Make a Memory is a movement, a challenge to turn
I wish I had into I’m glad I did in 2015.
Reach out and claim an adventure this year. Make a Memory before it’s too late.
I first heard of author Miranda Gargasz from Tori Nelson, one of my awesome walking partners on the Tennessee Trace. After stalking her words for a year or more, the internet put us in the same place at the same time. We connected. We’re all lucky she shared this special Make a Memory story with us today.
Enjoy Miranda’s MANNING THE RAILS
We were unpacking boxes from our recent move when our youngest son, Tony, came upon a pile of pictures. This random stack was saved in its own tiny basket, a basket that had come from a drawer in my dresser. It had previously occupied the space next to a floral trinket box filled with love letters.
“Who are these people, Dad?” Tony asked.
Taking the stack, Jim shuffled through them. A smile spread across his face. “This guy here is Chup, and this is Brian and his wife, Angie. These are pictures of my old Navy buddies.”
I smiled as I listened to their conversation, knowing exactly what pictures they were talking about.
“Where did you find these, buddy?”
“In this box. There’s another box inside,” Tony said as he lifted the trinket box, accidentally dropped it, and spilled the letters all over the floor. “Oops.”
“It’s okay. We’ll put these in order by their postmark. No biggie.”
“How did you know they have an order?”
“Because I know your mother.
These are my letters I wrote
to her while we were dating.”
At that, Jim looked up at me and smiled.
“Did I ever share with you my favorite memory from my Navy days?” he said to Tony while looking at me. I felt the familiar burn of tears in my eyes.
Tony sidled up to his father and paid rapt attention. Our oldest son, Jimmy, stopped unpacking and scooted closer, too.
“Well, being in the Navy is a lonely job. It keeps you away from your family and loved ones for long periods of time, sometimes months. Your mom and I were dating for about a year when I had to go on my six month cruise to the Mediterranean. Now, this was before cell phones, texting, Skype and all that.
The only way we could keep in touch
was through letters and phone calls.”
Tony nodded his head. “The olden days were tough.”
Jim laughed. “Yes, they were tough. It was hard when you were dating someone who lived at home while you served, but it was even harder when we were deployed because there were no phones to call home on the ship. Sometimes our mail would be held for weeks at a time because it was a secret where our ship was. Mom would send me letters every day and sometimes I’d get nothing. Sometimes I’d get a giant pile of letters and cards.”
“It had to be like Christmas, huh?” Jimmy said.
“Yes, very much like Christmas. The days we were gone were very lonely and all I could think about was home, how much I missed Mom and that I was going to ask her to marry me when I got back.
I figured if she waited that long for me,
she was the one.
You see, most of the guys I was in the Navy with had girlfriends and even wives who didn’t wait for them. They just moved on without their sailors. The guys would come back from deployment to find that their girls had new boyfriends, or their wives had moved home with their parents and were divorcing them.”
“That’s sad,” Tony said.
“They cheated on them?” Jimmy asked, incredulous.
“Yes. And it happened all the time.
“After six months away, and so few mail calls, I couldn’t wait to get back to Virginia. I was hoping that we’d pull in to the dock and I wouldn’t have duty. I was also hoping that somehow my family knew when my ship was coming in and would be on the dock waiting for me.
“Well, the day we pulled in was gray and cloudy and rainy. It took hours for our ship to pull in. Many of my crew mates told me not to get my hopes up for anyone to meet me, especially with the bad weather. I tried not to, but I couldn’t help but wish that I’d get to see them.
“Those sailors who didn’t have duty that day got to stand all along the edge of the deck, something they called ‘manning the rails,’ a way of honoring our return. I was standing up there searching to see if Grandma or Grandpa were there, and hoping that Mom might be there, too.”
Jim looked up at me and I was already crying. Both boys bounced looks between the two of us.
That memory was more than 20 years old,
but it was fresh in my mind.
“I saw what seemed like hundreds of faces along the dock, none of them familiar. People were everywhere looking and waving. My heart started to feel really sad and I started to lose hope that my family had been notified of our return.
“Just when I was about to give up, the Chaplain for our ship tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my far left. There on the dock was a six foot sign, held on one end by Mom, the other by Grandma, that said
‘WELCOME HOME, JIM GARGASZ.
WE LOVE YOU!’
Mom had taken a big Coke banner from work and made a sign out of the back of it so I could see that they were there while I was on deck.”
He stopped a minute. His eyes overflowed with tears. “That’s my favorite Navy memory. Mom wanted to make sure I could see them. She wanted to make sure I knew that they loved me so much that they’d drive twelve hours in crappy February weather, wait another four or five hours in the rain, slowly watching our ship pull in, so I didn’t feel lonely on our return.”
“I think it’s because she loved you,” Tony said.
“Yeah, I think so, too.” Jim said.
Later that night, after the kids were in bed and we readied for sleep ourselves, Jim snuggled up to me in the dark.
He whispered in my ear. “I will be an old man, in a home, forgetting how to tie my own shoes, but I will always remember you, shivering on that dock, crying and clutching that sign.”
I lay in bed next to him and cried. Not because I was sad. Because he shared this memory, someday, when we are both dead and gone, our sons will come upon those pictures and love letters and share them with their children. That memory will “man the rails” of time, honoring the love story for generations to come.
What better memory could there be?
Miranda Gargasz is a writer from a small suburb outside Cleveland, Ohio. She earned a degree in Elementary Education before becoming a writer. Her essays have appeared in The Christian Science Monitor and on HumorPress.com. In February of 2014 she published her first collection of essays entitled Lemonade and Holy Stuff. Since publishing her book, she has become a contributor to the popular mom site What the Flicka?, brain child of actress Felicity Huffman. She is also a contributor to The Huffington Post and has been featured on Mamapedia and ModernMom. She lives with her husband, two sons and a feisty mutt. Read more about Miranda HERE.
Read Not Without My Father. Grab a loved one. Make a Memory that will live forever. The Huffington Post calls Not Without My Father “one literary ride you don’t want to miss!”
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