It’s A Florida Thing

Tonight we were sitting on the lanai (back patio) eating our first real meal in the new house. (The previous meals didn’t count,  because hamburgers.)  

I looked out at the setting sun, the plate of pasta and meatballs in front of me and remarked: “It isn’t really dinner until the sheepdog empties his tanks while you are eating.”  Chewy had wandered to the end of his leash about 20 feet away and let it go. Such is the outdoor life.

I now fully realize just how out of shape I’ve gotten during the lockdown. We’re on day 9 since the boxes arrived and have easily 2/3 unloaded and properly stored. The remaining ones are going to be easy, since they contain my office/recording stuff.  But given the 5-8 hour days we’ve spent unpacking, sorting, cleaning, and shelving the various stuff it’s clear it’s hard work. I’ve never taken so much industrial strength acetaminophen in my life. 

After the first 4 days it was clear we’d die if we kept up the pace. So now we work like serfs one day, and the next run around getting licenses, fire extinguishers, donating stuff we should have left in Minnesota and eating at Waffle House

This morning I had to set my alarm – which I now hate since I’m retired – and get up to make a call at 0730. I hurt so bad from yesterday’s scrub-a-thon that I could barely make it to the kitchen. Once the call was over I went back to bed for 2 hours. Chewy protested and came into the bedroom to grumble. I love him in spite of this.

Now, the real reason I’m writing this blog today: the stuff you find when you unpack.

During the course of our lives together, my wife and I have moved several times. Each time we did a pretty good job opening each box and seeing what was inside. Sometimes they were put in the attic “until” and forgotten. But always opened.

One such box was full of belt buckles and Zippo lighters from the ships I was on. My rule was that I had to actually set foot on the ship, then I’d get a cap, a coffee cup, a belt buckle, and a Zippo. Patches were a bonus, but rare. In the 80’s military world, people would trade Zippo’s with locals for drinks and food on occasion – or a spiffy Carabinieri hat. 

Thus the profusion of those items. I also found letters from home. I am saving those to savor – they arrived while I was deployed. Special moments.

You also, when you scrub every flat surface that comes into the house, find some cool things:

That sticker, found on the underside of a shelving unit that has followed us in our moves from Spain, was from the U.S.S. Pargo. The Pargo has a special place in my heart, as I made two trips on her and got a couple of great sea stories due to her horrendous food. The only sub I ever rode that had bad food. But hey, she’s been razor blades since 1996. As have all my ships.

As I emptied each box and evaluated how important the contents really were, I had some serious time for reflection. The things that seemed very important in 1998 were now trivial. The life events of 1988 were bigger than life after all of these years, and none of those memories got thrown out. Things wear out, are unimportant. Events, memories, people are what sustain you in life. 

My wife and I are taking the day off today, but tomorrow we finish the garage and tackle the great room boxes. Just a few more days and we’ll be done. The exception is the incredible volume of yarn: we have to build some more shelving racks for that stuff.

I hope your memories are not kept in a box for years and lost when you die. Get them out and cherish them today. If you send me a comment on the blog, there might even be a cherished Zippo for you. I have a few extras.

Joseph Courtemanche

About Joseph Courtemanche

I'm a conservative Christian author who's been happily married for over 30 years. I am a Veteran of the United States Navy, Naval Security Group. I speak a few languages, I have an absurd sense of humor and I'm proud to be an American.


It’s A Florida Thing — 7 Comments

  1. Over the last week I’ve been opening the boxes I squirreled away from my last move four years ago. It’s been fun finding the pictures from my last milestone birthday – the ones I swore I would put in an album and then never did… now I’ve bought the album and been creating some memory books for my own pleasure.

  2. Nice read brother. Yep, a zippo, ball cap and Marlboros have got me out of a few uneasy moments or hassles. On one ride (we were extended) I saw a pack of Marlboros go for $20. THAT was a good but tough ride. COB took control of all coffee rations on board. Haha. Never forget that one or any other for that matter.

  3. S. Joe,
    Hi from Haiti. Lots of memories in just four years. That son of ours that you know is telling me more stories as he can. He just got his free-fall instructor’s number. Led his team on a night jump from 25,000ft and landed on a 25m square flat spot on the side of a mountain. He loves it.

    I have a brother in south Florida and another one north of Tampa. We visit from time to time. I will try to let you know the next time I am coming west on Alligator Alley. Did a lot of fishing in those canals growing up.

  4. Brother Joe,
    Love the memories. I try to dig through my stuff once in a while and am often stunned by what I uncover. We are all archaeologists of our own lives when we dig deep enough! Dad passed away last year after a very colorful and public life in politics and it was fun going through his old stuff. Mom mailed a lot to me. And my brother still has blackmail photos of me from my old life now that I am a Christian and heavily involved in ministry as a pastor and missionary evangelist. He likes to keep me humble by reminding me that beer, strippers, and bad music were a part of my glorious, pre-Christian life in the Cold War Army of the 1980s.
    Glad you are in Florida now. The place has grown on me since my parents relocated there. Visiting mom regularly in Cape Coral is a highlight of my year now. Hopefully we can get together in your backyard before the year is out.
    Blessings to you and yours,

  5. That sticker on the shelf is pretty cool. I’m the sort who thinks a Carabinieri hat could possibly be more useful than a Zippo. This is a year of events for me, too. I’m now a great-aunt.

  6. I’m getting one of my memories back in what will likely be my last trip to the Cities. Forty years ago, I built each of my sisters a dollhouse. My oldest sister left hers to me in her will. So, as soon as we get new tires on the car and get Mike’s medical stuff done, we’re heading west.