The Meanings Behind the Names of North Carolina Famous Cities

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We know their names by heart and everything about them, but we don’t truly know their meanings. Wonder what I’m talking about? The names of famous North Carolina cities. Have you ever thought about why Raleigh is named Raleigh? Or why Wilmington is called just that? Well, sit back and read below for the history behind the names of famous North Carolina cities.

Winston-Salem: 

Let’s start with our hometown – Winston-Salem. Originally, the Camel City was two towns: Winston and Salem. The name Winston comes from local Revolutionary War hero, Joseph Winston. Until 1851, the area was known as “the county town” for being the county seat for the town of Salem in the newly formed Forsyth County. As for Salem, it bears its name from “Shalom” meaning peace. It was chosen by Count Zinzendorf, a patron of the Moravian town.

Raleigh: 

North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, is the second largest city in the state. The City of Oaks is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony in current Dare County. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave Raleigh a royal charter to explore and colonize land in the New World. His first attempt at establishing a settlement was known as the Roanoke Colony (the Lost Colony). Three years later, he returned and tried again to reestablish a settlement on Roanoke Island.

Greensboro: 

Formerly spelled Greensborough, Greensboro is the 3rdlargest city in the state. The city gained its current name after the Revolutionary War. Major General Nathanael Greene was an American commander at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781. The battle was a British win, but Greene’s troops inflicted many casualties on British General Cornwallis’ army. Before 1781, the residents of Greensboro were Quakers from Pennsylvania. In 1750, they arrived in Capefair, the area now known as Greensboro. Quickly, more people came to the settlement, making it the most important Quaker community in North Carolina during that time.

Wilmington:

An important port city for various periods in history, Wilmington is currently known for being the Hollywood of the East Coast, its one-mile-long Riverwalk, and the coastal arena it provides people. The city was settled by English colonists and named after Spencer Compton, the 1stEarl of Wilmington. Compton was a British Whig statesman and is considered to be Britain’s second Prime Minister from 1742 to 1743. As for the area, the settlement was built in September 1732 on land owned by John Watson, and was founded by the first royal governor, George Burrington. Before deciding on the name Wilmington, the city was called “New Carthage,” “New Liverpool,” and then “New Town (Newton).” In 1739 – 1740, the town was incorporated under the new name, “Wilmington.”

Boone: 

A quick drive up US-421 North will take you to the beautiful city of Boone, North Carolina. The area is famous for the Blue Ridge Mountains, skiing and snow sports, bluegrass music, and of course, Appalachian State University. One can easily guess Boone got its name from American pioneer and explorer, Daniel Boone. According to historians, Boone spent time camping at locations within the present city limits. His nephews, Jesse and Jonathan, were members of Three Forks Baptist Church, the town’s first church, which still stands today.

Charlotte: 

The biggest city in North Carolina, the Queen City, and home of the Carolina Panthers, everyone knows the city of Charlotte, but few know the name’s meaning. It was first settled by Scotch-Irish and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German immigrants before the Revolutionary War. Charlotte is named in honor of German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 1761, she became the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland. Seven years later, the town of Charlotte was incorporated. Along with its nickname, the Queen City, the city was often called The Hornet’s Nest, due to British General Cornwallis’ troops occupying the city during the Revolutionary War. Eventually, residents were driven out and Cornwallis wrote that Charlotte was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion.”

