1. Ke11y

    The way I found out about America was when Mrs. Braebrooke, our classroom teacher, would roll down the map from the ceiling, its width stretched across the entire room, and with cane in hand point to America. The cane would slap the fabric, focusing our attention, and then slide way across to the other side of the map, crossing the pointer over a wide expanse of water, she said was called Atlantic Ocean, and point to the British Isles, hardly visible. The lesson we were to absorb was a simple one: America is a huge country, and the Americas, (North and South) a continent. So named, we heard, after the Italian explorer, Amerigo de Vespucci.

    I managed to forget everything I ever learned about America, its Presidents, Civil War, indeed its role in the modern world. It wasn’t until I heard Dad sobbing, hunched over the radio in the front room in October of 1962, that I would hear the word America again. He’d just celebrated his 40th birthday, which is why I remember it being October. Mum, Dad and me, we’d all been in the pub that weekend, celebrating. Dad played the Accordion, masterful on the instrument. It was always a popular night with the locals when Dad went for a drink, carrying his Accordion. Soon the place was bouncing, truly, I mean it was spectacular! The women dancing, still dressed in the pinafores, the fisherman stamping their feet on the old wooden floor, thumping fists on tables, and everything Dad told me about husky voices needing to sing was true! I mean, how is it possible on the blank page to make you understand it was joy like you never heard; music flew up into the rafters, escaped out the windows, after first bringing people shoulder-to-shoulder, cheek-to-cheek, heart-to-heart. Dad was a strong man, mentally and physically, as good a man as I ever knew. Dad, a hundred-point-man.

    It was the first, the only time I ever heard him cry. I was just a boy, thirteen years of age, but I felt the tears burning in his eyes, and did not know what to say, how to make him know and feel that I was there for him, a weakling of a boy. Mum came into the room, took hold of him, and pulled me in to both of them. What they already knew, and felt at the time, I didn’t know, but what Mum spoke has never left me to this day: ‘I Love you, Frank, I don’t want to die, I want to live for you, but we don’t know anymore. Maybe this is the end, and I’m afraid, my darling, but you are my life, and I will live through you somehow, if there is any way at all, I will come and live through you, with you, in you, and we will go on living together. Do you hear me, Frank? I will be in your body, your heart, your soul, and we will live and learn together my glorious strong man.’

    On October 14, 1962 an American aircraft took several pictures clearly showing sites for medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles under construction in Cuba. These images were processed and presented to the White House the next day, thus precipitating the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    The American President went on national radio and television that evening to inform the public of the developments in Cuba, his decision to initiate and enforce a ‘quarantine, and the potential global consequences if the crisis continued to escalate.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Dear Kelly, Gorgeous, poignant writing. The first paragraph sets the scene for readers. . . that comfy, cozy acknowledgement of something familiar. . . the schoolroom setting and learning facts that, as children, we might wonder why we need to know these things. Then we move to the colorful atmosphere of the pub. . . not a familiar setting to me, growing up in America. . . but I can see this lively scene as if I were there (that’s how good your writing is). The glory of the third paragraph . . . a mother’s love, devotion and determination to comfort her family. If this were a musical, the music would be soft at first, then build to a crescendo. And then the music would die down and the scene fades to grey, then black as we learning the source of the family’s disturbance. . . something they have no control over, but to weep and be resigned to their truths.

  2. kshatriya

    The way I found out about strength and courage was to do the thing that scared me the most. Leaving someone who had control, control I willing turned over for 10 years, of every aspect of my life and who I was. Control that I was raised with, so was very comfortable in. Control that I lacked within myself, so searched for in others. I had no idea who I was, what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I needed, what I desired and how to be me. I was tied down and trapped in such a way that at once made me feel secure yet terrified.

    I couldn’t see past the hours and the tasks set out for that day. I couldn’t picture my life five years out let alone five months or even five weeks. I had no future because each day was about surviving with as much of my sanity as I could, to wake up each morning and convince myself I was happy.

    Then came the day when the decision was made, it was an ugly horrible day. It was a day that I still feel emotional about, three and half years later. It was a day that brought freedom, fear, a nervous breakdown, sleeplessness, depression and debilitating panic attacks. It was the day I found strength and courage. It was the day I finally spoke the truth about my life, my marriage, myself and what my world had become. It was the day light shone on the darkness and the veil of fear was lifted.

    Did I shake the whole time? Yes. Did I cry? Not in front of him, but I sobbed as I drove away. Did I second guess myself, for a moment-a split second, then I remembered I once was strong enough to do hard and scary things. I remembered that I once stood up and shouted and demanded that I be heard. I remembered that I had God as my backup. I remembered that I deserved better. I remembered I was strong!

    It took several weeks to get back to a normal routine. Several weeks to remember that I didn’t have the perfect life but it was 100 times better than it had been, because I was in control of me. I could wear whatever I wanted, I could talk to whomever I liked, I could be home late, I could not ignore my phone, I could eat what I wanted when I wanted. I could finally be me, really learn about me. And three and half years later I am still learning, but I know two very true facts about myself- I am strong and I am courageous.

    1. mcullen Post author

      Excellent writing, Kshatriya. You paint a vivid picture with words. Great detail, using well-chosen words. Brava!

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