Paper Chains and Map Pins

by Kelly S. Croslis

reprinted with permission of The Philosophical Mother.

Military Family Story The day always starts with the realization that someone is missing. The alarm clock rings, but I am the only one there to turn it off. Quickly I am brought back to reality and the day begins. I wander to our daughters' rooms and wake them up for school. It's 6am. After showers, getting dressed, breakfast, checking backpacks and gathering lunches we head out the door to wait for the bus. For a short time they aren't thinking about dad being gone, they are able to talk with their friends and compare notes with them about where their dad's are. To anyone else it may seem like a strange conversation, but to them it is perfectly normal.

Once the bus arrives I am off to class. Now that the girls are older I am able to do some things for myself. I am carrying a full course load at the local community college. I attend class from 8am until 1pm. The girls will be home from school soon, so I will have a short amount of time to clean up around the house, check the mail, plan dinner and relax for a few minutes. At 3pm the door flies open to the sound of endless chatter. Backpacks are thrown in my direction as they head for the kitchen for a snack. I slowly go through the bags and ask about their day. It will be a quick dinner tonight, as there is soccer practice at 6pm. After a quick snack the girls sit down to do homework. While they work I prepare dinner and find missing shin guards and cleats. I'm starting to wonder if the end of the day will arrive, I'm getting tired. Homework is finished and we eat dinner, do the dishes and rush out the door to head to the field for practice. As they do their workouts I sit in the car and do my homework for school and prepare my work for tomorrow.

By 7:30pm we are back home, everyone is tired. The girls grab a snack and sit down with me while we check their email and find out where dad is tonight, what ports of call he has visited, what he has been doing and most importantly what he bought to bring home to them. The girls each have a letter to read and take turns writing a short letter to their dad telling him what they have been doing. After everyone is done we go to the world map and mark the course the ship is on, after marking the map the girls remove a link from the chain they made from construction paper. It lines the living room and reminds us each day that the end to this deployment will come and dad will be home. By 9pm they are in bed and I'm able to sit and relax at last. I lock up the house and sit at the computer to write an email to my husband and read what he has sent to me. As I think of what to write to him, I think of all he is missing of our girls growing up, the soccer games he will miss thi s weekend and wonder what I will do this year for our anniversary, since I will once again spend it alone. I want to keep my letter upbeat so he won't worry about us, it's hard though because I want to tell him everything that is going on and that I need his help and someone to talk to. I fight to keep my thoughts on my letter and pray that he will not worry about us and concentrate on his job and come home safely. His job is to defend our country my job is to keep the home fires burning for him.

By 10pm I'm tired and ready for bed. I go upstairs and lay down to watch some TV and unwind. I think of what I must do tomorrow as I set the alarm and drift off to sleep. One day is complete, only 5 more months to go. It seems like an eternity, but we've been through it before. It never gets easier, the same pain and loneliness are there each time, but with each day, each deployment we get better at it and learn the best ways to live.

Kelly is a stay-at-home-mom to 3 busy teenage girls. After moving around the country with her husband for the last 15 years, while he has served in the U.S. Navy, they are looking forward to joining the 'civilian world' later this year. She has been writing for several years, having several works published in Poem Anthologies.