|A History of the Burns Family|
|PART EIGHT: The Burns Disapora|
On Sunday evening, after reading seven editions of the Plain Dealer proclaiming a thousand reasons to be afraid, Ebba curls up in Mrs. Burke’s sky-blue chair and picks up How Green Was My Valley. She’s been reading it since Thanksgiving, and had hoped to find solace in the sad but inspiring story of Huw Morgan, the bright young son of Welsh coal miners. But mainly Huw reminds her of Binks, about whom she worries incessantly. Why hasn’t the family listened to her? She’s been telling them for months and months to get Bobby into an educational program that will shield him from military service! But her mother keeps using fatalistic phrases like “inasmuch as next year he will be in the army,” and Ebba shudders “at the bland acceptance of what need not and must not be.” Ada did tell Bobby to look into the matter at Whitman, but there has been no word of a change in his course thus far. He is a sitting duck. 
Ebba tries to focus on the story, but cannot. And in the time-honored tradition of working out her troubles on paper, she puts the book aside and picks up her fountan pen and best stationery.
Ada smiles ruefully, rereading these bravely penciled words. And in truth she’s not afraid for herself. Looking out the office window on this rainy afternoon, she sees the sloping green of the next-door lawn, and beyond it Lake Union, with its lumber booms and white sails. A seaplane roars into the air. From the bakery across the street, delicious scents remind her that it’s time to throw some extra potatoes in the pot and stir the vegetable soup that’s been simmering in the little camp kitchen upstairs since morning. Tonight, they’ll “close the shop at 5:30 and have a friendly game of pinochle, then to bed with a good book for each "'til the sandman comes stealing over the land,” just as if they had not a care in the world.
No, she’s not afraid for herself at all. Her gravest concern is for her youngest son. Not just the war – she can’t think about that with every one of her boys vulnerable – but his health and his heart. He’d come home for the holiday with his head in the clouds, and “seems like a different person, restless and infatuated.”
There is no remnant of the happy warrior – with the new nickname Robin – who’d written last spring about Lizbeth Smith.
But Binks had been so happy this summer, diving into the cleaning and the fishing with equal enthusiasm! In September, he headed back to college on a cloud, as eager to see his “love” as his girl was to see him. And though Ada had written to remind him to be the “good boy that he has always been,” she really hadn’t worried about him much. After all, wasn’t he living at the Phi Delta house – for the bargain price of $10 a week -- with excellent food, a normal life, and fine friends?
With a shrug, Ada puts her own letter aside for the time being. Guy and Don will want to add their two cents. In the meanwhile, she’ll work on Bob. Surely there’s still time to screw his head back on straight before Christmas vacation is over.
While Helen enters figures into ledger columns in her meticulous handwriting, Don picks up his fountain pen and replenishes the green ink. It’s been another long day of upholstery and rug cleaning, carpet-laying, and rug-binding. Business is booming, despite the war. They have new accounts not only with Pantorium, but also with the Navy (cleaning furniture from the officers’ quarters), the sororities and fraternities at the University, and the Faculty Club. Word of mouth brings in a lot of business. Mrs. England’s rugs alone netted them almost $100, and she doubtless told her fellow Broadmoor biddies how pleased she was. They’ve just taken out a small ad in the telephone directory too.
Unfortunately, the help’s not always reliable. Fred Sulacenko’s a fine worker (as fast as Guy but without all the cussing, Mom says). But he drinks, and that Bill Hillman in upholstery is a “stupid knucklehead,” just like Helen says. Which means that the whole family “heaves to” when necessary. With brother Dave working for Hank  now, the load is falling more heavily on the rest of them. Ada is often called into service – occasionally binding as many as three 9 x 12’s a day – and even Patty helps with the vacuuming sometimes!
In addition to maintaining the accounts in her exquisite hand, Helen does anything that needs doing. In fact, Ada says she lives in fear that the Bridges will look in the window “some dark and stormy night [and] throw up their hands in horror at what she is sometimes called upon to do.” Don can’t imagine how they would get along without his indomitable wife!
