January 19, 2015 by comhomflt
Well, there were no activities or posts for nine month day, or ten month day, because…he’s home! Thanks to his CO, he came home just shy of the nine month mark and in time for Thanksgiving Day; and we have been busy adjusting to having him around, celebrating the holidays, and basking in the ordinariness of family life.
THE DAY – the day we had been living for, dreaming of, counting down to – dawned sunny and cold, with temperatures hovering near freezing. If the events of the day were any less significant, or if my brain were functioning correctly, I might have abandoned the idea of decorating the van. As it was, I was very much sleep deprived. Things had caught up to me in that last month of the deployment, and my frayed nerves woke me every night that the kids didn’t. I was rarely able to get back to sleep in under two hours, which was helpful for my goodreads account but not ideal for the teaching and parenting required of me during the daytime hours. The night before homecoming was no different, and in the wee hours of THE DAY, I rustled up some posterboard and markers and whipped out the “welcome home” sign I’d had designed for weeks in my mind. (There are lots of clever signs on Pinterest. Mine will not be among them. With engineering and IT degrees between us, we discuss strange things at dinner; and my sign attests to that.) After completing my sufficiently nerdy sign, I went back to bed and actually slept for a few hours.
Breakfast, for me at least, was not an issue. I hadn’t been eating breakfast for most of the month anyway, so while my wonderful mother got the kids something of which I have no recollection for breakfast, I layered myself up and headed out to the van. By this point, the close-enough-to-touch neighbors were bound to be up and about, and I was sporting rumpled hair and pajamas. Since they waved as they drove by on their way to work and school, I’m assuming they noticed. Ah well. One day when they have a homecoming, I will wave in understanding. Anyway, I had bought some chalk auto markers for the occasion, hoping they would be nicer than soap and not impossible to clean off. I was not disappointed, with the markers or the end result!
With the van decorated, I could turn my attention to getting ready and picking up the balloons we had ordered. I did take a girl – or two? or maybe a boy? – with me, and it was quite the feeling to drive the van around with its thrilling announcement! Somehow, I managed to get us there and back again in one piece, and I even held back the tears when a customer in the store noticed the balloons and commented.
Once we got home, the time flew by quickly. There were homecoming outfits and jewelry to put on, hair to be combed and French-braided, and signs and flags to be gathered up. Before long, we were loading up the van and pulling away from the house, with its empty window boxes and bare trees so reminiscent of a similar morning nearly nine months before. This time, though, the process would be reversed, and we’d be a complete family again when next we drove up our street!
Our arrival at the airport was a tad later than planned, owing to the driver’s getting lost on the way. (The airport is so far away, you know; and we never, ever, ever drive by it for any reason at all.) The truth is, I was more jittery than a bride on her wedding day! It didn’t take us long to spot the friend who had come to document the occasion with her camera or to spot THE FLIGHT on the arrivals board.
Family, friends, co-workers, and the CO of our LT’s stateside Reserve unit began arriving, and there were hugs, more photos, a few tears here and there, and nervous chatter. There was some banter about mothers-in-law and sons-in-law with the CO, but I think I escaped that conversation without saying anything embarrassing, despite my jangled nerves.
As the arrival time neared, our little group set up shop at the base of the escalators and began waiting in earnest. Gradually, when the people around us realized what was about to happen, the group expanded. Complete strangers were taking pictures and commenting on the kids. I think someone thanked me, and there were quite a number who stayed around for the big moment. But, oh, did it take forever! Usually, when we pick our LT up, he appears on the escalator before the arrivals board can be updated to show that his plane has landed. I kept my eyes glued to those escalators, except when I looked away to check the flight tracker app on my phone every thirty seconds or so. In the end, I’m glad I had a flag to twirl, because I might have bitten my nails off otherwise!
The free sign we got through http://www.buildasign.com/troops:
Finally, I got the text that he was on the ground and would soon be off the plane! The jangling of my nerves reached a crescendo I didn’t think possible. I was unable to stand still at all, and I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. By the time we spotted each other, I think I was catching my breath as if I were sobbing, but I was laughing instead.
When he finally appeared on the escalator, a huge cheer went up from everyone who came to greet him and those who had joined along the way. I was not expecting that, and it was surreal. Our hero was home. He walked straight toward us…and no one moved. I had expected the kids to run to him, but they stood rooted in place. As “We made it, we made it, we made it!” coursed through my brain, I stepped out in their place, and the nervousness gave way to tears as we embraced.
The kids did crowd around for hugs then, all except our little Seaman, who wasn’t quite sure what to make of this 3-D Daddy who picked him up and no doubt sounded different from the 2-D Skype version.
The moment dissolved quickly into a wonderful time of greetings and thanks from all assembled, even the strangers. There was small talk, a stolen kiss here and there, and extra hugs for the kids. I was exhausted, and I can see it in the photos, but I can also see the smile that didn’t leave my face for days. It was wonderful, normal, strange, and exhilarating all at once, if that is even possible. In some ways, by the time we left the airport, it felt as though he had never been gone, but the memory of all those months apart was never far from our minds.
Finally, we gathered up our things from the four corners of the airport and headed home, our family complete once more. We drove up the street to the little house with the bare window boxes together and crowded into the breezeway together. We filled up the kitchen again and shared our first family meal – my friend’s delicious chili – together. And together, we ventured into the reintegration phase.
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever will be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!