Next time you’re in one of these cities, you can show off your skills by testing your travel companions on their knowledge of the meaning of the city’s name.

xoxo,

Megan

On the 2nd Day of Christmas

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During this time of the year, almost everywhere you go, you hear holiday music. The voices of Nat King Cole, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby ring through every store, building, and home, singing the lyrics of countless tunes we know by heart. But do you know the history behind the famous songs? For the 2nd day of Christmas, brush up on your holiday song trivia and wow your family and friends at the next holiday get-together/

  • “Jingle Bells” – This famous holiday melody was originally written as a winter song and not meant for the holidays. There are different theories as to how the song originated, but the most well-known version was written by James Pierpont in 1850 in Medford, Massachusetts. The original title was “The One Horse Open Sleigh” and was inspired by the annual sleigh races throughout the town, hence the lyrics. Historians say Pierpont wrote the song for his father’s Sunday school class for Thanksgiving and it became so popular people, they sang it again at Christmas time.
  • “I Have a Little Dreidel” – This tune is one of the most famous Chanukah songs in the English-speaking world. On the four sides of a dreidel, the letters “Nun-Gimel-Heh-Shin” are printed and represent the phrase “Nas-Godol-Hayah-Sham,” meaning “a great miracle happened there.” There are two versions of the song: English and Yiddish. The English version was written by Samuel S. Grossman and Samuel E. Goldfarb. Together, Grossman and Goldfarb composed the melody and lyrics.
  • “Deck the Halls” – This Welsh Christmas song goes back to the 16th century, with a melody coming from the Welsh winter song “Nos Galan,” which is actually about New Year’s Eve. The first English version of the song appeared in 1862 and was composed by Welsh lyricist John Jones and English lyricist Thomas Oliphant. Oliphant changed the original Welsh lyrics, which mainly described winter, love, and cold weather, to a version that alluded to the upcoming of Christmas. The only similarity between the two versions is the traditional “fa la la la la, la la la la.”
  • “O Tannenbaum” – Also known as “O Christmas Tree,” this traditional German carol’s first lyrics date back to 1550, but it became a classic in 1820 with August Zarnack coining the first verse. Four years later, in 1824, the second and third verses were added on by Ernst Gebhard Anschutz. A Tannenbaum is a synonym for a fir tree or Christmas tree. The practice of putting up a Christmas tree was popular in Germany during the time of the song’s writing, but wasn’t popular in England and America until later. “O Tannenbaum” didn’t become a classic in England and America until the mid-19th century, when the tradition of Christmas trees made their way over.
  • “The Christmas Song” – “The Christmas Song” is one of the most well-known holiday songs and originated from a hot July afternoon in 1945. Stated in his autobiography, songwriter Mel Tormé says it only took him and songwriting partner Bob Wells 45 minutes to compose the classic tune. Images such as “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” were modeled after Wells’ childhood memory of the holidays in Boston. Once completed, the two contacted Carlos Gastel, the manager of Nat King Cole and Peggy Lee, and played the song to him. A year later, in 1946, Nat King Cole’s record of the tune came out and the rest is history.
  • “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – “It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with kids jingle belling and everyone telling you ‘be of good cheer.’” Written specifically for The Andy Williams Christmas Album, this song was created by George Wyle and Eddie Pola in 1963. The following year radio stations picked up the tune and began playing it on a regular rotation. Since then, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has gotten more airtime with every coming year, making it a holiday classic.

Whether you spend the holidays humming “tis the season to be jolly” or “oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,” there’s sure to be a song stuck in your head. Now, you’ll be able to tell everyone how these popular holiday songs originated.

xoxo,

Megan

What’s in a Carolina Name? A Look Inside the Names of Famous North Carolina Cities

FW112-HistoryOfNCNames

We know their names by heart and everything about them, but we don’t truly know their meanings. Wonder what I’m talking about? The names of famous North Carolina cities. Have you ever thought about why Raleigh is named Raleigh? Or why Wilmington is called just that? Well, sit back and read below for the history behind the names of famous North Carolina cities.

Winston-Salem: 

Let’s start with our hometown – Winston-Salem. Originally, the Camel City was two towns: Winston and Salem. The name Winston comes from local Revolutionary War hero, Joseph Winston. Until 1851, the area was known as “the county town” for being the county seat for the town of Salem in the newly formed Forsyth County. As for Salem, it bears its name from “Shalom” meaning peace. It was chosen by Count Zinzendorf, a patron of the Moravian town.

