Skip to comments.Jimmy's flag
Posted on 10/04/2001 6:57:34 PM PDT by Luis Gonzalez
It was one of the most frustrating challenges that I have faced in years; I just wanted an American flag to fly in front of my home. As so many of you may know, Old Glory is missing from the shelves these days.
I set out two days after the attack; back when there was still hope of finding survivors in the rubble, to the neighborhood store where I had always seen stacks of Stars and Stripes, carefully arranged, on a shelf next to the Automotive Department with a slight measure of dust covering the plastic bag which housed them.
My idea was simple, get a flag, a tall, strong flag pole, and plant my Star-Spangled Banner out front, where everyone could see it, homeowners association be damned. This is about our country, and I wasnt about to take any crap from them, I was ready to fight. To my absolute delight, the very first flag flying in the neighborhood belonged to the Associations president.
I called my wife from the car, on my way home that day, to let her know that I was stopping to buy our flag, Get me one of those cute ones that fly from the car window while you are there, she said. I liked the idea, and decided to get two.
The picture of the flag flying proudly from my front yard tapped recollections of better days. Well, I dont know that they where in fact better days, but I was much younger then, and the world was a simpler place. I thought about Jimmy and Lydia for the first time in quite a long time.
My family had been in the US for less than a month when the loud Cuban woman came to meet the new arrivals staying at my aunts house. Lydia was a force of nature, theres no other way to describe the lively, attention-grabbing tornado that entered the house, and our lives, with a loud HELLO!!! She hugged and kissed my parents, my brother, and I as if she had known us for years, settled into my uncles favorite television chair, and spent the next several hours filling the house with ruckus laughter, and an unbelievable mixture of Spanish and English that was to become her trademark, in my mind, to this very day.
Dad and Lydia hit it off immediately, they shared a common passion for a good joke, Lydia loved to hear them, and Dad loved to tell them, a natural-born storyteller everyone said. Anytime the two happened to be under the same roof, Lydias explosive, no-holds-barred laughter will fill the house; follow the sound, and find Dad, trying out his latest repertoire on her, to her absolute delight.
It took my mother a little longer to warm up to Lydia. In those first days, I cant really say that Mom took to Lydia well, but Mom was a different person then; a country girl in a big city, she was a little quiet and not very assertive, a good Cuban wife. I think Lydia began working on her almost immediately. The woman that my Mother is todayinvolved, vocal, and passionate about those things and ideals that she holds dearhas a little bit of Lydia in her blood, and like Lydia, a heart as big as the great outdoors.
I saw the Wal-Mart sign ahead, and began to merge to the right to make the turn into the parking lot, I couldnt help but noticing the increasing number of flags showing up everywhere. Paper ones, printed and taped to the inside of the glass doors of the centers shops, small ones attached to the car aerials, bigger ones (the cute ones my wife wanted) protruding from car windows, and even full-sized ones, flying on makeshift flag poles from the back of pick-up trucks.
There was an unnatural stillness in the normally bustling store; sounds felt muffled somehow, and distant. The people walking the aisles all had the same look on their face, as if they all wore masks. I was finally able to identify the look; Ive heard it called the thousand yard stare, I wondered if that was my mask as well.
I rounded a corner into the Automotive Department, and headed for the shelf with the flags, I ran a mental checklist of the items I needed to purchase; two car window flags, a flag decal for the family van, and a good, full sized Old Glory, complete with a sturdy flagpole, topped by an American eagle. I was looking for Jimmys flag.
He was the only son of a family who traced their American roots to the Revolution, and he loved the sea. He always knew that he would join the Navy, made the United States Naval Academy his goal, and his choice, at a time when most young men concerned themselves with more mundane matters, and Annapolis it was for young James. There were clouds of war in the horizon, but they didnt much concern the newly graduated Midshipman as he received his first orders, Cuba sounded exciting and exotic to a young man from Virginia.
The expansion of the Guantanamo Naval Base was in full gear as he arrived, and the young officer immediately threw himself into his assignment. It was soon after, during a weekend furlough into Santiago de Cuba, that he met a lively young woman, with a hearty laugh. Jimmy and Lydia married soon after.
He took her to his home in Virginia, then left to fight the war. These bastards dont know just who theyre messing withhe told herIll be home soon.
She raised a brand new flag on the yard of their Virginia home the morning he left, raised it every day until Jimmy came home from the Pacific.
Nothing the shelves had nothing on them, bare. No red, no white, no blue anything.
I approached the guy with the blue vest, and the nametag, organizing some oilcans, and made him aware of the need to restock the flags.
