I've spent the last few days with my Mom and Dad in Clayton NC in order properly to observe my Mother's Birthday. Let the record show that I was the only out of town child to make the haj this year, a sign not only of my loyalty to my parents but of the sloth and contempt of my siblings. Both the oldest and youngest of us live here in Clayton and were able to rouse themselves for a fair showing of familial affection, but I am certain they would have missed the occasion were they out of towners. Such is the burden of being the favorite of six children.
In an hour or so, I will "put her in the wind" as my Dad said so many times in our youth, and head home. To Easton, you ask? To your Kittens, house and dogs? Well no, not quite. To my other home. Norfolk, Virginia, home of the Atlantic Fleet and in my view, The Navy's Home Town.
I left home in NJ for college when I was 18, Mount Laurel never having had a huge draw for me. Twenty-one years in the Navy bounced me around a fair number of times between sea duty, shore duty, and training time. But there was always one constant--I could not wait to be back in Norfolk when I was gone, and I was happier than a tick in a kennel when I was there. I'm headed there to deliver a speech to a predominately Navy audience; afterward, I'm going to have lunch onboard the ship I used to command. My heart never ceases to skip a beat when I cross the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and see the majesty of the Navy broad on my starboard bow. I think of so many sultry duty nights in Norfolk, heading out to the fantail to observe evening colors in the soupy air. Norfolk has a bit of a bad name in the Navy, probably because it isn't San Diego, Mayport, or Pearl Harbor. But it was always the perfect place for me, a place of great neighborhoods, patriotism, good restaurants and a steady desire to make itself better.
Most times, when my ships would come in from a week at sea in the training opareas, we'd try and get in as early as we could on Friday, and once everything was buttoned up, liberty call would go down. I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it felt to stroll down the pier early on a Friday afternoon, knowing that you didn't have to return to the ship until Monday and that the weekend lay before you.
I miss Norfolk.