Raleigh: 

North Carolina’s capital city, Raleigh, is the second largest city in the state. The City of Oaks is named after Sir Walter Raleigh, who established the lost Roanoke Colony in current Dare County. In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave Raleigh a royal charter to explore and colonize land in the New World. His first attempt at establishing a settlement was known as the Roanoke Colony (the Lost Colony). Three years later, he returned and tried again to reestablish a settlement on Roanoke Island.

Greensboro: 

Formerly spelled Greensborough, Greensboro is the 3rdlargest city in the state. The city gained its current name after the Revolutionary War. Major General Nathanael Greene was an American commander at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781. The battle was a British win, but Greene’s troops inflicted many casualties on British General Cornwallis’ army. Before 1781, the residents of Greensboro were Quakers from Pennsylvania. In 1750, they arrived in Capefair, the area now known as Greensboro. Quickly, more people came to the settlement, making it the most important Quaker community in North Carolina during that time.

Wilmington:

An important port city for various periods in history, Wilmington is currently known for being the Hollywood of the East Coast, its one-mile-long Riverwalk, and the coastal arena it provides people. The city was settled by English colonists and named after Spencer Compton, the 1stEarl of Wilmington. Compton was a British Whig statesman and is considered to be Britain’s second Prime Minister from 1742 to 1743. As for the area, the settlement was built in September 1732 on land owned by John Watson, and was founded by the first royal governor, George Burrington. Before deciding on the name Wilmington, the city was called “New Carthage,” “New Liverpool,” and then “New Town (Newton).” In 1739 – 1740, the town was incorporated under the new name, “Wilmington.”

Boone: 

A quick drive up US-421 North will take you to the beautiful city of Boone, North Carolina. The area is famous for the Blue Ridge Mountains, skiing and snow sports, bluegrass music, and of course, Appalachian State University. One can easily guess Boone got its name from American pioneer and explorer, Daniel Boone. According to historians, Boone spent time camping at locations within the present city limits. His nephews, Jesse and Jonathan, were members of Three Forks Baptist Church, the town’s first church, which still stands today.

Charlotte: 

The biggest city in North Carolina, the Queen City, and home of the Carolina Panthers, everyone knows the city of Charlotte, but few know the name’s meaning. It was first settled by Scotch-Irish and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and German immigrants before the Revolutionary War. Charlotte is named in honor of German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 1761, she became the Queen Consort of Great Britain and Ireland. Seven years later, the town of Charlotte was incorporated. Along with its nickname, the Queen City, the city was often called The Hornet’s Nest, due to British General Cornwallis’ troops occupying the city during the Revolutionary War. Eventually, residents were driven out and Cornwallis wrote that Charlotte was “a hornet’s nest of rebellion.”

Next time you’re in one of these cities, you can show off your skills by testing your travel companions on their knowledge of the meaning of the city’s name.

xoxo,

Megan

76 Years Ago…A Date Which Will Live in Infamy

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Every year on December 7th, I reflect back to our country on this day in 1941. For many, it started out as a normal Sunday. But, for those on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, the day drastically changed their lives. 77 years today, America became engulfed in World War II after a surprise Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. More than 2,000 American soldiers and sailors died that day. On Monday, December 8th, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan. For the next four years, Americans fought hard on the Pacific, Eastern, and Western Fronts, as well as, the home front.

Today, we honor the sacrifices the greatest generation made in protecting our country. As the granddaughter of a World War II veteran, I know the worth of this generation. There aren’t many of them left and we need to work together to perserve their stories and histories.

