When I was 12 my family moved to Agoura, California. Little did we know at the time Agoura was home to the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire born in 1968 by Ron and Phyllis Patterson.

Now I was a girl who had moved 9 times in 12 years and my way to cope with the upheaval and change was to hang on to whatever constants I could. My constants happened to be Wrigleys Spearmint Gum (about 2 packs a day but thats another story) and old movies. My favorite old movies were the kind where the women wore beautiful long gowns and the men were gentlemen. Swashbucklers, royalty, peasants, lords and ladies - I loved them all and thought that someday I'd major in history and be immersed in the seemingly wonderful people who wore those fabulous clothes.

Then the Faire came to town.

I know Renaissance festivals are kind of a joke now, a place for the SCA fanatics to gather and beer drinking tourists to shop their heads off for crafts and drool all over cleavage; but at the time all I could see was those clothes! those wonderful clothes! Lords! Ladies! Peasants! A Queen!!!! I had to be a part of it. My sister and I begged our parents to let us become flower sellers.

Dad took us to our first day of workshops, where we would learn how to talk, how to dress, a little history of England and who was who in the faire front office. He shook hands with a few people, made sure we were well supervised (ha! sorry dad) and left us for the day. Over the next 9 weeks with workshops and then the run of the faire Sis and I were in heaven.

We worked at the Faire in many capacities over the next ten years. I started off as a "boothie" (salesgirl) with my sister but soon found my niche in the performing arts department. I apprenticed in the costume department, acted on stage and later directed a play, finally I became head of overnight camping and issued camping permits and helped patrol overnight to be sure everyone who was there was supposed to be there (people who work at the faire had to have a permit to be there after 7 PM - everyone else was tossed out on their hiney). People knew me as "Kampin Katie" and I worked at both Northern and Southern California faires (the two that were then owned by the non-profit Living History Centre - now owned by the for-profit Renaissance Entertainment Corporation).

I had my first beer, my first gin and tonic (still my drink of choice), my first kiss from a real crush, my first chance to wiggle out of a sticky situation, and my first puff of the you-know-what. I wore the costumes of the English peasants and nobility, the Irish, the Italians and the seafarers. I learned the timing of the Comedia Del 'Arte, the beauty of a friend who holds your hair back while you puke toad in the hole, the value of a well-fitted bodice, and that guys named "Red Dog" are best avoided. I grew up.

Finally in 1992 I worked my last faire.

I left it behind in the way that you leave high school. I had a great experience and learned a lot over those years, but it was time to move on, and I did. I worked in Hollywood for a time, went back to school and became a Preschool Teacher, got married, had two kids - had a wonderful regular life that I treasure.

Last December I visited the Dickens Christmas Faire in San Francisco, which is owned by the same people that started the old faire back in the day. I returned to people yelling across crowds "Look, It's Kampin Katie!" and warm hugs from costumed old friends. Many who work at the faire are hippies or wanderers (some are hard core "carnies") they form a rag-tag family of sorts and I couldn't believe how many were still there after all these years.

I turned a corner and there he was, the old man of the faire. He has been there for a time spanning 3 decades - mostly playing Sir Francis Drake with the gusto and presence few possess but is a thing of wonder to behold. He saw me and stopped. "Well Katie, there you are." He stretched his arms and I obliged with a warm hug. "Welcome home." he whispered.

Shudder. It felt as if all the blood had run from my extremities and I couldn't spit out the usual pleasantries fast enough. I had to get away. I had to get home and be with my husband and babies and cook something and clean something and DEFINITELY take a shower and clean the smell of old patchouli off of my skin.

and that is what I did.

The Rainbow Gathering, a huge annual convergence of counterculture people that happens somewhere different every year also uses the Welcome Home saying as its motto. I believe "Welcome Home" is also posted at the Oregon Country Fair, another similar gathering occurring in Veneta, Oregon every year in July. It's also a phrase I hear every year when I go to the Sundance each year held at the spiritual and cultural encampment near Mt. Hood, Oregon every year.

What do all these gatherings have in common? A tribal way of living for a few days. I think that this kind of event returns us to our tribal instincts and indeed we are HOME for a few days when we go to these gatherings. The Rainbow Gatherings, Country Fair, Sundance, and Renaissance Fairs all feature communal cooking, public dancing, music, bartering and sharing, campfires, and a way of relating to each other that I rarely find in today's busy, hectic life. Honoring Elders, valuing differences, singing and laughing together: these are things that are hard to find in our superficial, conservative society, yet they are the cornerstones of tribal life.

