From Kansas to Utah
The Martin home, Rawlings, Kansas. 1932
See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout
They never have any cares
At six o'clock their Mommies and Daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears
Because they're tired little Teddy Bears
The boy sat in the one open corner of the kitchen; facing the wall while grasping a very worn teddy bear. At nearly ten, he had barely outgrown the small chair he had as a toddler. He was whimpering; hardly a whisper but enough to attract yet another rebuke. His parents sat in animated discussion at rhe kitchen table.
“Stop acting like a baby.”
Albert turned to face his wife.
“ Ethel? Why do you indulge this? My boy isn’t… Well soon he’ll be helpin’ with the business.” Albert glanced out the kitchen door to see the two-seater biplane sitting by the barn.
“Please. Albert? Can’t this wait… We can talk later?”
“He needs to… He’s a boy, right and good, and he should be happy my father wasn’t around to see this nonsense.”
“Doc Graham said he read that a lot of boys…” Albert cut her off; turning his head sharply. The gesture was meant to address the boy, but did a good job of hiding his own embarrassment; almost but not quite duplicating his own decades-long shame.
“Doc Graham is just a pup who’s raisin’ two little girls and not a son, Ethel.” Albert stood up and walked to the boy. Leaning over; he half-frowned and spoke with as much kindness that his own turn-of-the-century ignorance would allow.
“No more. NO more.” He pointed to the boy’s apparel; a dark green gingham dress he had borrowed from his sister’s closet. The man recalled a moment in time where another boy had endured a beating over such an offense and pulled back; smiling.
“You’re my son, and I love you, but you’re still my son. Go get changed and meet me in the parlor.” Any spanking Carter might receive would be short and somewhat painful, but his father and mother could never be accused of beating him; even by later standards. Nevertheless, the painful humiliation and hopeless signal would be sent. He had to be a boy destined to be a man someday. He was a boy, to be sure, but in his heart of hearts? Like some boys even around the world in 1932, he knew he was a girl.
Alone, alone with a sky of romance above
Alone, alone on a night that was meant for love
There must be someone waiting
Who feels the way I do
Somewhere aloft near Rawlings, 1937
The biplane flew over the Murphy crops; finishing the dusting.
“Ease up a hair on the throttle, next time, Carter? That last pass was a bit too quick, but you’re getting the hang of it.” Albert leaned closer and patted his son on the back in encouragement. About seventeen minutes later they had landed back at the barn. As Carter climbed out his father was already on the ground with his hand out. What began as a gesture of assistance grew into one of the few intimate moments they would share this side of heaven.
“I want to talk with you? Father to child? Friend to friend?” An odd turn of phrase.
“Before I … I’m proud of you. No father could be prouder. But? Carter winced slightly at the expected rebuke.
“Nancy…told us…your sister is worried. She says you and she….” Carter’s face dimmed in shame over the shared games of his childhood that had continued into his teens. Nancy didn’t understand, but she accepted her sister. Albert half-smiled; an odd expression for the moment.
“She says the Murphy boy and you?” An expected slap was replaced by an awkward hug followed by a barely above whisper of understanding of sorts.
“Your mother and I just don’t get it…..”
“I’m sorry Dad… it will never…I won’t.”
“But that’s just it, Carter. It will. i don’t pretend to understand; it flies against everything I was taught… what my faith allows? But Nancy and your mother and me? We love you.”
“I’m so sorry, Dad.” The boy began to sob; crying like he did when he was little and the family dog died. Something was fated to die this day as well, but it wasn’t what he…what she feared.
“It’s still Kansas, and you’re still a young man as much as folks can…as folks chooseto see. But … I see you and I know you’re different.” Carter winced at what he took to be the most tragic disappointment he would ever be to his father. Albert likely surprised himself with his next few, life-changing words.
“Maybe someday, child, but not now….where anybody but us can know. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is. I don’t know what you are but your my son…my child…and I guess maybe our…daughter I wish I could change things for you. I’m not sure even God himself would even if he could. But I do love you and I always will.” Albert kissed Carter on the cheek and walked slowly into the house as both of them felt some burdens ease.
Speak low when you speak, love
Our summer day withers away too soon, too soon
Speak low when you speak, love
Our moment is swift, like ships adrift, we're swept apart, too soon
Speak low, darling, speak low
Love is a spark, lost in the dark too soon, too soon
Utah Beach, Operation Overlord, Normandy, France, 8:21 AM, June 6, 1944
Carter had just breathed a sigh of relief. The ground guns were doing little to no damage against the Brit and AAF fighters assisting the troops below. Even the Luftwaffe effort was small save for a rapidly diminishing group of Messerschmidts.
As he began to bank, one of them flew out of a low cloud and whizzed by him. Time seemed to stand still as the plane passed. The pilot appeared about the same age as him, and he wore the same confused and frightened look that Carter knew he also wore, Almost reflexively, he found himself firing as the plane passed him. Lucky or not, the rounds pierced the gas tank and the Messerschmidt burst into flames; dooming his German doppelganger.
