Someone at a reading said that she knew my mom wrote the entries in Home Front Girl, but it’s so sophisticated, some might not believe it. I know it is hard to imagine, but she really wrote such beautiful words. First of all, she came from an intellectual family—although her parents were “working class” or “lower middle class”, they loved poetry and literature. They met at an adult education school in a poetry class. So Joan grew up with poetry and valuing it. Then she loved to read, especially poetry. She had no tv to distract her. AND she was a writer—worked on the newspaper and wanted to be a writer when she grew up. All that combined together to make her the perfect observer of the world stage as well as her own private world.
Here is just one of the many beautiful passages Joan writes:
Friday, June 30, 1939
. . . Thursday the 28th was the dinner-dance. . . . I came horribly late to dinner, but ate the ice cream anyhow. . . . It was at the [Hotel Shoreland] at 55th and the Lake. . . .
Joan in blue net hat
After dinner we went downstairs where they had chartered a room. . . . It was all decorated up—with red and white balloons everywhere and a slippery waxed floor and pictures of the school and copies of the Midway and so forth all over. . . . It was open to Aunt Polly’s farewell address—it made me feel almost sad. . . .
I wore my teal blue dress with the pleated skirt—very sheer stockings—my black suede and gold belt and my black suede pumps!!! You should have seen me. And I just had a permanent so my hair was absurdly short and frivolous looking. . . . And I had my little blue net hat sitting over my curls like an idiotic Juliet.
Joan in autumn 1939
Anyhow, it was just wonderful!! Just wonderful!!! They played a radio and some records and Olly asked me to dance. Almost all the boys had dark coats with white flannels like in the movies or the magazines. So we danced for a while and then they opened the French doors and Bill Russell asked me to dance with him and we danced out on the veranda. . . . The trees were waving faintly in the night breeze and we could see the moon over them. The lake was dim and shiny and people came out on the fire escape to watch. Some other couples were dancing out there, too, by then . . . I felt so transferred, so aristocratic, so dream-like—dancing in the night on the veranda of the Parkshore Hotel in Bill Russell’s arms . . . just like in the movies. . . . I remember when I was very young, I thought heaven was a beautiful ballroom with women in light dresses dancing with men in evening dress and that I was a little girl watching them through the French doors from the palms outside. . . . That was my idea of heaven, gleaned, I suppose, from an early movie . . . I don’t know. Anyhow, I thought of that, dancing outside then—and smiled a little for that little girl, watching from the trees. . . .
And that was my flight at aristocracy. . . . Well . . . it’s all over now . . .
The book reminds us how wise young people can be. We don’t always credit teens or pre-teens with having depth or sophistication and reflection in their thoughts and that’s so wrong! They deserve credit for having the potential for deep and philosophical reflection, as we see here.