Valentine

 

Valentine,
Will you be mine?

We were young when we fell in love. I remember the calm and peace when I was with him and the uncertainty when he wasn’t there. Young love is urgency. An urgency so ironic when you really have all the time in the world.

What do you call two birds in love?
Tweethearts!

Barely a year after we met, we married. Outdoors by a lake, loved ones in folding chairs before us, we said our vows. Holding hands, looking in his eyes, time stood still for a moment when I said, “I will.”

We divvied household chores, responsibilities, nights to cook. We worked, we played, we were adults with the joy of kids, our separate interests counterpoint to a shared life. Love was my cold hand in his warm one as we jumped into our life together.

What do squirrels give for Valentine’s Day?
Forget-me-nuts!

Ten years in, we had two tiny girls. My world flipped. His flipped a bit later. Now parents and partners, we were a united team. Putting the kids first, always before ourselves, we had to remind ourselves to be sweethearts as well. We were connected by the tiny hands we held.

The children grew and life spun faster. Weeks filled with work, homework, rides to dance, scouts, lessons, cheering at games, photos, always photos, commemorating each event. Date night became more regular and more important. I often thought about how I couldn’t have done it without him. Though I didn’t always remember to tell him, love was knowing he’d always be there.

What did the calculator say to the pencil on Valentine’s Day?
You can count on me!

Twenty years in, we took an anniversary trip. Five days away from work and stress, kids and parenthood, responsibility and daily life. Five days to remind ourselves how important it was to be together.

It was the dawn of the turbulent teen years and our united team cracked a bit under the strain. But the years passed, as years always do, and we came out the other end. Love was standing arm-in-arm, admiring the young women our daughters had become.

What do farmers give their wives on Valentine’s Day?
Hogs and kisses!

Thirty years in, the nest is empty. My husband has retired and roles have reversed. I come home in the evening to a quiet house, shopping and dishes done, dinner simmering on the stove.

Love is the way he knows my moods. Love is the mangos and avocadoes that he can’t stand, but he buys because I love them. Love is the small treats he leaves by my spot on the couch and the texts he sends to make me laugh. Love is thirty-three years with the same man and wanting thirty more.

Valentine,
So glad you’re mine!

Snowstorm

After weeks of rainy gray days that almost pass for early spring, it snows. For a couple of hours there are whiteout conditions, especially if you are in the car following a plow. I slow down with a sigh.

It’s packing snow, the right kind for snow balls, snowmen and forts, and I know kids across the area have been waiting wistfully for the chance to go sledding. At least someone will enjoy it.

Once home I look out the window and think back to other winters, other snows…

…I’m ten years old, content to huddle inside with a book on a cold winter day. I’m lost in The Long Winter, dreaming of being snowed-in on the prairie…

…I get the call early in the morning before light. Snow day! I’d love to crawl back into bed, but my little girls are up. After breakfast, we bake chocolate chip cookies and I make a pot of vegetable soup. Then we bundle up and head outside, to battle with half-hearted snowballs and build a snowman taller than all of us, sacrificing a hat and scarf to warm its frozen neck and head…

…I’m eleven. My dad takes all four of us to a park with a great sledding hill. We take turns on two sleds, gliding down the slope at breakneck speed, coasting to a stop and trudging back up to go again. My dad takes a few turns belly-flopping down the hill, my little brother on his back…

…I am thirty-seven, learning to ice skate for the first time, in a class with my daughters. I take joy in gliding around the ice and take comfort in the instructor’s instructions on how to fall. A little girl in the class looks at me doubtfully and says, “My mom wouldn’t do this…”

…I am twenty-five, driving an almost new Mazda on the dry interstate, on the three-hour drive to the city I grew up in, when the snow starts. It’s sticking to the road and I slow down to forty-five. Travelers fall back, suddenly cautious like me. Two cars ahead of me, the driver loses control and goes into a spin. I let off the gas and cautiously try to switch lanes, guessing I won’t stop in time. Then I am spinning, swerving backwards and to the side, heading for the guardrail. I tense for an impact that doesn’t come. I come to rest a few inches from the guardrail, facing the wrong direction and parallel to the car I had been following. He in turn is stopped nose-to-nose with the car that went into the spin, which is also facing backwards. They are mere inches apart. The guy in the car next to me gets out and runs to my window. Hands on the roof, he leans down to see me better.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I say yes and he runs to the other car to check on the driver. Next, he is standing on the highway directing traffic so we can both turn our cars around and be on our way. I’ll forever be grateful and wonder if he was an off-duty police officer…

…We are playing in the backyard, trying to train our husky mix to pull a kid’s sled. She doesn’t like being hooked to the rope, but likes to take the rope in her teeth and pull. My little girls are taking turns sitting on the sled to be pulled. It’s big sister’s turn and little sister is put out. She stalks off to the edge of our property, little arms crossed in a snit because her turn wasn’t long enough. Our dog looks at me, waiting for me to go after her, but I can see she’s fine and I set her older sister up for her ride. I stand back and big sister gets the ride of her life as our husky takes off across the yard to herd little sister back to her parents…

…I am seven.  Where it typically snows inches, this storm has snowed feet. Once the adults in the neighborhood have carved out paths where sidewalks should be, the side walls are so tall I can barely see over them. My sister and I circle the block, walking tall from drift to drift…

…My daughter is just one, wearing her new snowsuit for the first time. Proud parents, my husband and I take pictures and build her a snowman just her size. She’s most impressed by his carrot nose and soon wants it for her own…

…It is now and I think back to other snowstorms, snowmen and forts, sledding and snowboarding, ice skating and skidding down highways, as the sun comes out and the snow starts to melt.

