Special Delivery

Do you know the late Eva Cassidy? If not, then click on the link and listen for just a minute. Please? You won’t regret it.

Autumn always reminds me of Vietnam. Vietnam, you ask? Yes. When I was in grade school my father, U.S. Army Signal Corps, was deployed to Vietnam. An indelible memory of my childhood is tromping through the Minnesota woods with my siblings to gather leaves one fine autumn day. Our mission? To find the most beautiful leaves possible to send to our Dad in Saigon. Oh, the care we took. We examined leaves as closely as if we were little archaeologists on a dig sifting through Etruscan pottery sherds. A vital criterion was color, I remember, vibrant red preferred. I’ve carried this memory my entire life. So you will imagine my dismay when I mentioned it to the Parental Unit just the other day. They got a little uncomfortable, I could tell, and then confessed the unthinkable: neither of them has the faintest recollection of this ever happening. What?!? They looked at each other sheepishly and started laughing. They don’t doubt me — my mother has called me “The Elephant” for years as a nod to my memory — but neither recalls leaf number one.

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The Elephant had not yet rebelled against the blonde Prince Valiant hairstyle. She remembers the boys wore camel-hair blazers, mother a dress in blue silk, and she a little horse brooch given to her by a cute boy in fourth grade. His name was Ted Kennedy.

Do you think one of the clearest memories of my childhood is a mere sham? Did Mom usher us outside to gather leaves as a clever device to have a bit of peace and quiet? And then toss the carefully curated leaves into the trash when we were asleep? Surely not. I suspect that the events kids find most momentous barely register as a blip in the day-to-day life of a busy adult. I’m choosing to believe the leaves made their way to Saigon where my dad opened the envelope with delight and pinned the colorful contents to his wall as a reminder of his kids. And also making a solemn vow not to share any other childhood memories with my parents. Sheesh, the elephant simply cannot bear another shock to the system. And thanks for reading! Barbara

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About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. Blogging about whatever happens to catch my fancy - sometimes nonsense, occasionally not.
This entry was posted in Random Ruminations and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

73 Responses to Special Delivery

  1. Barbara– First– a beautiful song by Eva Cassidy–so sad to have died so young–I think Nora Jones could do Eva’s songs justice! As for the leaves–ha-ha–my kids bring up things that I already don’t remember/swear never happened!! But a child’s memory is powerful and I have my own etched in my mind and heart forever–I’m sure your dad loved the leaves–and the thought that went into them! Have a great day! Cindy

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    • Hello, Cindy. My middle sister introduced me to Eva and she is also a huge Norah Jones fan. I think you’re onto something! As for the leaves….yes, your point is well-taken, forty years from now you’ll be looking at your kids the same way my parents did to me….”okaaay, if you say so it must have happened!”

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  2. Lovely voice and a very sweet story Barbara. My children are young and I try and keep that in mind – the little things that don’t register for me are all important to them. My youngest wanted to hang a Halloween cob web in his room yesterday and I kept putting him off, finally I saw the look on his face and realized what it meant to him. It’s hanging now and covered in plastic spiders – he’s ecstatic.

    Enjoy the day!

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  3. Of course they made it! Speculate no longer on what Mom may have or may not have done. Adults have so many things to remember, they are after all so much older than us….

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  4. nrhatch says:

    With five of you to keep track of (plus getting meals together, paying bills, doing yard work, missing your dad) it’s not too surprising that those vibrant autumn leaves faded from your mom’s memory banks while you clung tight to their colorful stems.

    Love that photo of the family ~ Prince Valiant and all!

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    • And she was amazing. Military wives are the strongest women on earth, I’m convinced. Everything you describe is exactly what she was facing including the bill-paying which was always my father’s domain. She never relinquished that duty even after he came home. He calls her the Chancellor of the Exchequer!! PV thanks you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jodi says:

    Oh I love this post – what a sweet story and gave me chills thinking of your Dad in Saigon. And the song – I had never heard of Eva, but LOVED, and think she is much like Nora Jones as Cindy mentioned (and I agree with everything else Cindy said in her comment) 🙂 I can so relate to remembering things and being told by Mom or Dad that is not the way it happened. I choose to believe – in my memories and in yours! Another beautiful post. You are my favorite blogger!! And I’m waiting for my beans too 🙂

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    • I was just wondering whether you wanted beans or not!! Send me your address and I’ll include them in today’s mailing. I only have four or five billion beans to share. Yes, memory is a slippery thing, isn’t it? And, Jodi, thank you so much for all of your kind words and support. I so appreciate it!!