On this day and every day, remember our military and those who have and are currently serving our country. Its a job many people wouldn’t even considerate doing.

xoxo,

Megan

The Meaning of Veterans Day

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Every year on November 11th, we commemorate Veterans’ Day and those who have served in the military. There are tributes, thank-you’s, and parades. With all the memories, respect, and honor associated with the day, it is important to remember the history and meaning of Veterans’ Day.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, an armistice was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in World War I, or the Great War. Originally referred to as Armistice Day, Veterans Day was initially created as the anniversary of the end of World War I. In November 1918, President Woodrow Wilson announced that November 11th would be known as Armistice Day. Although the war didn’t officially end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th, 1919, November 11th will always be known as the end. The day was filled with parades and tributes, while at 11 a.m. a moment of silence was observed.

November 11th was further recognized as Armistice Day in 1921, when an unidentified American soldier, killed in World War I, was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Also, on the same day, unidentified soldiers were laid to rest at Westminster Abbey in London and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Five years later, on June 4th, 1926, Congress passed a resolution stating the “recurring anniversary on November 11th, 1918, should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” Along with the observance, the president would issue an annual address for the day. On May 13th, 1938, an act declared Armistice Day an official legal federal holiday. Up until then, the day was commemorated in observance, but now November 11th was a legal holiday.

The name change from Armistice to Veterans’ Day came under President Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 1st, 1954. Due to the efforts of American soldiers in World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the 1938 act, changing Armistice to Veterans’ Day. Since then, the date has become a day to honor all veterans from all wars.

Veterans’ Day is celebrated throughout the world. Here in the in the United States, November 11th is observed with tributes and parades. At Arlington National Cemetery, an official wreath-laying ceremony is held at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Many people will wear red poppies on the day, as well. The red poppy is a symbol of World War I and first appeared in the poem “In Flanders’ Fields” by John McCrae. Poppies are usually worn in the lapel as a tribute and sold to raise money for veterans’ organizations. Also, the poppies are a symbol for Memorial Day.

The meaning of Veterans’ Day and that of Memorial Day are often confused, and this is a common misunderstanding. Veterans’ Day is to honor all the living and nonliving military members, while Memorial Day is dedicated to honoring service members who have died in service to our country or from injuries resulting from battle.

There are many ways to get your family and friends involved in remembering veterans on November 11th. Some include volunteering with a veterans’ organization, attending a parade, writing letters to veterans at the Veterans’ Hospital or flying an American flag in your yard year-round. Also, take the time to listen to a veteran’s story about his or her military experience. These are pieces of history that often get lost.

Remember the veterans you know on November 11th and every day of the year. A simple “thank-you” for their service can go a long way. “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ President John F. Kennedy.

xoxo,

Megan

Originally published in Forsyth Woman Magazine. 

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part I)

Every year around this time, I post the story I’ll Be Home for Christmas. I wrote this story a few years back and love sharing it.  As a lover of history and World War II, there is a personal connection to the story for me–part of my grandfather’s own World War II experience is mixed into the plot.

Enjoy one of my favorite tales this Christmas season- I’ll Be Home for Christmas. 

——-

Story Picture

It was December 1944 and the United States was immersed in World War II. My family, the Dillards, included my father Bill, my mother Samantha, my brother Russell, and me, Lizzy, a freckled-faced, red, curly-haired 13-year old. Russell, a 20-year old, private in the US Army, was stationed in Europe, fighting behind enemy lines. As for the rest of us, we fought the war at home.

Two weeks before Christmas and the town of Smithfield, Illinois, was full of holiday spirit. Along with preparing for December 25th, my town was preparing gift packages to send to soldiers overseas. Many of my friends had siblings in the Army, just like I did.

My mother was the president of Operation Victory, a committee that sent gift packages to soldiers throughout the year. This was just one of the ways my mother helped fight the war. As the sibling of a soldier, I constantly wrote letters to Russell, telling him about home and the latest news. I also sent cards to him and his friends. Quickly, I became a professional at drawing Christmas trees.

This was the second Christmas Russell was going to miss. He entered the US Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. In February 1942, he was sent to Europe and has only been home twice since then.

