On the evening of November 9 2019, my husband and I attended our local Gold Star Dinner honoring Gold Star Families. A Gold Star Family is the immediate family(s) members of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.
Veterans aged and young from all service branches, ranks and wars were there wearing ribbons, war medals, uniforms once worn, along with their stories, their injuries and beneath it all their utmost respect for our country. Salutes to the flag were stern, not feeble. Voices sang the national anthem with robust, not old shakiness. We sat near a Korean War veteran in his 90’s now. I thought of my father who served in the same war and what he would be like now with his stories if he had lived. Solemn ceremonies took place as we stood listening to the posting of the colors,
the missing but not forgotten soldier’s table,
and the meaning of what each of the thirteen folds of the flag that I had long forgotten.
There were no politics or differences of opinion on Saturday night. Instead, there was a grieving mother, a proud father, moving speakers describing how their sons were recently lost and why. Moving words of being visited by the military detail on the steps of their front porches. Moving words of how it all happened and what their sons did to save others. Moving words of how our government taxes their sons death benefits because it is considered income. Moving words of PTSD and suicide of our military members and veterans.
Being a Gold Star Family is something that no one wants to be a part of or asks for. I sat thinking and thanking God I never had to go through this. Saying “Thank you for your service” is never enough I feel. “Thank you for your sacrifice” is more realistic. And…the words “Happy Veterans Day” are not always appropriate. There is nothing “happy” about being a Gold Star Family.
July, 20, 1969. Where was I? I was at my house on 7 Constitution drive, in Cold Spring NY. It was my mother’s birthday weekend-her birthday on July 19th and her brother’s birthday on July 21st. My mother was thrilled beyond words that the moon landing happened in between her and her brother’s birthdays. Her step brother-in-law invented the seismograph that went to the moon. Yes, it was hot on that weekend. We all gathered around our black and white television set in the newly built family room that my father recently finished with all of our help of course! We were watching it all with very little if any sleep; it was the first time I remember being up for over 24 hours. All of us were in awe of something so extraordinary happening right before our eyes. Even looking up at that moon with humans on it at that moment was something you could not believe actually was happening.
The moon, the TV, Walter Cronkite, NASA, Nixon, eight days of live TV coverage, and all of America and the world putting aside differences, politics, the Vietnam war, and more that day was momentous. And that was where I was 50 years ago that summer before I was a senior in high school-16 years old and just getting my driver’s permit. And eating birthday cake left over from my mom’s birthday the day before to celebrate something bigger, momentous and memorable than mankind ever witnessed.
The picture is Nana with my grandfather whom we called Pop. You will meet and come to know them in the forthcoming book titled ‘Corn Silk’. The flour sifter I have had Nana’s flour sifter since I married in 1974; Pop gave it to me one winter day in 1974 when I sat at their kitchen table copying Nana’s recipes. Nana and I spent many of my childhood hours cooking together. Always she would give me a blank recipe card that was printed at the top -“From the Kitchen of Cora Godbout.” She would always tell me to cross out her name Cora and write my name Nancy over it. Her flour sifter still goes on being used all these years since I had it. Yes, cakes, cookies biscuits and more have been made because of her recipes and flour sifter. And the spoon? Yes, it was hers too engraved with a fancy “ G” on the handle. It was often used for “tea precisely at three” *. Three o’clock in the afternoon was always tea time with Nana accompanied by whatever baked goods we created together. Pieces of my family history were made through each of Nana’s handwritten recipes that she wrote with her soft pink fountain pen along with the grinding sound of her Bromwell flour sifter blending memories along with Gold Medal flour, Clabber Girl Baking Powder and Arm and Hammer Baking Soda and of course Morton Salt.
* From the poem “A Quilt Whispers” published in the poetry collection ‘Journey On: Beauty and Grit Along the Way’ by Anna Blake Godbout.
This poem is based upon a true event. Shortly after my grandfather passed away in August 1974, I found a battered worn down quilt in the corner of my grandparents’ living room. I had not seen it before in all my childhood years visiting there. I carefully picked it up, took it home with the hope chest my grandfather built for my grandmother when they married. I always relive that day in Goshen, NY when I reading this poem.
As President of the Pikes Peak Branch of NLAPW, I am very proud of the Poetry in the Schools Outreach Program that was the inspiration of the collaborative book titled “Creating Students who Soar Higher Through the Poetry in the Schools Project’. Thank you Sarah Byrn Rickman for this amazing article! Visit our web site at www.pikespeakpenwomen.com for more about the Poetry in the Schools Project. ~Nancy Godbout Jurka
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.” -Poet Jane Kenyon
Every New Year’s Day, I have followed a tradition from my grandmother and mother of opening up a new and fresh journal filled with welcoming pages for events, thoughts, poems, memorabilia and daily musings. This evening was no different. My 2017 journal is now filled with what came our way each day of the past 52 weeks. There are many good things that filled this journal and some not so great. We weathered them and came out on the other side of each one. Some are still in progress such as having a nephew still in South Korea serving his country, grieving off the loss of a sibling, and new baby on the way for my nephew and his wife and a wedding in the coming year. The good things outweighed the bad although with the world the way it is, the way our country has become and the way natural disasters made a swath of tragedy in the West and South did not take away daily quiet blessings. Often, it was sometimes hard to see quiet blessings prevail, but they did. At times when it becomes a struggle to see light, we must create our own. I hope I have. Whether it is a lighted snow village on my dining room table, or helping a young writer with her dream to write, light comes through little by little-and it endures.
In the dark days of winter that are coming, we have memories of all the good, and the light behind them. I can only say this: That everyone has done their hardest and their best. The love here among us all stays and stays strong. This is the most important New Year’s intention or as some call it resolution that truly matters to me. It is not on a to do list to be accomplished…it is ongoing. Quiet blessings and welcome to a new year and a new light in 2018.
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The poetry of ineptitude.
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by Lize Bard
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