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Far from Home: Memories of World War II and Afterward

Mary Herring Wright

Chapter Two
The Start of My Big City Life

Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades
. . . and now ‘tis buried deep
In the next valley glades.

John Keats,
“Ode to a Nightingale”

I DIDN’T know it then, but this would be the last time some of this crowd would ramble about and have fun together. We were fast approaching the time our paths would diverge and we would begin to travel in different directions. Only a day or so later I received a long white envelope from the U.S. Government, Civil Service, Washington, D.C. I was to report to a specific building on January 18. That would be the next Monday. I would be leaving home on Sunday. I could see that Mama was proud of what I was doing, although she’d never told me she wanted me to go out and work at a job far away from home. The choice was mine. I don’t know how the rest of the family felt. Sam asked me once why I wanted to go to Washington, and he assured me I was going to perish and come hack nothing hut skin and bones. Papa as usual, was against my going anywhere, and he told Mama I just wanted to go there to ramble up and down the streets like I did in Iron Mine, and then he’d bring out his favorite saying: “She’s got no more business there than a pig has with a Bible.” When I tried to picture one of Papa’s fat curly-tailed pigs sitting up reading a Bible, it struck me as funny indeed and I’d giggle. I told Mama to tell him I didn’t want to ramble in Washington. I was going to work. The answer to that was, “Oh pshaw, she don’t have to go to work. She has a home.”

I spent the week packing my footlocker with as many clothes as I could and sorting out family and school pictures and books that I wanted to carry, along with the gifts the gang had given me for my birthday only two short weeks before. It still didn’t seem quite real that I was leaving home, and this time it was not for school, but clean out of North Carolina. I had just turned eighteen and was an adult and would be responsible for my own food, rent, clothes, and so on.

Gladys wanted to go with me, but her dad said no, she didn’t have to go out and work for a living. Mama said I didn’t either, but I wanted to be independent and take care of myself. Well, Sunday came around. It was the third Sunday of the month, which was our preaching Sunday. We went to church as usual. I said good-bye to all the gang who were at church. I almost felt like I did when I first went away to school in Raleigh. I also said good-bye to our pastor, Mr. Tim. I’d miss our little white wooden church, Sunday school, and the preaching on third Sundays.

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