Semper Fi! My Marine Corps Tulips. And Some Other Stuff As Well

 

Full disclosure:  I’m 67 years old.  This upcoming September (2022), I’ll be 68.  No point pretending otherwise.  No point writing posts either celebrating–or bemoaning–my “hotness” in a previous life about half-a-century ago (so I’ll spare you the bikini-beach-babe pic, unless you’re really determined to view it, in which case knock yourself out). Things are what they are.

In the long run (even before we’re all dead), gravity, and avoirdupois, and lives filled with love and joy, or with hatred and bitterness, skewer us all, and show up on our faces and our bodies, and the best we can hope for is that the lines at the corners of our mouths go the right way, that the crows’ feet bordering our eyes are laughter lines and not the other kind, that we needn’t fear (in the selfie age) to be photographed from “below” because of our double chins, or our “turkey necks,” and that the inevitable downswing of our once spectacularly noteworthy (in our own minds at least) gender-defining characteristics–both male and female–hasn’t caused them to flop too far down the hill of decrepitude into realms of the ridiculous or the irrelevant.

My mother was fond of quoting what she believed were the words of Ingrid Bergman, to the effect that:

“A woman of 40 has the face she deserves.”

I don’t know if that’s apocryphal WRT Bergman or not.  I do know that similar thoughts have been attributed to–among others–Albert Einstein and Coco Chanel.

In the long run (as I mentioned above), it matters not.  I believe it’s an observation on what happens to us when our center no longer holds (h/t W.B. Yeats), and upon the importance of living a life that deserves some kindness when it’s viewed by our friends, our relations, and our loved ones.  And–yay me!–somehow I seem to have accumulated–to this point at least and for the most part–kind friends, relations, and loved ones who shower that upon me, The rest of you–buzz off.  I don’t want to know you. Life’s too short.

In the meantime, I plod on.

Somewhere a dozen or more years ago, when he was still pretty engaged with real life, Mr. She bought me an Easter present.  It was a small container of eight tulips, almost ready to bloom.  Eventually, they did, and they were beautiful.  Scarlet.  With a thin gold stripe surrounding the black center.  I planted a single one of them, every other brick and concrete step, on the way down to the barn.

And I named them my “Marine Corps tulips.”  Many of you will understand, but for those who aren’t clued in, scarlet and gold were designated as USMC official colors in 1925, and “the scarlet and gold” is often used as a metaphor for the Corps itself.  Over the intervening years, with my many USMC friends, I’ve played on that metaphor in my crafting and my knitting, even producing–from my own design–a scarf (with that insanely difficult mobius cast-on) as a gift:

And the connection to Mr. She?  Well, he, a gawky and near-blind-without-his-glasses kid from Pittsburgh’s South Side, enlisted with the USMC shortly after bouncing out of Carnegie Tech’s engineering program.  I’ve told the story before of his eventually successful application:

Many years ago, Mr. She walked into the Recruiting Office in Pittsburgh to enlist. I suppose the Sergeant must have liked what he saw, because there was a little problem when Mr. She took the eye test. In short, he failed it miserably. A couple of times.

“Son,” said the Sergeant, “I think I know what might be the problem. I think your eyes are just having trouble adjusting to the light in here. Do you think that could be it?”

“Yes, Sir, I think it could be,” said Mr. She.

“I’ll tell you what,” says the Sergeant, pointing to a chair across the room and about eighteen inches away from the eye chart. “You just go sit over there for a few minutes until your eyes adjust. Then we’ll try again.”

So Mr. She did. Sat right there. Eighteen inches away from the eye chart while his eyes adjusted.

After about ten minutes, and a few more eye tests for other young men, all of whom passed with flying colors, the Sergeant said, “Son, do you think your eyes have adjusted all right now?”

“Yes, Sir, I think they have,” said Mr. She, and he took the eye test again.

Aced it.

And, as I’ve also noted before, Mr. She spent his many years of service in the USMC Reserves.  At some point (not quite sure when) he was offered the opportunity to stay in the Corps and attend officer training school.  Personal circumstances, and his lifelong desire to teach, caused him to turn the offer down.  The USMC’s loss.  And academia’s gain.  (I can speak to that with authority, having been his student, 1974-1977, before I became his partner and his wife.)

