What We Are Made Of

There have been some thoughts rolling around in my head for quite some time now. I wrote my cousin the other day observing how people reflect the experiences in their lives. My cousin’s older sister, and my mother, were both in England during WWII. Now my mother was born in 1926. She was 13 when the war broke out, but 19 when it ended. My cousin was 10 years younger, but she was still there. The memories of our childhood may fade as the years go by. But the feelings and emotions around us are often never forgotten.

Lately I have found myself drawn to watching shows set in England during the time period just after the war, the 1950’s and 60’s. It started simply enough with Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple” series. It made me start thinking about how life was for my parents at that time. I have some wonderful photographs of them taken in the 1950’s; when they were first dating, got engaged, and then married. This was in the post-war era, when life was supposed to be getting back to normal.

My father served in the war, just a young man, sent to Egypt. He was lucky as his sister worked for the government nearby where he was stationed, so he had a familiar loving face to set his eyes on. My mother was at school. She tells a story of crossing a bridge with her satchel over her head to protect her from the shrapnel flying from the machine guns above. To us these are stories, plots of movies, they don’t fit into our reality. But to them it was their life, and many of the memories were not happy ones.

In college, I was taught that the experiences people have in their lifetime mold who they become. In my sociology class I even did a paper on my mother’s lifetime. I think about how it was during the wars in England. I think about families trying to live with ration books, making do with what they had. That constant fear as they blackout their lives as curfew approaches. That the sirens will start to blare, waiting for the sound of airplanes, and then the bombs falling. Day after day, week after week, for years. They were in their homes, a place where we are supposed to feel safe. But it was far from that. We don’t really understand, we can’t. Now I look at my 91-year-old mother, and try to be patient, try to understand. She is stubborn, she is determined, she has lived a life full of change, and is still here.

We are English, we will persevere. Have a cup of tea and all is well with the world. A good ‘cuppa’ will fix just about anything. I understand why that became such a thing. Everyone has to have something to hang onto. Something as simple as a cup of tea can be so symbolic. It can mean so much more. We are not the only ones; not by a long shot. So many cultures have similar things, similar histories, similar crosses to bear.

Now I fast forward to today, 2017.

Getting through my mother’s latest health challenges has not been easy. We have been fighting protocols, and the system, which tends to forget that there are people involved. The human condition, the struggle to survive, what makes us who we are. People making decisions that affect so many other people in ways they just don’t conceive of.

Wars are still being fought in the world. There are still families in fear of those bombs. They are trying to survive. Even here in the USA there are wars being fought. On the streets, in the government, in the homes . . . This has been going on for too long. There is too much anger. Always having to be right, in charge, in control.

The next time you find yourself judging someone’s behavior, keep this in the back of your mind. A little girl, 13-years-old should only be worrying about getting her assignments done for school, her chores done around the house, and a simple scraped knee from falling on her roller-skates. She shouldn’t have to carry the memories of the fear, the loss, and death for her whole life. Whether she is English, African-American, or Syrian it shouldn’t matter. It just shouldn’t be . . .