Kage Baker had a very strange relationship with the events of WWII. To her, they were more like memories than historical accounts. Mind you, as an enthusiastic historian later in life, she learned that invaluable trick of personal immersion in the past – nonetheless, nothing was ever as real and immediate to her in other eras as was WWII.
Some intimate memory of the blood, perhaps, preserved in the flesh of the man who ultimately fathered her. If corners of the world are forever England due to the valiant men who sleep there, then some significant portion of Burma is also Hamtramck, Michigan – bedewed from the air as from a descending warrior-angel, by a bleeding paratrooper named George Henry Baker … his first-born child was subsequently a little girl who saw the entire world like a map spread out below her, and had a compass in her head.
Lamarckism is nonsense, but there are prenatal chemical changes that effect offspring. Maybe we don’t pay enough attention to the environment of the, as it were, smelters where the ore of our construction is purified. The forges of our mothers’ wombs, we know, are subject to all the shocks, delights and soundtracks of the world around them – what about the bodies of the men who refine the pure metal that goes into us? What chemical tide swept through George Henry Baker, sharpshooter and explosives expert, when he floated above the Burmese jungle and discovered he suddenly had two navels?
I dunno. He never talked about it. But his daughter thought Europe was on fire until she was 7, and was astounded when she first saw the beautiful white temple that stands above Pearl Harbor now: in her mind’s eye, she saw the smoking, twisted metal that originally marked this day, the black pearls of oil and blood that floated on the water then.
Iron runs in all of us. No more of it runs in soldiers than in any one else, but it does run closer to the surface – and all too often, right out on to the merciful, mourning earth. What soldiers do feel more often is the greater heat of the Maker, the Smith God who forms men and women from clay, the hammer blows that take a shapeless mass and straighten into a shining soul. Some of the iron in them is thereby beaten into steel. It is purified by the sleeping forests in them, pressed into coal and burning like the sun.
Some of them pass that metal to their children. And Kage was one of those, who was made of steel even before the womb.
Remember their fathers.
Kate, you are one hell of a writer! Thanks for another vivid set of images.