In his final years, Mr. She came to dwell more than I might like on his military service, and to state more often than I might like, his wish that he’d taken the Corps up on their offer for a career.  I’ve no doubt he was sincere.  And absolutely no doubt that he’d have been a great officer had he done so.

Just as I’ve no doubt he appreciated the opportunity to talk at length with a “real” career Marine not long before he died.

But, the tulips:

This year, I counted the blooms from those original eight plants.  And I stopped at forty-one.

Forty-one Marine Corps tulips.

Thank you, sweetie.  This year, I’ll be separating them and dividing the bulbs.  I’ll pass some along to friends, and plant many others here in places you loved,.

Next up?  LOL.  Perhaps “My Life As Told Through Tea Towels.”  Or “Memories in Refrigerator Magnets.”

Don’t doubt me. The older I get, the more I’m convinced that it’s the small things that matter.

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  1. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    Beautiful She. As the wife and mom of Marines, I love your post – and the tulips.

    • #1
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    She: Albert Einstein

    Checks out.

    • #2
  3. She Member
    She
    @She

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Beautiful She. As the wife and mom of Marines, I love your post – and the tulips.

    Thanks @coleenb.  To you, your husband, and your progeny.  Your comment means more to me than you know.

    • #3
  4. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    I’m struggling for the right words.   It’s late in what has been a long day.  But . . . this is such a moving, tender piece . ..  and those tulips are so lovely.  Almost as lovely as your heart and the words that it blooms.

    • #4
  5. She Member
    She
    @She

    Not kidding about the tea towels.  Or the refrigerator magnets.  Here’s one of my favorites, given to me many years ago by a now-very-ill friend of many decades standing.  She–a person who loves a good cream tea and a good joke as much as I do–was touring the UK when she picked it up for me. It makes me think of her with a smile every time I see it.

    • #5
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    I’m a big fan of signs.

    • #6
  7. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    She: my “hotness” in a previous life about half-a-century ago (so I’ll spare you the bikini-beach-babe pic, unless you’re really determined to view it, in which case knock yourself out).

    That’s a recent picture.  You can’t fool us . . .

    • #7
  8. She Member
    She
    @She

    Stad (View Comment):

    She: my “hotness” in a previous life about half-a-century ago (so I’ll spare you the bikini-beach-babe pic, unless you’re really determined to view it, in which case knock yourself out).

    That’s a recent picture. You can’t fool us . . .

    HaHa.  Please let me know where to send your $5.

    • #8
  9. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    I too was offered OCS and Flight School (I passed the very rigorous pilot’s vision test and aced the physical and cognitive tests.)  But I didn’t.  Instead, I went to grad school and entered the financial world.  It’s something I think about more and more.  My two best friends (we applied together) were not offered flight school; one went on to become a captain in the Corps and later, a civillian NIS operative, the other also failed to pass for flight school, but went on to Law School and later made a name for himself as a USMC JAG.

    It’s something we do as we contemplate the path not taken and wonder.  But as for Mr. She, it brought him to you, so the destination was achieved.  I always believe that I would have found my wife regardless even if I had branched off.

    Anyway, let’s make sure we celebrate this September.  I, too, turn 68.  A good age.  Everything still works, if a bit creaky and complaining.  Given how much I’ve abused this vessel, I’m surprised I can get out of bed in the morning.  And yet, I pop up, take a walk, have a coffee, take some Advil and a handful of supplements and the day begins.

    Enjoy the memories.  Mr. She would have found you even if he’d been shifted to Coronado Island.

    • #9
  10. She Member
    She
    @She

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    Enjoy the memories. Mr. She would have found you even if he’d been shifted to Coronado Island.

    Thanks.  I hope so.  As with Mr. She, I think you ended up exactly as you should have.  Funny how life works, sometimes.

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    It’s something I think about more and more.  My two best friends (we applied together) and though they were not offered flight school, one went on to become a captain in the Corps and later, a civillian NIS operative.  The other friend also failed to pass for flight school, but went on to Law School and later made a name for himself as a USMC JAG.

    It’s something we do as we contemplate the path not taken and wonder.

    Yes, I think that’s true too.  His time in the USMC (maybe mostly the Parris Island boot camp aspects–Thank you Sgt E.J. Kritz) was life-changing to a kid raised among the steel mills of Pittsburgh’s South Side.  Something he was proud of achieving, the source of a few life-long friendships, and perhaps–as he settled into old age, the source of a longing for a more adventurous life. 

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):
    Anyway, let’s make sure we celebrate this September.  I, too, turn 68. 

    I’m totally up for that.  Anyone one else here in the same boat?  We can institute a long-standing (well, a couple of years old, anyway, thanks, Anthony Fauci) tradition that my stepdaughter and I follow of the “virtual” get-together and celebratory cocktail for special occasions.

    • #10
  11. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    She (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    She: my “hotness” in a previous life about half-a-century ago (so I’ll spare you the bikini-beach-babe pic, unless you’re really determined to view it, in which case knock yourself out).

    That’s a recent picture. You can’t fool us . . .

    HaHa. Please let me know where to send your $5.

    You can e-mail it to tellmywifeshemarriedahotdude@fullofit.org . . .

    • #11
  12. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    What are you doing to that chicken?  And why are you laughing?  No one likes to have his privates laughed at.  

    • #12
  13. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Two Marines (a Major and a Gunny Sgt) were the teachers and led my daughter’s high school JROTC program, in which she throve 10th through 12th grades. As a result, I have an enduring warm spot in my heart for the Corps, as I credit JROTC, their excellent leadership classes (with about the ONLY U.S. history she ever was taught), the discipline Drill Team engendered, in keeping her from the mad clutches of the degarded youth culture in which her high school years (Class of 2001) in public school were steeped. Semper Fi.

    • #13
  14. Eric Madison Member
    Eric Madison
    @EricMadison

    Thanks, for your positive expression of this aging business. I too am turning another year of pages this September, crossing the 65 mile mark. Like you, I have found simple joys in the garden, the chickens and friends. Having a little more time to dive deeper into these friendships makes this life much more enjoyable. have a great birthday when you get to it!

    • #14
  15. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    She:  

    In his final years, Mr. She came to dwell more than I might like on his military service, and to state more often than I might like, his wish that he’d taken the Corps up on their offer for a career. I’ve no doubt he was sincere. And absolutely no doubt that he’d have been a great officer had he done so.

    Of course he was sincere.

    “From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be rememberèd—
    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
    This day shall gentle his condition;
    And gentlemen in England now a-bed
    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”

    Shakespeare, Henry V

    • #15
  16. She Member
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    What are you doing to that chicken?

    Moving him into his run for the day.  This was shortly before he acquired his harem of four lovely ladies.

    And why are you laughing?

    Because he really is a charming guy, and he quite likes being carried around and swooped from side to side while I sing the chicken song.  Yes, really.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.

    No one likes to have his privates laughed at.

    Thanks for sticking with the military theme!

     

    • #16
  17. She Member
    She
    @She

    Eric Madison (View Comment):

    Thanks, for your positive expression of this aging business. I too am turning another year of pages this September, crossing the 65 mile mark. Like you, I have found simple joys in the garden, the chickens and friends. Having a little more time to dive deeper into these friendships makes this life much more enjoyable. have a great birthday when you get to it!

    Thank you!  I’m new to the chicken game, and have a rooster and just four hens.  They are spectacularly productive in the egg department (the hens, I mean), and I find myself fascinated by them.  I can tell which hen laid which eggs (plain shiny brown, speckled shiny brown, caramel with a few speckles, and a much lighter one with no speckles at all.  Have found myself wondering if they’re like fingerprints, and unique to each hen.  I just love the speckled ones:

    Fritz (View Comment):

    Two Marines (a Major and a Gunny Sgt) were the teachers and led my daughter’s high school JROTC program, in which she throve 10th through 12th grades. As a result, I have an enduring warm spot in my heart for the Corps, as I credit JROTC, their excellent leadership classes (with about the ONLY U.S. history she ever was taught), the discipline Drill Team engendered, in keeping her from the mad clutches of the degarded youth culture in which her high school years (Class of 2001) in public school were steeped. Semper Fi.

