The bright yellow of oxalis has been joined by the rich, warm orange of California poppies. It is surprising how quickly the standing rainwater from the recent storms has dried up; pewter gray skies, so prominent lately, have turned into a lovely canopy of cloudless blue. Long white lines of vapor trails from invisible aircraft high overhead resemble efforts of sky-writing pilots of the 1930s and ’40s with writer’s block.
Hundreds of gulls and shearwaters have gathered where Santa Rosa Creek empties into the sea yet again. An unusual sight is to see pelicans in amongst the other birds. They usually gather on the water out past the breaker line. They, too, float down the turbulent creek like a ride at Disneyland before lifting off the rapids and returning a few hundred feet back up stream; I don’t recall seeing this activity before.
On the boardwalk, visitors point at things along the beach, lift their cameras to their eye and shoot a series of photographs. I noticed one of the cars in a parking space has an Illinois license plate. I wonder if they have been to California in February before.
It is strangely uncrowded today. Only a few cars accompany me in the parking lot.
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I took a break from writing these notes and reached for the hot coffee waiting patiently in the console holder, and then retrieved the bakery goodie from its paper bag. After a bite or two, I inserted a tape of Glenn Miller favorites into the player. The first number was “Perfidia.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I was quickly transported to a distant, treasured time—1941. Even as an 8-year-old, I loved the movie “Sun Valley Serenade,” starring Sonja Henie and John Payne.
The movie was one of the two films featuring the Miller band. I was quite young at the time, but ask anyone about the impact his orchestra had on those young men and women whose lives were forever changed when World War II erupted a few months after the film premiered. Marriages and relationships were subject to uncertain futures when the war began. The love song “I know why and so do you” will always have a special place in the hearts of millions of young people from that generation.
“Why do robins sing in December, long before the springtime is due … I know why and so do you.”
The Navy contacted my father in February 1942 and invited him to re-rejoin the service. They were seeking experienced personnel from the World War I to create what were in time called the Sea Bees (construction battalions). Chief Petty Officer Brannon was off to war for a second time. He was almost 50.
A few minutes later, I became aware that things had changed outside my car. The wind had shifted and was now coming out of the southeast. From a bright sunny day, the light had dimmed and dark clouds began arriving. The ocean changed from a deep blue to a drab olive. The day’s morning forecast seemed correct: A sunny clear day, but changing to showers later in the day. I selected “Perfidia” again and pressed the repeat button as I started the car.
As I headed for home, I was consumed with warm images and memories about my dad.
E-mail John Brannon at email@example.com