17 November 2013

I went out into the back garden last night in the bright, bright moonlight and looked up for stars. I was standing there in the crisp late autumn night hoping to see another shooting star when it hit me that it was 16 November.

And I thought back. Did the maths...

The sum follows me.

39 years ago I was sitting in a Philadelphia hotel room enjoying the sight of my afternoon's shopping spree. I won't say the bed was heaped with shopping spoils, I'm not built that way and wasn't then, but an utterly delicious winter hat nestled in the glorious Strawbridge and Clothier hat box next to a few new outfits spilling out of Macy's and boutique shopping bags.

Clearly, 39 years later, the hat is the only thing that sticks in my mind. I had that hat for years. Loved it, wore it, felt like an heiress in it. Crusty killed it in the 90s, the bastard, by tossing it in the washing machine. He killed several of my favourite clothes that way. He'd killed my USCG foul weather jacket the same way in the late 80s, and when I begged to know why he'd done it he said he'd always hated that jacket. No doubt. It was warm and I loved it. 'Nuff said, he said he'd always hated The Hat when I demanded to know why he'd washed it. I always did the laundry but every now and again he would run a load, and something else of mine would be ruined. 

I had a beautiful cashmere car coat I somehow managed to keep safe from him until we moved from California - somehow in the move after my dad died several boxes of my things somehow didn't make it onto the moving van. That was Crusty's way. If it was mine he either ruined it or left it behind in one of our many moves over the marriage. Bastard, but Crusty is not the topic of this post.

The topic of this post is that on 15 November 1974 I graduated from USCG Basic Training Cape May. My step-mother and her live-in boyfriend made the trip out to New Jersey and from Cape May we all went to Philly for a week. So 39 years ago tonight I was sitting in my hotel room revelling in my temporary freedom from uniforms and superior officers, freedom from Colors, Taps, and rules.

And to be honest, all I remember from that week is:

Lunch at Bookbinders (Down an cobblestoned alley. Looked like England. And Scotland)
The drive to Allentown (Grey, wet, cold. 'Nuff said)
The afternoon shopping (Grey, cold, windy, GLORIOUS - OMG I SHOPPED PHILLY! Walked down their version of the High Street with enough cash in my purse to convince me I could buy anything I wanted)

And then we all went back to California. I had two weeks on the beach in autumn (my favourite time of year on Seal and Huntington Beach) until I had to report to RESTRACEN Yorktown. For further training.

I was 18 years old. I remember flying into Newport News and looking down over Virginia thinking 'This really is the beginning of the rest of my life, and it all starts down there...'

And it did. From there the pattern of my life to 2009 at least was set in stone. If I hadn't gone to Yorktown none of what followed would have happened. I wouldn't have gone to Alaska, or any of the other places I went because of things that happened and decisions I took in Yorktown.

And in the end, I wouldn't have Fox, and I wouldn't have 'Bas. So in answer to a question I posed to a friend nearly as many years ago as my Philly shopping spree - Yeah, I'd do it all again if that was the only way to be Fox'sMom, and 'Bas' gran.

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