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The Price We Pay

Two weeks ago a friend of mine accompanied me up to the airport to pick up my mom, who was visiting. Things went well. My mom got off of the plane at precisely when she was suppose to and the luggage hit the conveyer belt moments later. We laughed and smiled and enjoyed the thrill of the coming holidays.

Then my mom wandered off to find her luggage and my friend innocently exclaimed, "Oh, look! How sweet."

I looked and wished that I hadn't. I looked and found myself face to face with my past.

Standing near us was a young mother--two kids in tow--clinging to her soldier. Clearly this man had just gotten off of the plane and clearly they hadn't seen each other in a while.

The toddler clung to his dad's leg while the wife clung to her husband's--none of them aware of my stunned gawking of this intimate reunion.

It was like being sucker punched by a Sumo wrestler. I stood there not knowing how to react and instead just gasped at the pain.

I became that woman. I knew exactly what how her hands felt against that coarse army uniform, and how the warmth of his body was likely making her dizzy. I knew without question that the scent coming from him was a dusty, road weary musk that would cling to her own clothing after their embrace. I knew his chin was stiff with whiskers not shaved off since leaving the Desert and that his ruck sack was pulling him slightly backwards from it's weight on his back.

Except that it wasn't her husband I was seeing... it wasn't her I was seeing. I blinked, desperately trying to clear my head of the onslaught, but I was caught. My world was spinning in a thousand directions and a hundred memories. All the kisses goodbye, all the welcome returns piled on top of me until I was sure I would drown in the emotion of it all.

I blinked again and the woman was standing near me watching her husband with joy. Her baby was sitting cozy in her car seat as my stare started itching at the womans back. She turned to me, giving me an uncomfortable smile.

I knew that smile. It's the smile of a woman who knows she's being watched because of her soldier.

"How old is your baby?" I croaked, my throat dry and aching from all that remained unsaid.

"3 months." She said.

"Oh." I didn't want her to stop talking to me, "is she sleeping through the night yet?"

The woman smiled. "Just barely."

My voice was stuck, I nodded politely and let her turn away. I wanted, no needed, to find a way to disconnect myself from this woman. My world was spinning out of control and the air around me was getting heavier. I didn't want to stand here and watch her husband hoist their toddler into his arms.

I didn't want to be forced to see my own children wander through a crowd of camouflaged legs searching for their dad's.

"Okay. Now we can go." My mom said at my side. The bubble around me burst. I gratefully picked up her bag and walked to the entrance. "Oh, I was going to tell you. There were some soldiers on our plane coming home for leave."

But my mom didn't need to tell me that. I already knew.


Jennifer said…
Wow. Great post. I tweeted it.
Do you have to go through this again any time soon or is he done?
iamwoman said…
This was a great post, and I absolutely commend all that have to go through these moments;)
Morgan -Ing said…
I could feel it. :)
Hilary said…
Awh... what a special thing, you should've just said you know just how she feels. :)
Anne said…
Great post! Well written : )
(from MMB)

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