1941: In Memory

The chapel at Pomfret School

I wrote this on hearing a work by Philip Glass, or certainly one of his students, followed by Olivier in William Walton’s “Henry V.” That was what Tom was listening to in Far and Martitia Tuttle’s apartment at Williston in the spring of 1952, when I was brought to be introduced to the Tuttles by my friend Ted Sizer. Ted was driving me back to Smith after we had both sung in a joint glee club concert at Yale.

We’ve recently seen Matthew Ross’s Theater Thesis performance at Lewis & Clark. I’m sure this writing was prompted partly by that, by his understanding that “memory decays, people embellish.” Tom and I share a very exact memory of how that first meeting felt. That memory is now embedded in two lifetimes.

1941: In memory

That would be the only way to portray
my memory of hearing about Pearl Harbor,
each phrase repeated over and over,
sung, each time slightly different.

Sunny, after lunch.
Maybe Sunday.
I was nine.
Grandpa and Grandma Smith with us.
Never usually were.

Maybe we had been to The Russian Bear for lunch.
We almost never went out to a restaurant.
The Russian Bear was over toward Putnam.
Run by the parents of my friend Carl von Conta.
Russian refugees perhaps.

My Mother’s parents
visiting in Pomfret from Concord.
Walking from the street.
Pomfret Street was Rte 44. through the town.
Walking toward our
house which was a “dorm apartment.”
My father a “dorm master.”
“Hey sir!”
From an upper dorm window.
Why had we parked on the street?
Grandpa and Grandma Smith never walked any distance.
The expanse of lawn.
The white Congregational church across the street.
The minister there always mispronounced my name.
Jo-an, accent on the first of two syllables, when my
name was just plain Joan.
I played with his grandsons, one of whom was named Ronnie…

“Sir, did you hear about Pearl Harbor!?”
Or did that boy shout something else?
“The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Our move to the Headmaster’s house
must have been right soon after:
Uncle Hal went to be a major in England.
Auntie Ba went to live in Boston.
They had been head and living
in that house since I was born.
Daddy who was only thirty-five was made head.

I worried for the next five years
he would be drafted.
In the end, he never went…
a person needed to educate young men.
To his death, he missed what he viewed as
a bond men formed only in having
survived battle together.
Many of those young men died.
I knew them, see their names now on the chapel wall.
George Purvis, Bill Townsend, others.
Tarawa, the Battle of the Bulge, Eniwetok.

We remember, even if faultily.

“…upon St Crispin ‘s Day!”

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