There are no family photographs, only memories. Memories of a five-year old imprisoned by Japanese soldiers. Memories of love, courage and most of all hope. Hope that there was a God who would walk through the valley of death, known as WWII, with her. And He did.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It Wasn't A Bullet

Where is Sister? Why didn't I listen to her? Oh, where is she? Is this what dying is?


It was already hot around 6:00am. There was lots of noise in the early morning. Children ran around and mothers were fussy. Everyone had their tasks to get ready for. Young girls scampered to the kitchen, others were dragged to the building where Japanese soldiers lived. Those girls cried and struggled to free themselves. I thought of Greta. Where is Sister? "Do not be anxious, do not be anxious. Trust in the Lord." Where is Sister? "Please, Lord, keep the soldiers away from her."

I walked outside with other children. Mammie was near the fence. I wondered how long she had been there. How do the guards not see her? I see her, and I know what's she's up to. "Keep her safe also, dear Jesus. Close the eyes of the guards." Mammie is very good at not being caught. With a little bit of help from God, we should have bananas tonight.

A woman called to me from the mandi bak (wash basin). "Mari mandi!" I nodded and walked towards her. A quick washing will feel good. Leave Mammie to do her secret work, she will be fine.

On my way to the mandi bak I saw a little girl, my age, standing on top of the cement sewage pipe. It is dangerously high and the cement must be burning her bare feet. She's not moving. Her hands are tied behind her back. Don't cry, Becca. They will let you down soon. Don't cry and please don't fall. I walked slowly past her.

"Mari mandi!" someone else called out.

Finally, at the mandi bak I waited behind hundreds of people to fill my small bucket with water. Sister always said to stay in line and be patient. Yet other children were playing, so I joined them. I am the fastest runner in Tjeweng. Nobody could catch me. But today that became my curse.

I ran and ran. We laughed and jumped onto old machinery and over the slippery sheets of zinc which covered everything--no one stopped us. Suddenly, I lost my footing and the sharp edge of the zink flooring slashed into the inner part of my left thigh. The world became very bright for just an instance, with a million tiny flashing stars, then almost black. I saw lots of blood draining from my leg yet I did not feel any pain. Don't cry, I thought. But then I felt a piercing pain.

The children who were playing with me immediately stepped into line at the mandi bak. Adults turned their backs but tried to hide me. The line to the mandi bak was now my human shield. If the soldiers knew I had been running they would punish me and anyone who dared to help. I heard the whispers. "Stand up, get up Laney." It was hard to stand, but I did.

My body seemed too heavy and the sounds of the world were strange. Voices whispered and echoed. I cupped my hand over my ears. My leg didn't feel connected to my body which scared me more than anything. The other leg trembled terribly. Mammie told me once to just call out His name and it would make me feel strong. I whispered His name--Jesus. God is with me. God is with me. Mammie was right. Though I was still scared, His name did gave me strength.

I walked on, dragging my leg behind me. I fell a few times in a cloud of dust, got up time and time again. Then I heard the clangs of old pots and smelled the old oil drums they used to cook rice in. I had somehow made my way to the kitchen. I crashed into the bamboo door leaving bloody fingerprints. Where is Sister?

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Am I dying? "Is Sister here?" The last thing I hear is Greta's voice yelling, "Mammie!" And I let myself collapse into Sister's arms.

17 comments:

Willow said...

Keep writing! What happened next??? How can I stand the suspense?? ( My only comfort is knowing that Laney grew up to be your mother, so I know she was ok.)

Naomi said...

It must be very hard for your Mum recounting these terrible events of the past Debby. But on the other hand sometimes it's better to put down on paper your thoughts and feeling. Your Mum is a very brave woman. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment. I hope your Mum's leg wasn't too badly injured.

Janey Loree said...

Exactly, knowing her mom's name is Laney, lets us know that she didn't die, however did she sustain lasting injuries from this or repercussions from the guards?

I will be adding this blog to the list of book blogs on my "Twiglet" blog.

The Gatekeeper said...

Thanks, my friends. Wait till you hear what happened next. Your support for this blog is encouraging to say the least.

Dirty Butter said...

The suspense of waiting for the next post is all but unbearable. You really have talent lady!!

The Gatekeeper said...

Thanks DB. This has been a humbling experience so far.

Jane Rumph said...

Keep writing, Gatekeeper! You have me hooked!

The Gatekeeper said...

Thanks, Jane, I will. Hooked is good. I love hooked. :)

Marsha said...

What a lovely idea for a blog. A beautiful thing to do for your mother and for history. I too am anxiously waiting for the next installment. I found you through blog village.

The Gatekeeper said...

Hi Marsha, thanks for the visit. I love our Village. Hope I can keep it all interesting.

Sharon Lynne said...

Keep up the good work...both you and your mom!

This must have been such a frightening time for "Mammie". She was such a brave woman and a good mother!

Family of 5x5 said...

Yes, I agree.. keep writing. What a beautiful talent God has blessed you with.
I'll be using your blog as part of my daughter's study on WWII .. thanks for keeping the stories alive.

The Gatekeeper said...

Thank you, my friend (Family of 5x5). I am honored to be a part of someone's history lesson. I can't seem to get to your blog. Could be my computer cause I am on dial-up today. I'll try later.

VXsite said...

Your posts are well described and great flow..Love the suspense..Keep up the great work :)

The Gatekeeper said...

thanks VX, the next post is coming soon. I hope. Life can be so demanding. Anyway, thanks for dropping by, we appreciate it.

L.L. Barkat said...

Strange how there can be beauty in things so unarguably ugly. It is the way you bring it, with a pen of grace.

The Gatekeeper said...

Thanks LL, that is quite a compliment from a writer such as yourself.