“Peeling the Handle” springs from one of my very earliest memories. The timing of its publication is perfect because the poem features my mother whose birthday comes in August.
My parents eloped to California and settled in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where I was born, though they never called it eloping. They lived in a Quonset hut recommissioned to house veterans on a South Dakota air force base after the government drew down the active units following WWII.
Neither set of my grandparents approved of the marriage because of conflicting religions, and my mother and father were too proud to renounce their backgrounds. My German Lutheran mother would never convert to the Roman Catholicism of my father’s Irish family nor would she raise her children Catholic. My father supported her conviction and refused to confess his sin in the eyes of the church or renounce his marriage. He stayed away from either denomination for most of his life.
Leaving their families in Minneapolis must have been hard for both of them, but my mother had it worse because my father had already spent several years overseas in the Army. Once their children were born, both sets of grandparents welcomed them home in spite of the religious rift. So I guess my sisters and I played the role of peacemakers, though we were unaware at the time.
Note: the above Wikimedia Commons image shows Quonset huts in The Bronx in 1947.