Sometimes the loneliness was too much for Margie. The large echoing house was too big for her. Out of desperation she would write letters to her parents, but she never sent them. They were letter of misery and boredom—she knew that if her parents found out how unhappy she was, they would demand that she return home. No, she would wait here for Lee to come back. It wasn’t her marriage that she regretted, she still loved Lee—it was his departure she hated.
It was after Pearl Harbor when it started. He was not happy being at the farm. Margie wasn’t worried, because Lee had found out he was not required to go into the military, since he was a farmer. So she didn’t think he would actually leave.
But by the summer after Pearl Harbor Margie knew he wanted to leave. He didn’t say a word, but she could tell. He didn’t like talking about the war.
“Did you hear the news?” Margie said one evening as they were having dinner. “The British tried to attack the Germans, but it failed. It ended very badly. Apparently there were a lot of British deaths. It is a shame they have to keep on fighting like that, wasting so many lives…”
“Margie, will you be quiet?” Lee shouted.
He had never shouted at her before.
She stared at him for a moment, shocked and not sure what to say. She slowly stood up, pushed her chair in to the table with solemn finality and left the room. He could hear her going up the stairs, going into her room and shutting the door.
He sat silently for a long time—till the sky outside grew dark, till it was lit up with the summer stars. Then he got up and went quietly upstairs. He knocked gently on her door.
“Margie?” He said in a muted voice.
“Yes?” “Please let me come in.” “The door isn’t locked.” He paused for a moment, and turned the knob, opening the heavy old door.
She was kneeling beside the window, looking out at the expanse of land—their land.
“Margie, I am sorry.”
He was silent, not knowing how to tell her.
She looked up at him sadly.
“You want to go off to the war?”
“The only thing that’s held me back is you—I know you want me to stay here.”
“But that won’t keep you any longer.”
“Margie, I don’t want to make you unhappy, but I can’t just sit here and watch every other man give their lives for our country—and stay here, like a coward.”
“Your father isn’t going.”
“Yes, but he is too old, they won’t let him.”
“I wish the war had never happened,” she said softly.
He knelt down beside her, and she cried into his shoulder.
“What if you die? What will I have?”
There was nothing he could say.
And so the next week he was gone. His parents were upset, although not as much as when he married Margie. At least his leaving for the war was a good cause.
Lee left early in the morning. Margie walked down their farm’s long winding lane with him. Brown September grass covered the path.
“Take good care of the farm, Margie—I know you will.”
She nodded, wiping tears from her eyes and trying to smile bravely, for him.
“Are you going to stop and see your parents again?”
“No, I don’t think so. I said good bye to them yesterday.”
They were silent for a moment, looking at each other for the last time in a long while. Early morning birds chirped in the background. A breeze rustled through the tree branches.
“Lee, I love you,” Margie whispered.
“I love you Margie—don’t forget that.”
He wrapped his arms around her once more, and then walked away.
“Lee, no, please don’t go!” she cried, as the empty space enveloped her, and he became smaller and smaller, walking down that dusty country road. She shouted after him again, but he was too far away to hear.
She stood looking after him until he could be seen no more.
“Why?” she screamed into the bright morning. The sound startled the birds, and they fluttered away nervously, so she was left with only herself.
It felt good to laugh again. Margie held up her dough covered hands and laughed again. She was baking Christmas cookies with Eva, and they were both enjoying it.
The whole idea had started as a labor of love—Eva didn’t want to ask Margie to come over and help make cookies, a stranger intruding into their family traditions. She asked Margie anyways. Margie didn’t want to go, she was so much happier alone, thinking of Lee and his return. But she knew Eva was trying to welcome her, so she accepted the invitation.
And so—surprisingly—they were have a merry time together. Margie discovered Eva could be light-hearted and happy. Eva realized Margie was more than a pretty but useless city girl.
“Back home we used to make Lebkuchen,” Margie explained. “It is a German cookie, my family…” she stopped suddenly, “…is from Germany.”
She paused to finish rolling out the dough, a little out of breath.
