Is it coincidence that I am reading two books that center on the events of World War II (Last Lion by William Manchester and The Apple by Penelope Holt), I am watching a history channel program on World War II (a five-day series!) and Natalie Merchant in a BBC interview mentions the devastating effects the Holocaust had on a conscious objector sent to sketch the war? The convergence of these things are allowing me to open my eyes to a time I have avoided, skirted around, with great fear. Is it any wonder?
It wasn’t that I had a dislike for history. It wasn’t that I was bored to bedtime by the past. Not when it came to World War II. In my mind the Second Great War didn’t happen all that long ago. Practically yesterday in our young country’s history. As I child I fretted about bombs dropping over Monhegan. I worried constantly about war erupting on our soil. Even to this day, I nightmare about ominous black planes, flying in formation, on a mission to annihilate my island. They come so close I can see the hatred in the pilots’ eyes, their hands on the trigger, every one of them twitching to start the destruction. I have no idea where this deeply planted fear first germinated, but it is there.
While the words on the pages and the images on the television are still just as frightening and devastating as always I am facing the fear. Head on, eyes wide open I am looking my childhood demon in the face and staring the ugly truth down. It has been over 50 years since WW2 came to an end. Veterans of the war are dying away but those who still survive cling to their memories. They lived the war and survived it. I can learn from that. So, in a weird cycle of things I am nibbling on the history which, as a child, scared me so. The Nazis of my nightmares are being confronted and conquered. The wonder of it all.