"But Dad, this is our National Anthem and I want everyone to hear it."
Dad listened and then we read the few paragraphs about Francis Scott Key together. We both imagined what Key must have felt as he watched his county and his people being bombed by the British. I imagined Key writing down the words on a tablet, probably not the Big Chief tablet I used, but close. The song lingered in Dad's mind, and he said something about the noise and terror of bombs that he'd seen during World War II. Sadly, I don't remember this story, but I will always remember the feelings I experienced when Dad told a story about the war.
A few years later I experienced the sounds and fear of 'incoming' rounds when I was married to Don Rains and living in Killeen, Texas. Somewhere in the night the soldiers at Ft. Hood were in the field shooting rounds of ammunition. The land shivered around us and my heart skipped beats. Unlike Francis Scott Key, I just wanted to hid or run away.
With my mind still whirling through memories I reflected on one line of poetry that I learned in fifth grade. The line read "Music rescues the soul from the depths." Our assignment was to make a booklet of pictures to match each line in the poem. The context of the poem was about the value and beauty of music, but I was stuck on the meaning of that line. I didn't think pictures from National Geographic helped me, because why would any person drowning in an ocean think of music? So I asked Dad what he thought.
For a long time he didn't answer, then he began looking through Life magazine and others that we collected. At last he found some black and white pictures of men hunkered over and leaning against the walls of buildings in big cities. The men all appeared broken to me. Several were missing legs and arms, others just seemed lifeless.
"Tizzy," Dad finally spoke, "Remember the bums and crippled men we've seen in New Orleans and Wichita who live on the streets?" I nodded yes, because Dad often drove down skid row in Wichita and other cities and handed money to the men. He said that many of them were damaged by war or alcohol. One time he handed me money and told me to get out of the car with a smile and give it to someone who needed it. I did it without fear and I smiled.
Placing his index finger on a picture he touched it over and over. "These are the men whose souls can be lifted by music. Like this," he said, as he went to his bedroom dresser and pulled out his harmonica and played a melody. "A lively tune can lift the soul." I understood.
I cut out that black and white picture of the men and put it in my book proudly. Later, when the teacher handed back our music booklets I received a minus for that page. I didn't ask her why. Even in my child's heart I knew the teacher was wrong, and Dad and I were right.
War affects each of us. I hope no one forgets the tragedies of war and the memories we share.
|July 4 celebration Hutchinson, KS|