End of a Not-so-long-ago Terrible War

While cooking a dinner I’ve made for years — udon and broccoli and a spinach omelette — I listen to NPR and wonder, like any reasonable parent, what kind of world my daughters will live in when they’re my age.

At dinner, our conversation bends around to current events — the man in the White House — and then to history. I tell the girls I remember my father telling me about the end of World World II. Although they won’t know each other for years, he and my mother were eight-years-old. World War II seems such an infinity ago that my daughters are amazed. This puts that terrible war within not only their grandparents’ lifetimes, but their memories, too.

Really? my older daughter asks.

Really, I answer. I wasn’t there, but that’s what I hear.

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself now and then in finding a smoother pebble or prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

— Sir Isaac Newton

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Postcard From Hardwick: September 1

After an intense week of work and family — of wondering where is this heading? — my daughter locks her keys in her car and texts me. Can I bring my keys? And there’s a sketchy stranger near her, too.

When I arrive, she’s leaning against her car, looking up at the sky, and the sketchy somebody is a dad in the high school parking lot, teaching his kid to drive, in that jerking, slow way my daughter and I both recognize.

I mention that my brother can teach my second daughter to drive.

From a soggy patch in the weeds, a bullfrog croaks.

September 1 today, the anniversary of the fateful day Hitler rolled his tanks into Poland, beginning the war that destroyed so many lives.

September 1, the anniversary of my former inlaws.

This morning, all’s quiet on this green patch of Vermont, overcast, with cricket songs and bird calls, a day that begs reflection.

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie...
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

— W. H. Auden, September 1, 1939

 

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Being 13, Hardwick, Vermont