When I hear Welcome Home, I am glad to be taken back to a more primitive side of myself, and it's always a little difficult to return to my ordinary life after the tribal respite. Have you ever noticed how patchouli and sacred sage smoke don't wash off well? The smell lingers.

Our Nam Vets went to war for our country - many were drafted - the rest went out of a sense of duty. Most went through a living-hell that the rest of us will never have to go through even in our wildest dreams. They went through all of this ... and couldn't even get the one thing all previous and future war vets take for granted.. a collective "Welcome home" Two words.. two easy to say words - but cause *we* disagreed with the choices of our government our son's, husbands, and best friends didn't get that - instead they got spit upon - after going through more then most of us could ever imagine.

'Welcome home' is an expression used by Vietnam veteran's to one another. It's meaning very profound and perhaps beyond the scope of this node.

But since I've yet to find an official explanation of this - I will humbly attempt to explain - based on my own limited knowledge of this intense and important phrase.

'Welcome Home', is a very special bonding, brotherhood saying used frequently and understood by our Vietnam vets. You would be hard pressed to find a TV show, Website, our gathering involving Vietnam Vets without hearing that phrase numerous times. And that is because it has significance and a very special meaning to them all.

Imagine for a moment an 18 year old you care about - your son, grandson, nephew, your best friends son or your own best friend - getting drafted and going off to war. Dealing with things you can only hope to never experience, and then coming home to hate, jeers and people spitting upon them. That is what our Nam vets (after the first few years of the war), most just a few years beyond childhood when they left, came home to.

Defense Secretary Weinberger spoke of this at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial dedication:

"When your country called, you came. When your country refused you honor, you remained silent. With time, our nations wounds have healed. We have finally come to appreciate your sacrifices and to pay you the tribute you so richly deserve"
The war's unpopularity and the political atmosphere at the time was transferred to the veterans. Most did not get a welcome home... but in time they started to use the saying "Welcome home" amongst each other.

It may perhaps bring a momentary hurt or anger of remembering the lack of welcome home's received when they returned - but it also reminds them that they share a special bond with each other in this experience.

The rejection experienced upon returning home from war is often refered to as the veteran's 2nd battle. There is nothing that we can ever do to take away the hurt and pain we as a society caused these heroes - but saying "Welcome Home," if said from the heart, will often mean a great deal.

It's never to late to Welcome Home a Nam vet, and it will touch them to hear it if it's said from the heart.

To any Nam Vet's reading this node:
Thank you, and Welcome home,
Whitney

I would be honored to have a Nam vet explain "Welcome home" in their own terms. I've offered this up here until one might wish to do so for us.


To ad a little depth to the meaning of "Welcome Home", here is an excerpt from an autobiography of a Vietnam Veteran's experience.

"When Can We Come Home? Understanding the Viet Nam Vet" by Harry Kieninger (1999)
{Ordering info: Harry Kieninger, P.O. Box 42002 Indpls., Ind. 46242. Price $8.00}

When veterans of World War I and World War II came home after serving their country overseas, they received a hero's welcome. There were parades down Main Street, USA, banners waving, balloons flying, cheers, speeches, and celebrations....

In contrast, let me relate my experience when l returned home from Viet Nam. I arrived at Weir Cook International Airport, (now Indianapolis International Airport) one cool October day in 1968. No one was there to meet and greet me. I called a cab to take me to my home on McDougal Street. As I settled back for the ride, I said to the driver, "I just got back from South Viet Nam." He turned and looked at me and said, "So what?" Here I sat, just home from the most horrifying experience of my life, and no one cared. A man, whose life was on the line daily for the past eleven months, didn't even rate a "Thank You." I soon realized that my service in Vietnam was not going to get much of a response.



For more insight and understanding of the Nam experience check out the CD "It's Just a Nam Thing" by 1/27 Grunt, and watch for their new release "WELCOME HOME BRO !!"

They always told me the view from the hill
You know the one the one with all the houses
With all the lights on in half the houses
Would make me feel

welcome but it It
frightens me every time All those lights
all those people all those doomsayers
Dreaming clouds lightning
Cutting paper into houses made of card
Where the edges lined up
Crash like the thunder sounds of tyres squealing
In a dash back to all those houses
Where all those half awake people are waking up
To the fact it’s raining out and they have to come in from the rain

But Home is where you don’t come in from the rain
Because you are the rain
Tapping on the rooftops like a child nervous
About whether this is the right house
we can only reach the doorbell on tippy toes anyway
So we press our faces to the glass
And smear our smiles ‘til they’re framed like priceless art
Leaving a snapshot our youth

Now I tell them the view from the hill
You know the one the one without the houses
Where the only lights aren’t from houses
Will make them feel

Welcome

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