Sunday, July 2, 2017

Pursuing Peace—#1

Recently a friend asked why I sign off on my blog postings with the word Peace. That question prompted me to think of my history with both the word and its meaning. Today I’ll begin to share with you my initial memories. I suspect I’ll be writing more than one posting about my relationship to peace, but here’s where it all began.

I was five years old and in kindergarten when the United States entered World War II. My parents had told me before then that England was fighting the Blitz and that RAF pilots were defending the island nation. Dad used a large world map to show me Great Britain.

“The British airmen are defending England now, Dodo,” he said. “We’ll probably end up entering this war. Like we did the last. This time we’ll fight for real peace.” I know I didn’t understand the words war and peace then.

However, in 1942, the song we heard repeatedly on our radio was “The White Cliffs of Dover,” sung by the English songstress and actress Vera Lynn. The lyrics spoke of the RAF pilots—called the bluebirds because of their blue uniforms. Lynn sang of their valiant efforts to defend their England and bring peace. That song is perhaps when I first understood the emotions that peace implied.







Between December 1941 and August 1945, I was like most children in the United States: we saved money for war bonds; collected scrap metal for the war drive; and listened as our parents talked at the supper table about the bold newspaper headlines on the battles, which were being fought on multiple fronts.

Several times each year, we gathered around the radio in the front room to listen to President Roosevelt’s fireside chats. By our beds each night we knelt to pray for our fighting men. We laboriously printed short letters to soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. We were all in the fight together; all of us—those fighting; those on the home front—were pursuing peace, which my mother told me was “elusive.”

Kitty-cornered from Saint Mary’s Grade School was a small grocery store. It was there I went after school one day a week to buy a few necessities and to present Mom’s ration books and the cash she’d given me that morning. The store’s owner had thumbtacked two maps on his wall: one of Europe, northern Africa, and Asia and one of the Pacific islands.

Each time I came into his store, the owner, whose name I’m sorry to have forgotten because he touched my life with goodness, gave me a history lesson. After I’d made my purchases and while I waited for the town bus, he’d summarize the war effort. Using thumbtacks, he’d show me where our soldiers were advancing or retreating. He’d point to islands in the Pacific and make educated guesses about where the marines would land next. He’d read to me from the letters his son sent.

Early on that son trained at Fort Leonard Wood, which had been built in the Missouri Ozarks in early 1941. He shipped out to the Pacific where he learned jungle warfare and finally fought in the Battle of Luzon. His letters, like all the military sent, had blackened letters. “Can’t let no spies find out what’s happening,” the grocer would say to me.

Frequently, he spoke of what he’d do when his son came home. Of how they’d run the store together. Maybe enlarge it. Of how they’d agree to disagree without fighting. Of the peace they’d share. Slowly I fashioned a picture of a world not torn by war but woven together by that peace.

Until we meet again, may you know peace.


29 comments:

  1. Peace to you today, Dee. I love your remembrances of years gone by and how detailed they are. You have a fabulous memory.

    The US has fought too many wars and continues to do so. In our short history, there have only been short intervals of peace even though that is what people want. We have little control over what government does, so we can only look at ourselves and our communities and create our own peaceful environment.

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    1. Dear Arleen, thank you for your kind words about my memory. Isn't nearly as good as it used to be, but it still recalls to me much of my past--for which I am grateful.

      Like you, I believe peace begins not in the congressional chambers or the oval office but within each of each. With our words and actions we can give peace to another. As a prayer I have says, "Help one." Everything begins with One. Peace be to you. Dee

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  2. Peace is a wonderful feeling.
    Peace to you today. Hugd too.

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    1. Dear Heidrun, thank you for the wish for peace and the hugs. I just saw the movie "Wonder Woman," which I surprisingly liked. It's all about war and the hatred we sometimes carry in our hearts. Hugs and peace be to you.

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  3. I never knew the "bluebirds" in that song referred to airmen!!

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    1. Dear Fishducky, yes, the pilots were the bluebirds flying over the cliffs. And "Jimmy" the child in the bed was all the children that parents had to put on a train to leave London during the Blitz and go out into other parts of England to live. Peace be to you, Fran.

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  4. How right your mother was. Peace is indeed elusive. Individually and globally.
    And how I wish that more of us were ready to 'give peace a chance...'

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    1. Dear Sue, I think it's probably always been elusive and never more so then now. But as both Arleen (the first comment) and I (in the response) believe, everything begins at a local level with just one person. I know you believe that too. Peace be to you. Dee

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  5. I wonder if there was ever a time in history when the people pulled together more. I remember little from that time but I do remember proudly buying the 10 cent stamps and no one I knew complained about rations. It was a shame it took war to galvanize the people. Maybe someday peace will have the same effect.

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    1. Dear Patti, you're right, no one I knew complained about rations either, despite the lines and the scarcity. We did all pull together. Peace be to you.

