My Trip Home - Day 8 & 9
This post is part of an ongoing tale of my trip back home to Mississippi to visit my family. To start the story at the beginning, begin reading from October 30, 2007.
I'm such a tease. I told y'all yesterday that we'd skip ahead to Day 10 of my trip home and plunge into the forty-eight hours of festivities that comprised the Peach Pilgrimage but I've decided to go ahead and tell about a couple of things that happened on days 8 and 9 because they involve two of my nephews that I positively adore.
On Day 8, Wednesday, Sister and I put together a care package to send to my nephew, John - my eldest brother's eldest son. Books, DVDs, some grooming articles, some snack things, a phone card - just some things to make his days a bit easier to take because John's in the one place our family doesn't want him to be. John is serving in Iraq.
He joined the Navy about 18 months ago. He had been going to college at UC - Santa Barbara but he couldn't afford it any longer and so to get money for college and to get experience in the field in which he's interested - John wants to be an EMT - he enlisted. My father was in the Navy for 22 years and a veteran of World War II and John was always proud of that fact so he chose the Navy to do his service. After basic training he went into training to be a corpsman and later he was given the opportunity to be attached to a Marine platoon. John really wanted the chance to do trauma work and being attached to this platoon would give him more of an opportunity to do that than him staying with the Navy being based on a ship or perhaps at the National Naval Medical Center in Maryland.
At first John's unit was going to Okinawa but plans were changed at the beginning of summer and he arrived in Iraq a couple weeks before I got to Mississippi. I was sick at the idea of him having to go to Iraq. I make no secret that I am angry that the US is there in the first place and always have been and the thought of my nephew there - anyone's family, actually - upsets me no end. But me being upset and worried isn't what John needs right now. He knows he's there because he took an oath to follow orders and because he wants to help the troops there. He's there to help those who become injured and it's important work. I'm proud of him for doing work that's difficult but if there's anyone up to the challenge, it's John. He was always such a smart, good natured, helpful kid and now that he's grown (he'll be 24 years old on Friday) he's even more of a wonderful guy.
So while we pray for his safety and the safety of his fellow troops and the Iraqi people he encounters, we shipped him a care package so he knows we're thinking of him every day. Because he not only needs our prayers, he needs Cajun flavored trail mix from Walmart and something to read.
On Day 9 I spent most of the morning getting laundry done and whatnot so I would be ready to leave the next day for the Peach Pilgrimage. In the afternoon Sister was hard at work studying - she's working on her master's degree in nursing - so I told her I'd go pick Sam up from school.
It was a really gorgeous day - sunny and clear and about 75 degrees - so when Sam and I got back to the house we hung out in the yard for a while talking. Finally Sam said "Hey Auntie Baba (there's a story behind that name but we'll leave it for now), I know what I want you to get me for Christmas.".
In a lot of other kids I might consider telling me what to buy them for Christmas to be almost brazen but in Sam, it's fine. He doesn't mean it to be controlling or manipulative - he said it to me because he feels comfortable with telling me everything that crosses his mind. We've always been pretty close and he's such an upfront, honest sort of kid that I could never imagine any guile from him.
"What is it?"
"Well, we'll have to go to Walmart so I can show it to you."
"Why do you have to show it to me? Can you just say what it is and I'll get it?"
"I don't want you to get the wrong thing. But we have to do it before you leave for Memphis."
"Well Sammo, I'm leaving tomorrow before you get out of school. And you have play rehearsal tonight. We'll have to do it when I get back."
"You're coming back?"
"Of course! I'm just going for the weekend. I'll be back here on Sunday. Actually I'll be back here Saturday night but I'm staying with the girls in town. We'll go to Walmart next week."
"Oh good! I thought you were staying in Memphis until you went back to Germany. I'm glad you're coming back. I didn't like the idea of you staying a whole other week of your vacation away from me."
And that was the point where I'd made up my mind that I'd get him whatever it was he wanted at Walmart. Sam takes piano lessons but I'm not truly convinced he doesn't take violin lessons as well because that boy can play me like a fiddle.
Sam and I have such a good bond and it started the first time I ever saw him. I lived in Virginia at the time and had come for a visit when Sam was 4 months old. He was laying on a blanket in the living room with the craziest look on his face. I said to my sister "What in the world is wrong with him?" and she immediately knew what I was talking about because she laughed and said "He's doing his Richard Nixon face.". From that moment on I knew this kid was always going to entertain me in the goofiest of ways and that we'd always have the sort of bond where we could make each other laugh about anything. And that's really how it's been with Sam and me. We can tease each other without mercy and we know there's no malice involved - just the need to make each other laugh until we gasp for breath. And Sam also knows that no matter what it is, he can tell me anything and I'll understand what he's saying.
I love all my nephews and nieces and am proud of them all but during those two days I was extra proud and felt extra fortunate that I could be John and Sam's aunt.
Okay, for real tomorrow - buckle up and take a dangerous ride with me to Memphis. And I do mean dangerous.