I’m back with my sister in Atlanta. Our flight from Florida was short and smooth.
Did you know that they now allow little animals in the passenger cabin? Is this old news? I was shocked to see this impeccably dressed gentleman carrying a cute little cat in a lovely signature Hartman and Rose top grain leather handbag with muted gold tone hardware.
The obviously pricey travel accessory even had a mesh window with a roll-up striped awning. The furry creature was perfectly quiet and gave no trouble at all throughout the flight.
I felt sorry, however, for the young mom whose baby cried nonstop, from the moment we pushed back from the West Palm Beach terminal until a few minutes before we landed in Atlanta.
It isn’t easy to travel with little ones. I remember someone who clued me in on the best way to keep a baby busy on the plane.
He advised to make a ball out of double-sided adhesive tape. “It sticks to the hands, the clothes, everything, and hardly ever drops on the floor.”
I took his advice. Over the years I went through several rolls of scotch tape and it was not inexpensive. But it sure saved me the pain of having to bend in all directions to pick up her toys.
On the road
It did not get any easier when we traveled by car. The twins got cranky and impatient. They would start squabbling. Pit stops were frequent. Thirst had to be quenched. Tummies filled. Bottles warmed. Diapers changed.
Sometimes, just before sunrise and in the middle of the desert, we would have to pull up at an all-night diner.
I don’t think we could do that today. You hear all kinds of horror stories. But those were gentler times. We met so many good people along the way.
They were kind, helpful, hospitable and compassionate.
It was quite all right to ask someone in a roadside bar and café to warm a bottle of milk for me.
I remember how once on a late-night quick stop between gigs, a burly truck driver called Red offered to whistle “Moon River” to help put the baby to sleep. It worked. I was thankful.
I also recall they had the best chili served with warm buttered corn bread and ice-cold root beer in that place.
The other evening my sister’s children came over to record stories of our experiences in World War II. They insisted that a candid conversation was better than a scripted Q&A interview.
“This is just for our family, for all your children and grandchildren. It is firsthand information. You lived it and it is astounding how much you still remember.”
This was the aftermath of an evening a couple of weeks ago spent reminiscing over coffee and cake, when my sister and I shared our wartime stories. It is unnerving to realize that there are only a handful of us left who can discuss this piece of old history.
The kids then decided that they should record such a “precious” collection of memories. This made us a bit self-conscious at the start. But once we got started and began to relive that chapter of our lives we got carried away.
It was a moving experience. I was on the verge of tears several times and I saw my sister’s eyes mist up as well. We spent a couple of hours, recalling air raids and fires.
We remembered there was an acute food shortage but that we never went to bed hungry; that in spite of the rationing we always saw our parents share the little they had. There was always room for one more at their table; sometimes even more than one.
We talked about dogfights, the sounds of sirens and bombs early in the morning, the scraping of boots when Japanese soldiers marched on our street, the sight and smell of heavy black smoke from the burning oil factories a few blocks away.
It was frustrating to see the fire engines but not a drop of water from the hydrants. It was difficult to go to sleep at night, not sure if our homes were safe.
We saw the fear in the faces of friends and family who were suddenly displaced. They had lost everything. We tried to comfort children separated from their parents, traumatized after seeing the horrors of war.
For years I could not forgive myself for the relief I felt at the news that atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. The war was finally over, that was all that made any sense to me at the time. I thought my life would finally return to normal.
It was much later, when I grew up, that I realized the magnitude of the death and destruction that had been inflicted upon hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who had lived in those cities.
War changes people. It tears us apart. And it takes generations to close the chasm that divides us. But life is never the same. The wounds never heal.
For the past several days, all eyes have been on Singapore. Our hopes for peace and the future of our planet have never looked so fragile.
I remember the words of Lord Louis Mountbatten: “If the Third World War is fought with nuclear weapons, the fourth will be fought with bows and arrows.”