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  6. I was born during the second world war, and was only aware of war and its terrors when the Korean war began. But, war is war and peace is peace. I doubt the second has ever been upon us.

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    1. Dear Joanne, I think you're right that we've never really known peace. Some where on the globe someone is always fighting for land or religion or the concept of protection. Peace be to you.

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  7. I do hope that friends grocer's son did come back to his family, but I could clearly see, through your description, his kindness and news update. What a different world it was then, but still we have all the strife and conflict that we ever did. I too pray for peace.

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    1. Dear DJan, I can't remember what happened to the grocer's son. My memory fails me there. Yes, really, it seems to me we have more strife and conflict than we've had for a while.

      I saw "Wonder Woman" yesterday. I went because I'd read your review of it one Sunday. Like you, I liked it and it certainly did show the conflict that resides in each of us. Peace be to you.

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  8. My husband was born in 1941 in London. I course he doesn't remember those days, but has vivid memories of after the war and playing in bombed out sites in the streets of London! He is fascinated by the whole period of that War and it was probably part of his decision to make his career in the Royal Air Force. But he did not know the history of the 'blue birds'!!

    My parents met on the train into NYC. At the time he worked for the British Purchasing Company and an early present to my mother was RAF wings, a broach, and on the reverse side were the words 'Bundles for Britain', which referred to care packages Americans were sending to the British people during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. When I was born in 1945 my father was in the army overseas.

    Peace be with you, Dee...

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    1. Dear Broad, my parents told me that the bluebirds were the pilots, but they weren't from England, so learning that your husband didn't know this, I wonder if it's true--maybe the bluebirds were truly meant to mean "birds of happiness." Thank you for sharing your remembrance of the broach. I remember reading about the "bundles for Britain." Peace to you also.

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  9. There was no peace. Humans have always dreamed of peace but have not been good at it. I was born in 1951. When I was a kid people were building bomb shelters and we had atomic bomb drills in grade school. When I was a teenager the young boys were dying in Vietnam, women were burning bras, there were riots, Black Panthers, protesters, burning of draft cards, and every night we heard helicopter blades and saw mangled soldiers on the news. Watergate...middle east...genocides...it never ends. Seems like my entire life we have been at war somewhere and there has been unrest. But we should never, ever forget the dream. Peace is the best of us. Peace is the light in us. Peace is the love we share. You can carry it in your heart...always...no matter what. :) Love and hugs.

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    1. Dear Rita, yes, war after war, strife after strife, hatred and more hatred, but as you said so beautifully "peace is the best of us" and we can share it with one another. Thank you for the hugs! Peace be with you.

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  10. I was born the year after the war ended and grew up with my parents' and grandparents' memories of the war. They too so wanted peace for our war-torn continent. I still remember rationing which didn't end completely in Britain until 1954.

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    1. Dear Perpetua, I remember standing in line to get bread. Yes, the whole continent and so many other places were war-torn. And now whole new areas are war-torn. Peace, as Mom explained to me, truly is "elusive." Peace be to you.

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  11. When I list the things I want in my life, peace is always very near the top. I still believe there can be peace in the world someday (must be my formative years as a hippie ...) but I no longer have any illusions that it will be in my lifetime.
    I enjoyed your memories of the war years as a young child. For all the horrors of war, it does seem to have been a time when people came together and life was actually simpler because of the lack of material goods.

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    1. Dear Cynthia, I, too, lived through the hippie years--I had the long hair and wore the braless T-shirts and protested the war. Vietnam taught me a lot about the possibility--or lack of--peace. I agree with you that life in the 1940s was simpler; we really didn't have much. Peace be to you.

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  12. I knew the history of the Blitz and & WWII but not the song though I'd heard of it and so I watched & listened & thought of those young men who gave their all to defeat Nazi tyranny. The played it again and again. Thank you and Shalom.....

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  13. Dear Troutbirder, in a comment above, from Broad--who lives in England--she says that her husband, born in 1941, didn't know that bluebirds meant the pilots. So perhaps my parents, who told me that, were wrong. I'm not sure. Either way, bluebirds of happiness or pilots, the song is evocative. Shalom to you also.

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  14. Your story is very touching, Dee. War and struggle and seeking peace are huge aspects of being human. It's wonderful to read this slice of history. I'll watch for the next installment.

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    1. Dear Deanna, I do so agree with you about war and strife and the seeking of peace as being basic to who we are as humans. So many wars and our histories seem to congregate around them. There is a history of the United States that doesn't center on the wars. It's by Zimmerman--Howard I think--and it centers on the stories of the people who lived here--lived ordinary lives that built community. Peace.

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  15. The White Cliffs of Dover was my mother's party piece - she had a beautiful singing voice.
    I believe that true peace starts within each individual.

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    1. Dear Molly, I believe the same about peace. Everything begins with one. I'd so love to have heard your mother sing her "party piece." The song is haunting. Peace be to you.

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