Eva glanced at the young girl, her hair disheveled but her face bright. Yes, she did look German, her strong jawbone, dark thick hair, green eyes. Funny that she hadn’t noticed the resemblance sooner—most of the people in the area were German also. Margie wasn’t that different.
Margie looked up quickly.
“My family came from Germany a long time ago,” she said sharply. “Before any of this happened with Hitler, and all that. We’re Americans now, if that’s what you were thinking.”
“No, no, I wasn’t worried about that. I believe you.”
Margie looked relieved.
“I’ve been worried about that—people might talk about me being a German.”
“No, they wouldn’t, most of us here have at least some German in us. And what does it matter? There are good Germans and bad Germans, just like there are good Americans and bad Americans. Being German doesn’t make you evil, just because some Germans are.” Eva paused. “You are going to come over on Christmas Eve, right?”
Margie was silent.
“I don’t know…I wasn’t planning on it…”
“What else would you do?”
I’ll sit at home and cry for Lee, Margie thought, but didn’t say it.
“Yes, I suppose I can come.”
“Very good. And maybe do you want to make those German cookies to bring?”
“I am not sure if I remember how to make them, but I will try.”
Margie trudged through the snow to Eva’s home on Christmas Eve. Avery walked beside her with a lantern. She was glad he was there—it was very cold and very dark.
They finally reached the warm house, glowing with lights and holiday decorations.
“I am glad you finally made it—and merry Christmas!” Eva exclaimed.
“We thought we’d never get here, the snow was so deep,” Margie laughed. “Here are the cookies I made, I hope you like them.”
She handed Eva a red tin, Eva took it to the table.
“Avery, take Margie’s coat,” she said. “Hang it back in the hall.”
“Come sit down, Margie, and get warmed, you must be freezing.”
“Hello Margie,” Wilson said, and returned to reading the newspaper. Margie had discovered Wilson was a very silent man, not much for talking unless it was necessary.
“Well,” Eva said brightly, “I hope you’re ready for lots of good things to eat. I’ve been busy all day making food. We don’t have the usual pies, but it is so hard to get sugar nowadays—I used all of mine for the cookies. Hopefully the men won’t be too disappointed. That’s a lovely dress you have, Margie. Is it from town?”
“Yes, my mother bought it for me, right before I left. I am glad you like it.”
“Why don’t you come in the drawing room and see our tree? It isn’t quite like most years, but I think it still looks nice.”
It was a bitterly cold night, but at least the holiday spirit seemed to warm it a little.
The men sat around smoking their treasured cigarettes and talking about their homes.
“There’s a pretty girl waiting for me when I get back—we’re gonna get married. She’s blonde, the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen.”
“By the time I get home, my wife will have had her baby—our first.”
“My wife is waiting for me, and our twins. They’re about a year old now.”
“And what about you, Lee? A sweetheart back home?”
“Yes, my wife, Margie.”
He was too wrapped up in the memories of Margie to keep talking.
“My family always went out on Christmas Eve Day to cut a tree. Then we’d decorate it in the evening and sing carols,” another man said.
“We had our tree up right after Thanksgiving. My mother would make treats on Christmas Eve, we would sit together eating popcorn and all her candies.”
All Lee could think about was home—and Margie. The happy chatting of the other men seemed to fade away. “Lord, please let me get home,” he whispered. “Please let me see Margie again. And make her happy while I am away.”
Margaret sat quietly, knitting beside the fireplace and watching the blizzard outside. It was Christmas Eve, and she was alone. The howling wind made her shiver. There was no one to talk to. There hadn’t been since Nikolaus left. But this night especially she felt alone. The silence—save for the gusts outside—seemed to pound against her, at last she couldn’t bear it.
She stood up and walked nervously around the room, and began singing softly. At first it was just a murmur.
“Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright.”
“And then she grew bolder, it sounded good to hear a voice, if only her own.
“Round yon virgin mother and child. Holy infant so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.”
And so she sang, all evening, until she was exhausted and she fell down on her bed and was asleep.