Write Again … And then I knew I was home

Published 1:49 am Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We crossed the English Channel and docked for the night at Southampton, England, on a beautiful late spring day.

How I would have loved to go ashore in Merry Olde England, even if only for a few hours. No, way. They weren’t about to let us off the ship. So, I just had to content myself with looking over the ship’s rail at our Mother Country.

About a day or so out from the New World, we spotted what looked to be a seagull. Praise be, we must be near land, we conjectured.

And then — through the magic of modern technological wizardry — someone picked up an American radio station on a transistor radio. A transistor radio! Remember those little wonders?

(At this point I’d explain to my younger readers what a transistor radio was, but I seriously doubt if I have any “younger readers.” As we all know, that slice of demographia doesn’t read newspapers.)

Our “luxury liner” slipped past the Statue of Liberty on the way to the docking facilities. We were giddy with excitement to a man, I’m sure.

Now, please consider the times — and the person I was and still am — when I relate this bit.

We all dressed in our class A uniforms, and down the gangway we came. On my duffel bag, carried over my shoulder, I had affixed a borrowed Confederate flag. I knew they were observing the 100th anniversary of the War Between the States.   As a son of the South, I was proud to share a symbol of my Dixie roots to any who were waiting dockside. Maybe I was naïve. I know, I absolutely know, that it was my pride of place, and not of race. Then or now.

But that was then. I was 23 years old, and this is now. Enough said.

And then I set foot on American soil, or, well, American pavement.

One small step for Bartow, one giant leap for every emotion he manifested.

Never again will I feel those specific emotions. Indescribable.

It was my first time back in the good old US of A in 29 months.

The following evening when the bus pulled into a nearly deserted terminal downtown, it was my first time back home — in my beloved Little Washington — in 31 months.

My father was there to meet me. When we pulled into the driveway at home and parked, I saw my mother looking out of the kitchen window. Then she opened the back door, and Fella came down the steps to greet us.

To greet me.

And I knew I was home. 

Note: This Old Timer remembers that whole experience with clarity. Even though it was over 50 years ago, it is still with me. And in recalling those rampant emotions, sometimes they are accompanied by very damp eyes.