Growing up during the Vietnam war made me have a more global view than I might have had any other way. We saw footage on the news every night of our troops fighting in a country we had never heard of for a cause we never understood.
I am not sure how it all started, but my family often baked cookies and sent care packages overseas to the troops. Especially during the holidays. We learned to pack things like packages of pre-sweetened Kool-aid to disguise the taste of the water. Sticks of pepperoni and beef jerky were packed in the edges around the cookies carefully wrapped and sealed in hopes they would arrive in good condition. We popped bags and bags of popcorn and used it as insulation and for protection against the tussling of the travel ahead. In the top of the box we placed the letters we wrote telling them about the everyday happenings here at home and thanking them for their service. We often got many, many return letters. I wish I had kept them all.
One day my high school and Civil Air Patrol friend, Marilyn, decided to come to my house to bake cookies and help me prepare care packages. We baked all day and filled box after box. Our plan was to write letters later in the evening. Mom and Dad decided to go out that night so Marilyn and I decided to play some records and have some fun.
Our living room had a window seat with a large paned picture window in the front. At night it reflected back like a mirror. Now, I do not recall how Marilyn came to have her bathing suit with her, but we both donned those bikinis, cranked up the music and decided to dance – admiring our reflections in the ‘mirror’ of course. That was when Marilyn suggested it was a shame we did not have a camera because we could send photos of ourselves to the troops.
Now my dad had some cameras, but his pride and joy at the time was a very fancy box Polaroid camera with an expanding bellows. Perfect! Instant already developed photos would certainly fill the bill. The only problem was that one little thing. We were not allowed to touch dad’s cameras. Oh, and the other tiny problem, I had no idea how it worked. Luckily there was a manual!
We did not quite think through the available film cartridges as photo after photo came out too light or too dark, but we finally got a couple of decent photos for our efforts. By this time the music was cranked up, we were dancing in bathing suits in front of the picture window, and albums were strewn everywhere. That’s when we noticed the police car slowing down in front of the house.
Behaving like the guilty creatures we were, we quickly closed the curtains, turned the music off, threw on our robes and started to gather the albums into a stack. We sat huddled on the couch waiting for the knock on the door which never came. We were quite relieved and starting to feel somewhat full of ourselves when I heard my parents’ car pull in the driveway. THE CAMERA! I closed the bellows, put the camera in its case, threw all the photos under my bed and tucked it back into its resting place in the closet. Whew! That was close.
Dad never mentioned it if he discovered anything amiss with the camera. We tucked a few photos into our letters and mailed the boxes. We got the same return letters as always and there did not seem to be any level of excitement about our pictures. When I think about it now, we must have appeared a mess and I bet the guys got a good chuckle out of these teenage girls who thought they were something else. Trust me. We weren’t. But the cookies? Now that was something they seemed to really appreciate!