I don’t remember Pearl Harbor. I only remember a few things about 1945. Roosevelt’s death creates a vague memory, and the end of the war meant that my uncle stayed with us for a while and screamed at night when an ambulance passed. The most dramatic recollection, the one that stays with me and continues offering a haunting image is the photo essay in The Saturday Evening Post of the naked bodies stacked like tumbling cordwood and the half-burned humans in a yawning oven of a concentration camp.
In an effort to protect me, to keep me from seeing the horror of those photographs, my parents put the magazine away and refused to let me see what they pored over with such intensity.
I was not an openly rebellious child. In fact, I grew up in the pre-feminist era when it paid handsomely to play “sweet little Myra Jean”. That was my public façade. However, I always had contrary opinions and views that I instinctively knew should be kept to myself. That’s why I did not hesitate for a nanosecond to go downstairs to the drugstore on the corner of our apartment building, sit on the floor-to-ceiling magazine display, and examine very carefully the forbidden photographs. The paralyzing horror of those scenes seared that day in my memory and jolted me into awareness of events I struggled to understand and never forgot.
Although my family did not discuss it with me, I knew that men classified as 4-F for some medical reason did not serve in the war. Although many of them worked in shipyards and other war-related industries, they couldn’t find work after the war because veterans were given priority. I overheard whispered discussions about men who came home “shell-shocked” and were quietly moved to places where I never saw them again.
My interest in history spurred my looking back at the war years, and led to my first novel evolving into the story of a family held in the grip of its powerful legacy. As I explored how families at home coped with the war news and waited for word of those missing in action, my novel developed from the wide-eyed point of view of Miranda, a young girl struggling to make sense of the turmoil in her life. Her growing up parallels the loss of innocence that this country experienced with the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You will find Legacy at http://tinyurl.com/3pcyx8a.