Bomb shelters aren’t romantic.
As children, we cowered under our desks, hands stuffed tightly to our mouths to keep ourselves from giggling. The teacher, struggling to stay in her high heeled shoes, would hide under her big table just like us. We worried about the brown-bag lunches in our desks, and how we would get to them if we had to stay crouched for a long time. We worried about our bladders, which only made the urge to go worse. But we were ultimately thrilled every time the duck-and-cover drill came along. We felt important. We were Americans, and we were worthy of being saved. We also got to miss ten minutes of New Math, another plus.
When we grew up and had children of our own, we told them the stories of that old-school naivete. They laughed at us, at our time, at the hair we had in the crumbling photographs we never bothered putting in photo albums. We felt less important. We tried to make our children feel more so. We put their photos in albums, until Facebook came along and they did it themselves.
We remember our fathers digging bomb shelters in the back yard. We remember asking him if he was trying to dig to China, and the way he picked us up and swung us up to his shoulders and told us it was the damn foreigners he was trying to get away from. We sat on his shoulders on the 4th of July too, and felt that much closer to the fireworks exploding above us in the sky. Our dogs would hide during the explosions. They understood better than we did that things that go boom in the sky are to be feared, not welcomed with gleeful applause.
Our children fear things more intelligently than we do. We were brave. We wanted to change the world, get out the vote, stop the war. We had more ideals than fears. Our children roll their eyes at us and tell us we don’t understand, our privacy is at risk, the government is listening in on us, it’s a George Orwell nightmare. We remember 1984 being so far away, we tell our children. We remember believing a desk could protect us from the atom bomb. We remember trusting.
2 thoughts on “We Sheltered”
Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this piece, Ilana. So poignant. (I was going to use the word “oomph-y.”) Crazy how much the world has changed in the past 60 years (and sad how some or many things haven’t changed for the better).
Erin M xoxo
Thank you so much, Erin! It means a lot 🙂