93. Children Shouldn’t Play With Hand Grenades

In bewildering fascination, Saigon, formerly the capital of French Indochina, held me captive for about a week.  The rich blend of people, some in fancy western threads and others staying true to their native attire, were walking about in a fairly normal city scene.  

Some were shuttled around in decent cars and yes, there were clunkers to be seen as well.  Others took cyclos without a second thought and there were quite a few people going about on bicycles.  Then of course there were the troops going from here to there on foot and in military transport.

The smells coming from restaurants, fresh food vendors and street-food stalls were definitely interesting and I found some delicious too.

While sitting in a local bar on yet another sweltering hot evening, engaged in the usual sipping of ice cold beer, I was startled by what I was certain to be the sound of an explosion.  A little shaken to be sure but more so curious, I walked over to the open doorway and peered out.  A couple of more distant bangs followed.

The scene outside was that of the city’s people going about their daily routines, intermixed with our G.I.s and some foreign visitors … and children playing around the streets.  I then heard a siren in the distance.

Seeing nothing out of the ordinary I returned to my table, not really sure what to think or how to react.  I say this because most everyone else in the bar seemed relatively calm about the boom and bangs.   

Timing such as it was, these bangs became the discussion at our table.  My friends and I were told by a couple of Marines standing at the bar, to be aware of the children and youthful people here; perhaps an occasional grandparent too.  They must’ve sensed my concern.  

There have been occasions wherein children pretending to play ball outside, were actually culprits of (most likely forced) no good actions.  They were usually near an establishment where a good number of G.I.s were to be found.  A ‘ball’ would roll inside.  

Now either someone will pick it up and roll it back outside or it was ignored but sometimes, before one could realize it, kaboom!  Not only the visually dense population of American and Allied troops but the average citizen of South Việt Nam, all were targets in this damned war.  

And as was the wartime usual, you couldn’t really trust anyone.  Decidedly we were unable to distinguish the difference between North and South Vietnamese citizens; who had the grenade … or worse?

As if on cue, a ball rolled in through the open doorway and right then and there, my heart stopped beating.  I was sure of it because I don’t remember taking another single breath!

After what seemed like forever but only a moment or two later, a youthful lad came in after it and took it back out straight away.  Clearly I’m still here to say, that wasn’t a hand-grenade, or for that matter any other exploding device that evening.

Towards the end of our Việt Nam stopover I wanted to stay back in the city for an overnight.  Though I knew I’d have to rise before the morning sun to get back to the ship via the 5a boat at shore, I will admit I chose to engage a female companion and so retained a hotel room.  

It was after only a few minutes of being in this room (probably for the best) when the moment about to be, was disturbed.  There was sudden (again with the heart-stopping) and loud non-stop banging.  I instantly opened the door to see guns staring me down.  

There were 4 that I could see and two of them were pushing their way into my room; these gunslingers didn’t wait for an invitation to enter.  They briefly looked around.  I definitely wasn’t going to argue or question these 2 Vietnamese (n or s? don’t know) soldiers with -credit to my imagination- itchy trigger-fingers on those cold & scary (what looked like) AK-47s, surely loaded and ready to shoot!

No English was spoken and they left shortly after arrival, taking the girl with them.  The only conclusion I arrived at was the girl must’ve been North Vietnamese, posing as a South Vietnamese family girl.  Or was it the other way around?

Okay I’d finally had enough of my own shenanigans; no more shore time for this boy, I would stay in the ship for our remainder of this Việt Nam stopover.

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71. It Didn’t Take Long to Fill the Second Order

Our son Amar Saint Stephen was such a cute little kid, perfect skin tone and lots of hair.  Did I already say that?  Oh no that was actually about myself, many posts back!  But yes, Amar did have lots of hair and he had a sparkle in his eyes.  

In gazing into those eyes, my, my it looked as though they may turn green or blue, I thought.  Diana’s eyes held blue with the occasional green sparkle.  And perhaps I was searching a little to see well, what I would see.  I felt I should do all I could so that his spirit would know how welcomed he was in my heart, in my life.

C - Will U Check or Mate?

It might sound like silly wishful thinking but I felt like I got my son back.  It was my turn to make a move on the chessboard of life.  I felt as though he waited till I was better situated before he would return to me.

My employer always had a taxi pick me up, taking me to work and at shift end, another would bring me home.  Maybe once or twice in a work week I was fortunate enough with a shorter shift allowing me to come home in the afternoons.

