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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Holiday (04/05/12)

TITLE: A Familiar Path
By Pam Ford Davis
04/11/12


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I was ten years old when awakened Memorial Day by my catís whiskers against my cheek. Kicking off tousled covers, I raised my window shade. Shades of blushing pink and burnt sienna battled for dominance over blue skies. As a child during the depression, I knew little of the significance of Decoration Day, Veterans Day or July 4th. Flag waving holidays merely provided welcome breaks from school, allowing me to exchange primers for playtime. My family celebrated Memorial Day with wicker basket lunches at area lakes or state parks. Sometimes Daddy drove us into the village to watch the parade with marching bands and soldiers in their spit and polish shoes. On many occasions, I accompanied Mother and Daddy to cemeteries that smelled of musty flowers. With hair-raising goose bumps, I waited in the car. I watched as they painstakingly placed flower arrangements affront relatives grave markers.

Sliced between Memorial Day and July 4 th, citizens observed Flag Day. Each Fourth of July, I relished biting into chilled watermelon and competing with my older sister and brother in seed spitting challenges. Daddy roasted hot-dogs and Mother completed lunch with side dishes of corn on the cob swimming in butter, German potato salad and baked beans fresh from the oven. Like tears, condensation ran down the side of iced pitchers of pink lemonade. At dusk, we sat in dew-covered grass viewing firework displays over the river. Veteranís Day fell in autumn and I sensed it was a very serious day to my father who had served in the Navy during World War I.

I did not seriously contemplate freedom implications of patriotic holidays. It was not until my teen years that I personally experienced heartfelt appreciation for servicemen and women. My big brother Billy lied about his age, enlisted in the U.S. Navy, and proudly served on a battle ship in the Pacific. Each time I cleaned the glass on his framed portrait hanging above the mantel, I daydreamed of port cities. We kept watch for the mailman and stifled tears because we rarely retrieved letters from the spider-webbed mailbox. Evenings we circled around our Zenith radio and listened to President Roosevelt in hopes of hearing any word of encouragement.

Edges of Motherís apron string began to fray around the edges. I left the shelter of our shingled bungalow to become Jamesí bride. Soon after our ceremony, complete with cherry blossoms and Oh, Promise Me, he got an Uncle Sam Wants You embossed envelope. His suit jacket, with rice still in crevices of pockets hung crumpled in our closet. He hoisted a duffel bag over his shoulder and my spirits fell as he boarded a train. I was an Army bride with empty arms and tear filled eyes. He embarked on an adventurous tour of duty as I set sail upon turbulent seas of matrimony. Trials and tribulations take no holidays.

I flipped a page on the calendar and made a mental note to make an appointment to see the family doctor. My queasy stomach might just be a stomach virus or too much stress. Doc ruled out both possibilities. The rabbit died. I was pregnant. The father of my child was a clouded memory as I diligently saved meager amounts from allotment checks, sacrificing silk stockings for baby booties. I wrote long letters to James nightly sharing every detail of my pregnancy. With church bells ringing in the distance, I gave birth to James Jr. on Christmas morning. My father sent a telegram to his son-in-law announcing the good news. When the C.O. hand delivered it, James let out a Wahoo that echoed to Kalamazoo. The father and son never met eye-to-eye. In early spring a measles epidemic took the life of little Jr. I tearfully laid flowers in front of a small granite marker, knowing I would systematically return to place fresh arrangements during upcoming holidays.

The war ended; cities hosted ticker tape parades but my husband returned home with little fanfare. He not only lost years with family; he lost his will to live. In invisible trenches, we battled intrusive enemies of mental and physical pain. Metal shrapnel had lodged in an inoperable area of his brain, with torpedoes of relentless pain hitting dead center. Wringing my hands, I watched as severe bouts of depression drove him to suicide. Lest I forget the impact the departed left on my life, with melancholy I tread a familiar path to leaning grave markers each patriotic holiday. I do not celebrate.


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This article has been read 461 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Camille (C D) Swanson 04/13/12
Wow - this was a powerful and heart wrenching saga. It was well written and touched my heart. Excellent job. Thank you.

God Bless~
Donna Wilcher04/15/12
Great work! Very good job of showing and not telling! Powerful message... I loved it!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/15/12
Wow this is intense and breaks my heart. I'm not sure if it is based on a true story or not but I suspect it might be. So many people wrote of Easter this week, I commend you for writing this out of the box gripping story. You held my attention all the way through. The ending is powerful.
Mildred Sheldon04/19/12
What a powerful heart wrenching story. My heart broke for the young woman in the story. Thank you for sharing.
Camille (C D) Swanson 04/19/12
Congratulations & God Bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/19/12
Congratulations on your EC Happy Dance!
Dannie Hawley 04/19/12
Awesome article and you won! Great and well-deserved with this terrific and moving piece. If you look out the window before going to bed tonight, you might just see me swimming up the Gulf, carrying a flag I am bringing you, "Champion"; I'm leaving right away. Congrats!
Jeanne E Webster 04/19/12
Congratulations! You are moving up in the world! A well-written piece picturing life's blood, sweat and tears. Blessings!