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  6. Mary Ellen says:

    The first part choked me up. You do have a fantastic memory!

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    • Thanks, Mary Ellen, although it only functions for the distant past. I find myself now standing in rooms thinking “Why did I come in here?” Now I need to remember to send YOU an email, my friend. Long overdue.

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  7. Aww what a pleasure to see the lovely Eva Cassidy featured on this post! She was a HUGE star in the UK (posthumously, unfortunately) and to this day receives airplay on the softer radio stations. Her version of Fields of Gold is a favourite I drag out of mothballs and emulate now and again. Her voice is bang in the middle of my range, though I will never be the guitarist she was. More’s the pity. 🙂 As for your story -what a little treat! I am also graced with an elephantine memory over which my siblings and spouse despair at times… I am sure your mom, with her husband halfway across the world, had many, many things to occupy her mind and cares aplenty, bless her. I feel certain your leaves reached his waiting hands… xx Mother Hen

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    • Hello, dear Mother Hen. If it weren’t for the much more discerning musical tastes in England, we would not know of our own Eva Cassidy in this country. I so agree about “Fields of Gold.” And I thought that Garland’s version of “Over the Rainbow” was the ultimate until I heard Eva’s. Also the Fleetwood Mac “Songbird.” Could anybody do it better than Christine McVie? Only Eva. I feel a weird little bond to her….product of an American GI and a German mother too. It breaks my heart her life was cut short so tragically. Someday I hope to write about her….if I can steel myself emotionally. Thanks, Dorreen.

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  8. Dianna says:

    Am I the only one to catch the name of the cute boy who gave you the brooch in 4th grade???? Amazing.
    I can imagine that your mom could possibly have forgotten about the leaves….

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  9. cindy knoke says:

    WoW!!!!! She is ethereal. Thank you for the introduction. Sending on to my daughter. She reminds me of Peggy Lee~

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  10. markbialczak says:

    My friend Barbara, she of the elephant memory, thank you for allowing this one to leave the trunk.

    I, too, shall hope with all my might that those Minnesota reds whisked their way to Saigon to make your dad smile.

    You are correct in your belief, I concur, that grand moments in childhood do not have so many others to collide against for that original spotlight, thus stand more brightly in our minds forevermore.

    Eva Cassidy died too young. What a perfect voice and lyrics to accompany this rich post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a beautiful comment, Mark. You make me happy I did open the trunk. I love how you express why our childhood memories are so powerful and so permanent. I forgot you wrote about music in a former life; of course you would know about Eva.

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      • markbialczak says:

        When I was immersed in that former work life, Barbara, there was an overzealous Eva Cassidy following that was not happy unless somehow, some way, a mention of their beloved Eva made its way into a work piece of mine at least once a week. Which, of course, it would not and could not. Oy. But I loved her voice then and love it now, and it was so unfortunate that it took her premature passing for the world to really take notice of how wonderful her voice was. I was so glad that you presented her singing something other than “Over the Rainbow.” That one gets the bulk of the attention, but she was so much more.

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      • Ugh, Mark, I can totally see how extremism, even in the name of Eva, would wear very thin, very quickly. I’m just glad that overzealous fan base didn’t sour you entirely on her. I chose the “Autumn Leaves” for obvious reasons but my current favorite of hers is “Song Bird.” The Christine McVie song? Man, does she do that justice. That, and the Simon and Garfunkle “Kathy’s Song.”

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      • markbialczak says:

        I appreciate both of those, Barbara. The S&G song, their version, still knocks me out every time, too. I’m a sucker for Paul and Art.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. joannesisco says:

    I too have been called The Elephant by members of my family because of my memory. Coincidentally, I too come from a family of five with 2 brothers and 2 sisters.
    As you discovered, sometimes a crisp memory carries hazards because others don’t recall and there’s a residual feeling of disappointment. I’m always surprised when others don’t recall the things I do.

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  12. Jane says:

    I have Loved Eva for over 15 years and listen to her most days of the week, either on a cd or on my Pandora station. Her story is gut wrenching! Loved your post!

