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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lingering Thoughts from above:
"Someone Else's Lifetime"

For now the scrapbook page I found in the slushy street is drying on the workbench in my garage. There’s a part of me that hates to throw it away—even though someone with presumably more attachment may have already done just that. When my wife sees it and learns that they are perfect strangers, she won’t struggle at all. I admire that about her—I really do. After all, (she'll rightly point out), I can barely keep track of my own memories, and these are not mine to tend...
but they are also not quite done with me yet.

I woke up early with these thoughts about my photo ghosts. (I don’t mean to imply that those four women and four men are no longer living—many 85-year-olds are.) I call them ghosts because their faded tones blew into my life like a wispy apparition with something still to say.

It was these young people in the Class of ’42 who two Sundays after the Thanksgiving of their senior year heard with the rest of the nation that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. They'd eventually learn that 2,403 Americans had been killed and another 1,178 wounded in that attack. Eighteen ships had been sunk or seriously damaged, while 347 planes had been destroyed or damaged. [It was a feeling we would not collectively know again until September 11, 2001.]

In the wake of the attack, Japan’s Commander-in-Chief Yamamoto (who incidentally graduated from both the U.S. Naval War College and Harvard University) was forced to observe, "I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
He was right.

The next day in his famous radio address, FDR described December 7th as “a day of infamy” and announced that were now a part of WWII. The military recruiting posts were immediately jammed and had to be open 24-hours a day to meet demand.

Perhaps most famous among those who voluntarily enlisted were the five Sullivan brothers of Waterloo, Iowa (which was my second “hometown” for 18 years). The tragic loss of those five brothers on the same ship was the story of this film and also served as the premise behind Saving Private Ryan.

The world hung in the balance as those scrapbook ghosts finished their senior year. Scroll up to the snapshot of the four smiling young men in cap and gowns; then look at these five Sullivans in Navy caps an coats. It seems to me that in that year we as a country were all bound at the elbows.

The boys of the Class of '42 were the youngest members of what Tom Brokaw called The Greatest Generation. We owe more than we can ever say to these ghosts. I just decided what to do.... I'll print out these two posts, put them with the scrapbook page in a ziplock bag and mail them to the local VFW where they may whisper to them who need most to hear ... "We remember you."
("Back-posted" for sequential reading.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw that old movie about the brothers on TBS on Memorial Day. I have said befoe that you have a way to make simple things very interesting. I like to read here even though I do not have a blog.

12/4/07 7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's perfect! Thanks for your amazing little scrap story in two parts. Nitty.Gritty. didn't steer her scrap-fans wrong on this link. I only wish there were more stories written on the pages. Pictures can say a thousand words sometimes, but we scrapbookers know sometimes there are things that pictures just can't say. You are right, and it is fitting, to say "THANK YOU" to those pictured and remembered from 1942.

12/4/07 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so glad that today I happened to visit Jody's blog. I don't read blogs often, otherwise I could be on the computer all day, but this link was worth it. The memories in those few pictures are powerful and I am so glad that you are giving them some life by sending them to the VFW. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

12/4/07 9:54 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

I think that is the perfect thing to do with the page! What a wonderful idea. (In your previous comment I saw where you taught yearbook. I was a yearbook editor in high school and in college. I think that's where my passion for scrapbooking all began. That and my love for writing.--Amy

13/4/07 6:07 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Anon 1,
I saw the movie many times growing up. Because I was one of four very close brothers, I could relate. I have an older friend who is frustrated that we seem to have lost our resolve to pull together to get the nasty business of war "won" and over. He says we'd all be speaking German right now if we hadn't pulled together then. That's what I mean by "bound at the elbows." It's sort of like "shoulder to shoulder."

Anon 2,
Glad you read at Jody's blog. I appreciate her "hat tip" and that you followed it. Make yourself at home here at Patterns of Ink.

What a pretty name. Thanks for taking the time to follow the link and then come to this 2nd post. I hope to mail it tomorrow. Come again.

I learned far more through teaching yearbook than I would have ever guessed. Yours and my willingness to take such a job was probably the first hint that we were suited for it... then the "knack" grew further from the countless hours over the years. I'm encouraged by readers who write, please come again.

Now on to those squiggly letters that I can never get right!

13/4/07 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I think of World War Two I think of big band music and Bob Hope and all the movie stars were boosting up the soldiers. That's not happening now. This Iraq war is different in many ways. I feel bad for the soldiers because the country is not elbow to elbow.

13/4/07 3:04 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I think we started out more that way. After 9-11 and then when the statues of Saddam came down, when we found him in that hole in the ground, and then when the people voted and had their purple fingers. All those felt like "Victory," but now it seems the US wants quick and surgical "wins" and not the mess of maintaining someone elses "peace."
What I think we must remember is that way back at the beginning when President Bush said we will fight back at a time and place of our choosing, the place was Iraq. We are now fighting those that hate us and would come here to harm us (as they did on 9-11) OVER THERE. When the anti-war group (and most of Hollywood) gets what they are asking for "withdrawal," I'm afraid they will not get what they want "peace."
The only remaining question is where will we be fighting these bad men if not in Iraq? Because the fight is not over.
You're right--we are not bound at the elbows like the Class of '42 and the Sullivan brothers were. I wish it were as simple as playing big band music.

13/4/07 7:59 PM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Your discovery of the old tattered photos from someone else's life is both sad and touching. What touched me about it is the care you have taken with your find and what you decided to do with it in an attempt to preserve it.

Did you feel a little like you were trespassing on someone else's memories though? That thought crossed my mind when I read your story.

Years ago I found an old letter written in 1903. My dad had purchased a house that he intended to rent out. I found this letter and a few old books in the attic of this house. The letter was written by a teenage who lived in Kankakee, Il. He was writing to a girl (teenager) who lived in Manteno about 10 miles north of Kankakee. He begins the letter: "Dear Mary, I now take my pen to let you know I got home all right...." My guess is that he took the train.

Of historical interest in this letter is the reference the teenager makes to the "moveing picture of the passion of our Lord" which had shown in Kankakee the night before he wrote his letter.

I just eat things like this up.

Come visit my blog and look at the photo I have up that was taken in 1949.

13/4/07 11:31 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Interesting question. I have had that feeling before but not with photos. I guess it's because photos, from the start, are to be looked at... whereas letters are from one to one. Reading an old letter is very haunting. (Have you ever seen the PBS "Civil War" series that uses old photos and letters? Powerful!)
Based on his opening line,Mary's friend cared for her. (A) He had her on his mind upon returning home, (B) He wrote her right away as if his news was urgent yet it was in a letter she would not get for days (c) and his voice has a hint of "romantic moonlight" that boys in love are prone to "I now take up my pen." I wonder how thte rest of that story went?
We've lost the art of letter writing.
I'm working on a post for Patterns about how blogging may be the closest thing we now have to that lost art form--not so much for intimacy like your old letter...but in that they promote civility in writing that seems lost in all other venues of life.

14/4/07 7:34 AM  
Blogger SusieQ said...

Maybe I will do a post on this old letter someday and share the rest of it.

I look forward to reading your post about the blogs and how they come closest in today's world to reviving the art of letter writing. Till then.

14/4/07 4:00 PM  

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