Sunday, January 1, 2012

After the Blast 1984

As a fairly young child, I carried around quite a bit of anxiety about the world ending.  It was the fifties, smack dab in the middle of the cold war.  We were meant to be reassured by being given cheery news clips to watch about hiding under our school desks in case of a nuclear bomb detonating, the infamous, "duck and cover".  But I was no fool.  I knew from watching other news clips and listening to what my parents said to each other what would really happen when they dropped the bomb.

What I would do if it hit(and according to my friends, since we lived near the Los Alamos National Labs, we would be sure to be a target) while I was at school?  How would I get home since we lived ten miles from the city center, way to far for a nine year old to walk. What about my family?  Would they be able to make it home?  Probably not.  The pets--what about them?  If they could be enticed to join us in our crawl space under the house(where my stepfather kept a large bag of pinto beans just in case), would we then have to eat them as our food got scarce?  Could I put bits of our dog Robbie in my mouth and swallow, or my beloved black gelding, Rio Grande?  Who would do the killing?  Would I be expected to participate?  And then later, what would be left?  How would I get to my friend Jennifer's house to make sure she was okay?  There were no good answers to any of my questions and I was left to worry my way through the rest of my childhood, always waiting for that big, awful, shoe to drop.


  1. You and me both, baby! We got driven to a "fallout shelter" (for "drills") in the back of a big ol' flatbed from my kindergarten class in Rock Island, Illinois in 1959. More than once.
    Don't think I ever recovered. What about my mom and little brother (at the time I only had one), what would happen to THEM? - though honestly, I never felt a bit of worry over my dad - just never thought about him at all. Oh Lordy, how it all F***ED us!

  2. Yow! You know for years (about 50), I whenever I talked about this same set of fears, I got a bunch of blank stares and people figuring a child couldn't possibly grasp the end-of-world scenario and the raw images that a five year old can conjure up in her head. My trigger was that around that same time, ads on TV were running showing Kruschev pounding his show on a podium and in the background were ominous timpani drums and a voice saying : "Kruschev says he will bury us." Boom-boom-boom the drums crescendoed. I went around for one whole weekend (I can only think it was during the Cuban missile crisis) saying goodbye to St. Louis, my toys and my beloved child-sized rocker with the music box on the runner. My recurring nightmare into adulthood was the them of hiding from enemy intruders, keeping my younger sibs quiet and safe, certain, as I trembled in the dark, that my family would be found and slaughtered. Of course, now that I've been doing years of Jungian dream-work, there's probably other explanations...nevertheless, it's amazing how I can still feel the intensity of those thoughts.
    Your post and sf's comments comfort that scared kid in me in a way nothing else has. (Certainly not the duck-and-cover drills!) After all these years, I don't feel quite so peculiar a child!

    The duck-and-cover drills in elementary school


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