Sunday, June 17, 2018

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder …1944

PTSD did not officially become a diagnosis until 1980 but I will never forget how it affected our lives one lovely spring evening in 1944.

This grainy picture is me, age11, and Ron, one of the many British sailors that our family entertained during WWII. “Our” boys usually came in pairs but a few of them, like Ron, practically lived at our house and they often came out alone …hopping on the train just as soon as they had leave. This day he had arrived from Boston’s naval yard where his ship was docked and I was the lucky greeter. 

Ours was a big family, 5 girls, our parents and many friends … not to mention the sailors. On the night that I recall we were all gathered in the living room. It was a hot night and we'd opened the big window that looked out on the screened in porch in order to circulate the air.

Ron was the center of attention, sitting on the floor near the window and entertaining us with his news. All of a sudden a car backfired in front of our house. It was a very loud bang and we all flinched or covered our ears. Then, as we all came back to our senses, we realized that Ron was no longer with us. Where was he? What had happened?

My mother was the first to act and she rushed to the porch to find Ron crouched on the other side of the window, shivering and covering his head with his arms. He had instinctively jumped through the window to find safety and it had been so quick that we literally didn’t see it. When we realized what had happened our dad held us back and told us to stay where we were.

It was an hour before Ron and mother came back in and we tried our best to act normal and put him at ease. It was our first lesson in the horrendous unseen wounds of war but it would not be our last … and mother was always there to comfort the boys that we came to love.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

1980 … Literally out of the blue !

In the late 70's my husband and I and the children moved to the small town of Vass, North Carolina. It is very close to Fort Bragg where the army conducts training operations and manuevers. In those days you could drive straight through the base and we used it often as a short cut to Fayetteville. This is not possible now as they've closed it to all but military personnel.

I will never forget one night around 10 when we were coming back home through the base. We had just left the Ft. Bragg compound and were on a dark and deserted stretch of road that was part of the Pope Air Force base. All of a sudden we heard popping sounds and we stopped the car to see what it was. We watched in amazement as thousands of flares lit up the sky. We could make out low flying troop planes with their hatch doors opening wide. Then, as if on cue, the paratroopers jumped.

The sky was teeming with tiny floating figures held aloft by their parachutes and slowly making their way toward the ground. Our vantage point didn’t allow us to see them actually make a landing but we did see two of the fellows get caught in tree branches.

There must have been hundreds of them and, as beautiful as it was to watch, it was also clear that this was no game. As the last of the jumpers reached ground the light gently faded away and we were once again in the dark. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience but a very sobering one. I will never forget it.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Remember this …..????????


That's a direct quote from the mouth of Donald Trump as he campaigned at a Sioux Center, Iowa rally in January, 2016. A disturbing statement to say the least but excused at the time as banter from an over zealous candidate.

Fast forward to this week when Trump's lawyer Rudy Guiliani voiced the incredible premise that Trump, now the 45th President of the United States,
could shoot the FBI director in the Oval office and not be prosecuted for it.

WHAT IN GOD'S NAME HAS HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY? ARE WE ALL BLIND AND TONE DEAF? Our nation, as well as Washington, DC, is indeed a “swamp” but it didn't get that way overnight. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are complicit in getting us there and they need to take ownership of this. The rampant hatred and racism that I see today is killing us as a nation. We've closed our hearts as well as our doors and no longer strive for the type of country as envisioned by the writers of the Constitution. 

What a loss ...

Saturday, June 02, 2018

A melodic memory ... San Gimignano, Italy

In 2008 my oldest son and I were in Italy and one highlight of our trip was a visit to the lovely towered city of San Gimignano. It was my second visit there and, as we hiked our way to the top of the city I hoped against hope that the same musician who I'd photographed 5 years before would be there still. Of course this didn’t happen, but my imagination brought him back to life and I described it all to my son.

