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First pages

Prologue

 

Posey Creek, Pennsylvania

December 12, 1943

Sunday

 

“I bet you my last pair of stockings, little sister, I’ll be saying I do before Christmas,” I said with enough confidence to assure her expected reaction. Eyes popping, Lucy swallowed the spoonful of jam she’d shoved into her mouth. She couldn’t wait to put her two cents in.

You, Kate? Married?” She laughed, an army of freckles spotting her plump cheeks. “Who to? I hear Santa’s taken.”

I ignored her sarcasm and scooped Ma’s holiday cherry jam onto crackers. A staple in the canteen basket we put together for the boys coming through on the troop trains on their way to camp or overseas, or going home on furlough.

“It’s a secret, so don’t tell anyone, okay?” I winked at her, not letting up with my tease. I couldn’t. I was too excited. Besides, Lucy adored secrets. I hoped that was enough to keep her from blabbing the news. Her face beamed with excitement, like she’d gotten away with something without Ma finding out. Like using a pillow case for a laundry bag when bedding was hard to come by, or borrowing my two-dollar face powder when she thought I wasn’t looking. Despite my affection for her, I couldn’t take a chance on her spoiling my plans. She loved to talk as much as she loved flirting with the soldiers down at the canteen.

“What’s there to tell?” she challenged me. “You’re not wearing a ring.” She pointed to my bare finger smeared with jam. “So you can’t be engaged.”

I smiled. “You don’t know everything about me.”

“I know you’re sweet on some guy.”

I raised a brow. “Snooping again?”

“I don’t have to,” she said, admitting her past follies. “Not the way you go around singing to yourself when you come home from the mill.”

I hummed a popular tune to show she didn’t scare me.

“And who can miss how you stop and sigh when we walk past Wrightwood House on our way to town?” A light came on in her swimming green eyes. “Oh, no, you don’t mean him.

“Don’t get your garter belt in a twist, Lucy.” I wrapped the cherry jam-filled crackers up in wax paper like I’ve done since I was big enough to stand on a stool and mash the cherries into a bowl. “You don’t know anything of the sort.”

Lucy went quiet, which surprised me. Like she was mulling her words over in her mind before saying something that might upset me. She gossiped more than Mrs. Widget, the neighbor lady, but I couldn’t help but love her. She was a good egg. Bouncy and full of good cheer, especially this time of year. She loved Christmas as much as I did and helped me put up Ma’s holiday cherry jam. We’d set up the preserves last summer when we picked the harvest. For me, the Christmas season began when Ma took us kids cherry picking in the woods. Lucy, Frank Junior, and me. When the days were long and the nights were hot. When the summer sun hung in the sky like a bright lemon drop. When the cherries were big and sweet and perfect to pick for her holiday jam.

Before the war, Ma had no problem making the sweetest jam in the county with cinnamon and lemon zest, but since rationing began, it hasn’t been easy. We all cheered when the government doubled the sugar rations so we could make jam for the boys passing through our little town. The trains stopped here every day, but for once Lucy’s mind wasn’t on meeting the train and flirting with the soldiers.

She was worried about me.

“He’ll never marry you, Kate,” she said, her sad puppy-eyes showing real concern. I’d never seen her look so serious. “You know what Ma says about them rich people.”

Those rich people.”

“It don’t—”

“Lucy . . .” I gave her a sharp glance.

She wriggled her nose. “It doesn’t matter how good you talk, we’re not his kind.”

I shrugged off her comment. “The bet’s still on.”

“You’re a fool, Kate Arden,” she sighed, keen on dissuading me from making what she saw as a mistake in her eyes. “Falling for a guy who doesn’t know you’re alive.”

I grinned. “He knows.”

She stared at me straight on. “Then why don’t you bring him around the house to meet Ma and Pop?”

“You know I can’t.”

Why can’t I? Because my romance is a secret. Is Lucy right? Am I a fool?

