A Minnesota PBS Initiative

A Son Comes Home

It was 1970 and I was a very young teenager. Our neighborhood was very close; many of us even celebrated Thanksgiving together. In that summer, one of the sons of the family a few houses down from us completed his tour of duty from Vietnam. I knew how many young men had been killed on a weekly basis as the Star published the details of every soldier. If I close my eyes now, I can still see many of their faces as their military photos were also included.  

Of course the family was thrilled that their son was returning. They decided to throw a huge party and not only invited their extensive family, they also invited the entire neighborhood for blocks around. They supplied the beer and ham sandwiches with all the fixings. And all the neighbors responded with more tins of cookies, bowls of potato salad, jello molds, bags of ripple chips and homemade pickles than you can imagine. The family also got a local cover band to play all the rock-n-roll hits. When their son got there, it was a party that had never been seen on Zane Ave. 

I was playing flashlight tag in the front yard at about midnight when it happened. The cops pulled up. I quickly ran to get the dad.

The celebration continued well into the night and I remember thinking it was so great to see everyone was so happy. I was playing flashlight tag in the front yard at about midnight when it happened. The cops pulled up. I quickly ran to get the dad. When he got there (3 sheets to the wind), he was greeted with, "Sir we've had a complaint about the noise. What's going on here?" The dad explained the situation and that he had invited the whole neighborhood. The cop looked in disbelief and shook his head muttering "some people." About all he could say was, "well just try to keep it down a little." The dad said ok and then asked them to stop by when they got off duty.

Much later the cop did stop by again to have a beer and told us that the complainers had called again. He shared that he had told the caller that this was only one night and couldn't they have it in their hearts to understand the joy the family felt? 

We never knew exactly who the complainers were but we all had a singular guess. What I did know was that I never wanted to be so self-important that my experience was the only one that mattered. I also learned that we should mourn the big stuff, like not having a son return from Vietnam, and forget the little stuff like losing a few moments of sleep.

Biographical Details

Primary Location During Vietnam: Crystal, MN, United States Vietnam location marker

Story Subject: Family

Story Themes: Coming Home, Family, Relationships, Revelry

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