“Margaret, you need to think about settling down.” Dot was the oldest of the four East sisters. Margaret, being the youngest and realizing her fathers deep desire to have a son, had some very tomboyish qualities. One such quality was her love for the outdoors, primarily fishing. Her mother and sisters were constantly trying to tame her.
“Is that why you invited me here? To keep me from going fishing?” Dot had invited the younger girl to spend the day with her and her husband. Margaret had come over after church and helped with lunch. Now that the meal was over, the two of them washed the dishes.
Nathan, Dot’s husband turned on the radio after the meal and the women listened from their place in the kitchen. The news of the attack on Pearl Harbor made the pregnant older girl swoon.
“Nathan!” Margaret called for help. That man came quickly into the kitchen and took her to her bedroom where they discussed the implications of the attack.
“America will probably enter the war now.” Nathan stated the obvious.
“It’s a shame you haven’t found a suitor. Now all the men your age will either enlist or be drafted.” Dot frowned as she spoke.
“Papa would be proud to have a son in the army. Too bad there aren’t any East men to contribute to the effort.” Margaret said. For a moment she thought about enlisting. They were accepting women in a special unit called the WAC now. Her father would not stand for his baby girl to enter the army. She put the thought out of her head and focused on the effects this war would have on her sister.
A few months later the inevitable happened. The country finally joined the war. The married East sisters sacrificed their husbands to the army. Margaret pondered the cost of this sacrifice. Lizzie had two young boys. Dot had a baby on the way. Inez had only been married for a few months. All three of them were giving up so much for the war effort. What could Margaret contribute? She didn’t have a husband to lend to the cause. All she had was herself. Again she thought about enlisting in the WAC’s. “Papa would never agree to that.” she thought. She didn’t have to have his permission. She could sneak out and enlist and then tell her family. They couldn’t stop her after she made the commitment.
Knowing that her parents would ask where she was going, she grabbed her fishing pole and announced. “I’m going to catch some fish.” Mama’s face showed her disapproval. At her favorite fishing spot she laid down her pole and fishing gear and walked to town.
That night, she returned home to find her sisters all standing in the kitchen working alongside their mother.
“You been out fishing again?” Lizzie asked. She and Dot gave their disapproving looks that mirrored the one of Mama’s face. The look on Inez’s face was sympathetic. In answer to their questions and condescending looks, Margaret grabbed Inez by the sleeve and drug her to the bedroom the girls had shared growing up.
“I have to tell you something.” She announced as soon as they closed the door. Inez was waiting patiently for the younger girl to continue. “I didn’t go fishing.”
“You met a boy.” the hope Inez felt showed on her face.
Margaret shook her head. “I joined the army.” There she’d said it. Her sister’s face fell and she stared blankly. “Say something.”
“Papa’s gonna kill you.”
“I just thought I needed to contribute to the war. You’re all giving up your husbands and I’m not doing anything.” Inez stood there mouth gaping. “Papa doesn’t have any sons to fight. Maybe he’ll be proud of me.”
“When are you going to tell him?”
“Tonight. I was hoping you would help me convince him.”
“I don’t know if it will help. But, whatever you want to do, I’m behind you.” After Inez said this, Margaret flew into her arms and the two embraced for a moment.
Returning to the kitchen, Margaret made her announcement after calling Papa in to hear the news. “I joined the WACs today.” She prepared herself for the worst. But it never came.
“Good for you.” Papa said proudly. Mama, Dot, and Lizzie were silent, but Margaret didn’t care she had the approval of the only person that mattered. Finally she was doing something that gave her life meaning.
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