The Day My Father Came Home From World War Two
Bob Russo the First, 1946
by Bill Russo
My father was a five by seven framed black and white photograph that I called my 'Picture Daddy'. I clutched it to me like some kids grasp their pillows or their teddy bears.
Mom told me my real Dad was a soldier fighting Hitler in a place called Europe. I was three years old. It was 1946.
Looking out our third floor window one night after supper, I saw the big kids playing in the street and I begged Mom to let me out. She said I was too small but that soon Daddy would be home and he would take me outside to play baseball every night until it got too dark to see the ball.
"You mean Daddy's coming home from the Army?," I asked.
She told me that a long train with more than 20 cars would soon pull into the Depot and it would be full of soldiers coming home because the war was over and we won.
We walked along the railroad tracks from our tiny apartment to the big, brick Boston & Maine railroad station in Beverly, Massachusetts on the day Dad was finally coming home. Though it was some 67 years ago, I still remember it clearly. As we neared the station we saw hundreds of other kids with their Mothers, all excitedly awaiting the return of the heroes.
Billowing clouds of thick, gray smoke blotted the sky as the steam engine pulled the long metal snake to the platform. Soldiers streamed out from every possible opening. Joyous shouts of happiness grew so loud they drowned out the snarling, massive locomotive's engine.
Happy tears stained the cheeks of the women, the children, and even the war ravaged veterans.
Thousands of soldiers. All in green. All looked alike. How could a wife tell one husband from another?
Suddenly a man shouted at Mom. She screamed back. He ran to her. She ran to him, dragging me and my five year old brother along in her wake. The man scooped us up like a farmer harvesting his crop; my mother, my brother and me. He held us tight for a long, long time.
He hugged us so tight that he hurt me. When he asked why I was hurt, I told him there was something sharp in my pants that was hurting me. I fished into my waistband and dragged out the five by seven framed black & white photo that I called my 'Picture Daddy'.
I held my 'Picture Daddy' up and put it next to the soldier's face.
"What are you doing son?", he asked.
"I want to see if you look like the 'Picture Daddy' to see if you are really you."
"It is really me," he said, "I am your real Daddy and I really am here to stay."
"I like you better than the 'Picture Daddy'," I told him.