Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saturday Night Challenge

Randy Seaver's given us a fun Saturday Night Challenge, and for once....I'm getting to it on Saturday night!!!

Here's the challenge:

"Here's your mission if you want to accept it ...

1. What is one of your most vivid childhood memories? Was it family, friends, places, events, or just plain fun?

2) Tell us about it in a comment to this post, a Comment or Note on Facebook, or in a blog post of your own."

So, here's one of my most vivid childhood memories:

My Mom was for all intent and purposes a "single" parent, even though she was quite happily married, and I did have a Dad! You see, my Dad was a career Navy man. I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia. By the time I was 16 years old, my Dad had spent a total of 18 months of my life at home. He was always stationed aboard a ship while I was still at home. After I married, he did spend his last two years land bound.

But, while I was a child, we saw Dad for a few weeks at a time, and then he'd be gone on another cruise. His homecomings were always exciting events. We'd wait on the pier for his ship to come in. Dressed in our Sunday best, along with hundreds of other Navy dependents. As the ship was pulled into its slip by a tiny tug boat, the sailors were all "at ease" standing at parade rest along the edge of the deck of the ship. Hundreds of them! We'd all cheer and wave, and try our best to pick out our Dad's. [This was back in the day when there were only male sailors on board ships.]

There was just my younger sister and I back then [later two brothers came along, but not until I was grown and married]. Mom would hold our hands as we searched for our own hero, our Daddy! Back then, ladies wore white gloves during an outing in the day. And hats. We were no exception. Dressed, as I said in our Sunday best, with white hats, gloves, and parasol purses, with white patent leather shoes. There were many comments when I was little about my Mama and her "little ladies", and how nice we always looked when going out.

After what would seem an eternity, the men would be released to come ashore. And we'd watch the gangplank as they each and every one would descend, watching for that familiar face of Daddy.

Sometimes it seemed he was the last to leave, or so we'd think in our impatience! But then, suddenly he'd be there before us. He'd sweep Mama up into his arms, and she got her hug and kiss first. Then he'd scoop us girls up and hug and kiss us. Oh, my, but our Daddy was strong! And the handsomest sailor ever! Or so we thought in our little girl minds!

Proudly we'd all hold on to Daddy as we walked to our car parked just beyond the pier.

When we got home, Daddy's seabag opened to treasures from ports all over the world! There were wooden Dutch shoes from Holland, crocodile leather purses from Italy, an Italian rosary, a wooden jewelry box from Amsterdam, a kimono from Japan, ivory chopsticks from China, carved native heads from Africa, a sarong from India, a tapestry from Turkey, and the list goes on and on.

In a few weeks, Daddy would have to leave for another cruise. It would seem we'd just get used to having him back home, when he'd be off again.

I have an infinite tender heart for service members today, and their dependents, because of my own childhood. Also because my first husband was a career Army soldier. I spent 12 years following him from base to base with our five children. My heart bleeds for the lack of respect our country affords, at times, these heroes and their families. And when one is honored, I celebrate with them!

Today my Daddy is a bit heavier than he was way back then. He's in his 70's. But, that young man who walked down the gangplank to greet his young wife and daughters is still who I see when I look at him! And the pride I feel in having him as my Dad is more than I can ever express! He spent 22 years in the Navy, aboard ship as a machinist's mate. He served in the Korean War and through the Vietnam War. He was at the Bay of Pigs.

My Dad. My hero. And what a wonderful memory it is to see him in his summer whites, or his winter blues. Tall. Proud. A Navy sailor!

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