Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A day that lives in infamy

Seventy years ago my grandmother was on her way home from church.  She was very young-only twenty years old.  Dressed in her finest, she stopped at her best friend's house to wait for Geri to grab a few things before heading across the street for a late Sunday family dinner.  Geri's parents were listening to the radio as a broadcaster broke into the show with news of a "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor. 

When I was little, I spent many nights at my grandma's house.  Each time she would tell me stories at bedtime-always stories from her childhood, young adult life, wartime, even my dad's youth.  The stories enthralled me.  I remember her story of Pearl Harbor Day vividly because it was so short and stark, unlike most of her tales.  She explained how her friend came slowly from the back of the house, in silence, and they sat on the front step listening to the sound of the broadcaster with open mouths.  They had forgotten about the cold weather.  Forgotten about the promise of Sunday dinner waiting across the street.  Forgotten about everything they had known to be true. 

My grandmother had grown up the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants in the city of Akron, Ohio.  She spent most of her youth in a single parent household, to be raised by a working mother.  While it was the Great Depression, and money was difficult to come by, she never made her youth sound bleak.  It was the war that did this.  From December 7, 1941 on nothing would ever be the same for her.  A brother, the only boy in the family, would go off to war and never return.  A husband would go off to fight and come home a quiet and changed man.  She would spend her war years working in a factory, changing from a headstrong girl to a woman with a fierce streak of independence that propelled her forward into a decade that tried to squelch it at every turn.  She would watch childhood friends lose their husbands, brothers, sons.  It was a time that turned everything on its head.  And for her it started that cold afternoon on her best friend's front porch.

Every December 7th I remember.  I remember for the men who died like my handsome Uncle Nick that I never knew.  I remember for the men who went off to war to fight like my Grandfathers who served in the Army and in the Navy.  I remember for the women who served our country in factories, in victory gardens, in the Red Cross, and through other services on the homefront and abroad.  I will always remember the stories that were told to me about a generation who thought nothing of themselves but of the country they loved so much.  To them, we owe our gratitude.