Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stuff I Learned As A Kid--Chapter Five

If you're sad, you should dance; if you're happy, you should dance. At least that's how it seemed to be at our house. My folks loved to dance and until I was in upper grade school, I thought everybody's parents spent the whole  weekend dancing at one club or another. As I recall, the fact that a war was going on didn't deter them from their quest to spend every available minute dancing, no matter whether it was the jitterbug, jazz, or swing.   To be honest, I didn't know the names of the dances, I only observed them and was able to put names to them as I grew older. It seemed to me that there were a lot of dancing and singing movies during the war years. I think people wanted a relief from the radio and newspaper headlines of the day. I think that's why my parents continued to go dancing or have home parties. Rugs were rolled up, couches pushed against the wall, lamps moved to safe places and my sister and I  banished to the hallway until bedtime. The home dance parties were such a joy to watch. I loved all the dancing and admiring the ladies who were always so dressed up and their hair all done atop their head as was the fashion of the time. Do you suppose that's where I learned to love a good party, especially one that involved dancing?

When a whole bunch of people from a single city die, people are sad. I recall the day mom just didn't seem to be herself. Young as I was, I finally questioned what was wrong. She said our country had dropped a bomb on a city in Japan and a lot of people were dead. In my youthfulness, I replied that I thought we didn't like the damn Japs, so why did she care. My mild mannered, never used a swear word in her life, mother looked like she was about to faint. "Where on earth did you hear words like that?" she asked, her eyes snapping with annoyance. "That's what all dad's friends call them," I answered, wondering why I was obviously in trouble. "I thought that was their name." Mom said never to use those words again and reminded me that while the Japanese were our enemy, the rest of the people in Japan were moms and dads and kids, like us and she felt bad for what had happened to them. I went to dad with my question. "Why is mom sad about Japan?" I asked. He replied that it was an awful thing to have to do but sometimes, in order to save lives or end a war, or accomplish something better than what we had, there were hard choices had to be made. Through all my years of life, many have told me I'm courageous. I don't see it myself. Do you suppose courage is something that can be taught or is it just what you are?

When all the church bells ring again, not very many months after the first time, it's puzzling to a little kid. And it wasn't a Sunday this time either. "Now why are they ringing?" I asked my parents as we all sat around the table. I thought the war was already over." Mom smiled the biggest smile and said all the wars were over now. It was VJ Day, which meant the Japanese had decided not to fight with us any longer. My small heart was as happy as it knew how to be. I felt it kind of laughing and skipping at the same time. I questioned if my uncle would come home now and dad said we'd likely see him in a few weeks. Mom remarked that most of dad's good friends would be home too and dad said, sort of under his breath, "Not Johnny or Bill." Mom looked for a moment like she might start crying and whispered, "I know."  Do you suppose seeing their sadness at the loss of friends is what made me the compassionate person I became?

After the war was over, just about everything in the dime store and much of the drug store was stamped "Made In Occupied Japan." At least that's how it seemed to me. Every doll or trinket or necklace or bracelet or just about any other thing a kid could want was stamped the same way. I didn't understand what it meant as I'd never seen those words before, so I asked mom. She said that since America had won the war with Japan, we were keeping soldiers there to make sure everything stayed peaceful and that's why the Japanese wrote "occupied" on everything they made. I still have some of those trinkets. They've been stored safely away for decades and one day I'll hand them down to my own kids as pieces of my  childhood history. But then again, now that I'm thinking about it, I'm wondering. Do you suppose I could sell them on E-Bay as historical artifacts and get myself a boatload of cash?

Dad and me the Christmas
I got my fuzzy jacket.
My recollections have come to an end. I have remembered far more than I realized and considering I'm past seventy years in age, it makes me grin to think things stored in my childish memory banks have stayed so clear in my thoughts. I'm sure there are many things I saw or overheard that I've forgotten and that is likely for the best. There is only so much "news" a kid can handle anyway. I'm still grateful for my mom and dad who never sent me away with unanswered questions and for their determination, especially dad's, for believing that asking questions was the only way a kid learned. Never once was I scolded for a question simply because my folks found the subject too hard to explain to one as young as I was. I've always been grateful to the Lord for the memory I've always had and the way I have of remembering even the most mundane details. Do you suppose the ability to see and remember with an almost photographic eye is the reason I always wanted to become a writer?

Author's note:
My middle sister questioned me recently on how I could remember so many things from WWII when I was so young. I told her honestly that I have no idea why I remember them but that what I do recall is clear as a bell. I think you'll just have to take my word on it. I think it's the way my mind has always worked. And it's the reason I've always been delegated as the family historian.

Mom and me. Photo taken at the
same time as the one above. Since
mom was the usual answer person
for all my questions, simply because
she was always there and dad was
working, I've put this photo last. It
is my way of honoring her for the
wonderful mom she was.


  1. I love how your mom, at a time when Americans were putting Japanese Americans in camps here in the US, was so sympathetic and compassionate knowing that the people who were killed were innocent.

  2. What a great exercise of writing and info!

  3. I love your writing. I can only imagine that you and I would have been friends, had I been born back then.
    I hate to say it but Parkinsons has a lot to answer for. I've started crying. Dad was only 66 when he died of Parkinsons. It's a terrible illness. I find myself getting angry at Parkinsons, I want to be able to yell "You've messed with the wrong woman!" at it. Once my husband's charity drive has passed (He and regularly raises money for Cancer Research UK as his father has cancer.) I'll start a drive myself for Parkinson's UK.

    I apologise for commenting anonymously - my wordpress identity seems to be completely unknown to your application.


  4. It's wonderful to read that at a time when people took an 'us' or 'them' mentality, your mother recognised universal humanity.

    Excellently written, Sandy!

  5. Thank you to all who posted such kind comments. While my mom was a forerunner to June Cleaver, keeping a house so clean you could eat off the floors, she was always kind and gentle with all those she met. I have to say I learned a lot just from watching her as I grew up. Blessings, Sandy