My sister Mic and I loved those books, and we both still re-read them to this day. Yes, we read other things as well, but neither of us has ever outgrown our love for the Parrishes and the Jordans, with a dash of Candy Kane thrown in for good measure. She did write some other non-Army books, though none of them captured our hearts in the same way.
Why did we fall in love with those characters and the world they lived in? Maybe part of it was the mystique of the military. When we were growing up in the late 50's and throughout the 60's, we believed wholeheartedly in the goodness of the military. We didn't really understand the reality of war, except when a much loved character would die.
It wasn't always a safe world she created. At the same time, her characters took on their challenges with grace and enthusiasm for the most part. Janet Lambert wrote about veterans living with pain from their wounds, death, the effects of war on the losing country - she handled big subjects, and she made them personal and intimate in their impact on character and reader alike.
From sixteen-year-old Jennifer valiantly coping with the seven young Jordans while her father was off fighting WWII, to Tippy Parrish unceremoniously yanked out of her happy teenage life on Governor's Island and thrust into the grim reality of a defeated, bombed Germany post WWII, Lambert tells warm, tender stories against a background of a world that no longer exists in the same way.
Mic and I laughed at ourselves, because we needed a box of tissues nearby every time we read Don't Cry Little Girl. We talked about the Parrishes and the Jordons as if they were our own family. And we both delighted in A Song in Their Hearts, when Candy Kane and her husband Barton became friends with Tippy and Peter.
Which brings me full circle to my experience of visiting West Point with my nephew Quinn. His twin, Lane, is also in his final year of Army ROTC at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and now I begin to understand the gallantry of Marjorie Parrish and Jennifer Jordon and all of the people who had a loved one in harm's way in her books. Lane and Quinn will be second lieutenants by this time next year, stationed who knows where, and while I'm proud of them and their commitment to service, I am also well aware of the dangers they will face.
When I read Janet Lambert books now, they will have a resonance they never had before. It makes me wonder if, as a writer, I will write something that will resonate for someone I will never meet...
One footnote on the title of this post - Not About Heroes is the title of a play on the WWI poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The play title was ironic, as is the post title. It is not about heroes, and yet it is. Owen's work, in particular, is heart-wrenching in its expression of the realities of war, and heartbreaking because he was one of the casualties of the war. I don't think of war itself as heroic; rather the willingness to put oneself in harm's way to protect others, many of whom you will never know - that is heroic. To carry on quietly the life at home while a loved one is away at war - that, too, is heroic. So this is not about heroes, and yet it is...
We only had five nights together, six days. Because of that, I kept the focus on craft, not on marketing or selling. That focus paid off the last night when we had readings, and had a chance to listen to everyone else's work. It was moving, funny, and intimate.
The deep gratitude in the title includes so many people. Gary for sure. And Gail. Without their generosity and love, as well as Gary's teaching,, my life would be completely different. Natalie Goldberg for sharing writing practice. All of the folks over the years I've worked with at WRW. David, Tex, and Jason, who were a wonderful group of teachers for this workshop. The kind and caring staff at St. Raphaela, who made such a welcoming space for a group of writers. And most of all, deep gratitude to Peter, Bernie, Charles, Diane, Dave, Deb, Paula, Martha, Eric, and Kelley. Your great effort was a gift to all of us...
That's not to say that I have any interest in running for office. It goes deeper than that. I can remember being a kid, and becoming aware that I had no power to overrule decisions made by adults, even though it was my life and my interests that were involved. At one point I realized that my relationship with my mother bore more than a slight resemblance to a line in a Billy Joel song - "...a constant battle for the ultimate state of control."
When I got into college, I started out as a religious studies major. During my first year, I switched to major in communications/theatre. I acted in a play, but more important, I got interested in the idea of directing. Once I started to direct in the second semester of my sophomore year, I never acted again, except in a class. What was interesting about my directing was that underclassmen did not direct. However, I wanted to direct an original musical written by a fellow student. One of my theatre pals who had graduated advised me on how to approach the one-man theatre department, Mr. M. as we called him.
Mr. M. told me no when I first asked him if I could direct. I've always been stubborn, but there was something different about this. I knew that if I really wanted to do it, I had to keep trying, and to come up with a compelling reason for him to change his mind. It was a carefully orchestrated presentation, and I was successful.
The picture above is the Little Theatre, now known as the Leone Marinello Little Theatre. The black walls, when I directed there, were the warm, light brown color of natural wood. The carpet under the chairs was red. And the stage under the black plywood box was natural wood with steps the width of the theatre that led down into the house. Mr. M. designed it himself, and it was both challenging and rewarding to act and direct on that stage.
That whole move, from religious studies, to theatre, to directing was also about power. During the years I spent in meditation at San Francisco Zen Center, one of the things I learned was that I felt powerless most of the time. We all spend much of our lives walking a tightrope of power - what we have, what we don't have.
I don't know how tonight's election will turn out. The power I had there was to cast my vote for the candidates and issues of my choice. Everyone else had to do the same.
I don't know how my writing or either of the workshops will turn out either. There I have a lot more power, to focus my attention, pursue my goals and my dreams, and speak/write the truth of my understanding. Words have power. If I wield words, I wield power, or at least, I do if people read them.
How do you feel about power? Does it make you uncomfortable, or do you enjoy it? Think about it. We all have it...
Be well, my friends.
“They (the Irish) are good-humored, charming, hospitable, and gregarious…”
Monica, McGoldrick, Ethnicity and Family Therapy
Kids, Grandkids, and Great-Grandkids
Mom loved her children. There were times when that love darn near drove us crazy. She had great expectations of all of us, and a firm belief that her expectations wouldn’t just be met, but exceeded. That extended to her grandchildren as they came along, and had she known her great-grandchildren beyond infancy, I’m sure it would have extended to them as well.
She was the matriarch of our clan, and some of us were fortunate enough to know her for many years. One of the reasons I started to write this was for the ones who will only know her from our stories and pictures. There was nothing she loved more than having her children and their children around her. And she did get to meet some of her great-grandchildren before she died, though they won’t all remember it.
Pat and Doc
It was a love story that lasted for more than 60 years, was blessed with a healthy, happy family, and was filled with enough joy, laughter, grief, and loss for many lifetimes. There’s no doubt that his loving care kept her alive during her battle with Alzheimer’s. She lit up when he came into her room at Vincentian Home at the end of her life. His commitment to taking care of her was reminiscent of her care of her dad and Rita Rooney at the end of their lives, only this time she was on the receiving end.
In her autobiography Mom wrote, “Mama and Papa Smith...would turn over in their grave if they knew what a gem they had in their first born daughter…” My feeling is that if they did turn over in their grave, it would only be to get a better look. They can be proud of her. After all, Dad never got to the other names on that list of potential dates...
Carol (Doc) Dougherty
An avid reader, writer, and student, with a penchant for horse racing, Shakespeare, and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop