Amir the tailor sat cross-legged on the floor. He was working on a piece of cloth shot through with shimmering gold brocade and blood red highlights. I had been waiting patiently for the completion of four gold brocade jackets.
According to Amir, the jackets would be ready in one week – backed up by the guarantee… “If the jackets are not finished, you take the knife Sahib, and you cut my neck!” It took Amir another month to complete the jackets. Even though fully entitled, I did not cut his neck. (Peshawar, Pakistan 1964 – Age 15)
Pakistan was another serving in the movable feast of growing up in the travelling Peek family. I will get back to what happened. First, let me fill in some background.
I was born a poor gypsy. After being kidnapped by a respectable family, I was forced to travel the world. “Alright your Honour, I wasn’t really kidnapped (but, no one has convinced me otherwise). I confess that I enjoyed every minute.”
My parents met at a Sunday school picnic in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri on Easter Sunday, 1946. Mom climbed a tree, and a soldier reached up and carefully returned her to earth.
Mom and Dad grew up in the depression era (I am talking about the 1929 depression). Mom, born in Missouri, was from a family that can be traced back to Ireland and the American Revolution. Dad, born in Georgia and raised in Alabama, was the product of a “Grapes of Wrath”, “Tobacco Road” environment, which would make the aforementioned novels qualify as light comedy. They both came from “broken homes”. Although they did not talk about it, I know their burning desire was for our family to know as much love and security as they could possibly provide.
A word about “broken homes”; the unbroken elements were my grandmothers. Even though life worked hard against them, they were the super-glue that bound their children and ultimately their grandchildren into a family.
Dad’s mother was not happy with him marrying a “Yankee” and would not give her permission. So, Mom and Dad eloped to Arkansas. My take is that, prior to the civil war, Missouri was a divided state and since Mom’s ancestors were slave holders, they were only “yankees” (with a small y).
I was premature when I was born in August 1948. I don’t remember the details, but I am still premature. I have always loved hearing stories of our early homes in Belleville Illinois, San Antonio Texas, Fort Monmouth New Jersey and Panama City Florida. My brother Dan was born in Panama City (November 1950).
In 1951 we moved to Narsarsuaq, Greenland where my sister Debby was born (March 1953). Having a father in the US Air Force was a ticket to adventure. I have vivid memories of the Greenland trip. We made the journey in a propeller driven C-54 (Douglas DC-4) aircraft. The interior of the plane was military style with canvas webbing along the fuselage for seating. During the flight, the pilot took me into the cockpit and let me sit in his seat. Then, the navigator sat me down, let me wear his headphones and tune the radio knobs. This experience, paid off in later years.
From arctic Greenland, the travelling Peek family (hereafter TPF) headed for Victorville, California. To any stretch of the imagination this was a climate change. I recall all five of us in a used Ford, travelling only by night through the desert to avoid what can only be called “The Desert”.
After a couple of weeks in California, Dad got orders to go to South Carolina. No problem, we got back in the Ford and headed back to the other side of the continent. Sound like fun? For us kids it was. I can’t vouch for Mom and Dad.