Calla Jones Corner
The author lives in Montecito.
Who of the Greatest Generation didn’t remember where they were on Dec. 7, 1941? No one. I’m sure. They all remembered.
Who of my generation doesn’t remember where they were on Nov. 22, 1963? I imagine few. Who of my children’s generation don’t remember where they were on September 11, 2001? If they don’t, it’s time.
It was 1963, and I was in my kitchen in Providence, R.I., with a friend and my son, Keith, when the news came over the radio that J.F.K. had been shot. My friend and I couldn’t believe the life changing news through shock, tears and prisms of happy childhoods. For me, it was the beginning of a quest to escape the Woodstock Generation’s culture of drugs, sex and rock and roll. I hoped to give my son a sane environment in which to grow up.
I escaped to Switzerland in 1967 and remained in Europe for 21 years. I watched from the sidelines of Cape Cod summers as the America I knew slowly became adrift in a sea of déja vu socialism that has metastasized into the Marxist madness we now have.
I returned to the States in 1989 with few illusions of returning to the New England in which I’d grown up — a Norman Rockwell New England seen from the small town of Weston, Conn. With a British husband and two adolescent daughters, We chose New Canaan, Conn. for the easy commute to Manhattan and the excellent schools, hoping our choice of a town that still held traditional conservative values was the right one.
At neighborhood parties, parents often traded worries of what our children would have to face in the years to come as the country became more like what I fled over two decades earlier.
I remember an accomplished sailor telling me that he had rented a storage unit on Manhattan’s upper East side to store an inflatable dinghy, an outboard motor and gas in case his children, working in Manhattan, had to suddenly escape should the city be a terrorist target. For my generation, the future looked troubling and insecure.
We were at our Cape Cod summer house with our morning tea and coffee, watching the news, when we witnessed the two planes hit the World Trade Center Towers. Our first thoughts were of our 25- year-old daughter, Lucy, in her apartment on West 25th street.
When our confused and frightened daughter answered the phone, we told her to immediately go to our apartment on East 90th and stay there until we arrived. Trembling, she ran the 65 blocks through a cloud of black dust. I thought of our former New Canaan neighbor and if his children were escaping on the East River. Four days later we made it back to the isolated island-city we now called home most of the year.
During those four days in our peaceful summer environment, so near and yet so far from Lucy, Richard, and I had time to consider the future. Should we return to Switzerland, once again refugees from countries that we barely recognized? Richard had fled socialist U.K. to Switzerland in 1967. We met in 1970 and married in 1971.
As we tried to plan for our future, we remembered why we’d come to America in 1989, for family and opportunity. Could Richard retire early? Would our grown children come with us? Could my mother, now a widow with strong community roots, come with us? Could we afford to live in our summer house where we felt safe and my mother lived year ’round?
We reflected on other scary times we’d lived through. For Richard it was World War II, evacuation, gas masks, rationing and a doctor father on the south coast front line, ready to serve the nation with his wife. When Winston Churchill died on Jan. 24, 1965, Richard lined up with a million other Brits to pay tribute to their hero on a catafalque in Westminster Hall.
When J.F.K was shot, he lined up for hours outside the American embassy to sign the Book of Condolences. Richard had admired America for its stance on capitalism and support of the individual.
I reflected on my father joining the Office of War Information a few months after Pearl Harbor, leaving my mother and his two daughters, to become a war correspondent for an America he cherished. I thought of my Swedish immigrant grandparents coming to America in their 20s. Of Thomas Jefferson, with whom I shared grandparents, James Keith and Mary Randolph, and how Jefferson strove to make a “more perfect union” through strength, common sense and the brilliance of his pen.
Most of all, I realized that I was too American to flee to a continent that had drifted so far to the political left. Even Switzerland wasn’t the country I’d begun to also call home decades before.
Richard and I realize we’re too old to pick up stakes and move to Switzerland again. That time had passed.
The loss of personal freedom, fear and the evil machinations of our clueless local, state and federal leaders — especially the one who looks at his watch to check the time as thirteen bodies return from defending America — consume much of our daily thoughts. We wonder who of the present Alphabet Soup Generation will remember where they were on Aug. 31, 2021 when America lost its honor, its values and its way. We hope all. Time is everything if we are to recapture the America of old.