One of my grandsons is encouraging me to write essays about my childhood so that one day he might share them with his offspring to learn about their heritage. That provides me with the motivation to think back to years mostly forgotten, but about some specific incidents that memory has preserved.
When I was about 16 or 17 years old, in the mid-1940s, World War II was raging. Then a senior in high school, I was invited by an “older man”, a 19 year old fellow who had joined the Navy and was in the Officer Training Corps, to attend a dance being held at his naval base in Philadelphia. As I was living with my family in a New York City suburb, this meant I needed to travel by train and stay overnight in a hotel room that had been secured by my date. My parents acquiesced to this plan.
I recall later standing close by and listening in on a conversation my mother and father had with a dinner guest who expressed surprise that they would allow me to travel to another city and spend the night in a hotel on my own. My father’s response, when such freedom for a young unchaperoned woman was questioned, was, “we know that Bea will do the right thing.”
And he was right. After the dance, when my young swain accompanied me on the return to my hotel room, unlocked the door and entered along with me, I did not object. Together we sat side-by-side on the bed and chatted for a time. Apparently, after a while he got the unspoken message that nothing more was going to happen, so he bid me good night and left. For this apparent restraint, I was deemed a good girl.
What at some level I probably knew then, and certainly recognize now, was that this particular fellow, even resplendent in his officer’s uniform, had no physical appeal for me. Who knows why? But I do know that if this was not the case, the outcome might have been quite different.
My trusting parents were indeed naïve.