By Cait Collins
I never thought I would write a memoir, but I have to admit it’s a real kick. I have enjoyed every minute of the time I’ve spent working on this project. It all began when I started sorting through the paperwork associated with my father’s military career. My mother kept every scrap of paper accumulated from his time in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the late 1930’s until Dad’s retirement in 1969.
Sorting through the boxes of documents brought back memories. I found shipping instructions, in triplicate, DD2-14’s, transfer orders, pay stubs, and old income tax filings. There were orders for inoculations. I found my dog tags and my sister’s dog tags. My father was a highly praised Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO). The boxes were full of plaques, citations, medals and ribbons. For some reason, the Bill of Sale for that blue Nash Rambler station wagon struck a chord in me. I had vivid memories of that car, and learning Dad sold it for $50.00 in 1957 hurt. Surely the car was worth more than that. I began writing stories of the road trip we took in the Nash from San Antonio, Texas to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I never thought these snippets of military life would be well received. They were just stories of my memories of those wonderful days when I was a kid.
The stories of growing up a military brat in the 50’s and 60’s are part of a memoir with the working title Tables. In those days, a great part of our lives centered around the dining room table. Some are funny; others nostalgic; some painful. But they are a picture of our lives in an era of discovery, invention, and social change.
Why write about it? Think of all the kids out there who never played marbles or jacks. Children who eat dinner in front of a TV set or computer screen instead of meeting family over dinner have missed developing strong family ties. What about family reunions or your first two-wheeler? Think about playing outside after school and staying out until dinner time. The simple stories of our lives give insight into the history of a time period. They provide glimpse of who we were and the values we held dear. They note the accomplishments of the time and how these baby steps led to the exploding technology of today.
“But they are just my memories,” you might say. “No one will care about my life.” Maybe that’s true from a broad view, but the stories you tell might mean something to your children and your grandchildren. In my mother’s hoarded paperwork, I found some of my dad’s writings. He was an Air Force NCO, but he was also a story teller. In one notebook, I read the story of losing his father. I can picture a young man walking across the fields and checking the crops knowing if he failed as a farmer, his family would face difficult times. I learned so much about my dad in those pages, and I’m thankful my mom saved them. That little notebook means more to me than a financial windfall because I was able to know my father from an adult view point. Don’t you think your children would treasure finding you in the pages of your work?