This is assuredly after the fact, but I’m busy and stuff sneaks up on me. Valentine’s Day has never been particularly memorable, because I don’t recall getting anything that stood out.
Except two things, and they’re probably the most memorable of all, when I think about it.
The first memorable Valentine’s Day happened in 1958. Dad had orders to NAS Glynco, which is in Glynn County, Georgia. Brunswick is the major city. Glynco was a base for lighter-than-air dirigibles, a.k.a. blimps.
You might wonder why the US Navy was still using blimps in 1958. One of Dad’s specialties in the Navy was sub-chasing, a super-secret subject. Radar proved efficacious for precisely that, using radar in the blimps that traveled down the Eastern seaboard and into the Caribbean, on the prowl for Russian submarines. Call it anti-submarine warfare.
I didn’t know that at the time. Dad often worked jobs where he couldn’t tell us much. We learned early not to ask. Later on, he was stationed on Adak, a remote island in the Aleutian Chain that stretches west from Alaska in the northern Pacific. Same deal there: sub-chasing during the Cold War. Shhh.
We drove across country from California, his last duty, arriving in Georgia a week later. I was in the fourth grade. My folks decided to live on St. Simons Island, which was not far offshore from Brunswick. Causeways and bridges connect St. Simons to the mainland. In a later Random Nattering, I may tell you more about St. Simons. What a great place.
Mom took my older sister and me to the island’s elementary school and we started on February 14, Valentine’s Day. My teacher was Mrs. Harrison, a wonderful woman. She was married to the island’s fire chief, which means we enjoyed a great tour of the fire station that spring.
So there I was on Valentine’s Day. The Navy isn’t particularly concerned about quasi-holidays and how dependents (us kids) fit in. I don’t know how she did it, but Mrs. Harrison and kids with extra Valentines included me, even though I had come to class that morning with no expectations. I went home with Valentines. I made some good friends in that class.
Something else great happened. February 14 was the day of the weekly spelling test. Mrs. Harrison told me I was excused from the test, because I hadn’t even seen the weekly words. I told her that I’d like to take the test anyway. She hesitated, but agreed.
I made 100 percent on the test. I knew I would. I happen to be one of those weird intuitive spellers. I don’t misspell words, except now and then reminiscence (which just automatically autocorrected as I’m writing this because I misspelled it). This gave me high marks in Mrs. Harrison’s eyes, and I had a good school year, or what remained of it.
A second Great Thing happened fifty-one years ago the day before Valentine’s Day. My husband and I and one small son were living in Brooklyn, New York, while Martin attended Brooklyn College-CUNY for his Master of Fine Arts degree.
I was pregnant with Child No. 2. Back then we didn’t know gender until the kid popped out. I was expecting something. I had to take the subway to my doctor’s appointments. Often, this meant hanging onto the strap and swaying with the car. When I started to show, some nice people, women mostly, gave up their seats for me. I was always grateful. Again, I never expected much, so getting a seat like that was a pleasant surprise.
As my pregnancy wore on, I started reading Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. What a great book. It carried me along through morning sickness, weird cravings, and puffy ankles. Melville’s sea and the creatures in it, man and beast, fascinated me. I love the ocean.
Time passed. I waddled into my usual Friday doctor’s appointment on February 12 and waited in the doctor’s office for my turn to be poked and prodded. As I sat there, I finished Moby-dick. I closed the book with real satisfaction and announced to the receptionist, “Done. Now I can have this baby.”
Sure enough, Mary Ruth was born the next morning. She turned into a forthright, plain-spoken kid who tried my patience a time or two. She perseveres and accomplishes stuff, and teaches special education, which tells you everything you want to know about this blessing of mine. She also has a lovely mezzo soprano singing voice. She lives in Southern California with a husband and three children, one in college and two in high school. My life would be bare, indeed, without Mary Ruth in it, my special almost-Valentine.
Those were my two great Valentine’s Days. If you want to know a little more about that Navy base, keep reading. Blimps went away, eventually. NAS Glynco was decommissioned in 1975 and the area became Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (pronounced “fletsee”). Here’s where the government trains federal, state, and tribal law enforcement types, including FBI, National Park Service and Customs and Border Protection, to name a few. Some of my ranger colleagues went there for special training.
FLETC came to my attention a few years ago when my older son was sent there to continue his training to become a vessel commander in the Border Patrol. Nice to know the place is still serving a useful purpose in our national defense.
I know he saw a different NAS Glynco than I did. Long-gone were the two ginormous wooden hangars that housed the eight airships of the Eastern Seacoast Navy. He was there about a month and I found myself remembering earlier times in lovely Jawja. Down the corridor of a half century, I was a Navy kid again who knew how to spell and got Valentines, when none were expected.