My father was always reassuring my mother that Russell was safe. “Samantha,” he would say, “Russell is doing his patriotic duty, fighting for his country, and he will come home soon.” As for me, Christmas was the hardest part of the year. Russell and I had always been close, despite our age difference. Throughout the years, we had created our own traditions, in addition to our family’s. Together, these traditions made Christmas just a little bit more special.

One of my favorite traditions that Russell and I shared was two days before Christmas Eve. We would ride through town in his jeep and deliver cookies to all of our neighbors and friends. At each house, we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” At the end of the second song, Russell would always hold out the very last note until everyone started laughing.

In all of the letters we wrote to each other, during the holiday season, we always talked about our traditions. In one of his letters from November, he mentioned there was a slight chance he might receive leave and be able to come home for Christmas. Since then, I hung onto this statement, hoping it would eventually come true.

“Lizzy! Lizzy! Are you coming sledding with us or not?” asked my friend Jill. Her voice snapped me back into reality. Looking around, I realized my friends, Jill and Jane, were waiting on me to go sledding. “Sure, I’m ready. Let’s go!” I replied. We spent the rest of the day sledding at Black’s Hill.

By the time I got home, my father was already home from work. As I entered the house, I expected on hearing the usual “Do you realize how late you are on a school night and you haven’t started your homework yet” speech, but instead I received different news.

My mother was sitting in the living room, crying. I noticed her eyes were fixed on an opened letter on the coffee table. “Lizzy, your mother and I need to talk to you,” my father said as he met me at the living room door. Little did I know, the news my parents were about to tell me would change my world. “We just received a letter, saying Russell’s plane was shot down over Italy. We don’t know where exactly he is and the Army has declared him missing in action.” my father told me as tears started running down my face.

After talking with my parents for a while, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Not knowing what to think or do, I looked outside my window and glanced towards the driveway. There I saw Russell’s jeep and I wished, more than anything, for him to be home.

“Where is Russell?” I thought to myself. Quickly, I began to write him a letter, which I planned on mailing to his base. Something inside of me told me he was in a safe place and would be home soon. I hoped this feeling was right, but as scared as I was, I doubted it.

Part II continued tomorrow. 

A Date which will live in Infamy

“December 7, 1941- A date which will live in infamy.” -President Franklin D. Roosevelt

74 years today, America became engulfed in World War II after a surprise Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor. More than 2,000 American soldiers and sailors died that day. Today, 75 years later, we honor the sacrifices they made to protecting their country and we continue to honor the sacrifices still being made to protecting America.

All of us make sacrifices. Some may be big, others may be small. Some sacrifices are considered the ultimate sacrifice, such as being willing to lay down your life for your country. As we remember Pearl Harbor, remember we are just one generation away from the end of freedom. Remember our military, past and present, for others doing a job many wouldn’t imagine doing.

xoxo,

Megan

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Part II

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” continued from Tuesday. 

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas

One night, as we were decorating the Christmas tree, I couldn’t take it anymore. This was always a tradition my family did together and without Russell, I wanted nothing to do with it. “Why can’t we find anything out about Russell?” Are you sure you contacted everyone you could think of for information?” I exclaimed, out of anger. “Lizzy, your mother and I are doing everything we can. The least you can do is be supportive and keep up hope,” stated my father. “It’s hard to keep up hope. It’s easier to have doubt. I’m going up to my room and the two of you can keep decorating,” I said, disappointed with his response. “Lizzy, please don’t,” my mother began to say, but a knock on the front door interrupted her.

“Who do you think it could be, Bill?” my mother weakly asked. All of our hearts were pounding out of our chests, wondering who stood on the other side of the door. One by one, with my father in the lead, we walked to the door and slowly opened it. “Are you Mr. Dillard?” a man in an Army uniform asked. “Yes, yes I am,” my father replied, nervously. “Here, I have an important letter for you. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas,” he said as he passed the letter to my family. As quickly as he came, the uniformed man went. Not knowing what to do, my family stood there like statues in a museum. “Open it Bill! Don’t just look at it!” shouted my mother.

