Military Traditions

July 30, 2020 By Jean Martin

A Dental Send Off

The snow was still falling; fat, soft flakes that piled up quietly and crunched underfoot. It had started snowing heavily last night and it was still coming down, as if we didn’t have enough snow in Boston. The afternoon light was dimming fast and the blowing snow made it hard to see. My sister Bennie and I plodded on, struggling to keep up with our older sister, Babs, as she marched with determination through the snow; she was always determined. “Hurry up,” she said. “Move it!” My nose was cold, and the snow was sliding into my boots. “I’m cold,” I whined; I whined a lot as it was usually guaranteed to infuriate Babs. She was just too bossy.

We were on our way to Peabody Square, which was not a square but a circle. We were to deliver cards to our dentist, Dr. Benjamin Claffey, whom we all liked even though he was a dentist. This was to be his last day in his office as tomorrow he was leaving to go into the Navy. He would not be Dr. Claffey but Lieutenant Claffey of the U.S. Navy. There was a war on now and men were enlisting and being drafted into the army and that was why Dr. Claffey was leaving. I felt a little sorry that his last day had to be one of such miserable weather.

It was nice to come into the warmth of the office; we delivered our hand-made cards to the doctor and wished him good luck and hoped that God would take care of him so he could come back soon. We promised that we would brush our teeth faithfully while he was away. He was surprised that we had come out into the storm, but he was pleased to get our cards; he put them up on the bulletin board for everyone to see. I thought Babs’ card was the best, but mine was the biggest. Bennie’s card still had glue on it. Suddenly my heart thumped with pride that we had done this for Dr. Claffey. I sort of forgot that it had been Mother’s idea and I hadn’t wanted to do it at all. He was pleased and so were we that he appreciated our efforts. I didn’t know then that we would never see Dr. Claffey again, as we moved to Milton the next year. I wonder what happened to him; I don’t think dentists actually had to shoot anybody, so I think he survived the war. Maybe he remembers our handmade cards.

We went out into the snow again, and started our reverse trip home, still complaining, with Babs setting the pace, urging us on. The light was fading into a soft dusk and the snow was letting up. The lights of our house were a welcome to us and I was glad to be warm and safe again at home.


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