Letters to the Editor

America: Gloves bring back memories

This is the time of year for pictures. Some of them vivid with color and others just gray traces in the mind. Sometimes we welcome them and savor them – others we want to quickly scan and put back into that strange place we call the memory. Some will be triggered by an event, others by a simple gesture or a familiar occurrence. For me, at this time of the year, it’s a pair of gloves. There is this little girl 12 years old in the winter of 1944. She is on a train travelling from Kettering, in Northhamptonshire, to London. It’s the school holidays and she is going home for Christmas.

The train is crowded and of course there are no seats, so she stands for awhile - a thin pale child with long curly hair and a school hat pushed back. It’s so cold in that corridor — no heat, and just the fading light of a gray winter day coming through the train windows. There are lots of men and women in uniform, talking, smoking, laughing. A couple of soldiers nearby start talking to her. She doesn’t say anything. You don’t speak to strangers, especially when they are “Yanks.” So she looks down and says nothing. One of the soldiers asks her if she is cold, where are her gloves? She doesn’t have any. He asks her where she is going and she tells him home for Christmas and they start to talk – or maybe she listens. That lovely, strange accent and he is so kind to her. Are you hungry? Of course she is hungry — always, always hungry.. He gives her a chocolate bar and tells her how cold her hands are. Here, put on my gloves. No, she couldn’t do that, but he tells her some more stories about his nephew, maybe Buddy? Buddy is her age and he would really like her. She tries to imagine this wonderful place where they come from, where no one is hungry or cold. Always smiling and friendly. Again he gives her his gloves and finally she puts them on. They have fur lining and her hands slide in and are lost inside them. Oh, that lovely warm feeling. Too soon the journey is over and the soldiers and the little girl go their separate ways. But she often thinks about that wonderful place where they come from — America.

As I stand on the street corner in Coupeville I pull my gloves on and hold my sign up more firmly. It’s cold at 7:30 a.m. and sometimes I wonder if I should be here. But I remember that little girl so long ago and how I knew, even then, that Americans are fundamentally a kind and loving nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. My sign says, “Peace on Earth” and on the reverse side “Resolve conflicts peaceably.” Let’s do for all the children — everywhere.

Margaret Burton


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