Puck, now mercifully free of mange and worms, noses his way into his master’s lap. The dog – of indeterminate breed – is still under house arrest of a sort. He’d climbed a ladder, removed several box covers, and eaten half of the Christmas cookies Ada spent two days baking. There is no defending Puck, Don knows. But at least the black mutt had more sense than Mack, who’d gone after the mouse-bait and had to have his stomach pumped. No canine geniuses under this roof, that’s for sure. Still, sometimes he wonders if after all, the world would be better off with dogs in charge. There’s simply no end to human foolishness and human greed.
Ten days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Don is not all that worried about the fate of the Burns men. He and Gerry are old; they would be too slow on their feet to be of any use as soldiers. Dave and Bob are nearsighted. And Pop is ancient. In any case, with luck the armed forces will wrap this thing up before it goes much farther.
Same Day and Place
Guy caps the fountain pen, and leans back in the chair. He is so very tired, and his finger still aches, even though it’s been three months since his run-in with the fan blade. But Ebba must be reassured, and so it is worth a little less sleep in order to bring her peace of mind.
How strange to think that it was only six months earlier that she’d sent the Father’s Day collage book that puffed his chest for a week. And now comes this war, threatening all his sons, and no way in the world for Daddy to “fick it.”
He must concentrate on the things he can control and let the rest of it take care of itself. The shop is thriving, and they’ve even purchased a new truck – a Studebaker. The living conditions must be upgraded soon, since it’s just not fair to ask Ada to live amidst such squalor any longer. But all in all, the business is doing very well, supporting three families and a college boy. They've just bought the building outright, along with the two houses across the yard and the cabin at Ames Lake! Can it be just six years ago that they’d arrived with next to nothing, no place to stay, and no jobs? How their fortunes have changed!
And now there’s to be another in the family. Wilma is in her “trying time”, due any day now. She’d returned from her Minnesota trip – accompanied by Ma Stoffer and Patty – with renewed energy and a sparkle in her eye. She’d scrubbed the little brown house ‘til it shone, with Patty right behind her helping. Mrs. Pym, the lady she worked for before getting married, sent Patty a large box of clothes, with “everything from sox to snow suits, so she has enough clothes to last for many a day.”
How Guy adores being “Brampa” to Patty! She is a delightful blend of virtue and mischief. She makes her bed and helps set the table. But her curiosity can also get her into plenty of trouble. Guy still chuckles to think about last May, when Patty, not yet three, got into a bucket of paint and got more of it “on her person than you could get in a quart bucket.” But she also seems to be running into things these days, and Wilma wants to take her to the eye doctor soon.
Someday, when the clouds roll away, as Ada’s always saying.
December 27, 1941
Wilma went to the hospital Christmas morning with contractions, but was sent home at noon. Ada, who had hoped to delay the Christmas dinner previously scheduled for 2 so that she could catch up on her rest, was soon sorely disappointed. Her daughter-in-law came home in fine fettle, hungry and ready to celebrate the holiday!
So back in the kitchen Ada went, stuffing the turkey Guy had won at the Commodity Club  meeting, and putting the finishing touches on festivities she had little heart for. The tree was up in the corner of the living space, where it could be seen from Ward and Yale Streets once the blackout rules were relaxed, and everyone went through the motions as best they could.
Ebba complied at last with the no-present rule, sending only a few books for Patty and a pair of green slippers like the ones she’d given Grandpa Lorenzo years before. As for the rest of the gift-giving, it was, as Ada liked to call it, “the same old thing, polished.”
But with the war and Bobby’s heart weighing on Ada’s mind, little Linda Lee did not receive quite the same deliriously excited welcome that Patty had. Wilma and Dave's younger daughter was born at 4:18 a.m., weighing 8# 9 oz., and measuring 22” long.
 From a Wikipedia summary.
 All details taken from contemporaneous letters, later letters, and Bob's recollections.
 Hank Minton was a World War One vet from New Zealand who loved to talk about his military experiences. He owned a floor-laying and refinishing business.
 Members traded services as a way of coping with hard times. Bob remembers a Commodity Club picnic where a husky guy got drunk and attacked Dave for no reason!