Grandpa Charlie’s Medal

Distinguished Flying Cross

Distinguished Flying Cross

Trudging down Lynwood Lane on my way home from school one afternoon, something caught my eye.  Had I been engrossed, as usual, with watching for robins stalking worms I might have missed it.

 But this time, my attention turned to a curbside box.  Left out for the trash collectors, it sat, sagging slightly, its marker-scrawled side hinting at the contents within.

  My steps slowed as I approached, watchful for curious neighbors peering out their windows.  Sidling up to the box, I read, “Grandpa Charlie’s war stuff BASEMENT.”  The lid askew, likely from a gust of wind or perhaps a frustrated raccoon, I could see something twinkling inside.

  I stood there, a force drawing me to this nondescript container of old stuff.  Looking around again for anybody noticing, I finally ventured one hand into the box. 

 Grasping something metallic I quickly snatched my hand back to my pocket and ran home in the growing rain.

 I barely remembered to hang my raincoat on the hallway hook and shake my boots onto the mat as, with heart pounding, I darted upstairs to the safety of my room.  Shouting a greeting to my mother, I clambered up my bunk bed ladder to my bed.  I took a deep breath and unclenched my hand, revealing my booty.

 What dropped onto my pink floral bed sheet was the first icon of what was to become a lifetime of scavenging.  It was a World War II medal. 

 With its violet and white striped ribbon slightly tattered and pin bent, it was not much really to look at. Yet it held my attention for a long time as I read and re-read the letters, “RAF.”  The engraved date of 1942 on the back had been almost rubbed away, along with the recipient’s full name.  Stapled to the corner clung a tattered piece of paper reading, “Charlie’s medal.”

 Charlie.  So he must be the original owner of “Grandpa Charlie’s war stuff BASEMENT.”  I wondered about that for a long time, so long in fact that my mother had to send my brother in to see if I was napping and had not heard her call to come down for dinner.

 “Whatchoo got?” demanded my four-year-old brother, Jason, his grubby hands clutching a Hot Wheel.

 I stuffed the medal under my pillow.  “Nothing, just my pillow,” I replied.

 When I climbed down from the upper bunk my life had changed forever. 

 For the next few weeks I studied the medal, now carefully hidden behind a book in my room.  I’d sit up late at night turning it over and over in my hands, feeling the raised letters, sliding my fingers over the ribbon’s fibers, and occasionally poking myself with the bent pin.  I dared not show the medal to my family, preferring instead to keep it secret. 

(It wasn’t until years later that I discovered this was a Distinguished Flying Cross, an award given to officers for acts of valor, courage or devotion to duty done when flying in operations against the enemy. )  Apparently Grandpa Charlie had been a war hero.

I returned to the site of my discovery, often dawdling on the way to school, but the now-empty curb revealed no further trinkets.  Too shy to knock on the door, I’d linger on my rounds to and from Courcellete School, hoping to catch a glimpse of whoever chose to discard such a treasure. 

 I wondered if it had been new homeowners who had found this box of war memorabilia and simply opted to toss it out rather than examine its contents.  Or had Grandpa recently passed away and holding onto his possessions had become painful to the family?  No further deposits of anything more interesting than a broken lampshade made it to the curb, yet each trip past the house always drew my gaze up the long driveway to the curtained windows.  I had so many unanswered questions, and dreams brought my imagination to a time of war and bravery, fear, and relief. 

 That following Remembrance Day, along with many other Canadians, I proudly wore my poppy.  I sat in the assembly at school, listening to our principal, Mr. Moult, reminding us to never forget the sacrifices our fathers, uncles, and grandfathers had made.  I committed to memory the poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Fields

 Pinned proudly next to my poppy shone Grandpa Charlie’s Distinguished Flying Cross.

 From: Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, copyright 2009 Dawn Edwards

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a great find and a great story!!!

    • Thanks, Sherry,
      Glad you liked the story. It really amazed me that they would have thrown out such an important relic.

  2. So that’s what got you started! Great story!

    • Hi Donna,
      Thanks for the compliment. It was indeed the seed that got sewn that day. If I hadn’t happened upon that box way back then who knows what would have happened?


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