It was March of 2003 and as I wended my way to the highest point of San Gimignano I started to hear music. This seemed unlikely in the setting but it became louder and, as I crested the hill, I finally saw the musician.
He resembled a monk but was more likely a performer who hoped to augment his income by an afternoon’s performance. He had somehow managed to tote his harpsichord over the cobblestone paths to this lofty spot.

Now, five years later my son and I sat in the same spot where I'd heard that concert. We were the only people there but the memory of the intriguing musician and his medley of Baroque tunes seemed to enhance the magnificent views and the total serenity of it all. As it had then, this became a highlight of our Italian journey.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The movie “Chappaquiddick” brings back a vivid memory

I really didn't want to see “Chappaquiddick”. I grew up in Massachusetts and the Kennedy family and the tragedies that plagued them were a large part of my life. However I'm so glad I changed my mind. I thought the movie was very realistic and the producers rendered no judgements. They left that to the viewer.

Jason Clarke was very believable as Senator Kennedy but it was the magnificent portrayal by Bruce Dern of the 80 year old stroke victim Joe Kennedy that really took me back.

The year was 1943 and my father was working in the advertising agency in Boston that was handling the promotion material for young JFK's bid to become a Senator. His father Joe was footing the bill and proved to be a very demanding and unreasonable client. He had been the Ambassador to Britain in 1938 and despite leaving that post under a cloud he was still a powerful and very wealthy man who was ruthless in promoting his sons.

The day after JFK was elected as Senator my father came home with a long, slim box wrapped in gold paper and he threw it on the table. “This”, he said, “is what we get for spending hours listening to that bastard Joe Kennedy” and he opened the box to reveal a silk tie with a hand painted Kennedy crest on it.   My dad  was the last person in the world to be seen wearing a silk tie so I wasn’t surprised by his anger …but I can’t help wondering what that tie would be worth today !!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Forget the politicians …. Let Harry and Meghan take over !

I would not usually watch a royal wedding but I'm so glad I did. The racially mixed marriage of Harry and Meghan was a breath of fresh air and I loved the fact that her blackness was embraced and proudly displayed. Of course, in order for this to be possible, it needed the approval of the Queen and it was apparent that she'd given it.

As I watched the confusion and shock of many in the audience I thought of how many changes have occurred in my lifetime. I was 3 years old when Edward VIII abdicated in favor of marrying the American divorcee Wallace Simpson. Now it is 82 years later and a gutsy couple and an equally gutsy Queen with the power to make it happen are revising and updating history when it's needed most.

When the Reverend Curry so fervently declared ... “love is the answer” I imagined Trump reacting to those words. I can see him scratching his head and thinking (in the words of the Tina Turner song) What's love got to do with it? He, and all the politicians that wallow in the swamp with him are incapable of understanding a concept that is so pure and void of hatred and deception.

As Harry and Meghan take the high ground I can only hope that we who want a world filled with love for all will have the guts to follow their lead.

Friday, May 18, 2018

(1937) PENNY – A – RIDE

I've written about my grandfather, Harry Lee, quite a few times since I started my blog in 2006. He was an author with two published books … “More Day to Dawn” the story of Thoreau, “High Company” sketches of courage in WW I and a play about the life of St. Francis which had a very short Broadway run in 1928.

Papa Lee, as we called him, was a very dear man and we 5 Lee sisters adored him. We were his only grandchildren and he would spoil us royally whenever he got the chance. In 1937 his Christmas gift to our family was a handwritten book of poems he titled “Penny-a-ride.” It was filled with simple rhymes such as this:

                                               ONE RED APPLE

                                 When Grandma and my Aunt Jeanette
                                 Were just like we are … little girls
                                 There was a naughty boy would sneak
                                 Up close behind and pull their curls.

                                 And once he pulled my Grandma’s curls
                                 And ran off down the wagon track
                                 Where’s all the dust and then he turn
                                 And rolled a big red apple back.

                                 And when I asked her why he did and
                                 Where he did and when and how …
                                 My Grandma said, “Go ask him child,
                                 That naughty boy’s your Grandpa now.”