Even Today I Imagine

I imagine Mummy
She is listening for Doodle Bugs
Running past St James Square
They make a swooshing noise before
Hitting their targets
Windows are darkening now

As she scurries by them
Like a mouse
Shades being pulled down
All light receding till gone
She is heading towards St Paul’s
She is meeting with a friend

At the statue of St Ann
Dinner was soon to follow
Constant gray clouds of dust
Engulfed her in dirt
London was under
Aerial bombardment

The Luftwaffe would spend
Fifty-seven nights
Bombing the city and St Pauls
Wishing to eradicate it
From the face of the earth
This symbol of London and God

But London endured
St Paul’s remained standing
A symbol of British
endurance
Mummy lived to return home
To the USA

But I still imagine
Still I wonder
Was it the war that
Shaped her personna
Making her so harsh
She once said to me

During a phone call
Not long before her death
She said that
The war was the most
Thrilling period
of her life

I understand that feeling
I know what she was saying
She is gone
St Paul’s is standing
London thrives
Yet still I imagine

We all must come to terms with our upbringing. For some there is more pain to work through than for others. I had what one might call a proper upbringing. Yet still, one filled with my share of pain. My mother was not in London during the 57 nights of the Blitz. This was of course poetic license on my part. She was however living in London during 1943 and 1944 during WWII. She became a lifelong Anglophile. This fact set up some difficult goals for her children to attain for they were not living in Great Britain. They could not become British.

Sometimes due to her scrapbooks I feel as though I was there, in London during the war.

There was a time that I knew nothing about war. An experience that I had in 2005, dictated that I learn about war. Mummy never spoke of her work in London during WWII. She worked for the US propaganda office or the OWI – Office of War Information. I really never knew until I found two scrapbooks while cleaning out the family home. Finding these scrapbooks made me realize what a brave woman she had been. Instead of harboring resentment towards her (resentment that she earned) I came to have significant admiration for her.

I wish to redo these books as they are in a state of disintegration. However, it is exceptionally difficult for me to do so. I am very emotional about the subject. Politicians never give thought to the consequences of wars into which they enter. They have no clue as to the gravity of the collateral damage that accompanies their warring ways. The United States of course had to enter WWII. But, Hitler did not have to begin The War To End All Wars. That war like so many have touched people down through the ages, ages long past the end of the war in question. War shapes people for ages to come.

The following paragraph is taken word for word out from Wikipedia:

“On 31 December, the Daily Mail took the unusual step of publishing the photographer’s account of how he took the picture:
“I focused at intervals as the great dome loomed up through the smoke. Glares of many fires and sweeping clouds of smoke kept hiding the shape. Then a wind sprang up. Suddenly, the shining cross, dome and towers stood out like a symbol in the inferno. The scene was unbelievable. In that moment or two I released my shutter.” – Herbert Mason

The photograph was taken in the early hours of Monday morning and was cleared for publication by the censors to appear in the issue of Tuesday 31 December 1940.

Stpaulsblitz

His photo above in the Wiki article is one of the most famous of London of the period. For Londoners it was proof that London was still standing. For the Germans it was proof that she had fallen. Click on the Wiki photo below to enlarge and see St James Square today.

3200px-St_James's_Square,_London_-_April_2009

This poem is for the prompt by Victoria Slotto at dVerse instructing us to “Banish boredom thru verb use. Thank you Victoria – you sent me back a bit! I am grateful. You can find her poetry here.

42 thoughts on “Even Today I Imagine

  1. What an interesting story… My mother was living in Bergen (Norway) when the Germans occupied Norway. They where Swedish so they could get back to Sweden but only after spending several weeks fleeing across the mountains in car. Finally they came back to Stockholm and could resettle. She was 11 then, and amazingly enough these WW II memories are coming back. But being a kid I think she saw it more like an adventure. I don’t think it was the same for her parents.

  2. Liz, I really like your poem. How incredible that you found those scrapbooks and turned your readings into a poem, even though you added your own dose of poetic licence! It is excellent but I particularly like the last stanza.

