When I heard it, it brought back great memories of my early days growing up in Newport News and the good fortune I had to be born in that great port and shipbuilding city with truly loving parents. I fondly remembered taking walks along the Boulevard, the name those who lived along the Hampton Roads shoreline in Old Newport News used for Chesapeake Avenue. We would walk along the walkway at the top of the seawall and gaze across the harbor to the Norfolk Naval Base near the mouth of the Elizabeth River, several miles north of the commercial area pictured above. And when the lights came on before dark, it added wonder to the scene as moving lights represented ships coming in and out of Norfolk and Newport News, including Navy vessels and commercial merchant vessels carrying everything from cars, manufacturing equipment components and foodstuffs to coal for Europe. It was even more dramatic at Christmastime as the Navy used to decorate the ships like Christmas trees in honor of the season. As I grew older, I would spend many hours walking, jogging, and bike riding on that walkway as well as sitting and pondering my future as the busy harbor stayed alive in front of my eyes. Time continued to roll by fast and then, as I neared my final year of high school, my thinking told me that I wanted to do something new and not out of my family mold, something that would say it was me and my choice about where to go to school. So, instead of following the footsteps of my dad and big brother on school choices, I went out on my own and chose the Desert Southwest of all places and was given permission to do so, provided all my incidentals such as travel and extra-curricular activities were self-funded. I took the challenge and went to Old Tucson and the University of Arizona where I loved the change of scenery and the unique qualities of the West.
Even so, I remember one night being reminded of those harbor lights from the most unusual of places and it was on the way back to school at night after a day trip to Old Mexico. You see, in the Southwest with its low humidity and clear skies, Tucson could be seen across the open desert from fifty miles away and its appearance in the distance was almost like looking at a port of call coming up on the ocean. It was very much like those harbor lights of old and it put me back in touch with my background. This would happen off and on many times over my lifetime and, of course, when I returned for a visit I always went to the harbor to look at the clear memory. Well, the old town had changed quite dramatically in many ways but those harbor lights were almost eternal. There might be a few changes to the skyline but the harbor view looked remarkably like it had before. It provide the same impact on me that it did in my youth and I finally realized it is because it had become part of my being.
I think the harbor lights are part of my soul. Any time I visit a coastal city, I like to visit the harbor at dusk and savor the view. Whether it is a large bustling city or just a small town with a fishing fleet makes no difference. It could be back home in Hampton Roads, Baltimore, Charleston or Savannah, Jacksonville or even San Diego or San Francisco on the West Coast. The harbor lights just beckon me and provide a constancy to my life and being and I am thankful for all they represent to me. Those harbor lights represent my place of birth, my upbringing there and the hustle and bustle of productivity that came with life in that hard-working town. Each of us has similar aspects to our being that are often hidden away, but then we come upon something that brings them back if we pay attention. They just keep us on an even keel about just who and what we are.