I’m looking forward to an extraordinarily long Fourth of July holiday this year. Thanks to the happy news on the calendar, I see it occurs on a Tuesday. I’ll do what millions of my countrymen will do and take Monday off, stretching this to a four-day escape from the cares of business as usual.
If Memorial Day was any predictor, I’d like to be on the back porch with a cup of coffee or glass of wine (depending on the hour), savoring the sight of a tropical downpour cascading through the pecan trees.
The latticed wooden porch plays a part in my imagination: rocking in its deep shelter safely out of the downpour, I could be a planter on a colonial Pacific plantation. Of course it’s absurd to think of south San Antonio as the South Pacific, but the reverie is sometimes reinforced by World War II aircraft from Stinson Airport thundering overhead as if they were still pressing toward the home islands.
I missed writing a Father’s Day column due to deadlines at the office and the fact that I’m packing. Or rather, sorting. I’ve sold my wonderful house and am moving on to another stage in my life as a real center city urbanite. I’ve found a large, wonderful apartment in a downtown co-op; it’s spacious enough to make room for my piano and ridiculously tall antique furniture, and there is enough wall space for everything I have that’s in a frame.
What I’m finding in the sorting/packing is a lot of my father, and a lot of his war. Things I haven’t seen in the eleven years since my hurried relocation to take a good job here. I opened a tiny box that was at the very bottom of a carton, like the little demi-god at the bottom of Pandora’s Box that turned out to be Hope. This little box was Memory. It’s only content was a tiny gold lapel pin, a kind of imperial looking eagle surrounded by a laurel wreath, one wing out of the wreath and one wing behind it. He looks a bit like a parrot on a perch. This is my father’s separation from service pin, which he was given when his commission ended in Tokyo and he was told he was finally free to go back to his home, wife and children. He showed it to me when I was a boy; laughing, he called it a “ruptured duck,” the GI nickname for something that was probably conceived by a sculptor who was comfortable with its relative pomposity.
Another box yielded a picture of my father in his Navy uniform, with his arm around his younger (taller) bother, a Marine. It also contained my uncle’s globe and anchor lapel pin. They are all smiles and look fit and young. They are standing in front of the Waikiki Tavern in Honolulu, the last time they would see each other until early 1946.
I decided to leave the large flag hanging from the second floor porch railing directly over the front door after Memorial Day. It will remind me of the freedom my father and uncle helped preserve, the freedom for me to relocate at will, take any job that appeals to me, to be educated without the exclusion of class. The flag will be the last thing I take from the house. I’ll be gone by the Glorious Fourth.
- Michael Guarino