Compiled by Victoria Washuk,
as written in the diary of her great-grandmother, Ruby Alice Side Thompson
Read by Amanda Meuwissen
Monday, September 11, 1939
Miss Jude arrived at ten fifteen this morning and stayed until four thirty. She was here two days last week also. She exhausts me. She talks in her noisy Irish way without ceasing. Such rubbish! Today she went on and on about the Archangel Michael, and how he will protect the Poles. Also about Teresa Neumann and what she will be “seeing” about the war. About Saint Peter, about Saint John Bosco, the late Pope, and a man in Brazil who has visions and prophesies. She undid her blouse and unfastened a bunch of medals from her corset to show me. She expounded about the Green Scapular, and how it can be hung on a picture. In effect, she dazed me.
I think she is the most credulous and the most superstitious woman I have ever known. Worse than any of the Polish and Austrian girls who used to pass through my kitchen. They, at least, were peasants, many of them unable to read or write, but Mrs. Jude is supposed to be an educated woman. She positively wears me out with her ceaseless rubbishy chatter. When she left, she forgot her bag, so Mary Bernadette came this evening to fetch it.
Mary, who returned to her job this week, was telling us something of how things look in the city. Ted, of course, did not go to Forest Gate tonight. The Guild has had to close down. All street meetings, processions, crowds, etc. are forbidden. Anyhow, even if they weren’t, you couldn’t hold a meeting anywhere in the pitch-dark streets. However, this is not any sort of ending or a suspension of the Guild, which makes any difference to me. I asked Ted to give up the Guild for my sake; he refused. Now he hasn’t given up the Guild, the Guild has given up him automatically, because it ceases to function. So I still don’t go to mass. I think I am more Un-Catholic than ever. I have NO belief in the Roman Church and I don’t want to have. It has, I think, quite ceased to matter to me. Well, here in the Guild is another example of Ted’s childish obstinacy. He just wouldn’t give up the Guild because it was a matter of vital importance to me. He just refused to give it up, like the matter of moving the bed. It’s a sort of moron obstinacy, which he shares, with Selma.
So tonight he has been sitting in the parlor and reading a book entitled, The Interior Life. There are four hundred pages of it, close dissection of the movements of the soul, translated from the French. Naturally, no Englishman could ever write this sort of stuff. This is the sort of treatise which makes religion a dramatically difficult intellectual exercise, which takes it away from the simple, and makes it esoteric; it is a caustic argument, by the elect, for the elect. Well, religion is not an argument, and to my thinking, and to my experience, this sort of book is a damnable obstacle in the way of any vital flowing real religion. It is the product of a sheltered theologian, and has nothing whatever to do with live religion. Ted sits and reads it, four hundred pages of words. The Interior Life! What Ted needs is something about the exterior life, something about blood and the natural affections, not precise statements of logical arguments. Oh well, I suppose nothing will ever alter Ted, not even another war, right here on our doorstep. Theology is a boon to Ted. He can talk about it forever.
Monday, September 18, 1939
Yesterday the Russians invaded Poland on the East. This is the end of Poland. What is it the beginning?
I hoped for letters from America this morning, but there were none. Anyhow, I had made up my mind to cable the boys, so I dressed and was out by half past nine. I went directly to the post office and cabled Harold and Jim care of the Herald Tribune. I asked them to combine, and get me into America. I asked them to see the immigration officials, and send me a permit and passage, or cash, quickly. I intend to do everything I can to get away. Ted answered an inquiry that he would rather be in England with a war on, than in America with peace forever. Well, I wouldn’t. England is weariness to me at any time, and in wartime it would be hell. The twins are among the doomed. Airmen, God keep them! I don’t want to be here when they come home on leave. I don’t want to be here when they are wounded or killed. I don’t want to be here, shut up with Ted and his pettiness and paltriness. I want to get where my “safe” children are, with their little ones. I want the happiness of being with my children for a little while before I die. I want to be in America, the land that I love.
Maybe I won’t be able to do it, maybe the boys won’t help, maybe the consul won’t give me a visa, and maybe Ted will obstruct me. I don’t know.
I am going to try to get to America, with all my might, and once there I will never return here again. I am sick of England, and the whole fantastic life Ted makes me live.
From the post office I went into the arcade and into Jean Claire’s, the tailor. I ordered a warm woolen coat, paid a deposit on it, and am to go for a fitting on Saturday. Then I went into Stone’s and bought a supply of buttons and sewing silks, and now I am going to get set to sewing. I have some nylon to make nightgowns, and some black cloth to make a dress. I intend to work systematically on getting my wardrobe in order for traveling. So, Au-Revoir.
Wednesday, September 20, 1939
I want to pin down a dream before it evaporates. For a long time I have noticed that my dreams are practically all of the past, especially my life in Bayonne, when I was young and having babies. Sometimes they are of the even remoter past, and it was such a dream I had last night. I was dreaming of Sydenham Whitelock. I was reliving that moment when he and I stood together on Barnes Old Bridge, isolated there one sunny Sunday afternoon, and had an intense vibrant awareness of each other, and the world around us, and ourselves, electric to one another, pausing in a moment of communication, understanding, love, and bliss. My God! That was nearly forty years ago!
