75 Years On

Happy Sunday! The big day has now come and gone. There was a (“social distance”-observing) street party held in our road on Friday, May 8, to observe the 75th anniversary of “Victory in Europe,” or VE-Day for short:

We have been living here in Potton, Bedfordshire for a year. But aside from those living on the immediate sides of us, we had barely known our neighbo(u)rs. Not really knowing one’s neighbors very well is often a norm for many of us, of course.

We all sat outside of our own houses (some people even set up barbecues and did up full tables as if they were in their dining rooms) and generally followed this schedule:

[Street Party schedule.]

And we talked. Well, technically, we often SHOUTED. LOL!

One family, we learned, are originally from South Africa: they had moved here to Britain about 15 years ago.

Another set of neighbors had lived in… wait for it… Rochester, New York for two years about 20 years ago. We had not known that either.

You never know what you will find out about people until you speak with them… even at 2 meters distance. (Hey, recently I wrote a story about just that sort of behavior!. LOL!)

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To decorate our house, I put British flags in our front window:

[Photo by me, May 7, 2020.]

The Mrs. insisted we put a U.S. flag in the window too: “We [British] would not have won [the Second World War] without the U.S.,” she pointed out. (She is also a naturalized U.S. citizen.)

* * *

During the day I found my mind drifting to thinking about several of my family who served in uniform. They all came home, but their outlooks would never really be the same. That entire generation was (often greatly) changed by that war.

[The memorial to the dead of US 1st Infantry Division. Above Omaha Beach, Normandy, France. (I took this pic in 1995.)]

And some, we know, never returned home alive.

None of us below age 80 now actually remember the Second World War. (My dad, soon to be age 79, recalls none of it.) We remember it now as pivotal history because those who had lived then and often sacrificed so much made our lives today possible. They defeated a tyranny unparalleled in history which had it triumphed would have thrown the world into a new “dark age.”

* * *

Reasonably we tend now to want to emphasize “the good things” of that war. We do not want to recall the businesses that took advantage, the landlords who charged exorbitant rents, the neighbors who cheated to get more rationed gasoline/petrol or who hoarded sugar, the racial tensions, the workplace struggles, the innumerable lives thrown into chaos from which they never recovered – and none of that even includes the actual fighting and the destruction and the genocide.

We want to remember our ancestors’ home front “camaraderie.” We want to recall the sense of solidarity, working together, and making largely unseen sacrifices to help those fighting the war actually win it. Afterwards our home front ancestors were proud for having done their tiny parts even if they may have occasionally privately griped about it at the time. (“What? No coffee? Damn you FDR! I bet it was that annoying Eleanor’s idea!”)

As we live through our daily – usually also unseen by others – personal struggles, that past is useful to recall. Our “front lines” today are in hospitals and in other key businesses. It is natural that, like our World War II ancestors often did, we at home trying to do our small bits to help while also facing so many challenges (such as joblessness), might despair now and then, and it is human of us to want to lash out and be ANGRY at SOMEONE(S); but in our “wartime” unfortunately there is no “Hitler”: we cannot shoot or bomb a virus.

Hope you are doing well, wherever you are, as we continue to carry on.