Table of Contents
The Magic of Ordinary Days
“Like Plainsong, Creel's novel is quietly and eloquently written ... an ideal book to read while sipping lemonade on the porch swing this summer.”â
Colorado Springs Gazette
“Ann Howard Creel explores the effects of mistaken and offered love in 1940s rural Colorado, where World War II, though seemingly distant, reaches deeply into the lives of the innocent and the misled. Rich in reminiscence,
The Magic of Ordinary Days
treats imperfect humanity with respect, tenderness, and understanding, qualities that mature in the characters into the finest of loves. A highly satisfying read.”
âSusan Vreeland, author of
The Passion of Artemisia
Girl in Hyacinth Blue
“This is a gentle but powerful novel, combining the story of bittersweet love with a poignant account of the journey toward self-realization and acceptance.”â
“A gentle love story.”
Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News
Boulder Daily Camera
“Like catching a glimpse of a butterfly on the first day of spring, Creel's novel,
The Magic of Ordinary Days,
is a gentle and delightful celebration of life. Here's a story of the surprising and satisfying appearance of love.”âLynne Hinton, author of
“Delicate, perceptive and fine-boned writing ... Creel gets it all just right.”â
“A bittersweet tale of love.”
The Florida Times-Union
“Precisely observed ... blends historical richness and a fine sense of place.”â
PENGUIN BOOKS THE MAGIC OF ORDINARY DAYS
Ann Howard Creel is the author of two award-winning young adult novels,
Water at the Blue Earth
A Ceiling of Stars.
This is her first adult novel. She lives in Englewood, Colorado.
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Putnam Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England
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Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices:
Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. 2001
Published in Penguin Books 2002
Copyright Â© Ann Howard Creel, 2001
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product
of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
eISBN : 978-1-101-12696-7
For my parents, who lived the war
My thanks go to Lee and Eleanor Hancock of Rocky Ford, who shared accounts of everyday life and farming during the war years, and Don Lowman of the Otero County Museum Association, who aided me with information and resources.
A number of books were helpful, too many to mention, but in particular Frances Bollacker Keck's
Conquistadors to the 21st Century: A History of Otero and Crowley Counties, Colorado
and James L. Colwell's
La Junta Army Air Field in WWII.
I gleaned much information from Mark Jonathan Harris, Franklin Mitchell, and Steven Schechter's book
The Homefront: America During World War
II, from Arnold Krammer's
Nazi Prisoners of War in America,
Larry Dane Brimner's
Voices from the Camps: Internment of Japanese Americans During World War II,
and from Roger Daniels's
Prisoners Without Trial: Japanses Americans in World War II.
Pictorial inspiration came from
V Is for Victory: America's Homefront During World War II
by Stan Cohen.
Thanks to my circle of Colorado friends, especially Nancy, kind reader of the first draft, and Lynn, faithful supporter of every small step. My gratitude will always go to Lisa Erbach Vance of the Aaron Priest Literary Agency, editor Frances Jalet-Miller, also of the Aaron Priest Agency, and my editor at Viking, Car olyn Carlson, for her excellent input.
Finally, thanks to every member of my family, most of all, to my husband, David.
I don't often think back to that year, the last year of the warâits days, its decisionsânot unless I'm out walking the dawn of a quiet winter morning, when new snowfall has stunned into silence the lands around me, when even the ice crystals in the air hold still. On those mornings of frozen perfection, when most living creatures keep to a warm bed or a deep ground hole, I pull on my heaviest old boots and set out to make first tracks through the topcrust and let the early dawn know I'm still alive and appreciating every last minute of her fine lavender light.
Then I remember.
I'll begin this tale on the day of my sister's wedding, almost twenty-four years to the day after I came crying out onto earth's slippery soil.
It was April 1944. The Allied forces were preparing to invade France and put an end to the worst war in history, while back on the home front, some of us managed to go on with what might have been considered normal lives. On a Saturday, a buttery spring day along the Front Range of the Rockies, my baby sister Beatrice was marrying her high school sweetheart, then a newly commissioned Army officer, and leaving me the only Dunne daughter not yet married. The oldest of three sisters and still unmarried, it was an oddity that would not go unnoticed, especially by my aunts. As we waited in the receiving line, Aunt Eloise commented about the quality of the catches made by my sisters. During the war, officers commanded the highest regard, and Abigail, nearest to me in age, still held top rank in that department, as she had caught herself a high-ranking officer, and a medical doctor to boot.
“If only you hadn't always been compared to those sisters of yours,” Aunt Eloise said.
Aunt Pearl added, “You might have been considered quite attractive by yourself.”
My aunts were not cruel, you understand. They loved to talk, and at every available opportunity they gave away the neatly wrapped presents of their thoughts, confident that no one would refuse them. And although I sometimes ached to talk back to them, I had been taught well by my parents to respect my elders.
Instead of pursuing marriage, at summer's end and after completion of only two more classes and the approval of my thesis, I would receive my master's in history from the University of Denver. My fascination with history started with the first lesson ever taught to me in grammar school. As my teacher described the sea passages of Christopher Columbus, I could so easily imagine myself a stowaway girl on one of his ships. I could see the promise of full sails billowing out above me and feel the sharp tips of saltwater winds. If I had been there, I would've climbed the ship's mast and looked out to the horizon for new lands myself. Formal study at the university had always seemed more destiny than choice.
Unfortunately the war had forced postponement of my fall plans to travel overseas as part of an academic expedition. Because of a world gone astray, my path was strewn with the debris of war, and my journey with archaeologists, anthropologists, and other historians to study the excavation sites of the land of sealed tombs, Egypt, and the ancient city of Horizon-of-the-Aten, would have to wait.
During Bea's wedding reception, my aunts pointed out to me that now, more than ever, single girls had good odds of husband catching. From MPs training in Golden, to airmen at Lowry Air Base and Buckley Field, to medical personnel at Fitzsimons, available soldiers filled Denver's streets, USOs, and bars. But not just any private would do. Those in our social circle wanted to duplicate Bea's catch by latching on to at least an officer, perhaps even a doctor like Abbyâs, or a pilot, the loftiest catch in the hierarchy of the uniform.