The origin of this personal memoir was an exercise at my Writers’ Group. We had all contributed one word to ‘the hat’. At each meeting we read a short piece of writing based on the word drawn the previous week. This was my response to ‘Recruit’.

I was happy with the result and since it earned positive comments from my writing buddies, I submitted it to Vista magazine. The editor was very complimentary and asked if I had more such pieces. Who knew that a throw-away writing exercise could generate a published article?

Although ‘Recruit’ ends with my son leaving on a peacekeeping mission to Bosnia, in reality he did return safely to Canada. In fact, he decided on a career in the military and has served his country in various locales and capacities for over twenty years. I’m so proud of him – but he still has a messy room.

Below is the text as it was published in the November 2016 issue of Vista:

Second to None







By Laurie Ness Gordon

The bedroom door opens. My teenage son emerges. Behind him I glimpse clothes on the floor, books and papers strewn about, his bed a shambles. Will he ever learn to be neat and organized?
“Mom, can you give me a ride to Downsview tomorrow night?”
I follow him downstairs with an armload of dirty laundry.  “Why do you need to go to Downsview?
“I’ve decided to join the Reserves.”
I almost trip. “The army?”
“Yeah. What’s wrong with that?”
“Well, nothing. Nothing. I’m just surprised, is all. What time do you have to be there? As long as it’s after work, I can take you.”
“Yeah. Seven.”
I dump the laundry and dog him into the kitchen. “What made you decide to join the Reserves?”
He opens the fridge, pulls out the milk jug. “They pay you for your training and then they give you a job on weekends and in the summer.”

Next evening we pull into the military compound. A formidable stone building looms before us. “Do you know where to go?”
“I’ve got the name of the guy I have to see. You can wait in the car.”
That’s me told. I turn on the radio.
Twenty minutes later he appears, red-faced, tight-lipped. He knocks on my window. I lower it a few inches. “You gotta come in.”
I turn off the car and hurry after him.
“You need to sign. I’m only seventeen.”

I stand now, fingers gripping the chain link fence at the Trenton Air Force Base, remembering that night he enlisted. In the distance his uniformed figure joins the line snaking toward the plane to Bosnia. I brush the tears from my face and wish so hard for the days of that messy room.