In his poem ‘The Road and the End’ Carl Sandburg wrote:
I shall foot it
Down the roadway in the dusk…
The dust of the travelled road
Shall touch my hands and face.
I echo Sandburg today—my last day as UEA American Scholar of the 2nd Air Division Memorial Library. My heart is heavy and full, so if you’ll oblige me, dear reader, I’d like to reminisce a little.
In 2011 I was honored to become one of two American PhD students at the University of East Anglia to be granted a scholarship by the Memorial Trust of the 2nd Air Division. The scholarship annually places two American doctoral candidates from any discipline at UEA in the Memorial Library for 10 hours each week, where they work alongside Library staff members and serve as cultural ambassadors. As many know, our American presence here is an extension of the historical legacy upon which the Library was built.
During my two terms, I immersed myself in learning the rich story of the 2nd Air Division in East Anglia, which continues to fascinate me. As part of my role in the daily operations of a busy cultural center, I was delighted to be given the freedom to develop a variety of seasonal public programming for children and adults. The Scholars play a critical role in maintaining the dialogue between the Library and its visitors: and there’s so much to do! Our annual Autumn Lecture Series on American Life and Culture has become very diverse and very popular, and our social network has blossomed thanks to our faithful WordPress and Facebook subscribers. I even got to teach some teenage filmmakers how to jitterbug in their WWII dance-hall reenactment.
One of my favorite experiences has been attending various commemorative events with the Trust Governors and friends. On Remembrance Day, I got to lay the wreath at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial on behalf of the Trust, and attended the beautiful annual service in the American Chapel at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. It is so rewarding to help to expand the network of people who comprise the story of the 2nd Air Division. It’s an ever-growing network. In the Library, I have helped many people discover information about their family members using our local resources and genealogical services. Perhaps my favorite connection, though, is the one I made with 2nd Air Division veteran Fred Becchetti, who has graciously contributed his stories and poems to this site.
As a PhD researcher who lives a fairly isolated life, it has been wonderful getting to interact with visitors every day. It makes me happy when folks are equally happy to see me (or hear me, I should say). “You’re not from around here!” “What’s that accent?” “Kids, where do you think this lady’s from?” I get many blank looks. Ohio’s no Florida, you see. Sometimes other Yankees come in and we have a jovial catch-up. Most of the time, it’s good old curiosity that brings people in: “I want to make an apple pie.” Done. “I need to read the Constitution.” Sorted. “I’m going to San Antonio and need a place to stay.” One moment, please. “Have you got any Sylvia Plath?” Oh, have we ever. Perhaps it’s a bit geeky, and definitely hyperbolic, but here in the Library I have felt like the gatekeeper to all American knowledge. Every question I’ve been asked has reaffirmed the beauty and value of this great place.
Being surrounded by books is always bliss, but I have been particularly happy to spend time with the staff of the Memorial Library–Trust Librarian Libby Morgan and Jenny Christian, Lesley Fleetwood, my fellow scholars Elizabeth Rawitsch and Blake Darlin, and so many others. I have been impressed all along by the knowledge, commitment, and respect demonstrated by my colleagues here. Luckily, I get to stay involved as a member of the relief staff, so I won’t be gone completely. But since this blog is the Scholars’ realm (and you’ve got a great new duo headed your way!), I shall bid a sad but very, very fond farewell to the last two years. Thank you for everything.