    I have had almost uniformly (see what I did there) excellent experiences with Marines of all sorts, both Royal and on this side of the pond.  My fellow managers in the Hospital’s IT department were Marines, as was one of the employees I hired.  Terrific people, great work ethic, and wonderful to work with all-round.  I’m pretty sure they were excellent folks from the get-go, but their Marine training made them special.  Bless them all for their commitment and their service.  Have run into many others along the way–often through the auspices of Mr. She, who exhibited what I’ve come to believe is the universal ability of United States Marines to pick each other out, even in crowds of strangers.  It’s uncanny, and I eventually found it rather charming and quite funny.  The only almost-equivalent I’ve ever seen is with nurses, who are also quite good as sussing out their fellows (usually, but not always women) in large gatherings. 

    • #17
  18. Cow Girl Thatcher
    Cow Girl
    @CowGirl

    Marines are always Marines! My husband, Mr. CowGirl, joined the Navy when he found out his draft number (#3) in 1972. He’d always planned to join the military–everyone in his family served. He was active duty for 14 years and then his rate was eliminated. He went to work for a contractor (maintaining simulators on bases…which was his military job) and then he got involved with the very first “drone” airplane that the military got from the Israelis back in 1988. So, he worked for a Marine unit that worked with this new contraption. It flew around remotely and sent back a live camera feed. It was basically a spy plane, but about the size of a small car. It could be packed into a truck and driven around anywhere. When Sadam invaded Kuwait, my husband came home one evening from work and said that he was going to go with the Marines and the spy plane to Saudi Arabia. In three days. Okay. I was a little panicked and said, “But, you’re a civilian now! You can’t have a gun!” He smiled and replied, “I’ll have something better: I’ll have 50 Marines with guns.”  And they were gone for the next seven months and there was a war, even, and sure enough: he came back home. Thanks Marines!!

    • #18
  19. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    What a lovely post. Thank you!

    • #19
  20. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    After eight years in the reserves, my Marine and the Corps have parted ways. He gets his engineering degree next month and flirted with the idea of attending Quantico. He got a terrific offer from a German corporation and decided to get on with his civilian life, primarily because of who is in the White House and the failures of Gen. Mattis to derail the wokeness during his stint as SecDef in the last Administration.

    The flag with Eagle, Globe and Anchor still flies in front of the house. Once a Marine and all that, you know. And She, just for you, it flies next to our scarlet and gold tulips.

    • #20
  21. She Member
    She
    @She

    EJHill (View Comment):

    After eight years in the reserves, my Marine and the Corps have parted ways. He gets his engineering degree next month and flirted with the idea of attending Quantico. He got a terrific offer from a German corporation and decided to get on with his civilian life, primarily because of who is in the White House and the failures of Gen. Mattis to derail the wokeness during his stint as SecDef in the last Administration.

    My very best to your Marine in his choice of future career, one in which I’m sure he’ll excel, and in which his USMC training will stand him in the best of stead.  Many thanks, and much gratitude to him, his brothers and sisters in the Corps, and their families for doing their bit, at such cost, to keep us safe over the years.

    The flag with Eagle, Globe and Anchor still flies in front of the house. Once a Marine and all that, you know. And She, just for you, it flies next to our scarlet and gold tulips.

    Lovely!  This sent me off on a bit of a search binge, trying to find out what sort of tulips mine are.  No luck yet, although there are dozens of hits on photos of exactly the same tulips in bunches, on all the photography sites, like this one from Alamy:

    But none, so far, identify the variety. 

    So, for now at least, “Marine Corps Tulips” is it.

     

    • #21
  22. colleenb Member
    colleenb
    @colleenb

    She (View Comment):

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Beautiful She. As the wife and mom of Marines, I love your post – and the tulips.

    Thanks @ coleenb. To you, your husband, and your progeny. Your comment means more to me than you know.

    My Like button isn’t working. Thanks so much.

    • #22
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