The spring I was ten we moved to a new home in a new town. We kids faced new schools, new friends, never entering Dad’s home office, and not knowing who hung up when one of us kids answered. Answering the phone one Saturday morning I took the opportunity to play along when the person on the phone didn’t hang up.
“Is your father home?” he asked.
“You’re supposed to hang up if one of us kids answers the phone,” I said.
“Yes I know, but it’s important to find out if your father is working on the questionnaire.”
“If you check on his desk and tell me if it’s there or not, no one will know.”
“We aren’t supposed to go in the office. Who are you?”
“Look kid, my grade depends on this.”
“There are no days off when you’re a graduate student.”
I had a sense of the different types of college students from when we lived near Keene State College and all our babysitters were college students, so I knew that college students could have Saturday classes.
He pleaded with me to check, stressing how important it was for him to get an answer. Phone to my ear, I stood outside the glass fronted office door straining to see if there were any pen marks on the document that sat on the center of the desk. As I weighed the pros and cons of going in for an up-close look, Dad grabbed the phone. He spoke in his quietly angry voice that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I heard him say that the young man had overstepped the rules. The office door closed and Mom shooed me outside.
The next day Dad acted like the office hadn’t been off-limits for the past three months. The door was open, and the desk was clean and paper-free.
Years later we learned that he was being interviewed about his father, the grandfather we never knew, and his father’s work as an engineer on the Manhattan Project. It took a Freedom of Information Act request to find out that Dad had also worked on the Manhattan Project.
This is a one of the stories on my family, WWII and the Manhattan Project.