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December 21, 2011

A Tale of a Few Cities

Tom McLaughlin

Middletown, MD – We traveled to the place I call home in the states. Even in stark winter, the Middletown Valley holds an incredible natural beauty, a sense of peace and calm as one descends from Braddock Mountain to the floor.


The magic was still with me as my travel strife (a one year old and tons of baggage) magically evaporated. The owners of the Middletown Diner (Dempsey’s Grill), a local homespun place, a throwback to the 50’s, welcomed me back as if I had never left. My Borneo wife, Suriani, said the trees reminded her of a forest fire in the tropics and called them boney. Her first experience of winter.


Braddock Heights, MD – I had watched the weather forecast. The rain was supposed to change to snow. Waiting anxiously, and around 9 P.M., a hesitant and then a barrage of flakes descended, the heavy wet kind.


“Suriani, it’s snowing,” I whispered as she was about to drift off in the bedroom.


Like she was touched by a live electric wire, she bolted out and danced in her first snow fall, wearing only a colorful blue sarong and light jacket. Her hands went upward, like those in a Christian revival meeting, trying to catch the flakes in the light of a bulb attached to the house. A huge soft smile broke into occasional giggles as she held the flakes that magically turned into water. Then, she would go after others. God, I love that girl!


Washington, D.C. – I choked up when I saw the White House and then again when I climbed the stairs to see Mr. Lincoln. I read the Gettysburg address showing Suriani the immortal words “a government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.” I took Suriani and Dzul, now an American citizen, to see Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin Roosevelt and the war memorials.


Then I turned and looked at the Capitol and became very angry. “How dare they,” I thought. “How dare they mock these people, and the heroes who died in war! How dare they mock my father who served his flag and was a war hero! Bastards!


Ocean City, MD – I lived many years here, three while taking care of Mom and Dad as they walked through the valley of death. Those hard times of care giving have softened now, as I see in my mind’s eye, Mom and Dad over the ocean with Dad smiling. And Dad never, ever smiled. But, he does now.


I went to the storage locker, where I had most of their personal items and antiques stored, those acquired as a military family in Europe and Japan during the occupations. I boxed things up and mailed them to my newly married daughter in Montana. My obligation to my parents was finally over. The antiques were passed down to the next generation. A great relief swept over me. Mom and Dad smiled, their faces floating above the ocean, a rising sun behind them.


I noticed people saying Merry Christmas again instead of the politically correct “Happy Holidays.” About time.


Merry Christmas and …Life is good


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