Veteran's Day, 2002. It was cold on the side of the street, but she gloried in the perfect view she had of her beloved mountains, the presence of her family and their almost tangible pride, the knowledge that her brother would soon be marching down the street she watched and the honor she felt in wearing her blue uniform. She’d chosen to wear the skirt and heels instead of the trousers, and had taken special care to make sure her ribbons and shiny metal insignia were all attached appropriately – this was Veteran’s day, and today she could stand as a member of the military wearing her uniform and be proud. That knowledge always made her want to laugh and smile and cry all at the same time… and confirmed for her the decision two years earlier to attend OTS and join the Air Force. She reached up to slightly adjust her blue flight cap, brushing her fingers over the small, hard-won gold bar on the left-hand side and sliding her hand down habitually to tuck her short blonde hair behind her ears. She smiled as she watched the parade go by – chrome-encrusted Chevrolettes and loud Harleys, many of them carrying those who had gone before her in the service of their country, men whom she had never met but who were all her brothers, fathers, uncles. She saluted each car she could, pleased that she could show this small measure of respect to the heroes passing before her.

“Excuse me, Lieutenant…”

She turned and found herself facing an old man with the whole story of his service and sacrifice emblazoned on his veteran’s hat and proclaimed by the pride in his stance and the set of his chin. Before she had time to open her mouth, the man snapped to attention and saluted her. Instinctively her fingertips flew up to her eyebrow and she returned his salute, still without words. His eyes locked with hers intently, as if he had something very important to say.

“Lieutenant, I served in Viet Nam.” Pointing at his cap he told her the name and location of his unit, then continued. “I was a POW for five years over there. When I came back they made me a First Lieutenant and I retired here as a Captain. If they’d let me, I’d put the uniform back on and do it all over again. I just wanted to thank you for your service, and for everything you’re doing. Thank you, Lieutenant; we’re proud of you.”

As soon as he finished speaking he saluted sharply again, and again she instinctively returned the salute, then as quickly as he had come he was gone. Her eyes filled with tears and she felt incredibly humbled and unworthy and honored and proud. Her mother’s smile caught her eye, and she realized that both her mother and father – veterans themselves – had tears in their eyes as well. She was doing the one thing she wanted to…needed to do: she was making a difference.

high school romance

Once, in 1952, a very nice young girl graduated high school and headed off to make her way in the world.

Perhaps she met a nice young man, and he fell in love with her charming manner . He somehow looked a little bit like a young Nicholas Cage, but since this was 1952, she didn't know that. He did have a delightful sense of humor.

Or perhaps it's 1956, and our heroine is a young girl who longs to meet a nice young man and settle down to raise a family. In a little house with a white picket fence. And flower boxes, of course.

Working afternoons at the drug store she meets a very nice young man, a returning war hero, who loves how her eyes sparkle and her hair curls. They make plans to be married at the courthouse, where she wears her gray suit and carries orange blossoms.

Or perhaps it's 1964 and she's a studious, ambitious girl who longs to earn her BA and become a teacher or a librarian. Something that will allow her long hours to read and learn.

This girl might meet a studious young man with ambitions of being a scientist, and engineer, an economist, or perhaps eventually even working in the new space program. The world is their oyster, as you can plainly see.

Or maybe it's 1966, when these two meet. She's clearly very devoted to hair volume and teasing, and he seems to be a big fan of Brylcreem. Obviously, this too is a match made in heaven.

Perhaps the two of them will go to the drive in, and he'll keep a comb in his back pocket, just in case. They'll watch the latest space invader or beach scene movie, and share Milk Duds and popcorn. Every so often, she'll borrow his comb.

Or it's 1968, and this sweet young girl meets an aspiring musician who reminds her of the Beatles. Her father isn't sure about his long hair, Volkswagon bus and guitar-playing, but he's a nice young man at heart, and the two of them are very happy.

Eventually, his band gets a few gigs up and down the east coast, and she spends her weekends on buses watching him play and telling all her friends that he's cuter than any other musician around.

Or it's 1974, and she spends an hour every morning ironing her hair. This young man doesn't spend much time on his hair at all, but he's a brilliant student and she has a feeling he's going to change the world someday.

He's interested in world events and diplomacy, and even dreams about becoming a Foreign Service officer himself someday. After college, of course. By their fourth class together, he always saves a seat for her and they study together.

Or it's 1976, and a case of opposites attract. They come from different groups - she's a cheerleader and member of the drama club, he's more of a rebel - but they walk home together most days, and she finds their conversations something she looks forward to more and more.

By the end of the year, he's holding her hand and writing her poems, and sending her flowers on opening night of the school play.

Or it's 1984, and these two are the coolest kids in school. They're an item all through high school, and are on the homecoming court together. She wears his letter sweater as soon as it gets cold out, and he makes her mix tapes of all their favorite songs.

He talks about going into politics someday, and having her by his side. She dreams of success as an actress, or maybe a singer. But whatever they do, they promise it will be together.

Or it's 1994, and they go to rival high schools. He sees her at the football game, and spends the entire second half attempting to get her attention. Her friends giggle, but she smiles at him warmly and he finally sits down beside her. When her fingers get cold he buys her a cup of cider, and they are together from that point forward.

They are both accepted to the same college, and have big plans about their life ahead and where they will go.

I spent far, FAR too much time playing with all this this afternoon. Ah, well... laundry can wait, right?