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My Mother And World War Two

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World War Two happened many years ago, so this article is all about memories, personal memories, from those long ago years.


Throughout my childhood, I could always rely on my mother's honesty. She never sugar coated bad news. She never exaggerated, and she answered all questions, without hesitation or duplicity.

It became obvious in later years that my mother believed if you knew the truth, it was easier to face difficult situations, without being confused or fearful. Truth has a power of its own.


Throughout her life, my mother never complained. We were the lucky ones. Our country was beyond the war. We were never bombed, starved or abused. We did not live with the terrible fear that many experienced. We, most certainly, had nothing to complain about.


My parents were both teachers and knew that the way to teach good habits was to exhibit them yourself. And so they did. I admired my parents greatly, and so I sought to be more honest, more stoic, and more caring.


My father was a giant in my life, but this article is about my mother. My father will be the star of another.


On that day, in 1939, when war was declared, a large colored map appeared on our kitchen wall.

After breakfast, we listened to the news together. My mother would then go the map and explain in easy terms - that my sister and I could understand - exactly what was going on, so very far away, in Europe.

We had endless questions, many I'm sure, related more to the colorful map, than to the war itself. What's all that blue? And those little bits? What's the name of that country? Are they fighting? Why? Why not? Endless questions. Endless patient answers.


On the playground that day, in 1939, war was the big topic of conversation. Some children were full of gloom and doom, expecting to be bombed any moment. Others didn't even know it there was a war. No one wanted to hear my contribution. No one understood. Maybe their house didn't have a big colored map.

Some of that gloom and doom eventually touched me and I hurried home to ask about the possibility of being bombed. We were just too far away and all those 'good countries' like Britain and France would protect us. My mother would let us know if danger approached. That knowledge was our power, and because of it, my sister and I were never afraid.

Before long my mother began sewing dark black-out curtains to ensure no light pierced the night - just in case.

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Soon rationing was upon us. My mother explained that everyone was entitled to a fair share. Rationing made this possible. And so ration books, full of little coupons, were issued to each family member. Every week we had our allotment of sugar, butter, and meat. The rationing of gas affected many, but not our automobile-less family.

My mother always made sure our lives were as normal as possible. Somehow she managed to set aside enough of those precious coupons, so, in spite of shortages, birthday cakes appeared like magic and all holidays were observed with feasts, of necessity, somewhat limited.


Although we were too young to understand the true horror of war, we sang about it. Friday evening our school held what was called, 'Fun Night', which consisted of several hundred children, jammed into the auditorium, singing long and loud. There were many songs popular during that long war, but the ones I best remember are; 'There'll Always Be An England', 'The White Cliffs Of Dover', 'Bless 'Em All', and 'When The Yanks Go Marching In'. Although we knew little of the real suffering behind the words, we loved the rousing melodies and sang them at every opportunity, feeling proud and patriotic.

Billboards along main streets bombarded us with slogans such as 'Loose Lips Sink Ships', and 'Wear It Out. Patch It Up. Make It Do.'

My mother took the last suggestion to heart. She made all our clothes, incorporating large hems, to be let down each season as we grew. The fact that visible lines showed the year's growth was irrelevant . We were 'Making It Do'. Mother knitted us sweaters, socks, hats, and scarfs, the yarn coming from last years sweaters, picked apart and combined with odds and ends to fit growing bodies.

Because my mother seemed always to be knitting or sewing, I assumed she enjoyed those activities. It would be many years before I found out that those activities were the ones she most hated.

'Victory Gardens' soon became popular, many in front yards. We all worked in ours together, helping supplement the food supply.


We were to feel the real affects of war when the ship carrying a little Greek orphan, who was meant to be our brother, was sunk by a torpedo - none of the children survived.

A young man, a tail gunner sent home from war, came to live with. I don't know why he came, but, regardless, he was quickly became part of the family. The young soldier had survived a spray of shrapnel, to his face. One eye was gone and the rest of his face was in ruins. Though reconstructive surgery had rebuilt his face, the look was far from normal. My mother sat with him, often, as he tried, though endless conversations, to sort out what was left of his life. The young man often voiced his opinion that all life was ugly, even the flowers that grew in our garden. The rebuilt his face, but the brunt of the damage was unseen.

My father left our home to travel around the world, entertaining troops. He did not return until the war was over - such a very long time - but, we followed him on 'the map'


One morning in 1941 my mother announced that Russia was now on our side. That giant, after being betrayed, decided to turn its might against our common enemy.

In 1941, another giant - after the horror of Pearl Harbor - joined the allied war machine. The United States, our neighbor and friend, would turn its vast resources, against the dreaded enemy. This was the best of news.


As the years passed, my sister and I were growing up. We now read the news ourselves, occasionally referring to the map, but not often. Over the years we had learned to carry its image in our minds. Mother explained the inexplicable.

Movie theaters now showed news reels before the actual film. Here we saw the images of what war had done. We saw cities and towns - so very far away - now in ruins. How could anyone survive? We saw the exhausted faces of soldiers returning from battle. We now know that censorship hid the worst - the unimaginable, the terrible price paid to be paid for victory.

The war dragged on for several years, long years which saw destruction and death, such as the world had never before seen.


On a glorious day in 1945, the war ended. My mother quickly handed me all our ration books and said, "Quick, run to the butcher's, and buy a pound of beef sausages. If they don't have beef sausages, buy a pound of whatever looks good."

Those sausages were delicious, and soon, my father came home.


billips (author) from Central Texas on December 09, 2020:

Thanks for your correction Peggy - I had it over before it began. And also thank you for your following comment. My mother was as you say, wise and kind - a great combination.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 09, 2020:

Your mother was a wise and loving parent who did what must be done back during that time of WWII. Thanks for sharing your memories of growing up then.

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