Saturday, February 28, 2009
The Memories in the Box
When my dad died my house became the repository of some of his personal stuff. My siblings and I had divided up who wanted what, clothing was distributed to Goodwill, and furniture and household items no one wanted were sold to a strange little man willing to haul it all away after we sold the house. What remained were all the photo albums, record albums, music my dad had written along with all his songbooks, and his personal papers. As the only one in the family interested in genealogy, I took all of these so that I could later sort through them. Since I was handling his estate, I needed all his financial papers anyway. Five years later, the albums remain stashed under a guest bed, his papers bulge out of my filing cabinets and I have painfully tried to remove the photographs from those nasty, self sticking, acid producing vinyl photo albums we all thought were so great when they came out in the 70's. But one box of items has poked it's ghostly fingers into my mind all these years, urging me to set the contents free. The box contains my dad's personal items from his service during World War II. Dog tags, military papers and photographs create an outline to a story just waiting for words. My dad, unlike a lot of men from his generation, did not mind talking about his military service. Unfortunately when I was younger I was uninterested in history, much less something as testosterone laden as war talk. After I began to do genealogical research and recognized the importance historical events played in shaping my ancestor's lives, I did sit down with dad and create a time line of his service years. I regret now that I did not capture some of his recollections such as the "Yankee ingenuity" which took place, enabling the soldiers to process photographs without the benefit of a darkroom and, more importantly, their improvisation to keep their beer cold. Yes, the old retrospectoscope always makes things so much clearer. I can't write what I don't remember. But I can take his memorabilia and let it speak for itself. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then there is quite a story waiting to be told.