Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Sixth Birthday

(Continued from Tuesday . . .)
I don’t remember seeing my mommy and daddy and little brother for eight months. Did they come back to Kansas City for Christmas? I don’t remember. I do think that Mommy must have written me each week because I have a vague memory of the neighbor lady sitting me down in the kitchen and reading to me.
            The one thing I do know for sure is that I celebrated my sixth birthday with my family in early April 1942.  I rode a train from Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri, to the train depot in Parsons, Kansas. Mommy and my little brother met me there and took me to the refurbished chicken coop where they lived.
            Here's a picture a sidewalk photographer snapped of Mommy and me, with just the sleeve of my little brother’s jacket showing on the left. She’s carrying my birthday cake. Note the handkerchief in my hand. I am having asthma problems. That is probably because I’d slept the night before in the refurbished coop.

            I have only fleeting memories of what we did during that weekend.
            I seem to remember that Daddy acted strange and talked strange. When I asked Mommy why, she told me he was “disappointed.”
            I asked why and she said that he’d tried to join the Seabees “to do his part in the war” and they’d turned him down because he was blind in one eye. She told me that a few years before he’d been in a blasting accident at work and been blinded. Until then, I hadn’t known he was blind in his left eye.
            Another memory I have of that time is of me going into one of the rooms and crying because Mommy kept telling me I had to go back to Kansas City and live with the neighbors. I closed the door behind me because I was afraid that if Mommy saw me cry she’d immediately send me away.
            That’s all the memory I have. I suppose that on Sunday afternoon they bought a return ticket and put me on the train. Knowing their concern for me later in life, I think they must have asked the conductor to watch over me. They probably gave me cookies or a candy bar or an apple to eat, but I don’t know that.
            I know only that I have this posted picture from that time and that Mommy kept it displayed when they ultimately came back to Kansas City and we settled on the farm.
            So much memory lost.
            One thing I wonder: Did they know then that they would return to Kansas City in August? I don’t think so. I can’t remember them assuring me of that.        
            I do know that I continued to fear. I thought perhaps I’d see them for my birthday the following year, but not before. I accepted that we’d always be separated and that I’d go to school and that they’d never meet any of my teachers.
                                                            (. . . to be continued on Saturday)


  1. This gives a little more insight to your parents. I'm sure they never planned to leave you for that long. As for your dad being blind in his one eye THAT I get haha. It can be very heart breaking to have limitations.. Thank you for your sweet comment on my last two blog post.. I truly do think you are the cats meow. No Dulcy pun intended. Ok maybe a small one. haha

  2. Sniffle! I just want to hug the little girl in you, and I hope that by your writing this down you're doing just that...hugging yourself.
    Beautiful, sad, real.
    Thank you.

  3. A sidewalk photographer! Did they promise to mail the photo to you? Did you pay them when you got the photo? How did that work? Or do you know anything about them? I'd never heard of a street photographer, so I was just curious.

    Funny how spotty our memories are. No only from when we were young, but our entire lives! I'm so glad that you got to see where they were and visit with them on your birthday. That must have at least grounded them in your thoughts, at least. And how wonderful you just happened to get a photo of you and your mom and even your birthday cake.

    That's too bad about your dad. But maybe losing that eye saved his life! What a hard decision to be separated from a child. For all of you. I keep wondering if your little brother remembers much of any of this? *hugs*

  4. That must have been so hard to separate from them again. You're so gorgeous in that picture--What a darling little girl.

  5. Considering that this was in the middle of war, neither you nor your mum look at all deprived, in fact, both of you look quite smart.

    It must have been hard for your mum too to send you away.

  6. Another post that left me fascinated & wanting to read more--but in tears! You seem like you're a happy person & at peace with yourself now. After the childhood that you're sharing with us, it's difficult to see how that happened.

  7. I've heard this story and seen the picture before, yet reading this post leaves me breathless with sadness for the little girl you were.

    It's hard to imagine putting a 6-year-old on a train alone, let alone leaving her with neighbors for a year.

    And how amazing it is that our lives continued to be shaped -- decades later -- by events we can't remember clearly.

    Much love to you,

  8. I clicked on the picture to see the enlarged version, so I could get a better impression of your facial expressions. You both looked preoccupied with your own thoughts, but walking tall and in unison, a little reminiscent of two models striding down the Catwalk. Considering you had been separated for quite a time and only had the weekend together, I would have expected evidence of some warmth between you, knowing how loving your relationship had been.

    Your eyes looked sad! I guess you were preoccupied with taking in the unfamiliar surroundings at the time and your Mum was probably focussed on returning home with the cake. It would have been nice, though, if the photographer had managed to catch you both in a a moment of shared intimacy (eye contact or some show of physical interaction).

    As Friko has observed, you both looked well turned out. Clearly your parents were not destitute. It's rather sad, therefore, that what should have been a joyous and memorable occasion ended up being a vague and blotted memory. That would appear to indicate something was amiss. Your Father's blindness was not new, so his change in behaviour seems a little confusing to me. You were his little girl, whom he had not seen for quite a time and so, regardless of whether he felt acutely disappointed at having been turned down for the war effort, his happiness at seeing you should have overcome that, at least for the short time you were home. It would seem there may have been other pressures and problems, not divulged to you. All in all, what a very sad reunion for a little girl whose whole life had been turned upside down and, who once again, had to face life apart from her parents at the end of that birthday weekend! It's no wonder you had, in effect, "shut down"!

    I suspect your parents had, too, which would explain why you sensed their lack of customary joie de vivre.

    Thank you, Dee, for visiting my blog and for YOUR exceedingly thoughtful comment. In answer to your query, no, my husband is not a professional photographer. I guess one could call him a keen hobbyist :)

  9. Every post raises so many questions, all sorts of "Why" and "What if.." I need to see the next installment...Thanks for your courage.

  10. You looked so very sad to me in that picture...

  11. So sad. What a beautiful little girl you were. How confusing it all must have been.

  12. Very interesting photograph... Mother and child -- both: Sad? Preoccupied? Worried? All of the above? What a beautiful child!