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Ask Your Parents About Play

Written by Marilyn Moeller Hiebeler

Sometimes the difference in values between generations becomes easier to understand when you learn the personal history of your parents or grandparents. 

Several years ago I asked my parents what they used to play as kids. They looked at each other and said, "Play? There was no play."

As I thought about their lives I realized what a stupid question I'd asked.

Both were born to farm families in North Dakota during the l920s. My mother wasn't expected to live so she was baptized immediately. My father had typhoid fever.

You hear the stories by old-timers of how they used to walk miles in the snow to school. Well, my parents weren't exaggerating. Mom used cereal boxes to make soles for her shoes so she could walk to school, through rain, sleet and snow.

Near the end of high school my father's mother died and the war started. There were two sons in his family. One would go to war and the other would remain on the farm. My father chose to go to war. He became a B-24 pilot.

My parents married and kissed goodbye on November 1, l944, at the Topeka train station. Neither knew where he was going. The larger question was of course, "Would he ever come back?"

Dad flew 19 sorties over Europe. Twice, a substitute was sent up with his crews. Both times the crews were shot down. Once the plane ahead of him blew up on takeoff, loaded with 30,000 pounds of bombs. He helped pick up the pieces of his friends.

During that time my mom had her own path. Teaching at a country school, she'd carry the coal to keep a fire going. After teaching, she'd sweep the floor and wash the windows. Then the long walk home, often with bulls chasing her.

In July of l945 my mom got a call from Savannah, Ga. She thought it was my dad, but had to ask the other people listening in to please hang up so she could hear him. She heard him say, "I promised you I'd come back."

It wasn't the homecoming my dad had expected. His only brother, jealous of dad's Air Force years, had convinced their father to disinherit him. My parents packed their belongings in their old Ford and drove off to an uncertain future.

Advice on Life Changes

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