“Women are like tea bags: You never know how strong they are until they’re in hot waters.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The news that a senior citizen like myself needed to stay inside for protection from a virus left an unsettling feeling. What could I do with all the time? Day after day of isolation from meetings, classes, church, and friends. Solitude is fine, but this took the notion of quiet sanctuary to a new level.
Gail Kittleson, a fellow writer of historical fiction, proposed co-authoring a table top book. How did the nation celebrate Christmas during World War II? Neither of us knew, as we were post-war baby boomers. So the research began in earnest.
I piled all the books in my house relating to WWII near to my computer. Yellow highlighters, sticky notes, and sheets of paper lay strewn on the desk. So many sites on the internet gleaned stories, facts and details about those days of blackouts, rationing, Victory Gardens, gold stars in the windows, and women dressing like Rosie the Riveter.
I was able to interview a number of seniors in their eighties and nineties about their childhood Christmas memories from the south side of Chicago. Personal remembrances from those who lived through that time and recalled collecting tin, newspapers and bacon grease. Vivid recollections of celebrating Christmas Eve in apartments with immigrant parents trying to bring joy to their children.
Hearing the strains of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” reduced me to tears. The letters from GI’s stationed overseas during the holidays pulled on my heart strings. The POWs who tried to keep their sanity and integrity filled me with pride as they found the meaning of Christmas in captivity. No wonder these men are known as The Greatest Generation.
But the thing that struck me was that the women, children and older men on the home front dug in and hunkered together against a common enemy. They suffered from the rationing, the loss of personal freedom, the change in life patterns, and the anxiety of not knowing when a loved one would return. Each day brought news to them that shook their faith and resolve, but somehow, they carried on. And they celebrated Christmas with deep meaning.
Gail and I finished the rough draft of the book with new-found respect for our parents’ generation.
Living in a pandemic of Covid-19 is new to our nation. Like the Americans who faced the hardships of WWII, we are called to make sacrifices for the good of everyone. History will tell our story and resolve. May we rise to the challenge.
Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” – C.S. Lewis
Photo credits: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_lady#/media/File:Part-time_Women_War_Workers,_Bristol,_1942_D10550.jpg