Monday, August 17, 2015

A summer to remember

 The young woman adjusted the brown barrette with an upsweep of her hand before stepping down from the train carefully clutching a cloth purse with its dangling red tassel and a brand new cardboard suitcase. She assuredly made her way along the platform moving quickly away before the train would continue eastward right on schedule. It was 1944 and a war was raging around the world. There were few younger people at the Riverhead station, certainly even less men with the majority off at war, and mostly older folks waiting for visitors or family. She was the exception and a stranger in their midst.

Several weeks before the she had answered an ad in the New York Herald-Tribune for a nanny: two active school age children require live-in nanny for the summer. Furnished room provided along with meals and one day off per week. References required.

The couple had come to Brooklyn to visit with her in person at her parents’ home in Bay Ridge and everything was in order. The business details all appeared straightforward and her parents gave her their blessing realizing it was time for their daughter to unfold her wings a bit. They kept to themselves a few minor misgivings about how much more would be expected of her than she was being told, and that daily childcare could prove overwhelming.

The young woman figured that a summer on Eastern Long Island would be marvelous, and a perfect situation before starting City College with a journalism major in the fall. All her high school friends were working little neighborhood part time jobs and swimming at the YMCA. They would be so jealous of her tales of beach life and her suburb tan in the ritzy Hamptons. Like many of her classmates, she was removed from the war except for a couple of guys in the Navy from church the minister lifted up in prayer each week and observing her mother ration out the staples with her government issued coupons at the corner grocery store.

The husband quickly came into sight as if it was an afterthought coming to the train station at all, and there was no wife or children in sight. His clothes were slightly rumpled and he appeared out of breath as he grabbed the suitcase and motioned towards the car in the parking lot across the street. All in a day’s work for him like picking up a loaf of bread at the corner store before going home, contrasting her excitement and enthusiasm, a freshness in her approaching a new challenge.

They drove for about five minutes with little conversation to a quiet ordinary residential street to a white Cape Cod house. This was Riverhead seven miles from the Sound and about thirteen miles from the Ocean noted for being the commercial center for the East End. The young woman knew where the town was located, but apparently she had let her imagination go wild to sprawling sandy shorelines, elegant celebrities and huge cottages along the water.

As she walked up the driveway she moved a red tricycle out of the way and began day one of her summer job. The world didn't know yet, but tomorrow would bring the landing of 155,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in France. It would be the largest amphibious military operation in history. She would have her own personal obstacles to overcome.

It would be a summer to remember for the rest of her life.