Good morning, Miss Isaacs.
Just call me Kate. Actually I’m Mrs., but my husband … he was a pilot in the Royal Air Force…
Is that a tear glinting?
Oh dear. Did you lose him in the war?
Yes, and long story short, that’s why I’m here.
A familiar tale these days—so many widows want to do their bit for the war effort.
I’ve been told a little about you, that you and your husband eloped, and you searched for him throughout London…
And found him—we had a brief Christmas together, and then …
Your superiors say you’re sharp-witted and well read. Tell me about your background…your formative years and education.
My Aunt provided so well for me. She had great aspirations for my future, but I’m afraid I disappointed her. Alexandre and I were rash to run off and marry, but I’ve always been impetuous.
So you grew up in a small Midwestern town?
Yes, in Iowa, although I was born out on the East Coast just after the Great War. I still have a best friend there named Addie. We had great teachers, especially in literature class. Mrs. Morford did so much to instill a love of learning in us.
Sounds idyllic, but we all have our ‘druthers, don’t we? If there were one thing about your childhood you could change, what would it be?
I’d have a normal childhood, with my mother and father alive and well. I have only the vaguest memory of them, you know.”
How did you lose them?
In an airplane crash when I was very young. It’s all quite mysterious. I remember a woman taking me to my aunt in Iowa and that it all had something to do with the Great War, but doubt I’ll ever discover the truth.
And now you are bound for service with the Secret Operations Executive? You must be very brave, indeed.
Or foolhardy—there’s only a fine line between the two. However, you know quite well that I’m unable to disclose any other specifics.
Indeed. But I am aware that you and your comrades have learned to parachute behind enemy lines. How did you like that portion of your training?
Oh, it was the best! What a thrill to sail through the air, even for such a short time.
My, my, but you are adventurous! Does your friend Addie like wild escapades, too?
Not at all, yet she’s still courageous in her own way. You might say we’re polar opposites, but still find so much in common. Addie’s all the family I have now.
What a wonderful friendship! Oh, I see our time is up. Godspeed and a safe return to you.
A Secret Agent’s Inner Life
On the outside, Kate Isaacs, the heroine of A Purpose True and With Each New Dawn, strikes us as an inveterate risk-taker, a woman able to do anything. She wastes no time pondering proposed actions—she’s too busy doing something! At first glance, she wastes not a moment watching life pass her by, and we applaud her “go for it” attitude.
People are drawn to this sharp-witted, well-read young woman. She eloped with her husband straight out of high school, followed him to London after his Royal Air Force plane was downed, and searched for him far and wide. Nothing can stop her.
But I caught her in one of her quieter moments and posed a simple question. “If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?” Her immediate response revealed a vast, yawning hunger in her soul.
“I’d have a normal childhood, with my mother and father alive and well.”
Ah…when I was writing Kate’s story, the old spiritual, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child…” never entered my mind. But looking back, it’s clear that the huge hole in Kate’s emotional being helped shape her into the adult she’s become.
Her mentor back in London warned her that waiting for an assignment would trouble her, and her sojourn as a secret agent in Southern France provided plenty of solitary times. During those periods when she had little control over anything, her mother’s face appeared from photos Kate had seen, and the reader finds her carrying on a conversation with this woman who gave her birth and died during Kate’s early childhood.
Kelly McDaniel, LPC, writes: “Hope Edelman’s book Motherless Daughters…offers help for women who experience early maternal death… ‘at some very deep level, nobody wants to believe that motherless children exist. …in our psyches …mother represents comfort and security no matter what our age.’ Italics mine.” https://kellymcdanieltherapy.com/wp-content/uploads/MotherHungerExplanation.pdf
Kate may seem independent and in charge, but the look in her eyes tells another story. When all is said and done, when she’s avoided the Gestapo again in a heart-pounding near-disaster, when she’s all alone in an isolated cave and the future seems so tenuous, this mother hunger rises from a place deep within.
But it’s World War II, and no therapist or support groups exist. Kate’s role often demands solitude. In these honest moments when her hunger envelops her, she confronts her great need. She speaks with her mother…declares her longings out loud. And sometimes, in a way she finds difficult to verbalize, she senses her mother near.
Each confrontation of her deepest fears increases her breathing space a tiny bit more. As she risks her life for the freedom of la France, her own freedom grows, as well. This universal premise rings true for us all—facing our fears, though it’s terrifying, strengthens us in ways we could never have imagined.
Writing has always been Gail’s passion. Her Women of the Heartland series honors make-do Greatest Generation women who sacrificed so much for the cause of freedom.
Gail and her husband live in northern Iowa and retreat to Arizona’s Mogollon Rim Country in winter. They also enjoy grandchildren and gardening. It’s no secret why this late-bloomer calls her website DARE TO BLOOM, and she loves to encourage other writers through facilitating workshops.