Duck and Cover

Hey, wait; where’d you get that fancy cart?

I’m pretty sure these kids got up and kept playing.

I was born in a narrow sliver of time between a war ending, another conflict escalating, and a constantly reinforced fear that the Commies and other bad guys were out to get us. 1950s. America.

A simpler time? Sure. I was a child.

When I was a kid, most of us boys, and sometimes, girls, played Cops and Robbers and Cowboys and Indians all the time. Neighbors had bomb shelters installed. Civil defense drills were held at school to prepare us for nuclear bombs from afar. Duck and Cover. I lived close enough that I was taught to walk home to die. Kids who rode busses were to stay at school. Even survival didn’t seen pleasant. I lived close enough to a military base that our house would be flattened in the initial blast. Mutually assured destruction doesn’t mean much to those at ground zero. Our parents were children of the Great Depression. My father and most of the fathers of my contemporaries were uniformed veterans of World War II and/or Korea. My mother worked in D.C. in the department charged with gas rationing. Other mothers worked and learned to drive and had already learned the self-sufficiency forced upon each generation of wives and mothers. We played Army in the fields and groves and driveways with actual American and German uniforms, all oversized, loaned to us by Bobby’s father. Bob, Senior had mementos, knives and such, disarmed grenades; and he taught his son a variety of racial slurs as if there was a test. “What sound does shit make when it hits the fan?” Yes, I remember the answer; I’ve just never used it in real life.

Ah, the fifties; romanticized as some perfect, “Ozzie and Harriet,” “Norman Rockwell” time. I did love playing the games. “I shot you.” “No, I ducked.” “You can’t duck a bullet.” “Who says?”

And here we are. I moved twelve hundred miles north since my childhood, and yet, I have never lived far enough from some ground zero to not be someone who would be vaporized. Yet, the bomb shelters are probably now extra storage or wine cellars, people have disguised the racial identifiers, the former fields are houses. Children may or may not be allowed to play in the street. Video screens get larger, games more realistic. Schools no longer run nuclear bomb drills. Active Shooter drills have taken their place.

Duck and cover remains the same.

Getting home from Junior High after a drill (this would be in the sixties, actually), I asked my father what we’d do if ‘they’ (always a ‘they’) dropped a bomb on Camp Pendleton. “Junior, we would die.”

Okay. If I felt some solace in accepting some horrible fate, it wasn’t like I was optimistic. I just sort of thought the odds were in my favor.

We have replaced optimism with a sad acceptance. Really fucking sad.

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