Memorial Day haiku 2018

Boys arrived, laughing
marched day, trudged night, steady drill
saluted farewell


I grew up hearing stories told by
my dear Dad about his days in WWII as a
Fort Dix, N.J. drill sergeant. He took on
raw recruits from Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
sent them off as efficient fighters against
the Nazis.

Dad’s Days

Advice shared by my father –

Live as close to your work as possible

Never go to bed angry at anybody

Think pleasant thoughts

Grow vegetables & flowers

Look up at the night sky

Stand at the shore & think about who & what are on the other shore

Doubt what leaders, including preachers, say – look at what they do

Reading history is a better use of time than reading novels

copyright 2014

copyright 2014

  I think of his holding me under the night sky to watch a satellite pass by, helping me plant my first cherry tomatoes, carving me a letter opener & other gentle moments. 

My dear Dad died in the mid- 1970s. He arrived in the world the same year that the brothers Orville & Wilbur flew into history at Kitty Hawk, 1903. If you are low on your U.S. history time line of obscure cultural details & who isn’t –  this was also the same year that this limerick, which he never ceased to delight in reciting, is thought to have reached a vogue (WHAT HAPPENED WHEN/Gorton Carruth) –  


There once was a man from Nantucket

Who kept all his cash in a bucket

But his daughter named Nan

Ran away with a man

And as for the bucket – Nantucket!  


After salt-water fishing & intensive vegetable & flower gardening, including his prize-winning gladiolas, beloved pastimes of my dear Dad included reading non-fiction accounts of history, especially the ancient wars, the religions & cultures. He held a lifelong fascination with the Ethiopian emperor Haile Salassie.


His job as “Sarge” in the segregated military led him away from his racial prejudices. He said many times as I grew up, “The black recruits worked 10 times harder than the white boys & if I had to go off to war & I could choose, I would choose black soldiers first.”

Few people active in my life today knew him. And fewer still can spin me a yarn about him from the good ol’ days. But just in time for the sweet/bittersweet sequential slew of holidays that help me conjure up good memories of him

Memorial Day

His June birthday

Father’s Day

July 4th

Labor Day

Veteran’s Day  


on a sunny day in mid-May just a few weeks back, I opened our big black postal mailbox to find a cheerful yellow envelop with a card inside –


“Have I told you how very much I liked your Dad? He was so supportive after my Dad died. ….Once he took me with him to help set up fireworks in Princeton for the 4th of July….” The story kindly shared about this adventure is likely from the 1940s, well before I was born & involves my dear Dad & the locally famous Iorio Family with whom my father was pals. This surprise gift of a fun memory keeps me humming in what is now Florida’s Good Ol’ Summertime. I expect to pull the card out at bedside years hence, when I am in my 90s & reread (or, have it read to me…) when I want a moment of cheer.

DSCN6751 Dad lamented that he was too young to go to fight in World War I & too old to fight in WW II. But he wasn’t too old to shake a metal bed frame at 4 .a.m. in barracks at Fort Dix. N.J. (Camp Dix in 1917, near Wrightstown & almost named Camp 13) to cheerily greet raw recruits

Get off your a * * & on your feet

Your mama’s gone & I ain’t sweet  


He relished the call-and-response drill, which, among other rich history or origin, has the story/legend of  Private Willie Duckworth & his cadence, a marching sing-song famously associated in military folklore with a soldier marching in segregated drill on Long Island at Fort Slocum. I hasten to add that Private Duckworth’s clean lyrics didn’t remain that way as they spread through the service branches.  

As a kid Dad marched me, to my delight, with safe rhymes for child ears & I always remember the close –

Sound off! one two

Sound off! three four

Sound off, one two three four

one two three four!  


At times in my drill of writing, if I am finished with a piece  & able to write THE END, I also silently repeat the Sound off close. Won’t mean anything to you, but remembering that is a mighty fine shiver.

As a decommissioned Army warrant officer, Dad, who, was also a frequently lauded community blood donor, became a leader in the American Legion. In my rural child days at Quakertown N.J.’s cozy Fourth of July parades & then in longer patriotic tributes in the county seat, Flemington, N.J., I delighted in seeing him in military uniform. He marched beside the flag honor guard at the head of our holiday parades. It was on the sidelines of these parades where I learned to stand up & put hand over heart as the ruffle of drums approached, with the grand U.S. Flag, next marching by.


In the way children figure things, in my mind the entire parade was my father’s parade, because after all, he was the Leader. And with both my mother and father involved to various extents in local weekly newspapers, I was raised to understand that our patriotism celebrated not only the military victory in WWII, but it also included a fierce pride about the First Amendment.


Recently I learned that the Legion grounds, plus the building he helped to have constructed, as commander of his post, had been valued for the American Legion at $2..2 million in Flemington, N.J.


Well done, dear Dad, good &  faithful, U.S. servant.DSCN6743          


I am enjoying  The Signmaker’s Assistant, which carries with it a whimsical, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (Cloudy is soon to be in a theater near you) sensiblilty that I like.  More on Signmaker in a second.

This story sends me into my library, to look up at a message high on the wall above the window. The message is in black paint, on wood. It’s a sign.

I grew up with this sign &  I think you can guess that I love it.

Among the houses of pals & family folks I visited in childhood, ours was the only house with a sign in it.

It was given to me by my father, who had been a drill sgt. in the U.S. Army. This sign was made for him by a solider. Dad was good at making the guys write their letters home, in the Writing Room.  I love the uneven sides sawed for the sign and the big block letters. I can imagine him walking through the room where it hung at Fort Dix, N.J., making sure the boys had paper and pencils. The sign later hung over a family desk during my childhood. When it became clear I liked writing, my Dad promised it to me.  I can write when I’m not near it. But I have also looked up at it when stuck & found something in it that helped me forge on.

c. 2009 Jan Godown Annino Writing Room

These days, I find  something stuck above it at the top, red words on white paper  – a Florida sign in the form of a bumper sticker.  Every so often here in the Sunshine State some of us think perhaps a fella named Skink should enliven election coverage by campaigning for Governor of Florida.

Skink is the nickname of  a character  Carl Hiaasen created, a rascal who is a book-toting, wilderness-camping, former Florida governor, living out of a station wagon in the cypress swamps of South Florida. The paper sign says “Re-elect SKINK for Governor.”

Both signs are totems in my writing world.


Nathan is the young character in The Signmaker’s Assistant by Tedd Arnold who discovers the power of words when he goes beyond his little job cleaning paint brushes for the town signmaker. Nathan posts a few signs around the village that any child would applaud. But are these the kinds of signs that will help the town run smoothly?

I lucked into this book – signed by the talented illustrator-author – in a small art gallery gift shop in North Florida when my husband & I visited it on a recent weekend. Tedd Arnold is the 2006 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book Winner for Hi! Fly Guy. He also won the 2007 Edgar for RAT LIFE, a Young Adult novel & it was his very 1st novel, after publishing more than 50 successful picture books, which keep on dancing out of his studio in New York State.  The p.b. title in his line up that intrigues me most from the title, is Catalina Magdalena Hoopensteiner Wallendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name. Makes me think of Double Trouble in Walla Walla from Andrew Clements with pictures by Salvatore Murdocca.

For more on Tedd Arnold,  sign-maker, book-maker, word-slinger: