Viewing way back a few feet forward

As I get “on up in years” as some say it is interesting how looking back at certain events through the spectrum of time differ so much with respect to perspective. In other words, certain things 30 years ago sometimes seem like they weren’t all that long ago while something that happened 10 years ago feels as though it took place way, way back. It is such an odd sensation.

This thought came to me this morning as I got a Christmas card from my friend Elva in Australia. It will be 30 years on Christmas Day that I had the honor of sharing a holiday dinner with Elva, her son Mark and her mother. I was 22 years old then and, while it was not the first Christmas I had spent away from home after three years in the Navy, it was the first Christmas dinner I ever had with those who were not family members.

Inviting a total stranger, especially one from a foreign land, to Christmas dinner may itself seem foreign to most people. I think it would have been even more bizarre to have a total stranger in the U.S. invite me to a holiday dinner during those times because that was during the immediate post-Vietnam days when folks didn’t share the appreciation for their military personnel that they seem to do these days. But it was much different in Australia, at least back then.

While our ship visited Australia the locals would call a special “Dial-a-Sailor” line that was published in the newspapers and invite the American sailors to various types of outings. I ended up at the Tinson’s home on Christmas after meeting Mark at a party the night before. He was a nice young lad who had just graduated from high school and he told me his mom had thought about having a sailor over for dinner so he asked if I would like to come over the next day for Christmas lunch. I agreed, he asked his mother and since that time I have exchanged Christmas greetings on and off with Elva over the many years.
Just how hospitable this Australian mother was took place after lunch. Mark and I talked about going down to the beach to hunt for Sheilas (girls). Because of the laws there, Mark had graduated from high school but was not old enough to drive a car. So Elva let me drive their Australian Ford station wagon. It was the first time that I had driven a car with steering on the right-hand side so it was kind of different but it was a great gesture nonetheless. It would have been one of those magical Christmas Days had Mark and I scored some ladies. But the memory was great enough as it was.

It was a simpler time back then in Australia even though the country was as modern in every respect than the U.S. Crime wasn’t a worry at all then and the Australian government even encouraged us to hitchhike. I unfortunately don’t know what the country is like today with the exception of what I have read and reports from a few people who have spent time there in recent years. That whole experience now feels like it was only yesterday even though the socio-historical aspects of that time in Australia seemed as if I was living an entirely different decade than the 1970s. It was kind of like how I imagined the 1950s although I imagine those were some meaner times in the U.S. back then.

It was a long time ago now. But it doesn’t feel like it. It felt then as if we had somehow been living in different times. But we weren’t. It’s odd but it makes for a great memory.

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