A Coming Home
A Coming Home
Chapter 1 - The Base
“.... Dismissed!” And with a sharp pivot Sargent Gilmore‘s heels snapped, and he turned and walked toward his office in his Dress Blues. Strangely, it was that sharp click of the Sargent‘s heels that announced to us with a finality, that we were now dismissed for the holiday leave. The snow had just started to light. Immediately, I broke away from the rest of the assembly. I couldn’t wait to get on the road and home to my family. The snow report said the storm was just moving in from the north and bringing some of that warm Chesapeake snow with it. I was not going to wait around for it to sock me in.
Running back to the barracks, I grabbed my duffel bag and bolted to my car where I had left it parked, ready for a quick getaway. Snow had already started accumulating on it. Throwing my bag into the trunk, I jumped into the cockpit of my 69’ Pontiac Firebird, I was so excited about going home. It had been over three years since I had been home, and four years since my last Thanksgivings at Home.
Besides, I loved road trips, especially if I was driving. I didn’t even mind that it was a cold snowy day. Cold, was after all, was part of the Thanksgiving experience, and snow just made it more memorable. And this road trip was an 1,800 mile drive ... alone; and that was the way I liked it. No snow in front all the way.
I turned the key and fired up the engine. Oh, that rumble!
How I loved that about my car. I revved it up just so everyone could hear the engine roaring. Pulling off the pedal, I let it come to a purr settling with that smooth DeLorean lower register rumble. Palming my Hurst Shifter and popping it into reverse, I whipped the car around and sped off waving to the guys, speed shifting 2-3 around the corner, and burning rubber out of their sight. The snow was still melting when it hit the pavement.
I didn’t worry about the MPs as I knew they would be occupied at the gates, but when I got to the west gate, I slowed up, and the MP’s gave me that knowing glare. Corporal Rodgers said, “TJ ... we already heard you coming a 1/4 mile away, so don’t think you’re gerring away with anything. Your Dad can’t cover you anymore.”
Waving me on with a disdain, I smiled. But in reply, as soon as my tail-lights passed over the base property line, I punched it, holding it in 1st a little long, and then popping it into 2nd, screeching hard. Looking in my rear view mirror, I could see their pissed faces. I was dead when I got back, but I didn’t care, I was going Home now and laughed as I drove off.
Aah! On the road.
Thinking to myself about the next few hundred miles and what I would think about, I had an idea. I thought what a great idea it would be if I were to write a Thanksgiving story for the guys who were left on the base. The guys who either had no real family, or had to stay to cover base operations; or those who could not get the holiday for one reason or another. I would post it in the mess hall. I am sure I could get copies for the taking. I would call it, “A Thanksgiving to Remember”, a sort of play on words, once they read the story.
This would be a Thanksgiving Holiday story about my family. Not to tease, but to share the meaning of Home and Thanksgivings. In it, I will pretend to bring someone home with me from the base. The reader could pretend it was them. Hopefully, it can give them back a lost hope, or even a bit of the magic from a Thanksgiving that they have only forgotten about. It could help reignite their past positive emotions and spark their own cherished memories of Thanksgiving, and maybe they can find their own Home.
So John Doe, thanks for coming with me!
“Now, if you’re going to come with me, you will need to meet my family. It will help you remember who they are when you meet them later, as well as, to better understand who they are as individual. It will also help you better capture that perfect feeling when I walk in the door, greeted by the warmth, love and joy of my entire family, and the incredible exuberance of my family once l am Home, as I will be the last one to arrive. Everybody else will be there.”
And then, as if to interrupt myself, I tell John, “To be honest, it’s not just about me. No, when I arrive Home, I will be the last one to arrive. Everybody else will already be there, but for one. And I will get to him in a bit. This will be a very special Thanksgiving because I will be there after three missed Thanksgivings!”
“Ok John, as to the logistics, I will be driving the whole way. We will be taking I-95, to I-40 and arriving on Wednesday, around noon. Tonight, we’ll stay in Oklahoma City just to get some rest. And along the way, I will tell you all about the soft underbelly of my family. Warts and all.”
So as the miles clicked away, I began recounting all the cities, schools, people and local sights we experienced. First, with Sarah, and then with Rebecca, “Beck”, as I would call her. It was just us three for a while, Richard came later. These were the early years, and I only started to remember when we got to El Toro, in California, when I was 4-5, and even then it is only bits and pieces. It wasn’t until I got into elementary school that my memories became more continuous.
John did not say too much to anything. I think he was intimidated by my family. Possibly even rethinking his coming with me. At points, there was some awkward silence, but I barreled on with more faint details of our early years, as each mile passed under my wheels.