She only remembers Vietnam, she was young and the television old so she had little understanding of what Vietnam was. In sixth grade there was a list of P.O.W.’s beside the chalkboard. Her teacher was expecting a baby and her husband was in Vietnam. She didn’t wonder how they found time to make a baby or worry about her friends and family there. It was for as long as she had television a daily report and her mother turned off the sound when the newscast was on. She began to see men in different places who’d been in the war and they looked gray in their skin, old and some broken. Broken soldiers home from a land she knew nothing about nor had they. One afternoon she sat swirling round on a red diner stool and waited for her grilled cheese and strawberry milkshake with her mother. She looked down as she spun and saw for the first time a man with only one leg. Without thought she said loudly, “Momma look, he has only one leg!” Her mother shushed her but the man soothed her scolding and said he had left it in Vietnam. He smiled at Little me and she smiled back. She saw her Mother’s dark eyes staring at her with the “shut up” look and sat very still eating her sandwich, glancing carefully with her eyes slanted to the left at the area where the man’s missing limb should be. He seemed okay about it and winked at her. She thought about her legs and how it would be with one missing. She thought about arms missing and lots of things that war makes a child roll over and over ideas in their heads. She knew she could hop on one leg, as in hop scotch and could write and eat with one hand and arm. Surely it must be painful though. She watched the waitress in her green apron pour more coffee and the man with one leg lit a cigarette. In the late 60’s and 70’s one could smoke where they wanted more or less. She hated cigarettes and knew her mother snuck them sometimes. She spun around more on the silver metal stool with the red leather seat and tried not to stare at the man with one leg. Finally, her mother stopped her from swirling and she sat straight forward with out showing any curiosity. Now, Littleme knows all about war and bad things. She stays in hiding in her stairwell of safety and avoids the chaos. Part of her is afraid regarding the Ukrainian crisis that is now and yet another part wants to be in the middle, to see for herself how many people are fighting and how many legs and lives are left behind.
You were not born to see this; your eyes opened to see the beauty of life. Warm hands held you, cradled you and soft voices sang you to sleep. We did not want you to see how ugly our world can be. For as long as possible we stretched out your innocence to protect you. Now it's part of us all, war pandemics,the climate crisis, endangered species, prejudiced minds,greedy thinkers and more. Yet, despite the truth which can be scandalous and wrought with anxiety there is and always will be love. No one can take that from us or from you. Love is one free piece of us that can't be stolen. Keep your eyes open, your mind reflective and never allow hate to strangle you.
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