Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Life Changes, and Life Endures, in Wartime

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Life Changes, and Life Endures, in Wartime

Article excerpt

"This is the saddest day of my life," I thought, as we drove toward downtown Los Angeles. The tenor on the car radio crooned mournfully, "I don't want to walk without you, Baby - walk without my arms about you, Baby."

"Please, Joe, turn it off," I begged. He snapped off the radio. I was close to tears. We were on our way to the bus terminal. My husband was leaving for Navy boot camp in San Diego. I was 21 years old, and Joe was 22. We had been married a year and a half.

It had been a good year and a half. We'd made a pretty little home in an apartment near Beverly Hills, where (like Candide) we cultivated our garden and felt ourselves the happiest of mortals. Joe graduated from UCLA, took a job as a junior accountant at $90 a month, and began studying for his CPA exam. He had the prospect of a good position after taking the exam.

I had finished all the requirements for a BA in English, except for the formidable English Comprehensive exam. One Sunday afternoon in December, as I was in the college library studying, someone rushed in and shouted that Pearl Harbor had just been bombed by the Japanese. Pandemonium!

At that moment all of our lives changed, forever.

"I know I must go," Joe said, "but I want to choose my own branch of the service." He went immediately to a Naval recruiting station and enlisted. After placement testing he was given a rating of Radioman Second Class. Our dinner that night was a thoughtful one, partly because of his enlistment, partly because I had recently discovered that I was pregnant, and partly because we hadn't yet informed our families of either of these events.

Mama cried when we told her. "But you're both too young - for a baby or for fighting a war."

"You're doing the right thing, Joe," Daddy said, but he looked sad.

The response from Joe's family, when we went to a big dinner at his father's house, was somewhat different. His dad hugged him and thumped him on the back.

"Congratulations, Joe. I'm proud of you. Congratulations on both counts." Then he shouted, "I'm going to be a grampa!"

Brother-in-law Fred muttered, "Oh no!" when we announced my pregnancy, but he was silenced by a cautionary look from his wife. Joe's little sister, Patsy, was thrilled about the baby. Joe's younger brother, Sam, said, "You'll be a 'Boot,' Joe. You'll have to go to boot camp, and have your head shaved!"

The scene at the bus station was even worse than I feared. Six buses were lined up on the street. Inside the cold, gray building, a pall of cigarette smoke hung in the air. Crumpled sandwich bags, paper napkins, and empty coffee cups littered the arms of the big chairs.

On the sidewalk outside, little groups of disconsolate, tearful relatives gathered around their young men. The recruits were equally fearful, but tried not to show it. …

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