Like many World War II veterans, my father, Harry L. Fox, rarely spoke about his participation in the war. One can only suppose he did not want to awaken the ghosts of death, destruction, and hardships he had witnessed. Whenever I suggested we take a trip to Europe to visit the old battlegrounds, he refused, saying he would never go back there.
I’d long wanted to see the two movies on the double bill at our neighborhood movie house, the Princess at 61st and Main streets in Los Angeles, that week in 1939. Brother Raul and friend Ernie wanted to see the films too, even though they had been made eight years earlier. Mother was not enthusiastic. “Those are very scary movies,” she warned. We were not dissuaded and found ourselves sitting in the darkened theater on Sunday afternoon as the curtains parted.
In a room filled with wreaths bearing Chinese characters on broad ribbons, two Buddhist nuns in embroidered yellow robes started chanting and striking bells. One by one, members of my family, each with a black band tied around an arm, approached my grandmother’s casket. Each of us held a smoldering joss stick between prayer hands and bowed three times in respect.