Authors, Entrepreneurs, and other Creative Individuals Pursuing Their Dreams
A special thanks to Gene and IFOGO for the opportunity to share some words.
A Reflection Of The Past
My earliest memories take me back to when I was around four years old. I was one of five children in our family. I had two older brothers Patrick and Anthony along with two sisters Anne and Janet. We lived in my Grandfather’s house in Bellville NJ. It was a big old house with long creaky stairs the led up to the bedroom that I shared with my brothers. My dear Mother Bruna was from Italy, she met my Father Pasquale during the big war. My father’s family was Italian; so there was lots of Italian spoke between them. I had no idea what they were saying and I think they liked it that way. I regret not learning the language, but there are some choice words that I do know, but would rather not say.
I remember my Mom and Grandma in the big white kitchen. They always seemed happy as they cooked big pots of gravy and meatballs. The smell of the food would drift through the house. I recall the day when my brothers and I were fooling around with firecrackers in my Grandpa’s garden. He came running and yelling something in Italian. We ran away and guess who was at the back of the pack and got a swift kick in the butt for it? Being the youngest, I usually got the short end of the stick, but I was happy chasing my brothers around.
I was around six years old when we finally moved out of my Grandfather’s house. I remember the house was smaller, but seemed to be a little newer. It was just down the road from Grandpa’s house. I still slept in the same room as my brothers and I was happy for it. After church on Sundays, my mother would give us all a quarter. Back then, you could buy a soda and a movie with it. My dear mother worked hard taking care of the five of us. She always had a smile for us. My father worked in construction; he came home dirty and tired. He was the man of the house, when he raised his voice, we all did as we were told. We lived next to a hill that went down to a railroad track. I remember following my brothers down there often. They would put pennies on the track and the train would run them over. One day before school, my sister Janet and I almost burned the house down. We were playing with some matches by the front porch. We got grounded for a month for that one.
We moved from Bellville to a town called Avenel when I was around nine years old. I remember Patrick saying it was in the sticks or something like that. The house was bigger. I remember the roads were packed down gravel at the time. It was a big change from the busy town of Bellville, but I loved it. I made some new friends and we would go out all day playing in the woods. One day we went down by the river. We ended up jumping in for a swim. On the way home my friend Bobby came up with a brilliant Idea. We went into the laundry room of an apartment complex to dry our clothes. We scraped just enough for the dryer. So we are sitting around in our underwear waiting for our clothes to dry when a young lady walked in. She jumped back at the site of us and made a quick exit. The next thing you know an old man with a stick in his hand is chasing us out as we are scrambling to get our clothes on.
My brother John was born that summer. I remember playing with him in his crib. We didn’t have much, but everyone seemed happy, now there were six of us. Soon time came to get back to school. Patrick was in Junior High and he was on the football team. I went to his home games. I was so proud of him, and fascinated by the game of football. I would wait for him after a game, and we would walk home together talking about football.
Time moved on, I remember my Mother telling me I was growing too fast. I remember her fitting me with my brother’s hand me downs. One thing about my Mother, she could work a needle and thread into magic. It was my turn in Junior High now. The School was so big and new, it took a little time getting used to it. Some of the memories as I reflect back. Like when I got caught in class looking at some dirty cards the guys were showing off. I recall the look on my teacher face when she saw the cards. Her face turned red, “All of you, get out! Down to the principal’s office now!”
The four of us got escorted to the principal’s office. We sat in a row of chairs waiting for what seemed like forever. I figured that was it for me. I was in big time trouble. What would my God loving mother say? I was scared stiff. Finally, we sat in front of the Principal’s big wooden desk. He was looking at the cards and smiling, I swear he was smiling. Then he looked at us scared little rabbits, “Did you have to bring these things before my lunch! Get back to class and don’t come back here again.”
A flood of relief came over me as I walked into the classroom and sat at my desk.
Time moved on, I was going to ninth grade, my last year at junior high. Patrick and Anne Graduated High School and like my brother I was trying out for the football team. This is around the time that girls seemed to become much more interesting to me. I made the football team and played halfback and cornerback. I remember coming home after a game or practice and my Mother bringing me plates of food. She always said I was too skinny. Football and Girls, it felt like I was living in a dream.
Right before the holidays that year my brother Patrick told us he joined the Army. I remember my Mother was not very happy about it. I was actually proud of him. My Father was in the Army. It was January when he left for basic training. It took me some time for it to sink in that he was actually gone. I recall going up to our room and starring at his clothes, his empty bed. It was just Anthony and I now, but he was always working or out with his friends. I felt alone. I asked my mother how long does it take to be in the Army and told her that I missed my brother. She smiled and told me he will be home, but it will take some time. I came home from school one day and found my mother moved my stuff down stairs with little John. It was my turn to be big brother now.
In the spring, I came home from school one day and found my mother sitting in her chair. She was smiling and reading a letter. She told me Patrick was coming home for a few days. I was so happy and excited I could hardly eat my supper that night. I couldn’t wait to see him. My father came home and asked me to give him a hand. I followed him outside. There was a big box in the back of his old truck. It was a color TV! My sisters were jumping up and down with excitement as we carried it in. Man, it was a heavy sucker.
