Holiday Memories: Husband comes home from Korea for the holidays

Friday, Dec. 20, 1957, I waited inside the airport terminal by a row of seats where wind-driven snow flurries wouldn't batter me each time the door opened. My husband was returning from Korea. His final hitch of 14 months in Korea completed his enlistment in the U.S. Army.

As Don descended the steps and hurried across the tarmac, he appeared thinner in spite of his winter coat, gloves and a large camera bag slung from his shoulder. Photography was a long-standing hobby for him and provided many prints, which had kept our memories bright.

Don was discharged at Fort Lewis, Wash. Then he went to his parents' home to acquire a complete wardrobe of civilian clothing. He called me from their home to inform me he would be on a plane the next day.

I held our 6-month-old daughter, Cindy, snugly wrapped against the cold temperature of the late afternoon. He barely said hello to me before dropping his camera bag and taking our daughter from my arms. After sitting down, he uncovered one of her tiny hands and held it for a moment. She awoke when he pushed her snowsuit hood away from her face. He looked at her for a long while before stating she was prettier than the snapshots I had sent.

I rubbed her cheek and asked if he could see the wisdom and understanding of his Grandma Hartman in her eyes. Cindy smiled, and Don looked at me as tears welled up in his eyes. Later, in California, I heard Don's Uncle Norman say to Don's mom, "Look at her eyes. They're our mother's eyes."

Extracting car keys from my coat pocket, I handed them to Don. The car, which I purchased with funds from his allotment checks and my paychecks, was a pale blue-and-white 1954 Chevrolet Belair. Before we left Missouri for California seven days later, we added Don's name to the title.

Sunday, Dec. 22, we drove to my childhood home for Christmas. My childhood home is a large farm in a lush, creek-fed valley 80 miles from Springfield, Mo.

That last Christmas with my parents and five siblings was a bit sad. I helped with farm chores and hiked to my favorite sites. My brothers and I rode horses to additional sights around the valley and checked line fences. During the four days of our Christmas visit, relatives and friends came to say goodbye. Everyone knew it would be several years before we could be together again, so it was hard to hold back tears.

While Don was in Korea, his parents, Mom and Dad Baker, called me frequently to provide advice and emotional support. I had visited them the previous year, shortly before Don shipped out for Korea. Don's dad wanted to name our baby Cindy because he liked a popular song entitled "Cindy, Oh Cindy." Don and I decided to name our baby Cynthia and abbreviate her name to Cindy. We used his mom's first name Jean (Jeanette) as her middle name.

We left my small furnished apartment in Springfield early Friday morning. Five days of travel, mostly on Route 66, got us to Santa Monica, Calif., on New Year's Eve. Mom and Dad Baker were expecting us as we had phoned them earlier that day.

Their home was ablaze with Christmas lights. A big Christmas tree aglow with lights filled the living room bay window. They were totally enchanted and charmed by Cindy. As far as Don's parents were concerned, Cindy was the best Christmas gift anyone could have presented them.

New Year's Day, Don's maternal and paternal aunts, uncles and cousins arrived to welcome the soldier and his family home. We were welcomed with gifts and warm wishes for a happy and successful life in California.

n M. Wright, who moved to Carson City seven years ago, says " I began the process of education in order to write poetry and my memoirs."


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