Another Memorial Day has passed with the marching bands, groups of Boy and Girl Scouts and we can’t forget the fire engines which makes every little boy’s heart jump with excitement.
My eyes always seek out the old veterans, who now hold the honor of riding the parade route. They have done their share of walking, marching, crawling over the years. It is time to pay them homage.
So few left. Why are there so few left? My brain wraps around my age and I know…I know that it is impossible for many of our World War II veterans to still be with us. Oh, but that can’t be , because that is where my most precious memories lay.
Grammie Martin hurrying up the hill from the mailbox, trying to open the letter she has received, but so afraid with all the cut out censor marks, she might tear a bit and lose a word. She opens the letter to find pieces cut out here, there and blacked out letters. That is ok. She knows. She knows that her sons are ok; her grandson is ok. They have to be ok. She settles into her padded cushion covering the little rocking chair, crosses her little blue sneakers at the ankles, and a hush comes over the porch. Even I, at my young age, know this is a precious moment and not one to be disturbed. She reads, shuffles the papers and finally with a sigh, folds it tenderly and tucks it back into the envelope. She will relay what news she has to Grampa when he comes in from the barn, but for now it is enough to hold in her hand the same piece of paper her son held so many days ago as he wrote to her.
The Canadian Air Force gave me one of the biggest phobias to overcome in my young life. One day I was fishing on Minna Jacob’s wharf and out of nowhere came this huge plane dipping over Twitchell Pond. My first thought was that the Japanese had somehow got to us and bombs would be next! I dropped the pole and ran for the house, up the stairs, threw myself on the bed and covered my head with my pillows. It was to be years before I could be outside , hear an airplane and not run for the house and hide upstairs. I never told my parents; I never told anyone as I found it to be a sign of weakness.
Oh, those cans of evaporated milk mixed half and half with water to “stretch”it out for coffee and cereal. I cannot stand the smell of evaporated milk to this day. I didn’t mind the squeezing of the white greasy mess in the plastic bag with its little yellow dot. I ground that in my hands forever until it was a lovely shade of pale yellow and not one streak could be found. Sugar!! What a treat to have a slice of bread with a thin spread of oleo sprinkled with sugar. Ma stood with the teaspoon and gently shook it as we stood in line with our breads. I can still feel the gritty sugar in my teeth but how sweet after the molasses!
How Dad missed his brothers, Dwight and Glenn. He always felt guilty because the saw mill accident had maimed his hand until there was no way he could get into the service. I think my Uncle Dwight realized this as he kept sending him souveniers as he traveled. There was a long rattle snake skin pinned to the wall at the foot of my parents’ bed which came from Arizona, I think. I never could bear to look at it. It was my father’s pride and joy. As the years went by and his brothers still gone, he was the recipient of many kinds of coins and other little memorabilia. I think he carried one coin in his pants pocket so when he touched it, he thought of Dwight.
And oh, the memory of my Uncle Dwight lying on a bed on Gram’s porch in the years after the war. Gram seldom came to the house , but on these occasions she quite often did, I think, for reassurance that he was going to be ok. Uncle Dwight had reoccurance of Malaria and when it happened, I guess it was awful. WE kids were not allowed near the porch or the house while he was sick and while he was recovering.
After all these years I still have the fan he brought me from Japan and on the back is the date and Kobe, Japan. The more delicate one from the Phillipines was brought to me by my Uncle Glenn. It was hard for me to believe that they thought of me while so many miles away.
Patriotism will never again be known the way it was during WWII, in my opinion. There was nothing that the people would not do to support the troops. School kids picked milkweed for parachute cloth and people stomped on tin cans all for the great cause.
I thought, with the ending of WWII, we would never again know the horrors of war. Oh, how wrong I was..the innocence of a child. I read the headlines of Korea and our local boys there; lost relatives in Viet Nam…sent care packages to a neighbor in Desert Storm…and on and on it goes.
Will it ever end? Will there ever be peace on earth? Sadly I do not think so. But sometimes on a Memorial weekend, I remember standing in front of my relatives seated so sedately on Gram’s couch and singing “There’s a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere” and believing with all my heart that there was a special place in heaven just for all the heroes who died.
I still believe there is.