No more flags. he said without looking up from his task.
No more flags?
No more nothing.
I was feeling more creative than desperate, and decided to think out of the box; I would find a way to exhibit my patriotic fervor. I had an idea.
Where can I find ribbon?
No blue, no red. Only white.
I immediately began to calculate the distance to the nearest Target, or Loews. On my way out of the store, I grabbed a flyer listing all the area stores, and their phone numbers. An hour later, my collection of flyers had grown considerably, Wal Mart, Target, Loews, Home Depot, K-Mart, Walgreens no more nothing anywhere. I went home to make some phone calls, maybe I had to rethink my flag idea.
I called every store I could think of; it was the same story everywhere nothing, no flags or anything resembling one, anywhere. I was determined, and I am a resourceful individual, I have overcome much bigger challenges. I would find my flag, and along with my boys, raise it daily. My brand-new Star-Spangled Banner would fly proud beneath a bronze eagle, on my property.
Lydia and Jimmy never had children of their own, and since his retirement from the Navy, and after their move to Florida, their family became the newly arrived immigrants they would take under their wing. Our first television was a gift from them, our couch, cookware, plates, and bedroom furniture; they never showed up at our door empty-handed. It was always the same story, I dont use this anymore, and I thought that maybe you could Lydia would tell my mother, and smile. Mom never mentioned the tags still dangling from the item, but we all saw them.
The invitation was made in a casual, almost offhanded way, Why dont you all come for dinner next Thursday, its a HolidayI had an idea about this Holiday (the school I attended had turkeys and Indians decorating the walls), but no one else did. My aunt and uncle explained the concept, it was a day to give thanks, and we had so much to be thankful for.
We dressed in our very best, what little money we had spent on some new shoes for my brother and I, and left much too early for dinner. As we drove up, I noticed the tall, white flagpole and the American flag flying in the breeze, how odd it was to me to see the tattered edges on it, nothing about that house appeared old, or in bad condition, except the flag. Inside, the house smelled wonderful, strange, and inviting. Jimmy sat in his recliner and invited the men to join him; the ball game was about to start. I sat there, in his den, looking at the collection of military memorabilia hanging from the walls; I couldnt peel my eyes from the Imperial Japanese flag and the samurai sword occupying the center of the display.
Jimmy caught me looking and smiled, those bastards didnt know who they were messing with he said, I had learned enough English by then to understand that. We watched the incomprehensible sporting spectacle on TV, with Jimmy explaining everything to us in a slow, deliberate English, with some Spanish thrown in for good measure, until Lydia called us all to the most incredible, bountiful table I had ever seen in my young life; we sat and bowed our heads following Jimmys lead
It was going to take something just short of a miracle to find my flag; it was nearly two weeks after the attack, and all I could get from anyone were maybes.
Maybe well get a shipment tomorrow, or the day after. Maybe next week.
I carried a list with me now, kept it on the passenger side seat; I had a routine established too. I began calling every number at exactly 9:00 AM, systematically, store by store, repeated the process at 2:00 PM. I was on first-name basis with some managers by now.
Good morning Andrew, its Luis.
Good morning Luis nothing yet. Maybe tomorrow.
Talk to you later.
Im sure you will.
As the workday wore on, I maintained communications with my little group of flag searchers, seven of us all together by now, wife, sister-in-law, in-laws, parents everyone looking. I was touching base with my Mother when the subject came up. I was frustrated; I had post and eagle, but no flag, and would now take damned near any one I could find.
I dont know Mamá, any flag will do right now, even an old, tattered one, like Jimmys old flag.
You remember that flag honey.
Mamá, how could I forget, I kept wondering how long it would take Jimmy to get around to buying a new one. I guess he never did, I remember the color guard handing it to Lydia, and saluting.
It was a beautiful funeral.
It was, it sure was. I miss old Jimmy.
When was the last time that you called Lydia, or went to visit her?
Its been too long, have you talked to her lately? How does she like the new place?
She hates it, but you know Lydia, nothing gets her down. You should stop by and see her someday.
Si Mamá, you are right, I should.
I went to see her a few days ago, shes put on weight these last few years, and she needs help getting around, but man! She still loves a good joke. Jimmy took good care of things, and she wants for nothing, she is financially secure and able to afford comfort in her golden years.
We talked about all the same old stuff we always talk about, and then we talked about the attack. For a long time, she reminisced about Pearl Harbor, about Jimmy going to war, and about how it feels the same now as it did then. I told her about my futile flag hunt, and that I had been thinking about Jimmy a lot lately. She said she knew, that Mom had told her all about it on the phone.
