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My Magic Carpet

by David Westheimer

 

In my childhood I loved stories about the magic carpet, a rug that would fly you anywhere in a flash. I never dreamed that some day I would have one of my own.

It is called e-mail.

The merest whim can whisk me off on it all over this country, to Japan, Ireland, Germany and Peru. I visit Houston every day, sometimes more than once. My first cousin (once removed) lives there. We grew up together from infancy. We were out of touch for a while after my parents moved out of the old neighborhood but hooked up again in high school, where we were in the same home room. In later years, we got a little out of touch. We called or wrote every couple of years. Then his grandchildren gave him a computer and taught him to do e-mail. And now we are growing old together on our magic carpets.

Dody and I occasionally share my carpet on visits to our niece and great-niece there. I fly it alone to visit two nephews in Houston and with great-nieces and great – nephews all over the country. Two close friends of my youth in Houston do not have computers and for years we have had to keep in touch the old fashioned way, by phone. Which means only a few times a year. I visit an engineer in Texas at NASA, a cousin with the same name as mine, and another Texas town I check in with a lady police sergeant who lives in the area where my first novel was set.

The carpet whisks me to a former Italian POW camp fellow guest (I forget what state he lives in) and to another ex-POW, from the South Compound of Stalag Luft 3, with whom I had taken pre-flight training in Alabama in 1941. I visit him in Florida. I fly the carpet often to check in with a retired Air Force officer who did a lot of the research on Death Is Lighter Than a Feather for me. He often sends me trenchant letters to the editor he has published from time to time.

Then there’s the lady medical transcriptionist in Oregon who calls me Surf (surrogate father). On my visits I call her Surd, surrogate daughter. She shares 80 prime acres with her significant other which they are slowly creating their private Eden. He builds things and fishes, she grows things (flowers and vegetables) and e-mails lots of beautiful photos. We’ve never met. Another frequent magic carpet visitor I’ve never met is a research librarian on Long Island. We chit chat about books, movies and our cats. Have done so for years. My Oklahoma destination is the semi-rural home of a youngish grandmother who enjoys riding her power mower over her two-acre meadow lawn. As a child, she beat crippling polio and has written about it movingly in an as yet unfinished novel.

I visit often with Rose Mula, a fellow Senior Women writer. Her, Dody and I have met. When she visited Los Angeles we took her to lunch where we take all out-of-town visitors, the Casablanca Restaurant.

The carpet enables me to keep in touch with the widow and children of my WW II pilot, Larry Kennedy, and with the son of our radio operator. He stopped responding to my carpet chatter a couple of years ago and I am afraid he may have left us. He had MS.

I have occasional visits in Ireland with the gifted Irish writer, Maeve Binchey, and travel to Japan to visit a young woman who lives there. Since we first met, she has married an American in the country, had a little boy, divorced and took the child to Japan. She sometimes carpets us photos of herself and young son. My Peruvian destination is Lima, to visit our one-time next-door neighbor, a Swiss lady who married a Peruvian, and her son, now grown and married, whom we met in Switzerland when he was a teenager and his mother was visiting her mother there.

In Germany, my connection is the daughter of a German war veteran who was captured as a teenage soldier by the Americans and held at a tent city called Camp Lucky Strike. That’s how she found me on Google, researching Camp Lucky Strike. Before it became a holding site for German POWs it housed liberated American POWs, of whom I was one.

I wonder if I ever ran across her father there. There were German POWs around doing camp jobs, such as handing out towels at the shower tent. The magic carpet has made the world so small.

 

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