Memories, not so fond
I read this post on Twitter: Making America Great Again. Bringing Families Closer Together. Bringing back the #NuclearFamily
And it brought back memories of the bomb shelter drills when I was in elementary school. They were frightening, to say the least, and they certainly captured the Cold War feel of the time. As a child, I didn’t understand why our teacher was so cheery. Did Communists, aka Commies, really want us dead? I seriously doubted if there was any way to actually protect us from a bomb. Hiding in the bowels of the school was nuts.
Atomic Age Fears
Then there were the Saturday afternoon Atomic Age movies like “Them,” where atomic tests cause common ants to mutate into giant man-eating monsters, and “World Without End,” where Astronauts returning from a voyage to Mars are caught in a time warp and are propelled into a post-Apocalyptic Earth populated by mutants. Scary stuff for a kid with a vivid imagination. I had many sleepless nights worrying about atomic bombs.
Here’s my child’s eye view of what I remember about the drills:
BOMB SHELTER DRILL
We march single file behind Miss Heskitt
down the stairs with the no-slip strips
around the glossy cement walls into a hole
under Independence Elementary School.
Things I can’t see feather my neck,
Miss Heskitt’s smile is as benign
as cancer. She can’t fool me.
I’m old enough to understand things—
communists, the atomic bomb
and its mutant creating mushroom cloud,
the “Twilight Zone.”
After the drill, eyes blinking, we return
to daylight and our classroom
with its tidy rows of desks and chairs,
but something has been altered.
Doug slams a desktop on George’s fingers
and I just want to go home. “We are here,”
Miss Heskitt says and points to a dot
on a brightly colored map of the world—
green, red, yellow and blue countries
that look like puzzle pieces, I see the enemy
is far away, but it feels like he’s here,
now, beating his fists inside my head.
“Bomb Shelter Drill” was first published in Verse Wisconsin, and later in my poetry chapbook, Security.
By the way, Miss Heskitt was an English teacher, one of my favorites from high school. Her name is in this poem because I liked the name. It has an appropriate brisk, snappy sound, doesn’t it?
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell the truth without shame.
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
2015 Great Midwest Book Fest Honorable Mention.
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters