Any Company, Any Platoon


through a stranger’s lens;
my son remains part of the group;
and incognito to most


Perhaps You Didn’t Know


My 18 year old son enlisted in the Marines. Until he completes boot camp, the correct term is “Recruit.” He told his father and I after he signed the contract. We never met with his recruitment officer, as some parents say they do, to learn the things they need to know to survive the 13 weeks of boot camp. We were not invited to his swearing in.

On the day he arrived on Parris Island, the phone rang just after midnight. Both my husband and I were sound asleep. We each had an extension to answer and we picked up simultaniously. Still in a stupor, I heard my son’s load, hoarse, and nervous voice, as though reading a script as quickly as he could, instructing us that he had arrived at Parris Island, in the near future he would send us his mailing address, we were not to mail him any large packages, and he then thanked us for our support as the phone disconnected.

I uttered no words and only fully awoke as the call ended. I immediately Googled “Marines” and “phone call” to learn that many parents expect and look forward to this call, known in Marine circles as “The First Call.” Some of my friends accepted it as a simple reassurance that he had arrived safely. Others quickly pointed out that there was a deeper message (They own your son now. They dictate how he will interact with you, even what he will say.)

That first night, in the five sleepless hours I had until morning, I discovered the Marine web site for new recruit families. They have a page discouraging “helicopter parenting” and they convey the message that it is time to let go.

Last Swim


My hotel pool is closing to local swimmers now that summer is on its way. On my second to last trip to the pool, a healthy, ten-year old girl kept cannon balling behind me as I attempted to do laps. The fall out was extreme and the waves prevented me from swimming for a full three minutes. I also found it highly startling. She would then swim perpendicular to my pool length laps.  Her mother was close by and never said a word. I looked at the mother and informed her of my PTSD. “Oh is she bothering you?” she asked demurely…

I know when my number is up.  I decided that although I never miss a swim, perhaps it would not serve me well to go to the pool on the next and very last day of the season. That is what I decided when my swimming friend called and asked if I ‘d like to join her at the pool for the last time. Well, safety in numbers I thought and I agreed. I was happy to have this cheerful last swim. I arrived and my friend was already in the water and no children in sight. Sigh of relief.

Over the season, I developed several defensive maneuvers to keep obnoxious children and their parents at bay, such as: positioning myself as near to the parents as possible so that they get splashed too; using my technique of treading water in place of lap swimming to stay out of the line of fire; praying out loud; looking a child in the eye while pointing out that I am old enough to be their grandmother; blocking out noise by humming or chanting loudly; swimming in a very slapping, splashing manner (just like kids do); fake coughing like I am sick and might vomit; take a stance as though I might be peeing; not bothering to wear my modesty cover-up in case someone might be offended; taking a slow time in the single use bathroom in case a screaming child might have to use the toilet urgently (this one is totally ineffective because most children pee in the pool).

For next year, I think I’ll sharpen my cannon ball skills.  That and a good Hail Mary may just save me.