the hospital. But in spite of low morale and hunger the open house under the house was a success. It showed how something can be made from nothing. Some said they had no materials. Well, neither did we, for our neighbors built two of our walls from runo and old tin. For the first time we are in the “smart” class with a smart dugout, cosy and colorful for bridge games and coffee parties, if one is able to hold them. We have arrived, in practically the last word in Concentration style, with artistic den or studio or whatever Bohemia wants to call it. A Shangri-la in the earth literally! It saved my health and sanity that first week, smart or not.
Meanwhile the Japanese turn nasty. They had heard the children call them Japs and complained to Carl. Now the Chef, asked where some supplies came from, replies that the Japs brought it in. He is overheard by the buyer and reported. It grows into a major incident. The Chef is called to the guardhouse, given a tongue lashing, nearly half a day tries to explain it is a slang term, but to no avail. He is threatened with three days in the jail room at guardhouse (two or three recently built), finally made to write an apology. The Committee was called to a meeting about it and about our attitude of fading out when a General comes, etc. They complain that we don’t like them. What do they expect after poor treatment. Denki told them bluntly that as we grow more hungry and tired, ill and nervous, we would grow more disagreeable, blame them, blame the Committee, for no food, no housing etc. Evidently the General gave them a raking over and being nervy and jittery anyway they pass it on to us as they have done before. This happens to all people.
Jim saw Marie Outside and told her to go ahead on selling clothes for us. Tonight Bea tells us that she has sold things and will send money in soon.
Peg and Walter and Carl came for coffee and talk in the dugout. Then we went to the program, with Walter Neal speaking on Mexico, and an amusing drama skit, with Blackie, Johnnie and Carol as three cowboys singing ranch songs. They were so good that the children stamped, whistled, banged and begged for more. Bedie was homesick afterward. He says the dugout is better but not enough. The songs made him think of Nida and Ismael who used to sing Kay Yippy Yippy. He wept on my shoulder.
Sevastopol fell five days ago.