War Babies, Blackouts, and Other Cool Things About April

 

WarBaby in hospital

Could this baby have been me?

I am not so sure that April is the cruelest month as suggested by T. S. Elliot and others.   It turns out that this fourth month of the year has special meaning for me for a number of reasons.

In my last Andy’s Corner piece I pointed out that I am a card-carrying member of the “war baby” generation. But I failed to mention that I am more than just a war baby, I am an April war baby.  I was born in East L.A. on Good Friday in 1943 when there was a heightened fear of Japanese air attacks on the west coast.  There was some merit to this fear as recounted on History.com.  Not to be too dramatic, one could say that I entered this world under duress.

 

 

My mom wrote about this in her journal. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, she took up journal writing in her later life and left behind some wonderful “pass-along” family stories. These are excerpts from the journal entry entitled “Forrest Andrew, Our 2nd Child”:

The war was on, and Gus (that’s my father) might get drafted, but I wanted another baby. War does this. So Andy was on the way… He was born at the Beverly Boulevard Hospital in East Los Angeles…

 Here was this beautiful little boy, born on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday, we had the last black out of the war. I was in a ward with 5 or 6 other women. I didn’t even know where the nursery was. One woman was having hysterics; she could hear the Japanese planes going over. Of course, all of the lights went out, but the nurses brought us our babies carrying flashlights. I held on to that precious little boy, and was going to go under the bed even if I bled to death.

It turns out that there were no Japanese warplanes over L.A. that night, but I can imagine the raw fear of those mothers in that darkened room. I also can imagine the possibility that in the chaos and darkness the babies could have been handed to the wrong mothers. Although my mother assured me that wasn’t the case, I always had lingering doubts. How else could I explain why I am so different from my two siblings?

Of course, I am not the only April war baby. When we lived in Baton Rouge a family moved in next door to us. The father was Japanese. Turns out that he was born in Tokyo on the very same day and year I was born. At that time Tokyo had much more to fear from air raids than we did in the U.S.  The U.S. first mounted a small-scale air raid on Tokyo in April 1942 and then did intensive air strikes beginning in 1944. My new neighbor’s family home was leveled by American bombers. Wow. How ironic and poetic that we ended up being neighbors and exchanging dinner invitations some 35 years later.

 

There are other reasons for my assertion that April is not the cruelest month. My mother, our grandson Moss, Mia Hargrave, and our cat Ono Moore were April arrivals. April birthdays belong to the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Al Pacino, Ella Fitzgerald, Leonardo de Vinci, Jack Nicholson, Marlon Brando, Gregory Peck, Queen Elizabeth II, Willie Nelson, and Charlemagne.   Shakespeare even shares my April 23 birth date.  I won’t mention some less than stellar folks who slipped into the world in April, Hitler being one of them.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 8.52.53 PMOne final comment.   April 23, 1943 saw the debut of the Disney cartoon “Fall In – Fall Out”  starring Donald Duck.  What could be a more appropriate birthday greeting than a spot of humor in the otherwise dark reality of war?  Here’s to many more Aprils!

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