Remembrance in Spacetime

Remembrance in Spacetime - Stories

TOPIC

Vanquished

  • SPACETIME
<div>It was a typical winter day --- safe but very cold. Temperatures occasionally reached the [point at which Fahrenheit and Celsius become indistinguishable](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E2%88%9240_%28number%29). On the other side of the mountains, the invincible horde had been met by an indomitable will. At the end of the monumental battle, a quarter million invincibles surrendered. It marked the end of the pathogenic explosion. Its implosive eradication had begun.A mother was rushing, with toddler in tow, to the wartime mall, the black market, where the people bartered for necessities. She had dressed her son warmly: long woolly underwear; pants; shirt and sweater; an overcoat with mittens; a hat with ear flaps; and little boots made of felt. The felt was effective because it was too cold for snow to melt and wet it. His father had recently demonstrated the fascinating way in which saliva turned to ice before it reached the ground with a clink.The little boy stopped walking to complain about some minor discomfort. The mother's hasty effort in dressing him for her important errand had been less than his fastidiousness required. In her agitation, she started spanking him, an unusual response from her. But suddenly she stopped.Advancing towards them was a disorganized column of misery guarded by army troops. The prisoners-of-war were shivering in the remnants of their warm-weather uniforms. Their heads down, icicles hung from the nostrils of the vanquished invaders. Mother stared at the despised detritus shuffling past."That nation of swine" she exclaimed, as frozen spit punctuated the ground.</div>

Liberty

  • New York Harbor, New York, USA
<div>The displaced persons had boarded the [General J. H. McRae (AP-149)](http://www.historycentral.com/navy/ap/GeneralJHMcrae.html), an American Army transport, in early October 1949 at Bremerhaven on the north coast of [General Eisenhower](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_career_of_Dwight_D._Eisenhower)'s [American Occupation Zone](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwight_D._Eisenhower#Aftermath_of_World_War_II). The North Atlantic was stormy that October, and its crossing took about two weeks. It was a nightmare. At the end of the second week of the hellish crossing, the mother scored a jackpot. Though she was a seasick, kerchief-wearing refugee she was, nevertheless, a pretty young woman, and she charmed a ship's officer into giving her a single tablet of Dramamine. She shared it with her [son](http://photos1.blogger.com/x/blogger2/4289/980032078829745/458/z/379858/gse_multipart58875.jpg) on the deck of the General McRae. The father, as usual, bore his misery stoically. After swallowing the half-tablet, the child's queasiness lifted, as did the morning haze. And there she was. With torch held high, she beckoned to the ship's human cargo as the General McRae steamed into [New York Harbor](http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9c/Liberty_Island.jpg). She was beautiful, just as they had imagined she would be. It was United Nations Day in America: October 24, 1949\. But it might as well have been the Fourth of July. For the immigrant survivors, it was, as we continued to celebrate it annually, our Day of Liberty.</div>

Like a New Birth of Freedom

  • Hicksville, New York, USA

Oddly enough, one of the most important events of my life occurred on a day that I don't remember, just as no one remembers their own birth. I do remember that my parents had been studying, with my help, for their citizenship examination. The examination turned out to be very easy (with questions such as, "Who is the President of the United States," President Eisenhower having been the correct answer then). My parents had no trouble satisfying the requirements, and they became naturalized American citizens.Being 13 years old at the time, however, I was more interested in the fortunes of my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, who, as luck would have it, won the World Series later that year for the very first and, sadly, only time. As I recall, the Dodgers won the first two games against their arch rival New York Yankees, then lost the next three. But, incredibly, they managed to come back from the 3-2 deficit (never before accomplished in a World Series) to win the last two games of the seven game series. The New York Daily News hailed their accomplishment on their front page with a full-page cartoon of a bum and the headline,"WHO'S A BUM!" My full year of happiness, however, was terminated the very next year, when the Yankees took their revenge on the Dodgers in only the second time that a series was decided by a team winning the first two games; losing the next three; and winning the final two.I became a naturalized citizen of the United States by derivation from my parents' own naturalization on May 13, 1955. Being a minor, American Citizenship was granted to me through the action of my parents --- like "a new birth of freedom."

Awakening

  • Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA

On January 13, 1986 I woke up in my new apartment in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It was a new day, in a new town, in a new part of this great big country of ours. The next day I was to begin my new position as Staff Physicist in the Applied Theoretical Physics Division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. On this day my plan was to take stock. Of my life.

In a little over a month I would be 44 years old; definitely middle aged. From age seven on, I had been a New Yorker. I had a Bachelor's degree from Cornell, and a Master's and Doctorate from Columbia. I had been married and divorced. I had two young sons back in New York who, along with their mother, relied on my alimony and child support. The alimony would continue until my ex wife remarried. The child support would be required until both sons finished college. That was our separation agreement and that was my personal obligation to my sons as I viewed it.

My first job out of graduate school was like a post doc position. Although I had been a staff scientist at a private corporation in New York, the salary lagged that of my colleagues' who had accepted positions at national labs or similarly established organizations. But what concerned me most at this stage of my career (and life) was that that first significant position of my professional career had provided no retirement benefits. And, that I had a 4-figure net worth.

Although I had been a full-time student for a quarter century, I now realized that my student days were not over yet. I was sorely lacking in personal financial savvy, and, unbeknownst to me, had previously been enrolled in the school of hard knocks. On this particular first day of the rest of my life, I decided on a long-term personal mission: I would educate myself in the basics of personal finance and investing; I would continue to make good on all my financial obligations to others; and I would begin addressing my personal financial obligation to myself, namely, preparing for retirement. Clearly, there were lots of pizzas and peanut butter sandwiches in my future. In effect, I had enrolled in The Peanut Butter School of Life University.