Very slowly the letter was torn open. As he began reading, my father’s eyes grew ten times bigger. “It’s…it’s from Russell!” Jumping with enthusiasm, my mother grabbed the letter and shouted “Safe! He is safe! Russell is safe!” Hearing the news was the best thing I could ask for. “What else does the letter say, Mom?” I asked. “It says he is safe and an Italian family has taken him and a few other soldiers into their home, after their plane was shot down. They are keeping them in hiding, otherwise they would be taken as prisoners of war. All that matters is that he is safe,” my mother said as she squealed with excitement.

After hearing the happy news, my family gained a little bit more Christmas spirit and together, we finished decorating the tree. From then on, my family kept receiving letters from Russell; however, we couldn’t write back, because it was too risky. Between letters, I kept reading the old ones over and over again until I could recite them from memory. All I wanted for Christmas was for him to be home, but I knew that was impossible.

Within no time, Christmas Eve was here. As always, my family went to the Christmas Eve Lovefeast service at our church. Right as we were pulling out of the driveway, it began to snow. “There’s nothing like a white Christmas, don’t you think?” said my mother. There was something different about the evening, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Oh well,” I thought, “tonight is Christmas Eve and I’m not going to let anything bother me.”

I loved everything about the Christmas Eve Lovefeast service. From singing “Morning Star” to eating the Lovefeast buns, the service officially signaled to me that Christmas had begun. By the time we left church, the snow had picked up and the ground was covered in a blanket of white. “Almost two inches deep and more is going to fall by morning,” my father said as he observed the sky. Sometimes I believed my father could tell the weather better than anyone.

Once we got home, we built a fire, and opened the traditional only one present on Christmas Eve. Still, there was something strange about the night, but I still couldn’t figure it out. Once the Christmas Eve traditions were done, there was one more thing to do. “Does everyone want hot chocolate? Bill, make sure the fire is going strong and Lizzy, make sure the lights are turned down,” my mother said from the kitchen. The Dillard family always watched the snow fall from the living room window and drank hot chocolate by the light of the Christmas tree before going to bed.

We had only watched the snow fall for about 10 minutes when a jeep pulled into our driveway. Oddly, it was Russell’s jeep. Thoughts began to run through my head, but I quickly pushed them aside, thinking there was no way he could have gotten home. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the person walking up to the front door. Instead of knocking, the mysterious person began to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Glancing between the window and my parents, I realized the jeep actually was Russell’s and he was the mysterious person. “Run and open the door,” exclaimed my mother as her and my father stood there, smiling with joy. As excited as I could be, I opened the door and saw Russell, standing there in his Army uniform, singing the last note of the song as loud as he could.

“Russell! Russell! You are home!” I said as I jumped into his arms, knocking him down. “What? How?” I exclaimed as a million questions began to surface. “Lizzy! Lizzy! Let me come inside and tell you,” Russell replied to my incomplete thoughts. “It’s good to see you!” both of my parents said as they greeted their son. “Tell me how! Tell me how!” I blurted out, breaking up their reunion.

Before Russell began, my parents showed me a letter they had kept hidden from me. “You knew he was coming home and you didn’t tell me?” “Lizzy,” my parents said, “we wanted this to be a Christmas surprise for you.” In his letter, Russell said he was coming home for Christmas, but in order to leave, he had to pretend he wasn’t an US citizen until he got back to base. Getting back to base wasn’t easy, but Russell was able to make it there safely.

“But how did you get your jeep?” I asked. “While you were at church, a neighbor drove me home from the train station and I got it then. Mom and Dad helped me plan the whole welcome home surprise, once I got back to base. ‘Operation Lizzy’s Christmas Present’ was what we called it. Keeping it a surprise from you wasn’t so easy,” answered Russell.

