I find it amusing that we never think our parents had any life at all before US. There must be a cosmic reason for this. Probably something to do with the need for a curtain. To preclude view of miscellaneous conduct and events that occurred while we were growing up. Which we have presumably done prior to becoming parents.
A few weeks back, during the apogee of my son's summer holidays we visited a battleship park together. A long, sweltering day spent climbing all over a gigantic war machine. Fascinating and perfect. You should have seen my photo of the room in which the officers took their meals. And my photo of the silver service. You WOULD have seen these photos had I not been the one attempting to take them.
In any event, we finally melted and straggled back to the park snack shop. Where I watched the Future Rock Star consume multiple hamburgers as I merely attempted to rehydrate. We were having a marvelous discussion of the caliber of the guns on board, the compliment of men, the battles she had fought. I do not know why, but I chose that moment to brush the curtain aside just the smallest bit.
ML: I'm going to tell you something that nobody knows.
FRS: [Slowing, but not abating, his burger consumption, eyeing me in a sort of fishy way] Ok...
ML: For a time, when I was your age, I was absolutely convinced that I would command a warship like that one day. That was what I wanted to do more than anything in the world...
FRS: [Freezing in mid-nosh] No kidding? REALLY?
ML: Yes. Absolutely.
FRS: What happened?
ML: Oh, I don't know. I just decided I wanted to do other things.
FRS: [Staring at me as if seeing me for the first time, then refocusing on hamburger 3] That's cool, Dad.
But I do know what happened. My parents announced an unprecidented event. The only vacation we ever took during the summer months. During which we found ourselves in Annapolis, Maryland at the United States Naval Academy. Where I learned that there were no more battleships in active service. And where I was able to observe the new freshman class ("plebes" in Academy parlance) partaking of their summer "orientation" activities. Which seemed to involve a lot of scrubbing huge items with tooth brushes. I learned something very important. That I knew myself just well enough to understand that my inordinate love of Navy officer's uniforms, particularly the Dinner Dress Whites, was not enough to carry me successfully through four years at Annapolis.
So it was, then, that my tour of duty on board a United States Navy battleship consisted of six hours, if you include the time at the snack shop. But the look of amazement on my twelve year old's face when he learned of his father's boyhood seafaring dreams was worth more than all the exotic ports I had imagined I would visit. And, now, the FRS realizes that there are things back there in my past that he does not know. That he may never know. As it should be.
Yet, every so often, I see the Dinner Dress Whites. And I feel that salt air on my face...
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