I have been waiting since I started posting the diaries of my maternal grandmother’s experience as a missionary in the Belgian Congo to get to probably the most dramatic event of her time there, and possibly her whole life: the birth of my aunt, Marilyn. The rest of 1948 held plenty of drama for them as well.
August 1948 came along, and the Buerer family (Harry, Vickie, and their three daughters, Peggy Ann, Nancy, and Lois) continued their time in Africa dealing with driver ants and a crazy man. My grandmother was pregnant with her fourth child but wasn’t due for another month. One day, my aunt, Peggy, and mother remember my grandfather telling them (along with one of their houseboys) hurriedly to get in the car. From my mother and aunt’s recollections, they recall being completely unfazed by the whole commotion, probably thinking, “Cool, road trip!” My grandmother laid in the back of the car for the journey. On August 29, my grandmother wrote: “Early this morning I started losing blood. We went to Idiofa and the doctor sent us to the hospital at Kikwit.” My grandfather continued the 100+ drive to the hospital as fast as he was able, but halfway there, he stopped and climbed in the back with my grandmother, telling the children to take a walk. My mother remembers looking into the back to see what was going on and my grandfather very pointedly telling her, “GO AWAY.” The children walked along the lane, looking at the flowers and other points of interest they could find. Not long after, my grandfather called to them to come back to the car. “This is your new baby sister! Her name is Marilyn Alice,” he said. The closest doctor they could find in the moment was a dentist a few miles away, and he cleaned them up and took care of them for a few days. Marilyn weighed six pounds. My grandmother remarks at the end of her entry that “Harry drove to Kikwit this afternoon to get the doctor but he refused to come.”
We stayed at Iwungu until Friday morning. Wednesday morning Mrs. Smith got sick and had to stay in bed. Thursday Harry went to Kikwit to do our shopping. A truck came in from Angola that morning and he was able to get fresh cabbage, carrots, potatoes, and onions.
Friday morning we went home. We stopped at Idiofa to see the doctor. He examined both of us and found everything o.k.
Marilyn has been so good. She sleeps almost all the time. She doesn’t even want to wake up to eat.
I stayed in bed most of the week. The food we got in Kikwit tasted so good.
Marilyn weighed 6 lb. 5 oz. today.
The crazy man keeps coming around and bothering us.
Solomon, the teacher, quit and went home. We had to send our cook over to the school to teach. The carpenter left, too.
Monday morning we went to Idiofa. The doctor cut Marilyn’s tongue loose because she was tongue-tied.
Saturday the crazy man walked into our bedroom and today he walked into the dining room twice.
Thursday night a thief climbed in the window of the girls’ room and stole some of their clothes and Lois’ and Peggy Ann’s helmets. He also took our two water drums from the back porch. He dropped some of the clothes on the porch. Harry followed his tracks about five miles but it started to rain and he lost the trail.
Peggy Ann got sick last Sunday and has had fever all week. Today she is feeling a little better.
Peggy Ann has been very sick all week. Thursday we sent for the Idiofa doctor but he was in Leopoldville and wasn’t expected back until the 26th. However, yesterday she began to feel better. She isn’t very strong yet but is playing in bed today.
Harry has been sick in bed the last few days, too.
Petelo went to his village on Monday and came back today. I’ve only had Mubingi in the house.
The teacher didn’t show up to speak in church this morning so I had to take charge of the service. I played Kikongo records on the phonograph.
Thursday was Thanksgiving Day. We had roast duck and pumpkin pie.
Peggy Ann was up all week until Friday. Then the fever came back and she has been very sick. She has a fever and vomits all the time.
Peggy Ann was so sick last Sunday night that I sent for the doctor the first thing Monday morning. He came before noon and said it was appendicitis and we should get her to the hospital at Kikwit.
I telegraphed Harry to stay there and send (sic) Jacob on Emmie’s bike to Tshene. The doctor came again Monday evening and gave her penicillin.
Harry stayed at the hospital all night with her and she was operated on the next morning. She has been getting along all right but is so thin and weak.
We brought Peggy Ann to the Mission Home from the hospital yesterday.
I have been reading Heidi to Peggy Ann every morning in the hospital.
Monday was St. Nicholas Day and St. Nick came to Kikwit with a big party for white children. He sent presents to Peggy Ann in the hospital. Another day he came with his two little girls and brought more presents to her.
Harry stays at the hospital afternoons and nights and I stay there mornings and take Marilyn with me.
Hutchisons and Smiths got a big order of groceries from America Monday.
Monday Harry and I went shopping in Kikwit and bought a lot of groceries.
Harry made a Christmas tree out of wood a couple days ago and covered it with paper. The girls painted it green and are decorating it.
This afternoon a lot of women were trying to have a market behind the school. Harry and I went out and chased them away. We told them they couldn’t have a market on the mission on Sunday.
We celebrated Harry’s birthday with a cake last night.