“I thought so,” she said, smug. “No wonder you sneak out after supper when Ma isn’t looking. Wearing that dark red lipstick smeared all over your mouth and how it’s all gone when you creep back in, carrying your shoes behind your back.” She tied back her long hair the color of sun-kissed wheat with a baby blue ribbon. “I’m not a child. I know what you’re up to.”

“Then why are you acting like one?” I was miffed. “Spying on me.”

“I’m not spying. Mr. Horner, my geography teacher, says we have to keep our eyes open. That you can’t be too careful these days.”

“Can’t a girl get some fresh air after dinner?”

“During a blackout drill?” Lucy rolled her eyes.

I tingled. How could I explain I’d do anything to be with him? I could still feel his lips brushing mine. And when he wasn’t kissing me, I never tired of looking at him. The way he stood taller than any man at the mill, his dark hair falling across his brow because he hated slicking it back, his dark eyes always alert. He was as tough as you’d expect from a boy who grew up working on the factory floor from the time he wore long pants. His father grooming him to take over someday, but wielding a heavy hand. I knew another side of him. The artist. And the young man who read stories to me in French under the moonlight.

And then kissed me every time I reached up to muss up his hair.

Jeffrey Rushbrooke.

The boss’s son.

“That’s all I’m going to say, Lucy. You’re too young to know anything more.”

“I’m sixteen,” she said, giving me a curvy smile. “I know more than you think I do.”

I frowned. That worried me. With the war on, girls like Lucy were growing up faster than they should. As sisters go, we were close, though since I turned nineteen, I felt more like a woman than a screaming bobbysoxer. But at times, Lucy seemed the older one. She knew what she wanted. A soldier and a family. If anyone was born to be a homemaker, it was my kid sister. I wanted a home, too, but I didn’t want to wait till the war was over.

My need for this man burned within me.

Slow and hot.

Until I couldn’t stand it anymore and I squeezed my legs together to quell the ache low in my belly.

A moment of pleasure like nothing I’d ever known.

I turned away so she didn’t see my cheeks tint. I get this way every time I think of Jeff. I’m in awe of his broad shoulders filling the doorway of his office down at the mill. Standing there and watching me when I walked by. Smiling. For a few blissful moments, everything around us stopped except for the constant hum of the machinery on the factory floor, the paper presses pounding out their never-ending rhythm.

I could barely keep walking, knowing he was watching me.

The memory of him touching me with his big, strong hands, his hard body so dangerously close to my softness made me crazy. I ached for him next to me at night, the rich, masculine smell of him filling me up when I closed my eyes. His hard body spooning next to me. I knew what I wanted.

I wanted Jeff to love me like a woman, to make me his.

And every day we waited made it harder when we were together. We’d get a little bit closer to losing control, his hand on my waist, then smoothing over my hip, and oh, God, when he ran his fingers up and down my thigh, I wanted to jump on his bones. Rip off his shirt and that funny tie he wore that was never straight, like he never took the time to fix it right. He was that kind of man. On the move, doing this, signing that, except when it came to me.

Then he loved me nice and slow.

Taking his time, but every night it was getting harder and harder to push him away.

I was so afraid the night would come when I couldn’t push him away.

That we were so much in love we didn’t . . . couldn’t stop.

I wiped the sweat forming above my lip, not caring if I smeared jam on my face. No, I had to be the one to button up his shirt, then pull down my sweater, and tell him we had to wait. That Ma raised me to be a good girl. That’s why I have to be married before Christmas. Not that he’s asked me official-like, but I can’t wait any longer. Neither can he. No telling when he’ll be called up. Surely Uncle Sam will put on his Santa cap and not ask the boys to leave home during the holidays.

I hope I’m right.

And when we’re married, I won’t have to sneak out anymore. I’ll have my own apartment near the paper mill. I already have the kitchen curtains made. Not frilly, lacy ones that won’t last through the summer heat, but polished cotton curtains with a perky ruffle. I made them from an old dress of Ma’s that she wore out. I liked the flower pattern of red roses and bright green leaves sprinkled behind the flowers. Cheery and bright.

Like I want my home to be.

