Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title. ~ Virginia Woolf

My dad died in 1991 and left me, among other things, a box of photographs. There were hundreds, and many of them were over in Germany during WWII. He never talked about his service, ever, and so a big chunk of his life was lost to me. I didn't know where the pictures were taken, when or with whom. Faces of men I didn't know joined his with a background of black and white buildings.

Some of the pictures were of his childhood, and again the back of the photos were unmarked. I took these to my aunt (his sister) to see if she could remember any of the people with him, or the places they were taken. She imagined she knew a few, but couldn't be certain.

My father really never talked about his past, either. I knew how he got the scar on his arm because I asked, but beyond that? Nothing.

After he died, I discovered he'd been married before he married my mom. To a German girl he met during the war. There were letters to him included in the memories of the past.

Lately, I've been toying with a story idea for The Wild Rose Press's vintage rose line. These stories take place between 1920 - 1970, most of the ones already published take place during WWII. I wanted to do something different and so planned one for the fifties, during the "forgotten war" - Korea.

Conveniently, this is when my mother lived. In fact, she was a young adult, just out of high school in 1950 and so is the perfect age for the heroine. We've talked about the past over the last few days, and it's terribly interesting.

It's the little things that matter, the tiny details that fascinate me -- the kind of details that we take for granted in our day-to-day life because they just "are". Even now, though I'm not (quite) a senior citizen, things are amazingly different than they were when I was in high school.

I want to remember those details. I want my mom to remember hers. I wish my dad (who was seven years older than mom -- a world of difference in the history of the forties) had shared more of his.

That generation, the greatest generation, is dying off. I wish I'd thought to talk to my father more about the past, but I was young and didn't think of it. I wish I'd talked to my grandmother more. But I've learned. Poor mom... I'll be talking your ear off. I want to know so much that I could walk through the early fifties in my mind like I'd been there myself.

And I want my daughter to know what growing up in the seventies and eighties was like for me before I forget the small things.

A couple years ago, I was in the emergency room waiting area and picked up a magazine. It was old -- from the eighties! How on earth it ended up there, I have no idea. I had a blast flipping through it, but I kept thinking something was missing. It finally occurred to me that none of the advertisements had Internet addresses listed. I hadn't realized how much I'd gotten used to that until it was gone.

The little details.

Are you writing them down?


MaryF said...

My grandfather was in WW2, also, and kept that part of his life from us. He wouldn't talk about it, or his life before he met my grandmother. We're pretty sure he was married before, too, but we never had any proof. But he was in his late 30s, fighting in the war, so he surely had a life before.

anno said...

What a wonderful idea for a story! Collecting these anecdotes and details seems like a (not-so) small act of salvation. And look at the benefits you're already enjoying! I'll be interested in hearing more about this one.

Eileen said...

What a great point! It is the small details isn't it? Now I just need to be sure to keep up with my journal!

Tori Lennox said...

Great post, Marianne!

(And I have no clue what's up with my blog not wanting to talk to you. Or wanting talk to you TOO much. I'm at a loss.)