By Lola Di Giulio De Maci

When my brother was 21 years old, he walked out the door in his white Navy uniform on his way to the plane that would take him to a faraway land. Mom, Dad, my two sisters and I stood on the front porch steps, watching him disappear down the street and around the corner. Life changed drastically for us in that moment. I immediately began counting the days until David would come home.

Mom missed her son terribly. She cried a lot and couldn’t sleep. No one could console her.

Dad shed his tears silently. But the pain in his heart was palpable. It was hard seeing his only son go off to war.

One of the ways Mom coped with David’s absence was to make his favorite cookie – pizzelles – and ship them thousands of miles across the ocean to DaNang, Vietnam, where he was stationed. Helping her out, I would sit for hours making these anise-flavored, snowflake-like cookies one at a time on an old-fashioned press that resembled a waffle-iron. I didn’t mind. I missed my brother terribly also.

When the cookies were ready for packing, Mom would stack the pizzelles in a large tin, placing popcorn in and around the delicate, crispy cookies so they wouldn’t break. Then she was off to the post office, visualizing that big, silver bird in the sky carrying our love to David in another part of the world.

Thank you very much for the cookies, he wrote in one of his letters home. They were delicious. I shared them with the guys.

That letter and all the others he mailed home meant the world to me. They still do. It was always a great day when I would go to the mailbox and see a white envelope with a red, white and blue stripe running across the bottom of it, the word FREE inscribed where the stamp should be affixed.

16 February 1970. When you read this, I’ll have about 226 days left…I have been getting all your cards. I get a kick out of them…So you’re going to have a baby! Congratulations!…This week I’m putting in for an in country R&R which is 3 days. I’m going to do nothing but sleep!…I close for now. Love, Dave

I have taken all of David’s letters and tied a black string of yarn around them, placing them in an indigo-colored box for safekeeping. These irreplaceable drafts of history have softly yellowed with age, and yet I can still cradle these keepsakes in my hands, touching indelible memories that echoed milestones in our lives.

My brother is now 69 years old and lives just a couple of blocks from me. I call him often.

“Can you come over for a cup of coffee?” I ask, already setting the table for two. I watch for him as I stand on the sidewalk in front of my house, waiting for him to fly around the corner on his bike. I love spending time with him. We talk about a lot of things as we empty the coffee pot and leave a few pizzelle crumbs on the once-ladened plate.

But David rarely talks about his tour of duty in Vietnam. Yet, when asked about the time he spent overseas, he quickly replies: “I’d do it all over again. In a heartbeat.” I hug him tightly, so grateful all these years later that he came home.

Before he leaves, I go to the closet where I keep a gold tin can brimming with more pizzelles and make a to-go bag for him.

“Take care of yourself,” I call after him, as I watch him and his bike and the pizzelles disappear up the street and around the corner, taking him back to his life today as a veteran of the country he fought so dearly for.

And my heart swells with pride.

About this writer

  • Lola Di Giulio De Maci

    Lola Di Giulio De Maci

    Lola Di Giulio De Maci is a former teacher whose stories have appeared in numerous editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, the Los Angeles Times, Sasee, Reminisce, and other anthologies, newspapers, and magazines. She has a Master of Arts in education and English and continues writing from her loft overlooking the San Bernardino Mountains.

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3 Responses to “Homecoming”

  1. Dolores Horvat says:

    Such a nice story. I never really knew your brother. He was about 4 years old the last time I saw him.

  2. Loretta Becherucci says:

    Lola …every article you write about family, brings
    back memories. Great job…keep it up…we will never be lonely when we have memories. Love You.

  3. Maureen McCabe says:

    What a beautiful story and so perfect for Veterans Day. How poignant and lovely you can still share your mother’s cookies with him all these years later.

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