They always bombed at tea time.
Not the pass the cookies, pinky finger out thank you very much kinda tea; but the this is the real meal, pass the plate, wash your hands, elbows off the table, kinda tea.
They always came together, the sirens with the supper. It was as if Hitler didn’t want the English to ever have a hot meal.
Sirens sounded, chairs pushed away from the table, leave everything, and remember to close the blackout curtains before you go.
Then with gas masks in hand, the family, the block, the entire city, would walk, not run to their designated bomb shelters. Not easily rattled, those English.
The children carried children sized gas masks in little boxes tied with string. Hand in hand, down they would go, each family to their assigned spot, each spot marked with a mattress propped against the wall. The mattresses were lowered onto the floor and they all sat and waited.
First they waited for it to start.
Then they waited for it to stop.
The all clear sounded, the mattresses were propped back onto the wall, and hand in hand they all emerged and went home.
Life went on in Liverpool.
Juxtapose that with my house, present day where life just isn’t worth living if the cable, internet or electricity are out. All three would sign the beginning of the apocalypse. I shudder to think what would happen if everyone should be in the same room, at the same time, talking, and forced to have actual eye contact.
My father-in law, Griffy was one of those children, the ones with the little boxes tied with string.
The night his house blew up, the sirens went off but the supper wasn’t the only thing left behind.
That night, the last night in the house, Griffy was bedridden and coughing and Grannie refused to go until the tea he had a cuppa tea to sooth his throat.
“We will be right behind you, ” she said as the rest of the family left for the shelter.
Grannie put the kettle on, and as she went to close the curtains, she saw her neighbor across the street writing a letter at her kitchen table. Her boyfriend was away at war, and afterwards Grannie liked to imagined the young woman’s last thoughts were filled with love.
The whistle of the kettle and the bombing were simultaneous. Grannie Sands filled the Brown Betty teapot with hot water and then collected Griffy from the bed. Teapot in one hand and child over her shoulder Grannie Sands made for the shelter.
She made it to the front door before Hitler landed a direct hit on the neighbors house across the street.
Griffy was blown into the alley and landed unharmed. He stood and ran to find Grannie Sands.
He found her in the street, sitting straight up, arms out, with her ass wedged into the street drain.
The teapot still clutched in her hand.
and she hadn’t spilled a drop.