A place where I can make him forget how much he hated the life his father had mapped out for him. I sighed deeply. And how the old man treated him.

“Mrs. Jeffrey Rushbrooke . . .” I whirled around in a circle. My man won’t let me down. Not after what he said to me down by the big ole cherry tree last night. So many stars in the sky on a night so clear, it was as if we could see into the future and all was well. I’ll never forget his arms wrapped around me, his lips finding mine.

Pure bliss.

Lucy doesn’t know I’ve been meeting him nearly every day since last summer when he came home from college and saw me working down at the mill. Imagine my surprise when he asked me to go have a chocolate malted milk at the dairy with him. With gas rationing? Why not? he said, seeing he had a green B sticker on his windshield since his father owned a business, a factory turning out materials for the war effort.

He had an errand to do for the company, he insisted, so why not mix in a little pleasure?

Especially if that pleasure was me.

He drove me to the dairy farm over in the next town in his cute blue roadster and we sat in a back booth and talked for hours. How I’d grown up since we were kids and how pretty I’d turned out.

His words, not mine, and I kept them close to my heart.

Seemed he never forgot the day I saved him from a licking from his pa years ago. I was eleven and he was fourteen.

“He may be the best looking guy in Posey Creek, but he’s a swell,” Lucy said, continuing her rant. “His mother is so uppity, she hires only European refugees as maids. She’d never accept you in her inner circle.”

“He respects his parents, but Jeff is his own man,” I assured her. “He could spend the war here in Posey Creek overseeing production at the mill, but he told me he’s enlisted in the Army Air Force and he’s going to fly bombers.”

“I’m not saying the handsome, young Mr. Rushbrooke isn’t as wonderful as you say he is, Kate, but there are some things this war won’t change. Like how his folks look down on us because we’re not rich.”

“We are rich, Lucy,” I said, hugging her tight. A familiar scent filled my nostrils. She smelled like my favorite perfume, Paris Rose, but I didn’t hold it against her. “We have each other, and Ma and Pop and Frank Junior, and that’s more important than anything.”

Was that a sniffle I heard coming from my little sister? Not that she’d admit family was as important as breathing. At sixteen, I didn’t either, but I was touched by her next words.

“Oh, Kate, I’d die if that awful woman did anything to make you unhappy. You’re the best sister ever and I’d hate to see you get hurt.”

My heart pinged. “I won’t. You don’t know Jeff like I do.”

“Maybe not, but I know what Ma says. The cherry doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

“You mean apple,” I said, smiling.

“Whatever, if Ma says it, it’s true.” She recovered from her sentimental moment as quickly as it came and stuck her finger into the cherry jam and then licked it clean. “You’re on, Kate, I’ll take that bet.” Then she raised up her skirt and made a face when she saw her white socks sliding down her calves. “I can hardly wait to be the only girl at school with a new pair of nylons.”

“I’d sharpen your eyebrow pencil if I were you, sister dear,” I said, filled with the confidence only a girl in love can have. “It’s two whole weeks till Christmas. The only way you’ll be wearing seams this holiday is to draw them.”

I sounded so sure of myself, but what did I know? I think Lucy was secretly rooting for me. She smiled, but I had the feeling she was also worried.

She should be.

I had no idea Christmas wasn’t coming to Posey Creek.

At least, not for me.

Chapter 1

New York City

December 20, 1955

Tuesday morning

 

Today is the day of the year I ignore the rest of the world and go into my shell and pretend I can change everything about that time in my life. Twelve years ago at Christmas and it still hurts. I give myself an hour, maybe longer, the time it takes to drink an extra cup of coffee with a teaspoon of sugar to cut the bittersweet taste in my mouth. I go through the department mail without reading it and feel sorry for myself.

It’s funny what little things you remember each year that you didn’t remember the year before. Like the red coat I wore back in ’43 with six buttons. I’d forgotten until now how I lost the bottom button when I jammed through the turnstile at the train station on that cold, winter morning in December. That was the last time I saw Jeff, the sun spilling down from the heavens through the glass ceiling like a golden angel hovering over him, telling me I had to let him go without me. The train whistle dragging me out of my stupor with a sharp blast. My legs crumbling beneath me when the stationmaster handed me a letter from him.

I ripped it open, but I didn’t believe it.

He’d been called up to report for duty without delay and we had to wait to get married. I was so disappointed, but I didn’t let that stop me. I had to see him. I felt like a runaway bride as I flew through the train station with my veil waving behind me. I wore a simple gray bridal suit with a frog clasp I made myself from extra silk Ma had left over from a Sunday dress she’d made before the war. I was lucky to have it since it had been over two years since anybody could buy silk. I added two buttons to the cuffs and thank goodness, hems were shorter so I had just enough material for the skirt. I topped it off with a red cloche hat with a wide red satin band. A lacy, ivory veil trailed down to my shoulders like wisps of fairy smoke.

The veil whipped around my face stinging my cheeks, the hissing steam of the big locomotive filling my ears, as I searched and searched for him.

Until I found him.

I’ll never forget his hand sliding around my waist and, before I could rise up on my toes to kiss him, he pulled the veil away from my face and pressed me close to him, as if the heat of that embrace would keep us warm during the cold nights to come.

Nights alone.

For years, I asked myself why I didn’t get on that train with him, ride as far as I could go until I had to get off. But the look in his eyes, a piercing look that made me tremble, told me he had to do this alone. And like the good officer’s wife I wanted to be, I did what I had to do. I let him go. Without drama, without breaking down. I remained strong. After the train pulled out, I remember yanking off the veil as I stood alone in the station and stuffing it in my coat pocket. The one gesture of defiance I allowed myself. I’d planned to leave it there until he got leave, knowing it could be months.

It wasn’t.

I never saw him again.

But I didn’t know that then.

Now I go through every detail like it was a typed word upon the page that never faded with time. Tearing the veil off my hat is as vivid in my mind today as it was back then. Then I go about the rest of my day until next year when I go through the same ritual all over again.

Because I can’t let him go.

I still love him.

The memory of that morning is more painful this time of year, a time when my usual, busy routine at the magazine is interrupted with holiday angels waving at me from every desk. Not to mention I have to dodge the mistletoe hanging in the doorway of the breakroom. Every sprig of holly is like a thorn pricking my heart.

Mind you, this obsession of mine hasn’t done wonders for my personal life. Which is why I’m a single, thirty-two year old woman who prefers to think of herself as a career girl and not an old maid sifting through her memories like they were tear-stained dance cards. Not easy to do in this couples’ society when everyone is vying for that cookie cutter life.

Conformity is the new black.

I haven’t embraced it nor do I intend to. I’m reasonably successful in my professional life. I’ve worked my up at Hartford Company to food editor. It’s an established publishing company that’s been around for over a hundred years, a comforting thought. That however long I stay here, the company will always be older than I am. At the rate I’m going, that could put us both into the next century. We put out periodicals on everything from fly fishing to bluebloods, along with a little fiction. Like all females eager to get on as a reporter, I started in the fashion section, attending trunk shows and writing about poor little rich girls’ weddings. It seemed every girl in the country from the small towns to the big cities wanted to copy their swanky Park Avenue gowns.

According to the columns, every girl of marriageable age was tying the knot as fast as she could in this postwar world and moving to suburbia.

Except me.

I haven’t moved on from my wartime romance.

I checked the time, looking down at my tiny, gold-plated wristwatch. A gift from my boss when the magazine won a gourmand blue ribbon for excellence. He got the glory. I got the watch. Now it’s a companion to my little drama.

Thirty minutes to go.

I know I’m lucky to be sitting here at this desk in a tall building on Park Avenue. I could be stuck somewhere else in a typing pool, especially after I got frustrated with not getting decent assignments. I took a chance and started writing about what has fascinated me since I made my first apply pandowdy: the art of cuisine. When I wrote about the ins-and-outs of home cooking rather than wedding cakes, I got pink-slipped.

