Tra La!

May’s riot of azaleas always reminds me of living in North Carolina a long time ago.

Tra la, it’s here, the lusty month of May! That lovely month—when I never go astray. Annually, I post a song from the musical Camelot on social media, switching between the Julie Andrews and Vanessa Redgrave versions. I remember playing the album of the 1960 musical, seeing the 1967 movie, and being besotted by all the major stars and their voices.

We lived in North Carolina when the movie came out. My parents took us to see it as well as a traveling stage production performed on base. I fell in love with the stage Lancelot. Dear Lancelot. The purity of his heart deceived him when couldn’t stop himself from loving King Arthur’s queen in a manner inappropriate for a vassal.

As we exited the dark theater into daylight, I sighed and expressed my love for Lance. “Wasn’t he handsome?” I said.

“But he was bald,” my mom said.

But what did that matter? He was Lancelot! And, like my dad, a military man.

Celebrating my 8th birthday on our back deck in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

In North Carolina, we lived in a neighborhood close to Andrews AFB where Dad was stationed. Fort Bragg, the largest Army base in the country overshadowed it. One of our neighborhood streets dead-ended where the army training fields began, and we loved watching the soldiers, tanks, and heavy guns traveling between training fields and base, churning up clouds of the pink dust from the red Carolina soil.

Both bases swarmed with young men in uniform. We, as military brats, lived in a world disproportionately populated with men. Uniforms, youth, and vitality surrounded us. Meanwhile, news of Vietnam battlefields and war protests from around the country raged on TV and in the papers. And my best friend’s father came home from the war in a coffin. The last year we lived in North Carolina, we lived without my dad, who was serving a year tour of duty in Vietnam.

My dad in Saigon, 1968.

For most, Camelot will forever be associated with the Kennedy presidency. But for me, it will always be tied to red clay dust and the Vietnam War, when I learned to gaze at the human race aghast.