Love gives him hope, hope keeps him alive
After two years at war Harry ran out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images of darkness. When he encounters the floating gardens of Amiens and life in the form a widow and her little son, hope ensnares him. When the Great War is over, will their love be enough?
Rosemarie’s little wood stove is giving off a warm glow on a cold evening when Rosemarie and Harry’s author sits down to chat with them about Christmas traditions. Her cottage has been a haven for Harry when he can get a few days leave from his unit—a rarity in winter and impossibility in summer. This night a candle shines in the window surrounded by pine and a small hand carved crèche or nativity is in the corner. Rosemarie’s son is asleep upstairs.
CW: Your backgrounds are very different. I wonder how much is the same and how much is different. Tell me, Rosemarie, what is your most cherished memory of Christmas?
Rosemarie: Easy! Our family always went to Midnight Mass and then gathered at my grandparents’ house in Amiens for réveillon, our Christmas dinner.
Harry: In the middle of the night?
Rosemarie: Yes. It is the tradition. The adults sipped wine and enjoyed oysters while we ran around to see what Pere Noël left for us. We sat at a long table, my brother, my cousins and I and feasted on Turkey, which my grandmother always cooked with root vegetables, chestnuts and mushrooms. We children waited especially for the bûche de noel, the Christmas cake.
Rosemarie’s enthusiastic description gave way to sadness, and Harry reached over and took her hand before their author could ask another question. “It has been difficult for her,” he explained. Rations are so tight. She and Marcel were in danger of going hungry.
CW: What of you Harry? What is your cherished memory?
Harry: We have this in common. The best holidays were ones spent with my grandparents.
Rosemarie: Not every year?
Harry: No. My mother’s parents lived north of us. We couldn’t always travel to the farm, but when we did it was magical. The entire house smelled of cinnamon and cloves—and pine. Grandma baked for days in anticipation, and the men brought in greenery from their woods. Cousins came and the house was filled with music and stories. No wine, though. Grandma was a strict Methodist.
CW: How did you celebrate if you didn’t go there?
Harry: My father’s family had all passed away. If we stayed in Regina it was just the three of us. We had dinner of course, and church.
Rosemarie: No Midnight Mass?
Harry: No, but we went to services on Christmas Eve—candle lighting and carols. At my grandparents little church in the country we would be packed shoulder to shoulder. It was a good thing because the place had only a wood stove in the front and winters are fierce in Saskatchewan.
CW: And what of decorations?
Harry: Grandpa always brought in a large tree. Sometimes we got there on time and I went out with him to find one in the stand of pine on the farm. Grandma wasn’t entirely sure she approved; her good Methodist tastes ran to simplicity.
Rosemarie: We had no trees but my grandfather would set a small one on a table in the dining room, so Pere Noël and a place to tie our little gifts with colored ribbons. You told me once you had a crèche.
Harry: Yes, home in the city Mother and Father and I did. My mother found it quaint.
Rosemarie: The crèche is the heart of our Christmas. We had one at home, and my grandparents had a grand one that Grandpere would set up in the bay window in front. He surrounded it with branches, and created hills for the shepherds. He placed the kings far away and brought them closer day by day. That at least I’m able to do for Marcel. Our set is small but he loves it.
Harry: And the story.
Rosemarie: Yes. Especially the story that goes with it.
Their author left them smiling with happy memories. They will need them while the war rages around them.
When the Great War is over, will their love be enough?
After two years at the mercy of the Canadian Expeditionary force and the German war machine, Harry ran out of metaphors for death, synonyms for brown, and images of darkness. When he encounters color among the floating islands of Amiens and life in the form a widow and her little son, hope ensnares him. Through three more long years of war and its aftermath, the hope she brings keeps Harry alive.
Rosemarie Legrand’s husband left her a tiny son, no money, and a savaged reputation when he died. She struggles to simply feed the boy and has little to offer a lonely soldier, but Harry’s devotion lifts her up. The war demands all her strength and resilience, will the hope of peace and the promise of Harry’s love keep her going?
More About Caroline
Award winning author Caroline Warfield has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.