I’ve just returned from a USS Mauna Kea reunion and I’m remembering those challenging years when the Navy ship my husband was on carried ammunition to the Tonkin Bay. The ship’s reunions mean more and more as the wives connect with each other and their husbands, the old salts, turn stories into epics.
In those years our home base was in Port Chicago, California — my husband always says, ” I lived in California for two weeks, my wife lived there for two years.”
I would have stayed in the golden state for I had a job I liked, but good jobs were hard to find if you were young and getting out of the military. So, we moved east and have been on the east coast most of the time since.
Here’s a poem I wrote while thinking of those old times:
To My Daughter, Living in Asia
In 1968 I found a place in California to build a home,
prepared for you, dear child of mine.
The backyard was an Eden without an Adam,
snakes lurked among the jade trees and birds-of-paradise.
That glamour of being married to a Naval officer
shipped out with the Mauna Kea. The USS Forever-Sail,
as it was known by the wives, steamed to the Tonkin Bay
to supply the Eastern Fleet with ammunition and boys.
You burst into life too soon—or was the ship just too late?
Your Dad sent tapes, “ Welcome to the world, Marie,”
I’ll be home soon”.
When he stepped on shore, you knew that voice.
Now you are drawn to the East to see those places your father knew.
It’s something you want to do.
I linger at the airport-security-gate. You fly away—
to create a world that’s your own.
Please write me about the orchids that bloom at your door.
I see oak leaves, brown and rust in my yard—
dream the jade and bird-of-paradise.