Dec. 7, 1941
75 years ago, my father awoke on a Sunday morning. He was in his fabulous Manhattan apartment on East 10th Street, with a 20ft terrace outside his living room. I doubt the annual Christmas Tree had been set up on the terrace in preparation for the huge blow-out, come anytime between 8pm and dawn Holiday Party he threw with his wife, my mother.
She awoke next to him, probably tired from dancing and definitely hung over. I doubt they had plans to go to church, as that seemed more a part of their later life – not an east fit wth leaving the Cotton Club at 4am.
On December 7, 1941 my father was looking forward to his 33rd birthday in 3 weeks, a coming partnership in his Wall Street law firm, and in all likelihood, who they would meet up with that night for drinks and dinner.
In an hour or two after a mid morning arousal they turned on the radio and their life exploded.
The bomb that went down the USS Arizona’s smokestack blew up a soon-to-be 33 year old’s life: For heaven’s sake he had spent 12 years in the ROTC at college, and thus the Army Reserve Field Artillery – endless weekends of training, fun and performing on the polo team. It had been 2 years since he fulfilled his obligation and was honorably discharged.
But that was then, this was Dec. 7 1941.
An insane inability to get back his commission as an officer led to 6 months of crisis before the Navy made him a lieutenant, avoiding the draft. Before the Navy allowed as his training and maturity would make him a viable intelligence officer the panic, fear, and complete break from control rendered a smart, 33 year old Ivy grad a shaking, chain smoking basket case.
The legal career was put on hold. The Holiday Parties were now on naval bases. There were still hangovers, but there was no planning except whatever the Navy had in mind for both of them.
In 4 years it would be over. But so would his career at that Wall Street firm. So would a party-hearty, child-free-by-choice marriage. They did not separate, but they now had to procreate – or so the rest of the world told them. Near death of the world meant a generation spawned like mad, and that meant the Dickinson’s left the terrace for a new thing called suburbs.
Collateral damage comes in many forms.