“How high were the bunks?” “Oh, probably about the length of your forearm.”

Grandpa showed me the album of his WWII photos and postcards when I got to see him at Christmas. I didn’t know it existed.

Grandpa couldn’t bring his camera with him when he was deployed, it would have been confiscated during inspection. Luckily his friend Renee Neuman brought his box camera when he came back from leave, so Grandpa got to borrow that sometimes. They developed the photos in soup bowls. He said that Neuman unfortunately passed about 5 years after returning from the war. I asked about the cause, but he said he wasn’t sure.

The photos here are all positioned in order on a single page captioned “Diving for movie film in 40 ft of water”. Grandpa laughed when describing it.

Their LST ran aground in Pearl Harbor, so they had to stay there for repairs. While there, another ship came along and they exchanged 35mm films. Unfortunately the film from the other ship fell in to the harbour. It wasn’t financially valuable, but very valuable in terms of morale so they asked tower to send a diver to recover the movie. The diver wasn’t happy, he had been at a party, but he did recover the film.

Most of the photos in the album are of Grandpa and the others from his ship doing jobs here and there or “just horsing around” as he said. There was a lot of down time. There are a few landscapes of Hawaii, Guam, the Kwajalein Atoll, and the Enewetak Atoll. Some are in the aftermath of a tsunami. There were also some intense images towards the end of the album, hard to tell if they were photos or postcards. Some would be pretty gruesome for postcards, others were of the signing of the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri. At any rate, Grandpa said he hadn’t taken those final album images. He developed a bunch of negatives for other people, so if these weren’t postcards then they may have been copies of others’ photographs.

There were two photos of a large cemetery in Guam with many small Christian grave markers. Grandpa had gone to school with one of the men buried there, he and Grandma had gone to senior prom with this boy and his date. After graduation, he went in to the Marines and was killed. Grandpa took photos of the grave for the man’s family.

Grandpa carried a pocket-sized spiral bound photo album with him throughout WWII filled with photos of family and friends, but mostly of Grandma. It’s very worn apart now. The sleeve with the photo of Grandma and him in his uniform also includes a pressed four leaf clover and a Japanese stamp.

In the back of the main album, there was originally a college photo of Grandma with a gardenia behind her ear. That’s on the wall of his apartment now, with other family photos.

a little tired, but up and up

I’ve been behind. The past two months haven’t been great. But things are looking better, and the holidays couldn’t have come at a better time. We were in the US this time around, got to see more friends and family than I could have hoped. Here are some of the things we got up to.

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Documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”

Screenshot of Tove Jansson swimming in Finland from the BBC documentary Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson

Screenshot of Tove Jansson swimming from the BBC documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”, around 1:20 mark. View the trailer here.

Until I watched the BBC documentary “Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson”, I had never really known about the artist and author Tove Jansson nor the context for her work. I’m so glad to have come across the film. She was an impressive and talented woman that lived through some devastating times. The documentary is enhanced by quite a bit of original footage, images, and quotes from her journals and other writings. It also includes interviews of her friends and family. My only criticism would be that the tilt-shift effect on some of the shots of contemporary Helsinki and the Finnish countryside felt a little heavy-handed.

The scene above was likely filmed by Tove Jansson’s partner and great love Tuulikki Pietilä, a Finnish graphic artist. Her nickname was Tooti. For nearly 30 summers, Tove and Tooti lived and worked in a cottage that they built together on a little remote island called Klovharu. It sounds like they were quite the independent adventurers, and their time on the island seemed idyllic. This moment was rather heart-wrenching.

Last summer something unforgivable happened: I started to fear the sea. The giant waves no longer signified adventure but fear. Fear and worry, for the boat and all the other boats that were sailing around in bad weather. We knew it was time to give the cottage away.

Once they had left, they never wanted to come back. They didn’t even want to talk about it. It was the end, and that was it.

A side note: Sophia Jansson’s comment reminded me of a moment in a recent episode of NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me when Peter Sagal asked Norman Lear if he had any tips “for those of us who would like to arrive at 93 as spry and as successful and happy as you are”.

What occurred to me first is two simple words, maybe as simple as any two words in the English language – over and next. We don’t pay enough attention to them. When something is over, it is over, and we are on to next.

I’m looking forward to discovering Tove Jansson’s work. I’ll probably start with the original two Moomins books, then move to The Summer Book and A Winter Book.