Late Night History

It’s late and the long weekend has begun. My mother and my aunt have arrived. The kids are asleep, my mother too. Me? I’m exhausted  – sleep has eluded me several nights this week – but up late trying to write my slice for tomorrow. I am overwhelmed at the thought of this month ending, overwhelmed by the supportive community here, overwhelmed by what I’ve learned and what I’ve experienced. I have changed, and I had planned to write about it. But I’m sitting in at the kitchen listening to my husband and my aunt, deep in animated conversation. Honestly… how can I write or reflect when they are talking history?

For my husband and my aunt, history is alive and fully present. They are teary while talking about Uncle Pete (my great uncle) finding a baby during WW2 and carrying it with him through France until he found a family to care for it weeks. My aunt has a picture of the baby on her phone, but no one knows what happened after Pete gave the baby back. As Pete was dying, he wondered about that baby.

UPDATE: Here’s the picture of “Pete’s baby”
Pete's baby.jpg

And now my aunt is telling another story… and there are more tears – for a soldier who died at 19, for his buddy who lived and married his friend’s widow, for his revelation 50 years later that he had been living his buddy’s life for him and, after all that, he was afraid if his wife died first she would meet his buddy in Heaven and he would lose her forever. He died minutes before she did. These men, their stories, they are real and important right now in this kitchen.

And now they are laughing through the tears – for Uncle Pete who probably would have been diagnosed with PTSD and swore to God on a battlefield that if he ever got home he would never leave Rte 27 again. How he RSVP’d for a wedding by writing on the back of the invitation “Sorry, can’t leave Rte 27 yet.” How he really thought that Eleanor Roosevelt and Churchill were having an affair. And about the seemingly endless keg of beer in his basement…

And now they are on to Band of Brothers. And Saving Private Ryan. And Frederick Forsyth’s “The Shepherd.” Movies and stories and books that have embodied the stories that move them to tears. Their passion, the way they build on one another, their fully focused presence in this kitchen, far from any battle – it’s absorbing.

And here I sit, listening, writing, and marveling at their passion, at how stories bring these men into our kitchen, at how important the stories are. Tomorrow, I’ll mourn the end of this Slice of Life Challenge. Tonight, I’m listening to two of my favourite people discuss their passion like it is alive. What could be better?

slice-of-life_individual

 

Slice of Life Day 30, March 2018

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful month of inspiration.

 

22 thoughts on “Late Night History

  1. It’s pretty amazing the details of these stories and how they have managed to stay alive for all that time. Thank you for sharing them with us. I’ve enjoyed getting lost in your writing for the last 30 days. I hope you’ll keep sharing on Tuesdays.

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    1. I will try for sure – the baby one is haunting. I had no idea Uncle Pete had saved a picture. He didn’t like to talk about WW2 for most of his life, but near the end he talked about it a lot. I would for sure have to make up a lot of details, but wow – he carried that baby with him for weeks into months – other soldiers mocked him, but he just couldn’t give him up… what a story. And to hear my aunt tell it… It was terrible for writing my own thoughts, but great to be in the kitchen last night!

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  2. This is a perfect slice for me to read in so many ways. First, my AP Lit students are winding up a war lit unit focusing on The Things They Carried, so we’ve been talking about story truth vs happening truth daily. Second, I want to sit in your kitchen and listen as I remember stories those in my family have told about their service. I love the focus on listening here, and that baby will haunt me.

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    1. That baby haunts me. Pete started talking about him near the end of his life – the stories he told were incredible, but that one, that baby – the picture… Would love to be a fly on the wall in your class as you talk about story truth vs happening truth. I’ve never put it like that before, but my students are fascinated by the limits of nonfiction. “How does the author *know* that happened?” I wonder what kind of truth Pete’s stories were by the end?

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  3. I love the mini slices within this slice. Each story that they told you told again. Your last paragraph sums it up nicely…storytelling is the basis of writing. I try to share that with my class often. Keep writing these stories down.

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  4. Oh, the stories! They bind us together and make our family strong. I loved the image of them sitting in the kitchen. At our house, visitors always gathered around the kitchen table. It seemed to be the place the stories would be told and the laughter heard. Thank you for reminding me of this image.

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  5. You found your Slice in their stories. I’m thinking you could do a whole series of posts based on interviews with your loved ones, saving the stories for posterity!

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  6. This is the real stuff. It feels like what the slices are meant to be like, not planned or composed, but real. I like the baby story, but I love the “beat you to heaven” story. That, to me is love. I have an entry in my head for tomorrow, but I’m sort of hoping for an unexpected slice tonight when we pick up our daughter at the airport.

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    1. I agree – I kind of feel like I am just getting the hang of slicing – but I’m also ready for a break. And my last slice? I’m afraid I could just spend the whole thing gushing, but then again, maybe a slice will appear.

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  7. Amanda, you are such a great storyteller! I experience withdrawal after March 31. But remember, we have Tuesday SOL — same place, same time, every Tuesday! I will look for you there. And you should join in on #PoetryFriday. You don’t have to sign up… just link up your blog post — you can write poetry or share a poem or share about a poet or a book of poetry. And I learn so much from the others. Many of the slicers participate in it. It is hosted by a different blogger each week. Check out the links at the bottom of my post on Friday for more information.

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  8. Each of these stories could be their own slice. These stories sound absolutely fascinating. I am intrigued by the story about the baby…my goodness! I have enjoyed your writing immensely and I know what you mean about mourning the end of this challenge. It’s almost like losing a longtime friend. 🙂 Thank you for sharing these stories! They truly show the importance of sharing our own history…without them being shared, the story itself may have stopped in time.

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  9. I have really enjoyed stopping in and reading your blog this month. I especially enjoyed this slice, as you were open to changing the focus and ended up sharing these wonderful stories with us. You are a talented writer; your words have grace, authenticity and strength. I hope you continue writing throughout the year.

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  10. This piece gave me chills. I can’t stop thinking about that baby and wondering what happened to him, and I’m in awe of the stories the soldiers carry around with them. I didn’t know my grandpa drove a tank during WWII until late in his life. He didn’t like to talk about it. There are so many untold stories and stories that have been taken to the grave. Your writing makes me feel like I’m at the kitchen table with everyone, and I can even see my family doing the same thing and joining them there to tell their stories (why is everyone drawn to the kitchen instead of the living room?) I’m going to keep thinking about that baby and what a great hero your Uncle Pete was. Beautiful.

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