During the Second World War girls back home would write to their brothers, fathers, boyfriends, husbands, and they were given the suggestions to write something cheerful.
At home the girls and women were fighting the war as were the men. They worried constantly that they would get that fateful message that their soldier boy/man was killed or maimed. Newspapers constantly barraged them with war news. Girls tried to escape by going to the movies, and there they were shown Newsreels of war horrors. There was no escaping it. It was a terrible time for the World.
The girls rallied, going into the factories and proving that the little woman could build airplanes or run a factory as well as men. Others, even children pulling their little wagons, collected cooking pots that could be spared, tires, aluminum, and any steel that could be confiscated. Girls gave up their nylon stockings for parachutes, ladies gave up their girdles for rubber. Gas was rationed as well as food. The family gave sugar coupons to my mother one Christmas so she could make candy. Most everybody had a “Victory Garden.” The girls and women tried to give their men hope.
I was reading about a Polish man who had escaped Poland to come to America with the dream of becoming a citizen, which he had. He married, began a business, built and ran a filling station, was successful, had a family, and upon hearing that Pearl Harbor had been bombed, he laid his head on the table and sobbed. “We cannot lose America. The world cannot lose America.”
War drives me nuts.
When I hear someone excited say, “Let’s bomb them back to the stone age. Or “Let’s kick their butts,” I cringe, knowing there was a time when most every able-bodied man reluctantly, sadly, leaving behind their families and facing death, enlisted for war service.
When I, with fear and in trepidation, visited Dachau, the former Concentration Camp in Germany I got their message, “Never Forget.”
It was a never forget experience, but a strange one too. People had poured so much love into that complex that it felt cleansed. There was a bank of flowers extending the length of the fence in honor of those who were interned there. The grounds had been bulldozed clean except for one barrack. A church had been erected on the grounds, and on the step into the crematorium someone had carefully placed a single dandelion flower.
And now I will end with a good story, a true one. It came into my daughter’s email. It was from a man who, he said, had taken an Ocean Cruise 10 years ago when he was 13-years-old. During the cruise he used the rock-climbing wall, and as they were required to take off their shoes and put on special rock-climbing ones, he did that. Then he forgot to pick up his regular shoes. He had kept the climbing shoes all these years, and felt guilty. He was Jewish, he said, and as a 13-year old he was supposed to be at the age of reason, and to be responsible, he should have known better than to keep the shoes. Now he was looking for an address in which to send the shoes back.
That’s my mind drippings for the day.