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    • Those of us who love her do just that, Jane, listen to her over and over. Her range is incredible…was there nothing she couldn’t sing? I agree, her story is a heartbreaker on so many levels. I was outside in the garden today and left the iPod playing and when I walked in the house her “Autumn Leaves” was playing. Put a smile on my face. Thank you, Jane.

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  13. bkpyett says:

    It is wonderful to see your family photo, that in itself says a thousand words. I like the fact that your Mum was able to set such a thoughtful and achievable task for you all to send your love to your Father, so far away. I’m glad that your Father came back safely to you all. It’s also fantastic that you have these treasured memories, they bring your colourful writing to life!

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    • Thank you so much, Barbara. That family portrait, the only official studio photo ever taken of the intact family, was taken just before my father shipped off to Vietnam. We reproduced it years later on my mother’s 70th birthday. Thank you for your always generous and sensitive comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Eliza Waters says:

    Loved the family photo. Good looking bunch! The styles of the day are so fun to remember. Would that brooch have been from THE Ted Kennedy? My goodness!
    It is funny what kids remember vs. the parents. Even my sibs disagree on details. I have a sister who is our ‘elephant’, so I always defer to her. My memory is pretty sketchy. 🙂

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  15. agwink1942 says:

    Love this post Barbara. What a wonderful way to come back after a week of recuperating from whatever was wrong. And such a voice! I’m from a huge family, 4 brothers, 2 sisters, and 70 cousins on the maternal side with 50 on the paternal side. I seem to be the keeper of the memories for the maternal side, and from time to time will post some of those memories, along with photos that date back to the early 1900’s. I did this on another web site, and my 94 year old Mom, God bless her, read the posts and would call me with corrections almost every day on some of the memories I have from her words. My own memories from growing up, however, I refused to correct, because they were my memories, shared by no one else but me, and appreciated by the cousins I grew up with. Love your family photo, and hope when I start posting my family, you’ll drop by for a visit. Angie

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  16. Pat S. says:

    Love the photo, the elephant post and Eva. Thank you for introducing her to me a few years back. She is my favorite ironing music!

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  17. I was just thinking about this the other day – what people remember and what they don’t. The things that I expect my kids must remember and then find out they don’t but they will recall things I’d forgotten about. Memory is a weird thing.

    I love Eva Cassidy’s voice. She has some of the best covers.

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    • Memory is a weird thing. My daughter has lost a lot of her past from her brain injury so it is interesting to observe what has “stuck.” Little things sometimes pop into her brain totally unexpectedly and often they are around food memories! Like mother, like daughter!!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Your leaf project was your mom’s way of getting you out of the house while she tried to get housework done. My mom sent us out all of the time in the days before helicopter-parenting. Your mom was no doubt overwhelmed throughout the whole time your dad was overseas and has likely tried to block out a lot of that period of her life. I treasure the memories of my time exploring the woods with my sister free of my mother’s supervision.

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    • We marvel, my husband and I, at just how much freedom we had as children because, as you describe, we were expected to entertain ourselves which we did with gusto. I feel sorry for today’s over-regimented and protected children.

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  19. Thanks for introducing me to Eva Cassidy – beautiful voice and presence. And your story – amazing how much emotional attachment you had to a project (a gift, really) that your parents didn’t even remember. You must have missed your father very much and all those emotions were poured into the leaves – that’s why you remember them so well.
    Are you the oldest of 5?

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    • Good morning, Annette. I hope you explore a bit more of Eva’s music if you can. Her mother was German too! Yes, I am the oldest of five and the keeper of memories. I am so lucky to be the one who remembers Germany and my Oma and Opa. The younger kids really don’t. There are advantages to age!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Phil Taylor says:

    I agree with you. Parents rarely realize their actions both large and small have impact upon us. That is a great, great story. It should be in a book or movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Sandra says:

    I’ve just been collating all my CD’s ready to donate to a local charity shop. From each of them I’ve ‘ripped’ two or three favourite tracks before I consigned them to the crate. But the Eva Cassidy ones… there are half a dozen of them I believe … couldn’t do it. They’re amongst a treasured handful that will remain in the CD rack. Lovely post – I too remember gathering brightly coloured autumn leaves.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandra, I just had my Knit Wits group here for the morning and I played Eva in the background. I waited for the inevitable…..”who is that singing?” “what is her name again?” “where can I get her music?” I just smiled to myself thinking there she goes again, waving her magical musical wand.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Parnassus says:

    Hello Barbara, I am wondering whether your gift was ever delivered. The military probably had other things to think about back then, but today fresh or dried leaves would be strictly contraband, as of course they should be. My brother and I also were often ordered out of the house, but in our case we were more likely to come back with live creatures than with materials for art projects.