Then fate and a kindly food editor with gout stepped in and opened up a new world to me. He was on his way to sunshine and white beaches in Florida when he remembered my columns about the homey comforts of being raised in the Pennsylvania Dutch country. When asked about his replacement, he tossed my name into the hat. Since the magazine had no one else who knew a noodle from knӧdel, I got rehired before I hit the revolving door. Dumplings were a favorite growing up in my house where Ma embraced every recipe she found in a magazine or heard over a neighbor’s fence.

As long as Pop would eat it, she made it.

When I was growing up, she was so dedicated to her cooking, we kids swore she slept with her apron on over her nightgown.

Sweet angel of the frying pan, I called her. She passed her love of baking and cooking on to me. I never dreamed it would save my job, though at times it isn’t easy trying to make it in a man’s world.

You’d make some man a wonderful wife, Miss Arden,” is a comment I hear at the annual staff meeting retreat. I smile through clenched teeth and then discuss the focus of the company for another year. I love my job and work hard to keep the magazine at the top of the game. I consider myself a professional, but I figure everyone is entitled to one foible in life. Saving green trading stamps. Buying spools of thread in bright, vivid colors no one ever uses.

This one hour every Christmastime is mine.

The last time I saw Jeff was a day you never forget.

I savored the last drop of coffee in my cup, letting it linger on my tongue, but the sugar was long gone. It tasted bitter.

I set my cup down and it rattled on the saucer. Why do I torture myself? Yet I do it with a temerity that gets stronger every year, as if by the sheer wishing things could have turned out differently, I can make it happen. That I could change things, turn the past upside down like a snow globe, and make everything come out different somehow.

That Jeff didn’t get called up sooner than we planned, that the reverend’s wife didn’t get a flat tire when she found me walking in the cold and gave me a lift. That I’d gotten to the train station ten minutes sooner.

That I’d jumped on that train with him and somehow, in spite of everything, we’d gotten married.

If only.

Two little words.

But, in spite of my efforts, nothing changed. Everything is still the same. Well, not really. Ma died last spring, though Pop’s been gone since we got the news about Frank Junior getting wounded in Korea. When my little brother came home from the war, he was never the same and I know it killed Pop more than if he’d died in action. I wish I’d spent more time trying to understand the gangly boy who wanted to be a baseball player, not a mill worker. He was Pop’s shiny new penny. He couldn’t believe it when his boy left town to try to cure his mental scars from the war on his own. Pop didn’t understand that and started drinking heavy. It did him in. He was a good man, worked hard at the mill since he quit school at sixteen to support his mother. I wasn’t close to my father, but I respected him. He didn’t know how to show his feelings, something men of that generation couldn’t do.

I adored my mother. She was apple pie and pink yarn and smelled like rainwater. Ma carried on the best she could after God took her boys, as she called them, never speaking about losing them, but I know it hurt her bad. Not knowing where Frankie was pained her more than she let on. Some days I’d see her crying, her shoulders hunched up as she hung up the laundry outside, thinking no one heard her, but the gentle wind carried her pain, as if to lighten her load for her. In the end, she died from pneumonia. I think she was plain tuckered out from living.

Then there was Lucy. My spinning top. Never sitting still. My scatterbrained, bobby sox sister never let up teasing me about Jeff, but she never left my side when I heard the heartbreaking news.

MIA, came the whispers at the mill, then months later we heard he was killed when his plane was hit by flak and went down over Germany. No one in the crew of ten survived. The next day I saw a Gold Star pennant hanging in the window at Wrightwood House.

My whole world ended.

And my little sister cried with me.

She was there for me when Jeff’s mother wouldn’t talk to me at the memorial. The woman shut me out completely and ordered me to never, ever to cross her doorstep again. Then she smashed the jar of cherry jam I’d brought up to the house for her against the wall. I never did understand why she hated me so much. No one knew about Jeff and me.

Or at least I didn’t think so.

I often wonder if she found out somehow and blamed me.

