I started watching Ken Burns’ “The War” on PBS last night. (I know it started last Sunday, but I recorded it and started watching last night.) World War II is about the only piece of history that I’ve ever been interested in, probably because my parents lived through it and I grew up with stories and pictures from the era.
The show reminded me of a thought I’d had many years ago. I had graduated from college and grad school and was working my first real job. (I made $15,000 a year, which was pretty good for a first job in those days.) It was the first time I was living on my own, without a roommate. I had a studio apartment with a large walk-in closet, full kitchen with a separate eating area, and a private entrance.
Because the apartment had parquet floors, I bought a large remnant from a carpet store, and had its edges bound. It worked very nicely as an area rug and warmed up the cold floor. I’d bought a sewing machine with my very first income tax refund and made drapes for the large windows in the dining and living areas. During the day, I made up my twin bed with large bolster pillows so that it could function as a sofa. I bought a very nice folding table & chairs to use as my dining set. And I purchased a bent-wood rocker from a K-mart type store that I put together myself.
Everything in the apartment was mine. I’d either purchased it myself or made it with materials I’d bought on my own. Nothing was a cast-off from my parents or other relatives. Nothing was really “make do” until something better comes along. It was the year I turned 25 and I marveled at how autonomous I’d become. I felt very grown up.
Then I reflected back on where my father had been at that age.
My father was in his first year of law school when WWII broke out. He signed up for the Navy, and because he already had a college degree, he became an officer. By the time he was 25, he was far off in the Pacific, operating a ship, responsible for the feed and caring of a group of men at war. And while his environment was absolute luxury compared to the Marines on Guadalcanal or the Army survivors of Bataan; he was still far from home, with an enormous responsibility, and the threat of attack never far from his mind.
There is just no comparison that can be made.