Taylor & Shelly Issue 5
I had the idea for a holiday-themed issue of the zine for a few weeks but I was having trouble writing it.
I’d asked my mom to send me some Christmas memories from her childhood. I figured it would be something light and sweet. But what she ended up sending me presented a fun creative challenge.
She said, “I have many fond Christmas memories, but in retrospect, one Christmas memory stands out because of its historic significance – Christmas of 1965. The November 1965 draft call was the largest since the Korean War. My brother, Dick, was drafted at 22 years of age. He was stationed in Hawaii before being shipped out to Vietnam in December of 1965.”
My uncle Dick doesn’t talk about his time in Vietnam. On top of that, this was a much more somber tone than I had for my own story. I needed to think about what this experience must have been like for my uncle and for my tween mom. I also had to find a memory of my own that reflected the emotional complexity of hers and would juxtapose in an interesting way.
I was also working with less information than I had for my own story. My mom remembers not fully grasping the gravity of the situation when Dick was drafted. And since Dick doesn’t talk about his experience, I didn’t have those details either.
I remembered The Things They Carried, the incredible book by Tim O’Brien about his time in Vietnam, and I read a few articles about soldiers sending and receiving taped messages during the war. My mom said my uncle Greg had borrowed an old reel-to-reel recorder from his high school so they could make the tape for Dick, so I googled 1960s reel-to-reel players and sent some possible options to my mom to see if it matched her memory.
I also researched the weather in Hawaii in November and looked at the wide swath of ocean between those islands and Vietnam on Google maps.
My first few drafts were lumbering along and I was getting bored! I had to take my own advice and start as late in the action as I could. Although I don’t know what really happened, I could imagine a few feasible scenes. Once I had some sensory details, it all seemed to fall into place.
When I was seven, my dad showed up for Christmas. He even put a present under the tree for me – a new bike without training wheels. I didn’t know how to ride a bike without them. He said he would teach me.
I put on my coat over my pajamas and pulled my boots onto my bare feet. We walked out into the chilly stillness, my dad holding the bike in one hand. He put it down on the sidewalk and I climbed onto the seat. He started to push me and I strained with pointed toes towards the pedals.