Putting our ‘war’ in perspective

Finding relevance in my mother’s WW II journal

SELF-CONFINED TO QUARTERS like so much of the nation, I’m sorting through some memorabilia, most notably – for the second time this year — my mother’s war time journal – a yellowing stack of 8-by-11 sheets held together by rusty 77-year-old staples. These become more precious with every passing year.

My mother’s penmanship is uniformly serene and legible, formed by the fine nib of an old ballpoint pen. “The great war overshadows all our days and our lives,” she wrote on January 12, 1943.

Since we who are alive in 2020 find ourselves at war with, of all things, a virus, and in unexpectedly straightened circumstances, mom’s record of war time hardship is instructive.

“We go about doing things in the normal way in so far as possible,” she wrote. “We go without butter and tea. We cannot ride in the family auto unless it is urgent business or illness that necessitates it. All about us and every moment we are reminded of the war. The sky is full of the student pilots training for their ‘wings.’” Those student pilots lived or died in skies over Europe, the Pacific or wherever our air war reached.

(Note: we lived in the Neponset neighborhood of Boston’s Dorchester section and within view of the old Squantum Naval Air Station, whose runway extended out into Dorchester Bay. Today only weeds and memories of that old runway remain, mostly covered over by the sprawl of Marina Bay’s restaurants and condos.)

The war time journal.

Mom wrote that “often we perceive that they (the pilots) are brand new recruits from the wavering of the planes – but thank God we have never seen an accident.” And on the cost of the war to families: “Yesterday (January 11, ’43) the President (Roosevelt) asked the Congress to secure $108,000,000,000 in new taxes. It will mean down-to-the-bone taxation. Most people don’t complain and only pray that each new sacrifice may hasten the dawn of peace.”

Peace was two years off.

Mom died – peacefully — in 1986 at age 82, having survived, among other things, the dreadful 1918 influenza epidemic. As a nation, we survived the war. As Jo Wayland prayed for peace, we now pray for a vaccine, health, and an end to the dying.

Yes, we’re at war. But we have our butter, tea, and, most of us, our family autos – and our iPads and TVs. My mom makes no reference to a run on toilet paper, but I suppose virtually everything was rationed and in short supply.

Meet the Author

Gregory Wayland

Retired, Boston TV reporter
What’s taxing us “down-to-the-bone” in our war – “all about us and every moment” — is our anxiety. The peace we urgently need, therefore, is peace of mind. Let’s pray for that.

Greg Wayland worked 22 years as a reporter for Boston television stations, retiring in 2015 from New England Cable News (now NBC10 Boston). He currently lives in the Tampa Bay area.