  3. Liz, what a powerful write you shared with us today. I found your information about the photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral interesting. When I was in London long ago I bought a copy of that photo & framed it, and it hung in my home for a time. (It probably still exists somewhere in my basement.) I had not realized that Germans used that same photo to show that England had fallen. How frightening it must have been for the English to endure 57 nights of bombing. Sometimes I think those of us who think of that war today have no idea what the people went through. I am glad you have your mother’s scrapbooks, and i do hope that you redo them. I agree that war shapes people for ages to come. I always enjoy your posts, Liz. Thank you!

    • Mary, thank you. Go look for that photo. I would love to hear your reaction today to it. I want to do something with the books. But I am lost. I do not know what to do and then when contemplating, I find myself in tears.

  4. What a wonderful piece of history, both personal & factual you have shared with us ~ War memories have a way of shaping us and future generations just look at the US bombing of Japanese cities in WW2 ~ Good for you to continue and persevere on this worthwhile project Liz ~ Thanks for this ~

  5. Powerfully written and very personal. I live on the South Coast and in a small corner of our main cemetery are the graves of those civilians who were killed by German bombs as they discharged unspent bombs on Eastbourne. It is very touching and heart-breaking. Loved your words.

    • Alan. Thank you for sharing that with me. I am honored. Mummy’s time in England even though it was during WWII (probably 1-2 years) was the most important time of her life. Today I fully understand why she could never quite relate to her children. I believe that the war left her living back in that time.

  6. wow liz…the war gave her something and maybe even took something away in its passing as well…that london and the church are still standing and she is not, there in the end really grabbed me…a very nice end to the tale…wonderful bit of memoir writing though….

  7. Liz, this touched me so much. I lost my dad in WWII (never knew him as I was 3 mos old) and from what I’ve heard about the men on his crew (B-24) who all survived and were taken POW, that was, perhaps, the more merciful thing. It affected my mother and me I think as I spent most of my life working with death and dying. This is so beautifully expressed, deeply, that I didn’t even notice the verbs you chose. That tells me that they worked..

    • Thank you Victoria. I have been lent a peculiar insight into war. This happened though my willingness to do something. One day i sort of said OK, what am I supposed to do now? What do you want me to do. Then I had a shamanic which allowed me to “feel” what many who have been through war have had to “feel.” It was horrific. After that I did two years work with veterans at the VA. But mostly I think that it was meant for me to understand why Mummy and Pup were the people that they were. War truly changes people, scars them.

  8. Absolutely fascinating. Great poem and your personal story is incredible.. in that you have those scrapbooks to piece together your mother’s life. I wonder if you’ve read the book, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. It’s a great book (a novel)! It’s centered around the Blitz. She takes you through various possible scenarios of people living at the time. You might enjoy it considering your history.

  9. A fantastic post, Liz…….you MUST re-do those scrapbooks, get them into photo-book form – to preserve them as a vital piece of history. I can understand your mother saying that was the most thrilling period of her life – it likely was when she felt most alive. I had ten years like that and nothing can compare. What a treasure you found in those scrapbooks. Wonderful post!

  10. An interesting story and beautifully woven. And I love the image too. I love St. Paul’s. I was born shortly after the war ended. Walking to school through the streets of London as a little one, I took for granted the huge holes left by the bombs. And we were always hearing of unexploded bombs being found. What a brave and intelligent woman you had for a mother. I suspect though, that was difficult in other ways.

    • Oh my. Your experience really touched me for obvious reasons. And yes – she was a really awful mother. I have no problem saying that “she did the best she could, and it wasn’t very good. But at least I know why.

  11. oh wow liz…what a story… and what an interesting woman your mom must have been.. though i understand that it wasn’t easy for you… i think some times carve their stamps deep into our heart and in a way we try everything not to lose what we’ve learned or experienced during that times… from that point i can understand your mom…fine writing..

  12. A powerful story you shared in this writing. I can’t imagine living in a war zone. I encourage you to restore your mother’s scrapbooks…there may be some healing done through that action. I wish you well!

  13. I so appreciate it, Liz, when you share your stories of your mom and her wartime experience. Hard for all of them who were in that and the next generation – us, the last to remember all this – did pay a price, but it’s history and lessons we shouldn’t forget, eh?

    Nicely and thoughtfully done, Liz.

Your words of response are greatly appreciated.

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