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Archive for December, 2007

And we won!!

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Merry Christmas, Darling

I’ve always loved the Carpenters’ Christmas song, “Merry Christmas, Darling.” It was originally recorded in November, 1970 and must have hit the radio stations and the store-shelves just in time for the Christmas season that same year, but I didn’t hear it then. I had joined the Navy earlier that year, and was in bootcamp in San Diego, California through February. In bootcamp, we weren’t allowed to listen to the radio much.

That Christmas I received several care-packages from home, and one special package came from my grandmother in Scranton. I remember it very well, because later that same day I got word that she had died of a stroke. There were lots of goodies in the box, that I shared with the other guys in my company, including several packages of Russell Stover candies and the ever-present tin of broken cookies, and there was a Timex electric watch for me. It was a nice watch, and I wore it for many years until one day I broke it when I was working on one of my old cars. I don’t think there was anything in the Blue Jacket’s Manual about it, but Chief Geiger, our drill instructor, told me it was all right if I wanted to go outside the barracks after lights-out to grieve for the loss of my grandmother. I remember getting up from my bunk and stepping out on the landing outside the door, but I don’t remember what happened after that, or how long I stayed out there. There were lots of stars out that night.

I spent the next Christmas in Japan. I had only been there about 6 months, and it wasn’t my first time away from home, but for some reason Christmas hit me especially hard that year. Freddy had bought a car, and one afternoon he and Bobby and I drove out to Yokohama. And that’s when I heard “Merry Christmas, Darling” for the first time, on the radio in Freddy’s car, and it was new to me, and I loved it of course. It seems kind of nice now, in hindsight that God kept it fresh for me for that whole year.

We used to listen to the Armed Forces Radio Network quite a bit when we were in Japan. I think that they broadcast out of Tokyo. At night, whenever I was alone in our little apartment just off of the Hon-cho, I would fall asleep with the radio on, and often I would awaken in the middle of the night and Barbara Russell would be on the air. She was my favorite DJ on the AFRN. She would say, “This is Airman Barbara Russell, from Yokota airbase” and it was nice just to hear an American woman’s voice again. I don’t know what ever became of her. Maybe Art Bell could do a show about her.

I hope our young men and women serving overseas, and especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan have somebody nice like Barbara Russell and Karen Carpenter looking out for them this Christmas.

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