By Ursula Hennessey
Hanson feeds my voracious appetite for Greek and Roman history. He also teaches me a bit about World Wars I and II, periods of history about which I am embarrassingly clueless. I could listen to him all day.
However, I am the morbid and self-centered sort. So when Hanson points out that Americans of previous generations were better prepared for the anguish and difficulty of war than we are today, with our “500 channels” and our cell phones, I feel exposed. He’s right. I have no tolerance for real pain. I have no experience with agony.
The next day, my eyes settled, starkly, on the face of Paddy, my little boy. For the first time, I wondered if he would serve our country. I wondered if he should. This tiny guy, trying to jump with his chubby little legs and smiling with delight when he discovers a ladybug in the sandbox, could one day become a casualty of war.
Generations of mothers, I’m sure, have had this thought. The joy of hearing, “It’s a boy!” went hand-in-hand with the deep fear that he would one day be taken away by war. Perhaps these mothers also felt pride that their boy would be valued for his strong body, his courage, and his devotion – all useful for defending the city-state, the country, the nation.
War, as Hanson points out, has always been with us. Presumably, so has a mother’s dread. Yet, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me until now, 19 months into his charmed but unremarkable life. How spoiled and lucky I’ve been.