I remember walking around the corner shoe store repair, heading back up the street on the way home with Mommy that day…she was really excited! Mommy had her carryall filled to the brim with lots of good things. An aunt and uncle who lived very far away would be coming to visit us in the next few days. I asked who they were. My mother told me that I had been too young to remember when they last visited.
You know your little pink rocker, Annette?
Ohhhh…the light bulb was beginning to turn on… They were the ones who had sent me the small rocking chair with its rattan seat; something especially for me from very far away. So, I knew of them by the little rocker that was mine.
One thing about listening to my mother – you got a textbook history in any and all topics – and their story was no exception.
Originally from Georgia, my uncle had been stationed in California many years before. This Georgian absolutely loved kids and noticed a little guy in the neighborhood playing all alone. Apparently, my future uncle asked the little guy’s mother for permission to play ball with him; that’s how my uncle met my aunt, who was my father’s baby sister, a young WWII widow. Eventually, the two adults fell in love and married. Years later, my cousin would follow in his new father’s footsteps and also choose a Navy career.
Mommy continued on…Uncle was now a Lieutenant Commander. Mommy stressed how very important his new position was. Actually, my mother stressed about almost everything! Aloud, she hoped she had picked up enough French bread and that the meal she was planning for the night at our home was different than what another sister-in-law would be serving, and that she hoped we had enough cheese and salami on hand…Mommy’s excitement was absolutely infectious!
There were a few times that I “connected” well beyond my four years of age, with the particular significance surrounding our household events. Hence, I was starting to pick up just how very important their visit would be, so I asked Mommy:
Will we have to salute him?
Naturally, that made the rounds pretty quickly once their visit had begun.
By the time I was growing up, Armistice Day had been renamed Veterans Day; my mother made sure that I knew the historic background of our country’s holiday at a very early age. I had a cousin who was born on Armistice Day when it was Armistice Day. I was born on Christmas Eve; thus far, no one had renamed it.
This would be the first of many visits from Uncle Bake and Auntie that I would actually remember. So, I listened quite intently as Mom explained that because Uncle was still in the Navy, they couldn’t visit us very often – like around the holidays – when most families gathered.
Because their visits with us were always limited, the days took on a holiday feeling when these two returned to the West Coast. Each visit might be short, but that wouldn’t stop any of the siblings from filling it as full of family good times as the suitcase full of comfort foods returning with Auntie.
One of the things that Auntie missed most was the sourdough French bread; no matter where in or out of the country they had been stationed, she still claimed nothing ever came close to the bread from California. Over the years, the older siblings would chip in and help fill up one suitcase going back with Auntie and Uncle to their next post; it would be filled to the brim with Larraburu French Bread and enough salami to feed a company!
Each May Americans remember Memorial Day with a quiet moment of reverie for the family members who have passed on; the same ones we used to hug and kiss goodbye, then send off with a suitcase full of Home. Today, there remain several opportunities for those of us who want to support our living Veterans and current military men and women; they, too, would appreciate receiving “a bit of Home” now and then. None of us need wait until May or November to remember our military. Their calendars have twelve months, just like ours do!
So, when a few extra dollars can be found, at any time of year, send them on…the internet makes it easy to find a favorite charity, adopt a soldier, gift a military family, or send a donation to your local VFW or USO. Then pack that picnic lunch and give thanks for another holiday in this precious land…