I never told Ma about my secret plans to marry Jeff. She knew I was seeing him, but I think she was hoping I’d get over him, find somebody else, and get married. How could I? I loved him so much, I couldn’t let him go. It was a deep romantic love left unfulfilled. He was a saint in my eyes. No man could ever compete with that. I didn’t want anyone but him. Lucy did find out about our planned elopement, but she kept my secret. I admit I lived my life through her after Jeff left. I was more excited than she was at her wedding after she found her soldier and corralled him with her freckled smile. She wrote to a lot of soldiers during the war, but she said this boy won her heart with his dimples and big strong hands. Now she’s got three kids and a loving husband and lives in the big, old house where we grew up.

Built over a hundred years ago and nestled among oak and cherry trees, the house has belonged to Ma’s family since her grandpa won it in a poker game. He left it to his son who married his Irish sweetheart and Ma was born in that house. She couldn’t let it go ever, saying how she could never leave the memories lingering there. That the peculiar scent of generations past attached itself to every corner and there was no getting rid of it. Like her pink geraniums. She swore Pop never would have asked her to marry him if he hadn’t had those geraniums to woo her with. He picked a bouquet from her front yard every time he came courting, she loved telling me, her eyes shining. She took great care to keep them blooming till October and he popped the question.

They got married right before Christmas.

Which brings me to part two of my yearly scenario.

Lucy’s annual phone call.

Begging me to come home for the holidays.

I can’t.

Even after all this time, the pain of losing Jeff is still too raw. I keep my memory of him hidden in the deepest pocket of my heart. With a button on it. I never look inside except this one time of the year. Otherwise, it’s all about what never was, so I figure if I don’t bring up the pain, then it can’t hurt me.

I glanced down again at my watch. Fifteen minutes to go. Which meant it was time for my sister to ring me. Her youngest, Billie, was napping, and the twins, Maureen and Melinda, were ensconced in front of the television set with their coloring books. No doubt Jimmie, her hunky husband, was out somewhere banging nails on a new house for a lucky family. He loved to build things and recently became a partner in a construction business. She couldn’t have gotten a better man. Hardworking, a strong father, and he loves her to pieces.

I squirmed in my swivel chair. The phones were quiet. Lucy was late this year. What, no call? Then I realized I haven’t done my going through the mail routine. I skimmed through the assortment of bills from suppliers, fan mail for our writers, and handwritten recipes from housewives eager to see their name in the magazine.

I vowed to get to it after my sister’s call.

Until one letter caught my eye.

The envelope was engraved on the left with On to Victory for Liberty! I saw a big red V and the Statue of Liberty, an eagle, and flying aircraft. No stamp. It said Free in the upper right hand corner and was addressed to “Miss Kate Arden” at my old address in Posey Creek, but it was never postmarked. Somehow, they tracked me down here to the publishing company.

A knowing sensation sent chills down my back. I haven’t seen stationary like this since the war. I turned it over. The envelope was wrinkled, but sealed up tight. Like it was stuffed in the bottom of a drawer for a long time. No return address. I didn’t recognize the handwriting—no, it wasn’t Jeff’s writing, I’m sure of it—but I detected the scent of motor oil clinging to the paper fibers. Like it was kept in a garage.

I tapped my nails on the envelope, a tingling on my scalp giving me a funny feeling. Like I know opening the letter will bring back the past. You’d think I’d embrace it. Hurry to read it. But I can’t.

I’m afraid to go there.

You see, in my little ritual, I know what happened and there’s a certain comfort in that. Whoever sent this is opening up a new wound when the old one was healing.

“Where did this old letter come from, Bette?” I called out to my assistant. I hate the word secretary. I don’t care if it’s not company protocol, I prefer to think of our department as a team, not a hierarchy where a girl has to work her up from the typing pool with more than fast fingers. That her looks count as much as her typing skills and both had better be top notch. One without the other didn’t cut it with the top management. All males with flag-waving testosterone.

I worked hard to change that.

“Oh, that one,” she said, popping her head in. “It came in a large brown envelope for you marked Special Delivery.”