    Your family photo is great–every child has such a distinct personalty. I would love to hear more reminiscences like this one.
    –Jim

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    • You know I hadn’t even considered the contraband angle, Jim, and of course that makes complete sense. Happy you like the one and only family portrait which includes all five kids. I’ll be sure to access my “trunk” for more reminiscences like this.

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  23. What a BEAUTIFUL voice. Thanks for sharing.

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  24. M-R says:

    A story raising mixed emotions, Barbara – as you’re aware.
    The first thought to cross my mind upon starting the video was how unwell she looked. Hers was a beautiful, beautiful voice; and hers an unutterably sad story.

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    • I know, M-R. And yet I feel such affection for her that I want to share her voice despite the accompanying sadness anybody with a heart would feel. Her last song performed was “What A Wonderful World.” Tells us so much about her brave heart.

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  25. Diane Ahlberg says:

    Unfortunately I have been caught by my daughter- the words ” where are my ..,. That I did in 5 th grade ” way too many times! Wow lesson learned- but how can a parent possibly keep every special keepsake given to us by our children? I have my memory of them all but that just is not good enough.
    And I cringe when one says how come you saved theirs and not mine-
    But Barbara you did bring back my fond memories of collecting fall leaves of all shapes and colors and bringing them in and ironing them between “waxed paper”
    Thanks for sharing

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    • Oh, yes. The waxed paper leaves, you jogged my memory now! I have a box containing all those priceless works of art from Jen. My mother has this ghastly flat clay fish on her tub holding soap. Made by one of the boys. These things are priceless, aren’t they?

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  26. reocochran says:

    I think your gift from afar warmed youir father’s heart at the time, as so many mentioned already. I am glad someone also asked about Ted K. Wish you had met him, since it would have made an even cooler, off hand comment thrown into the treasure chest of a post that I just read.
    Oh, by the way, I am so blessed to be able to listen to Eva again, while cat-sitting at my good friends’ home. She had a delightful voice, poignant and emotional, perfectly fitting with the story of your mainly red, fall leaves sent across the sea to your father. Too bad about her death, such a shame… Billy Joel’s song, “Only the Good Die Young,” crossed my mind. I am also happy to hear, the parental unit is still alive. Such a great pair, you can just see it in the photograph. I have a lovely black and white photo of my parents. my two brothers and me, of this period in time, I believe… Close enough… I wore my hair that length after I could sit on mine while in first grade! I let out a yelp one day while Mom was brushing my hair, she mentioned something I did not pay attention to, at the time. My hair got chopped off to the length of Julie Andrews’ in “The Sound of Music,” which means that I wore it chin length most of the rest of my years until college!

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    • Oh, I had the Julie Andrews haircut too for a while. It’s the bangs, Robin, that really make the “do” so special, don’t you agree? I’m happy you enjoyed hearing Eva again; she is a favorite and always be. And I know that is so unusual at my age to have both parents still living; my husband has neither. They are a pair….always have been….and taught all five of us kids important lessons about commitment and marriage. We always knew as children that there was a secure homefront no matter where in the world we ended up being military kids.

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  27. fadedvelvet says:

    Barbara~
    What a sweet, vivid, poignant memory. I, too, want to believe she packed brittle leaves off to send across the world. Then I remember life as a mother of youngsters and the many busy things I had them do to keep them occupied.
    Military mothers are a special kind of lady, that’s for sure. Look how perfectly polished you all are in that photo. THAT was an accomplishment in itself! I remember getting my family ready for formal portraits……not great memories.
    That haircut…gosh I think I had the same one. Cut by my frugal mother as I sat on the green chair in the kitchen!
    Another great post my friend!
    Donna~Faded Velvet (mercy, you need not reply!!!) I know you see these!

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  28. Pingback: War Stories: The Painting | Silver in the Barn

  29. What a disappointment that the link has been disabled! Perhaps you can replace it by linking to something on Youtube? There’s lots by her there.

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