He barely had time to recover when he heard the glass shatter on his own cockpit. Uninjured and already in a climb, he prayed he’d make enough altitude to bail out. His nemesis for some providential reason, failed to pursue, and he managed to hit the silk as his plane passed over the beach; slamming into a barn on a farm to the east.
As he drifted down, he prayed that no one was in the barn; that part of him that forever cared for others more than himself. Even his choices leading to his enlistment seemed to arise out of a desire to protect one only he knew and by him was fully known. Tommy Murphy died in Sicily and life would never be the same for Carter
The wind carried him past the beach as well and by the time he had drifted out of range from any of the German guns he found himself stranded in a tall tree he learned later was just north of Carentan. Minutes turned into hours. After dusk he heard a group of men walking down the road; their accents were Brits. One of them pointed into the tree and remarked.
“Looks like we’ve got us a Yank stuck in a tree, aye?” He laughed softly and turned to one of his mates.
“Hey, Winston? Fancy shimmyin' up and cutting the lad down?” The other laughed even as he dropped his gear. A few minutes later Carter was sitting on the ground against the tree. The medic attended to the small gash on his forehead from whatever grazed him when he was shot down. He put up his hands in refusal at a smoke but quickly downed nearly a canteen-full of water.
Really, Laddie,” the medic said, “ We came across a few chaps who didn’t make it; the Germans found them in the trees not too far from here.” He needed no explanation; the tears from horror affect the seasoned pro as well as the newcomers.
Carter breathed out one more of the several of his relieved gasps; both ashamed and gladdened by the minimal harm he had sustained. A trip to a medic’s tent or a hospital would not just have meant injury but deep shame over the garment he wore beneath his uniform. It was a decision he made upon learning of the mission only days after learning of Tommy’s death. Whatever hiding to be done, however ultimately exposed or not, was necessary as he realized he…she needed to live the life crafted for her from before she was born. She began to weep.
“Go ahead, Laddie, the medic said. “It’s okay to be human, as my sainted mother would say."
In that one moment, whatever else the future held, if Carter was blessed enough to be herself, should she survive what would prove to be only one of all to many conflicts; however necessary.
“Thank you,” Carter said. Permission comes in many forms. The simple quiet words of a kind man proved to be just the permission Carter Martin would need.
Unforgettable in every way
And forever more, that's how you'll stay
That's why darling it's incredible
That someone so unforgettable
Thinks that I am unforgettable too
A nice cluster of outdoor tables at a café in Paris, 1953
The woman was dressed in a simple shirt-waisted dress; Navy Blue. Her hair was in a short bob; dark blond secured by faux-pearl barrettes which matched her necklace. The waiter arrived with a menu.
"Will you be meeting someone ?" he managed as he displayed his new-found affinity for speaking English to his broadening range of patrons.
" Yes. Just a glass of Chablis ? And would you mind bringing another when each arrives?" He nodded yes and departed. Just before he returned, another smart looking woman arrived. She waited as her sister rose ; greeting her with a kiss on each cheek.
'I’m so glad you could be here, Nancy" Carol Martin said. She glanced at her left hand. A simple small ring adorned by a single pearl. Hardly traditional, but perhaps unheard of even in a place as progressive as Paris. As the waiter came up with another glass of Chablis, he was greeted with a tap on the shoulder ; soft and as unobtrusive as possible.
" Would you mind ?" the third woman asked with a British accent as she sat down ; kisses of greeting would wait for a moment as she instead leaned close to embrace Carol ; kissing her by the left ear. Nancy smiled as she noticed the same ring adorning both her sister’s hand and her companion.
" I’m so glad to finally meet you, Nancy. My mother’s name, don’t you know." She held her hand out in greeting.
"Me, too. Chelsea ? "
"Yes, after the neighborhood. And Mayfair, ironically. My brother met Carol… it didn’t work out, but it was love at first sight when she came for dinner. But a girl can’t choose who she may fall in love with, can she?" Chelsea grasped Carol’s hands in hers ; both women were beaming, as they used to say.
As the waiter returned with yet another glass of Chablis , another woman walked up to the table. He rolled his eyes but upon further reflection just smiled as he departed into the café.
" Am I late, loves?" she asked in a Bristol accent. All three stood and greeted her with kisses all around. It was only then that Carol noticed all four women sported the nearly identical ring on their left hands
And Nancy looked heavenward, remembering something their parents shared years ago…one word…short and finally proving to be an incredibly sweet word .
and the survivors who gave the world renewed hope
D-Day June 6, 1944
The Teddy Bear's Picnic
Words and music by Bratton and Kennedy
Henry Hall & the BBC Dance Orchestra; Val Rosing - vocal
by Allan Jones and Kitty Carlisle
from the film A Night At The Opera.
Words and Music by Arthur Freed
and Nacio Herb Brown.
words and music by
Ogden Nash.and Kurt Weill
Mary Martin and Kenny Baker in the Broadway musical One Touch of Venus
composed by Irving Gordon as performed by
the incomparable Nat King Cole
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