I smiled. “Most likely another fruitcake recipe from an overzealous ladies auxiliary club. I imagine they have leftover stationary from the war to use up.” Funny, how we cling to our ration book ways. Every time I pulled on a pair of hosiery and tried to get the seams straight, I took extra care not to snag them with my nails.

I can’t help but think about that bet with my sister. Lucy won the stockings fair and square, but I was never prouder of her than when she donated them to the war effort soon after. And they didn’t have a single run. She wanted to do her part, she said, and she knew how important they were to making war materials like parachutes and rope and netting.

I know she did it for me.

That didn’t mean I was going to give in and spend Christmas in Posey Creek. I had plans. A quiet holiday in Vermont at a former governor’s residence now an inn. Lounging before a roaring fireplace. The notes for that book I’m writing spread out on a bearskin rug.

It’s a memoir about the war years and the recipes we made and how we coped.

I have a boxful of Ma’s handwritten recipes for research. I enjoy those mental trips back to the past when I’m working on my book. The smells of her cooking are forever imprinted in my mind. Just thinking about her chicken and gravy makes my mouth water.

Still, I’m intrigued by this strange letter.

I grabbed my pearl-handled opener and—

“Sorry to interrupt,” Bette said, biting her lip. I didn’t realize she had something else on her mind. “But Mr. Logan is tearing his hair out. He wants the Christmas story about the stuffed potato recipe on his desk in five minutes.”

I nodded. I’d started typing it up last night, but something was missing. I wanted it to be more than a recipe with hot cream, potatoes, sausage, and paprika. All this war talk gave me an idea. Making the potatoes was a family affair with Ma at the helm and everyone tasting the creamy mixture. I remember the Christmas of ’44. Ma had somehow gotten pork and spent all morning mixing it with her secret spices. She cooked it up and blended the savory pork into the potato mixture, the heavenly smell driving us all crazy to the point where we begged her to serve the stuffed potatoes for lunch. We couldn’t wait for dinner. We sat down at the table, waiting for Pop to come home from the mill. He had volunteered to do extra duty on his day off and was late. When he did show up, he wasn’t alone. I’ll never forget the compassion in his voice when he asked Ma if she had anything she could whip up for the Sawyers. He ran into Mr. Sawyer on his way home and the old gent told him their son was leaving for Fort Monmouth on the five o’clock train. He was being shipped out and Mrs. Sawyer was so beside herself with worry, she burned the small roast she’d saved up for with her ration points. It didn’t take us more than the blink of an eye to scoop up the hot, stuffed potatoes and send them home with Mr. Sawyer.

Their boy never made it back.

I like to believe that last meal with his family was something special he never forgot.

To my surprise, my chest felt heavy as I typed, but the words came fast. It was stories like this I wanted to include in my book.

Meanwhile, I heard the phones ringing.

“Tell Mr. Logan not to pop his stuffing,” I said, typing as I spoke. “I haven’t missed a deadline yet. They don’t call me never late Kate for nothing.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

I discovered early on I inherited the gift of the gab from my large Irish family when I penned a story about a princess who ran away to Paris with her pet turtle Lulu. I was twelve. I grew up listening to their wild outlandish tales and it was those early years of storytelling that led to my love of history and traveling. I enjoy writing to classical music with a hot cup of java by my side. I adore dark chocolate truffles, vintage anything, the smell of bread baking, and rainy days in museums.

Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
When I was a little girl, I’d poke around museum exhibits, sniffing the smells from the past and making up stories, pretending I was back in that time. I became fascinated by the clothes, convinced if I put on a pinafore or hoopskirt, I could go back in time. I can. By writing time travel stories.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
How important family is. Whether it’s during the holidays or summer picnics, connecting with family is an important link in the daisy chain we forge throughout life. The special people who are there for us no matter what. It’s those memories that help us through the worst of times and keep us strong
Q. What books have influenced your life the most?
A.
I enjoy exploring the science behind traveling through time when I write my stories, the whys and what ifs. Jack Finney made me believe in time travel. I love his wit, his passion for the lady he loves in his time travel, Time and Again, his historical accuracy and gripping detail that put you there

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