As I raced towards my brother, I began to list all of the old traditions we still needed to do. “Ok, ok. We’ll do them,” he said, “but where to begin?” I thought about this for a moment, and then pulled Russell out the door and to his jeep. “It’s time to go caroling,” I said. With our parents waving from the door, Russell and I started our annual caroling trip through town.

As we pulled up to the front house, Russell looked over at me and said “Told you in my letters I would be home for Christmas.”

The Christmas of 1944 became a Christmas I never forgot.

xoxo,

Megan

I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Part I

Enjoy part 1 of my two part story about a family and their life at Christmastime during World War II.

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I’ll Be Home for Christmas 

It was December 1944 and the United States was immersed in World War II. My family, the Dillards, included my father Bill, my mother Samantha, my brother Russell, and me, Lizzy, a freckled-faced, red, curly-haired 13-year old. Russell, a 20-year old, private in the US Army, was stationed in Europe, fighting behind enemy lines. As for the rest of us, we fought the war at home.

It was two weeks till Christmas and the town of Smithfield, Illinois, was full of holiday spirit. Along with preparing for December 25th, my town was preparing gift packages to send to soldiers overseas. Many of my friends had siblings in the Army, just like I did.

My mother was the president of Operation Victory, a committee that sent gift packages to soldiers throughout the year. This was just one of the ways my mother helped fight the war.

As the sibling of a soldier, I constantly wrote letters to Russell, telling him about home and the latest news. I also sent cards to him and his friends. Quickly, I became a professional at drawing Christmas trees.

This was the second Christmas Russell was going to miss. He entered the US Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. In February 1942, he was sent to Europe and has only been home twice since then.

My father was always reassuring my mother that Russell was safe. “Samantha,” he would say, “Russell is doing his patriotic duty, fighting for his country, and he will come home soon.” As for me, Christmas was the hardest part of the year.

Russell and I had always been close, despite our age difference. Throughout the years, we had created our own traditions, in addition to our family’s. Together, these traditions made Christmas just a little bit more special.

One of my favorite traditions that Russell and I shared was two days before Christmas Eve. We would ride through town in his jeep and deliver cookies to all of our neighbors and friends. At each house, we sang “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” At the end of the second song, Russell would always hold out the very last note until everyone started laughing.

In all of the letters we wrote to each other, during the holiday season, we always talked about our traditions. In one of his letters from November, he mentioned there was a slight chance he might receive leave and be able to come home for Christmas. Since then, I hung onto this statement, hoping it would eventually come true.

“Lizzy! Lizzy! Are you coming sledding with us or not?” asked my friend Jill. Her voice snapped me back into reality. Looking around, I realized my friends, Jill and Jane, were waiting on me to go sledding. “Sure, I’m ready. Let’s go!” I replied. We spent the rest of the day sledding at Black’s Hill.

By the time I got home, my father was already home from work. As I entered the house, I expected on hearing the usual “Do you realize how late you are on a school night and you haven’t started your homework yet” speech, but instead I received different news.

My mother was sitting in the living room, crying. I noticed her eyes were fixed on an opened letter on the coffee table. “Lizzy, your mother and I need to talk to you,” my father said as he met me at the living room door. Little did I know, the news my parents were about to tell me would change my world. “We just received a letter, saying Russell’s plane was shot down over Italy. We don’t know where exactly he is and the Army has declared him missing in action.” my father told me as tears started running down my face.

After talking with my parents for a while, I went upstairs to my bedroom. Not knowing what to think or do, I looked outside my window and glanced towards the driveway. There I saw Russell’s jeep and I wished, more than anything, for him to be home.

“Where is Russell?” I thought to myself. Quickly, I began to write him a letter, which I planned on mailing to his base. Something inside of me told me he was in a safe place and would be home soon. I hoped this feeling was right, but as scared as I was, I doubted it.

Over the next couple of days, my family lived precariously, waiting to hear any news about Russell. As it got closer and closer to Christmas, my family still hadn’t heard anything about him and our patience started to wear thin.

To be continued…

xoxo,

Megan