She excused herself, and rolled her wheelchair into the bedroom while I checked my voice mails. When she returned a few moments later, she was holding a small bundle, wrapped in plain brown paper and twine.
You can use this one. she said.
Theres an old, tattered flag waving in the breeze out front; under a clear, true blue dream of an American sky, Jimmys flag is waving for the country once again; and though its edges are ragged, the colors are strong, and vibrant, just as they were when it waved, framed by a Virginia sky, and waited for a sailor to come home. Old Jimmy would have wanted it this way, Lydia told me.
I raise the colors every morning; then I do a small salute and speak to ears that I know are listening near by.
Hey Jimmy! These bastards, they dont know just who theyre messing with, do they?
Copyright Luis Gonzalez ©2001
Tomorrow, when I salute, I hope to be in the company of two great Americans, two soldiers.
Jimmy, look for my friend Herb, I knew him as the CHIEF negotiator, and as a great American. Bring him around in the morning.
Two old soldiers under whose shadow I will be honored to stand.
The Old Flag
Ragged Old Flag
That was a truly inspirational story. Thank you!
My goal is to read everyone of your writings.
Stand tall, my fellow Patriot.
Thank you so very much for stopping by...
Today is the saddest day that I can remember at FR. I have always admired Chief Negotiator for so many admirable qualities. I had no idea that he had touched so many other FReepers in the same way.
I don't remember BCM (John Moran) from his postings but just knowing that he freeped amongst us, also makes 9-11-01 even more painful and personal. I think that I will buy a larger flag tomorrow and watch the flag wave as it honors these FReepers along with the multitude of others that have gone on before. Thanks for the idea.
Thanks for stopping by.
A good friend stopped by a few of them, happy that he'd finally found a flag, they all read either "Made in Korea", or "Made in China"....he's still looking.
Check out Aunt Polgara's suggestion as to how to get a flag.
It is a lovely story, and I'm glad Jimmy's flag is flying proudly again. I'm sure Jimmy is proud.
I've been looking for a flag for three weeks, too. We started to order one online on the Thurs. after the attacks, but I thought, nah, I can find one locally. NO WAY! I finally decided to go ahead and get one online this past Monday. I went to libertyflags.com and went throught the whole order procedure, but got a message at the end that they could not fill the order and I should come back in a couple of weeks to re-order. I was mildly perturbed, but decided no problem, I'll do that. To my great surprise, later that evening, I received an e-mail saying my flag would be shipped the next day! I'm so excited. I hope it comes in by Friday so we can hang it up over the weekend!
I'll be thinking about CHIEF Negotiator, BCM, and all those who died in the attacks as we put it up.
"I pledge allegiance...."
Thanks for stopping by.
There's an old, tattered flag waving in the breeze out front; under a clear, true blue dream of an American sky, Jimmy's flag is waving for the country once again; and though its edges are ragged, the colors are strong, and vibrant, just as they were when it waved, framed by a Virginia sky, and waited for a sailor to come home. Old Jimmy would have wanted it this way, Lydia told me.
I raise the colors every morning; then I do a small salute and speak to ears that I know are listening near by.
Best that I can figure, it left some years ago, inside one of the hundred or so boxes that left with my ex-wife.
I should have replaced it long ago.
Whew - what a moving story!
God bless Lydia and Jimmy for their giving spirit and for Jimmy's service to America.
God bless you and your family and all who have come to America to build our country and make it stronger! How much we needed you in the November election - now, as I remember first meeting you during the Elian saga - can't we see - God's hand at work - even in the horrible treatment of our beloved little Elian? By taking Elian and sending him back to Castro's hell - the Clintonistas ensured Florida's Cuban American / Latin American community would ELECT PRESIDENT BUSH!!!! bringing into office the President that our country would need at just this terrible time!
Thank you for these wonderful essays - each one improves over the last one.
(Re: flag search - another good place to look is local school supply companies - they will reserve one for people and they have made in America excellent quality flags)
I bet they do my friend, I bet they do indeed.
I already have lots of flags, but I wanted little enamel flag pins for all of my employees. I finally found a place that offered them mail order. They arrived today and I had to spend TWO HOURS taking each one out of its little bag that said MADE IN CHINA and putting it in a new bag with a patriotic slogan on it that I had to make! Grrrrrrr!
Thanks for the link. Luckily I have some people working for me who are capable of taking a message to Garcia. I also have plenty of the other kind. That's a good story.