I might be able to play with and take a nap beside my son.  Mainly though it was the evenings when I came in through the door at the end of my work day.  Amar was almost always already asleep.

And more often than not, I’d already had my dinner at work.  I toiled many hours but it was worth it money-wise, experience in the culinary aspect of things -not that I was training to be a great chef or anything- and of course to maintain the great health insurance.

When Amar cried in the middle of the night, Diana would get up with him.  Naturally she breastfed and was not minding this at all.  I’m so glad she very willingly agreed saying she wouldn’t have it any other way.  She taught me very early that it was smart to take a nap when the baby did.

We were becoming parents in a time where feeding babies with bottles was taken to like wildfire and in truth, it had been popular for quite some time by now.  

Credit where it is due; yes it’s convenient so that others can participate if need be and/or if the mother is simply unable to.  But for our family, I am pleased we chose and were able to feed the baby the natural way.

Amar was growing stronger and more lovely with each passing day.  There was little doubt as to the parents well-being either.  No time wasted, not with these wild parents, ha ha!  I told Diana, “I am putting in an order for a daughter!”

We both agreed a girl would balance our family.  And it didn’t take long for that order to be filled.  Diana being most fertile, she became pregnant while Amar was only near three months of age.

We had to make a residential adjustment during this time and ended up in an apartment building at 612 Pico Boulevard, directly across the street from Santa Monica High School.  This would be where Amar had his 1st Christmas and five months later, our 2nd child would join the family.

It was 17 days before Amar’s 1st birthday when our second child arrived.  It is now the spring of 1962.  She landed at six twelve in the evening to be exact and it was the Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Is it no surprise then that the moon was aligned with the birth of my daughter; 62% of the moon was illuminated -the temps were in the low 60’s.  

We welcomed into this world a little girl, just as we had ordered.

I remember telling Diana that I wouldn’t have to bring her a Mother’s Day gift because she just received a little package wrapped in pink.  We were both overjoyed, as was the rest of the family.

Asha Saint Monica was beautiful of course, she’s my daughter!  She had big brown eyes, good skin tone, a French looking face (her mother said) and lots of hair, just like her brother.  Diana assured me this labor was by far the easier one.  We were both glad of that.

During this time, Amar was being pampered in his grandparents’ home while Diana was in the hospital with our daughter and I went to work.

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7. Diamonds & Lumber – part 3

The next evening we did not return.  I think the cold (which was very new to me) made us feel a bit tired.  Now the 3rd night, my friends and I agreed to go back and so we all got cleaned up real nice and took a cab to the club as it was perhaps a couple of miles away from the port.

Once we entered my eyes began searching the room for this lovely girl.  I soon realized I felt disappointment as I thought perhaps she was there and I just couldn’t recognize her. The guys and I sat down and had ordered some drinks.

It was nearly an hour later when I sensed I should look up to the entrance door and there she was, coming in with her sisters.  I suddenly felt myself completely relax.

They grabbed an open table nearby and I knew right away she too was looking for me, I just knew it because she smiled big and pretty the moment her eyes met mine.  She was clearly happy that I was there. Now I waited …

A song played on as they settled into the evening.  The next song I felt was absolutely right and with that I stood up and went over to her table, walking around the other girls to approach her.  I said hello and asked her if she’d like to have this dance with me.

I could tell she quickly shot a glance to all of her companions as if asking permission but it was only a couple of seconds and she popped right up, giddy as a schoolgirl gets! We headed to the floor.

It was a slow dance (lucky me!) and we placed ourselves at a gentle distance.  We moved in rhythm with one another as the music swayed us and spoke many words to further acquaint ourselves.

In the expanse of this dance, I learned her name, Sonia and all those girls she was with were her sisters, they were born there in Canada, their mother was French, their father was from Punjab and she was going to school.

She inquired about me and I filled her in with as much detail as she could take and she wanted to know everything about me; all of which completely flattered me of course! When the music stopped we were still holding on to one another, a little closer now, and still talking as though we were the only people in the room.

We walked back to her table and her sisters encouraged me to join them.  She then took the cue from them and began introducing me.  I sat down with Sonia and we all fell into comfortable conversation, mainly they asked me to talk about myself; when did I come to Canada, how long was I going to stay, etc.

Sonia and I shared one more dance that evening as we mostly all did a lot of talking at the table. My friends too had their own entertainment going on, they danced and had a good time as well.

It was getting late, we had to get back to the ship and the girls admitted they too had to get home.  They asked if I’d be back tomorrow evening but I couldn’t promise.  I knew that more than anything I wanted to see her again.

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