Then we were together in Grandma’s house, standing in the hall, outside her parlor door, aware of her and her vitality, in there, in her room, and we merged in a wordless embrace. I felt his kisses, I heard his heart beating, and every nerve in me was responding in delight to his strength and virility, his vitality and health, his manliness, and personal affection. I knew that Syd Whitelock loved me not as a woman but as Ruby myself.
Into the ecstasy of this dreaming broke the noise of the movements of Ted getting up. My wakening mind flashed recognition of this silly insignificant fool who is my husband. He dropped on his knees to pray, presently the door banged, and he had gone out to church. I despised him with an abysmal despising. This fool, who wasted his life in daydreaming and sacrifices reality to the unending pursuit of a medieval sacrament!
Yes, I can read my dream in the Freudian explanations. It is the expostulation of my body protesting against its sexual deprivations. My life with Ted is one long mental and physical frustration. I am an ardent and passionate being and I had the misfortune to marry a milksop, and stupidly I didn’t remedy the error before it was too late. If I had any sense of all about us, I would have divorced Ted twenty years ago. However, I didn’t. Now I am an old woman, and a divorce would be no advantage to me. So, when I sleep, when the Censor sleeps, my inner secret woman compensates herself with a phantasm. Awake, I know it is a phantasm and a trick. Thank God I never lose my sense of realities. Ted has a faculty of fooling himself, but I haven’t that faculty. Ted says I am a materialist. This is a condemnation, and is contra distinction to an idealist, which he considers himself to be, and something very good. To me “idealist” signifies fool, more often than not, and a very obstinate unreasonable fool to boot. I would describe myself as a realist. I have lived as a realist for a very long time, and I expect to die as such.
Thursday, September 21, 1939
I had a visit from Miss Canham this morning, in quick answer to the letter I sent her yesterday. I find I am too nervous to sew, so I wrote and asked her could she do some work for me immediately.
She will, so good luck. She carried away the piece of black cloth, to make into a modish afternoon dress; also two old garments to make over into “new” ones, and my black figured silk dress which I haven’t worn all this year, to be altered slightly and brought up to date.
I have been laying awake thinking about my clothes, and here are my ideas, which she will execute. First: She will work on my blue figured panne velvet gown, which I had new to take to America in nineteen thirty-three. It has been out of date for several years, but the velvet is as good as ever. So I thought it would make over into a peplum blouse, with soft sheered swatches to form the shoulder, to cross the bosom surplice style, and fasten at the back. She has taken that. Also, second, to wear with it my loose three-quarter raglan coat, of very fine black wool, which I made to wear to the movies on summer nights; I thought this would make over into a full gored evening skirt. She says it will, and she has taken that.
She will come next Tuesday for fittings. Then I had thoughts about my old winter coat. Since I have ordered a new one as I have, the old one should make over into a smart tailored frock; and Miss Canham says she can make it into such. Out of the lining, which is very good quality crepe-de-chine, she can make me a petticoat. So I shall have a few presentable and fashionable garments, for traveling or whatever occasion I have to meet. My underwear I will attend to myself. I have nearly finished one nightgown, and have enough nylon on hand to make another. Meanwhile, before Tuesday, I am going to partially unpick my black coat, take off the fur, etc. So work is proceeding in anticipation of getting away. Of course there is no certainty I can get away, but I am going to be ready to go.
Friday, September 22, 1939
Once, some years ago, when Auntie Lizzie was staying here, a very lovely thing happened to me. I was sitting one morning by the sink, peeling vegetables, when Auntie walked through into the scullery; and she came up behind my chair and without a word, she stooped and kissed the back of my neck. That was a spontaneous act of affection, and I have never forgotten it. It was a lovely gesture from a very old woman. I was remembering it this morning when I wakened. Those are the sorts of gestures, which make life beautiful, the signs of affection, which I crave.
Ted was remarking rather recently that someone in America once told him he was cold blooded, and he couldn’t believe it. Yet that is exactly what he is though apparently he doesn’t think so. My instinct when I woke this morning was to turn to Ted and take him in my arms. I didn’t because the gesture would have been useless. He would have only repulsed me. He couldn’t turn to me. He only turns to the church. I think, just as it is natural for the flower to turn towards sun, the baby to its mother, the dog to its master, friend-to-friend, lover-to-lover, so it is natural for husband and wife to turn towards each other. However, it is not natural with Ted.
I remember many years ago, whilst we still lived in Mrs. McKnight’s house, and Ted was sleeping in the little room. I went into him in that room one night, and he took me by the shoulders and put me out and shut the door. Those sorts of actions bruise the heart. It has always been useless for me to ask for love, or to make any offer of love, so far as Ted is concerned. When his lust drives him, then I must take him no matter what my inclination or disinclination.
Well, I don’t consider that love. To me, the first essential of love is friendliness and Ted has no friendliness. That hour of brotherly sweetness, hand in hand, Ted has no conception of and never had. That is what I want, and have always wanted.
It seems to me that in a good marriage, a couple could lay embraced without any prick of lust, could fall asleep on an encircling arm, could wake to smile, to touch in friendliness, and to speak in tender friendliness. It is not to be with Ted. His ideal is the bloodless and gutless saint, and he rises without word or touch, and goes to his everlasting church. No, I should have no compunctions about leaving him. He doesn’t need me, doesn’t want me, doesn’t love me, and doesn’t want my love. This is the sad truth.
© 2011 Copyright Victoria Washuk
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