We were eating dinner one evening and in walked Patrick with his Army uniform on. Everyone was so happy to see him. He looked great in his outfit. My mother made him a huge plate of Spaghetti and meatballs. Patrick talked about the Army. He seemed to really like it. I was so proud of him. Latter that night, we all sat around watching the new color TV.
The next morning, we were all eating breakfast and Patrick told us he was going to Hawaii for six months of medical training. Everyone was so happy for him and then he mention that eventually his unit was going to Vietnam. The table was quite for a moment--- until my mother asked him not to go. He told us he had no choice and that he felt good about going to help save lives. My mother got up from the table and my sisters sat with her in the living room. I could tell they were upset. My father sat quietly looking at his Patrick. He told Patrick to be very care full over there. He said he was very proud of him. I knew there was a war in Vietnam and some people were talking about it on TV, but I never gave it much thought until then. I was worried. Patrick left for the Airport that afternoon. I helped him put his gear in my father’s truck. He turned and shook my hand, he told me not to worry. He would be home before I knew it.
Time moved on it was my first year in high school, we got a letter now and then from Patrick. Mother would read them to us all after dinner. He was in Vietnam now, in a place called DaNang. He told us he was doing okay. I wrote him a letter telling him I missed him and prayed for him. My father would put the news on every night to see what was happening in the war. I would sit with him and silently pray for my brother. There were also protests in the news with people carrying signs asking for love and peace.
Back at school, I saw the girl of my dreams. She was with my sister Janet in the hallway after class. I walked over and she said hello to my sister. Dreamy was smiling at me as I tried to get my mouth moving. Finally, I blurted out, hi! The bell rang and we left for class. I remember thinking how stupid I must have looked as I struggled to find the words. During lunch I talked with my friend Bobby. He was getting a car from his older brother. Maybe, if I could get my mouth working, I could invite Dreamy to go for a ride. We could even go to the Drive in Movies. With a car the possibilities were endless.
Patrick finally came home one day in the summer of 69. We all went crazy with joy at the sight of him. He looked a little thin and tired, but he sure was happy to be home. My mother started on the food right away. I swear, she could put twenty pounds on you in a week. Patrick’s girlfriend Vicki came over for dinner that night. My prayers were answered, I was so happy to see my brother home again. One night, I asked Patrick how it was over there. His face, it was like it went blank for a moment, and then he changed the subject in a hurry. I decided, I would not ever ask him that again.
My adventure into writing, I would say it started for a variety of reasons. One of them being that I enjoy reading and through doing so, I began to pick up on the way stories flow. Another factor is in 1998; I attended English and Writing courses in College. Most importantly of all it was the heartfelt stories that my brother Patrick finally shared with me. It was the early fall of the year 2000; we were driving upstate to Pat’s hunting cabin in upstate NY. We were talking about guns and he began to tell me about Vietnam. I sat there in silence for the most part listening to every word. He talked for over an hour the first time. I was drawn into his words as if I could almost see what he had experience. I think that it did him some good to talk about it. He was in good spirits afterward. When I got home I scribbled down the details. That was the first of four trips we made together that year. On the last trip, when he finally finished talking about his Vietnam experience, I thanked him sincerely for sharing his incredible story. Then, I thanked God, for he must have been watching over my dear brother. I never realized just how close I came to losing him forever.
My process of writing a novel actually started when I was piecing together the notes I had taken down about Patrick and his time in Vietnam. Those notes are what gave me the unique insight and inspiration to learn more. I watched several documentaries and read some books about Vietnam. The shocking tragedy of September 11, 2001 and the feeling of patriotism I felt afterward, was the final push to sit down and write my story about the Bullets and Bandages. Slowly, the long cycle of write, and edit, began. The only good thing I can say about my publisher at the time is they gave me a decent editor. He helped guide me along. I had to learn to have patience, to use my imagination, and let the reader see-feel the words. Once I got the hang of it, the words began to flow into a story.
Parts of my next book My Life For Her were originally part two of Bullets and Bandages. Parts of this story came from my own experiences; the rest of it was through research, and most importantly Imagination.
The feeling of accomplishment was most rewarding after completing my stories. I got back some great reviews on my books. It is a special feeling knowing you touched the mind and heart of a reader. Everyone in the family loved the books including Patrick. They are proud of me, and my books. The most moving experience for me was when Patrick and I did a presentation of Bullets and Bandages at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, New Jersey. All of the family was there along with a group of veterans. Before starting, we toured the facility. The outside had a large statue of a soldier along with a wall of honor with the names of the men from New Jersey that had lost their lives. It was a moving experience for me. It was an honor to be there. When the presentation was over, I gave a copy of my book to a disabled veteran. The look on his face when I handed him the book is something I will never forget.
Now that I republished my books I feel it is time to get back to writing and finish up some stories that are in the rough. Writing to me is an escape, a way to be free and creative. Like the artist that works his painting, so is the creation of a novel.
By Robert J Saniscalchi Author's Webpage