Guest Author BETSY WHITE: Loss of Innocence

Guest Author: Betsy Villas White

December 7th was the anniversary of Pearl Harbor - "the day in infamy".
The Japanese forces attached the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii - and sent the United States into World War II.

A day to be remembered!

Betsy White is a writer and a dear friend of mine. When she read her story of her childhood memory of that "day of infamy" she transported me back in time. Her words bring back that sweet Sunday in Charlotte, NC from a child's perspective. - as the world changed. Not the usual eye-view for a story that usually touches on "military experience" only as the grown-ups remember it.

 As soon as I heard the story I invited her to share it as a "Guest Author" on my blog.

Loss of Innocence
Betsy White
The thing I remember best about that December day in 1941 is my green reindeer sweater.   It was my favorite sweater and I wore it as often as my mother would let me.  The prancing reindeer on the sweater was white and surrounded by snowflakes.  Wearing the sweater made it easier for me to pretend that I was Heidi sitting before the fire in Alm Uncle’s mountaintop cabin.  As a little girl living in North Carolina, I often pretended to be Heidi.  The land of snow and giant fir trees held a great fascination for me.  My mother frequently thought the weather was too warm for the sweater, but today I had been allowed to wear it. 

Every Sunday my family and my Uncle’s family had Sunday dinner at my grandparent’s house.  Today my little brother had a cold so instead of going to church as we usually did we had come early to visit with my grandparents.  I was sitting on the floor in front of the console radio in my grandparent’s “front room”.  The Sunday comics were spread out on the floor and my grandmother was helping me cut out the paper doll which always appeared, replete with clothes, in the Sunday edition of the Charlotte paper.  The adults were drinking coffee as my little brother slept in my mother’s arms.

We were listening to the Sunday Morning Gospel Hour on the radio.  My grandmother hummed along with the music and my parents talked softly with my grandfather.  By now many of the gospel songs were familiar to me and I hummed along as best as I could in imitation of my grandmother.  I liked to rub the angora wool of the reindeer on my sweater as I sang.

Suddenly the music stopped and an announcer broke into the program in a loud and shrill voice.  I didn’t understand the meaning of his words but I heard the alarm and rising panic in his tone.  The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.  The United States was at war.

I looked at my grandmother and saw the tears rolling silently down her face.  My Daddy and my grandfather were talking much too loud and their voices filled the room.  My little brother woke up and started crying.  My mother stood up with him and ran from the room.  I sat on the floor in confusion and fear.  In a matter of minutes the peaceful Sunday morning had disappeared and in its place was a landscape I didn’t recognize.  The adults in my life were shouting and crying.  The safety of the room was shattered.  From the outside world had come a force that was bigger than my family, bigger than their ability to control.  I sat and rubbed the reindeer on my sweater.  I willed myself to the chalet where Heidi lived with her grandfather.  I imagined myself in the hayloft where Heidi slept in her bed of clean straw with the moon shining down upon her. The space was quiet and peaceful and I longed to stay there.  That day I didn’t understand the significance of Pearl Harbor to the world at large or to our family, but I did know that something significant had changed for me that Sunday morning in my grandparents’ front room and that my world would never feel the same again.

                                                                                                       October 20, 2011                  

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