 

The Bus Ride Home

It was Christmas break, my freshman year of college. A large group of us stood on the platform, waiting for the bus to take us home. A group of strangers, we stood making small talk, all relieved to have finals over and break about to start.

The talk lulled and I turned. I had to rush. The bus was here.

Like a wave, the crowd moved to where the bus was stopped. The bus slowly filled, leaving about twenty of us on the platform, laughing and joking to cover the worry that we’d have to find another way home. Right before he pulled away, the driver told us they’d be sending another bus for us.

More students came, the camaraderie increased and by the time the second bus showed up, we filled it with a laughing crowd.

I sat a few seats from the front and a guy from the group I’d been talking to slid in next to me, continuing the conversation.

Then he changed topics.

“I’ll bet I can guess your nationality,” he said.

I grew up in a big, diverse city where second- and third-generation immigrants identified themselves as Swedish-Americans, Greek-Americans, Japanese-Americans, etc., so I didn’t think anything about it. Being short, with dark hair and an olive complexion I’ve been mistaken for Greek, Puerto Rican, Portuguese, Native American, and Indian. I didn’t think he could guess. I said okay.

“Greek?” he guessed. “Italian?” He went on, but never got it.

Finally I listed my ancestors’ heritage, but he didn’t comment on anything until I mentioned a Jewish relative.

“You know,” he said, “Jews are trying to take over the country and the world.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“There’s a Jewish conspiracy,” he said.

My dad had repeatedly warned me that I’d run into antisemitism, but this was my first encounter. In retrospect, I’m sure this guy had a litany of complaints against many groups.

“I know a lot of Jewish people,” I said, “and none of them are trying to take over the country.”

He started listing his “evidence” and I realized I was trapped on a full bus, stuck sitting with this guy for the next three-hour ride. I didn’t know enough back then to quit a losing fight, so I kept trying to talk sense to him. He kept going.

“The movie industry is brainwashing everybody. MGM really stands for Metro Golda Meier.”

He went on and on. Finally about the time he was complaining about being forced to buy kosher tuna fish, because all the major brands had a K on the label, the girl in the seat in front of me couldn’t take it anymore and came to my rescue.

Turning around and kneeling to look over the seat at him, she said,”I’m Catholic and you are terrible!”

I hadn’t thought about that bus ride for a long time. Events in the news and fake news lately have brought back memories I’d happily put behind me. Too many people are willing to skirt the surface, accepting headlines and sound bites as facts, expecting simple solutions to complex problems. It’s much easier to scapegoat a group of people than analyze a situation to look for a multi-faceted solution. It’s much easier to read the headlines, maybe the first paragraph, than dig down and read the details, look for the reporter’s sources.

We all need to read multiple sources before we believe what we hear and read. We need to pay attention to the difference between objective evidence and opinion pieces. We need to beware of conspiracy theories. We need to read what people who don’t agree with us have to say, with a mind open enough to ask whether any of what they have to say is valid.

If you think that an entire group of people can be all good or all bad, you are wrong.

If you think that Americans who speak up in protest are whiny or should be arrested, you need to read the constitution and some history.

If you think that all right-wingers are greedy, close-minded bigots and xenophobes, you are wrong.

If you think that all leftist liberals are unemployed criminals looking for a handout, you are wrong.

If you think that Fox News is a hard news network, you are wrong.

If you think that CNN is without bias, you are wrong.

If you think that Donald Trump can save the country single-handedly, you are wrong. The issues are too complicated for even the best president to do alone, and I do not believe we have the best.

If you think that Donald Trump can destroy the country single-handedly, you are wrong. A lot of people need to sit by and do nothing for that to happen.

And if you think that a single person can’t do much to help, think of the girl who turned around to join the fight. She may not have changed one idea of the bigoted bully next to me, but she supported me with her presence and gave me an ally for the rest of the ride.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

When my oldest was about three, I started planting the idea of college in her brain. I remember a particular conversation we had.

“What happens when you’re five?” I asked.

“I go to school,” she answered on cue.

“Where do you go after grade school?” I asked next.

“High school,” she responded.

“Where do you go after high school?”

“College!”

Then I asked, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”

Smiling, she told me, “A clown.”

Great, I thought. Clown college!

I’ve been thinking about that question we always ask kids. What do you want to be when you grow up? I think we’re asking the wrong question or expecting the wrong answer.

I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years and I definitely hold Teacher as part of my central identity. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a career that they love, much less one that can be part of their character. Some of us have a passion for what we do, but many, many more simply have a job so that they can pursue their passions, or sometimes just so they can survive. We need garbage collectors, car salesman and account managers, and all those jobs provide services modern society needs, but none are likely to make people feel like that is who they are in life.

According to US Labor statistics, people my age have had an average of 11+ jobs. The millennial generation is likely to switch careers even more often. No one will “be” one thing through their lifetime. Maybe what we should be asking is, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”

Do you want to be smart? Everyone’s intelligence can be improved with hard work and perseverance, qualities that would be valuable for any occupation.

Do you want to be strong and brave? Start practicing now, child. Exercise those muscles and face your fears.

Do you want to be adventurous? Then, parents, it’s time for some child-sized freedom or they’ll never be up for a challenge.

Do you want to be athletic? You’ll need some genetic talent, but then practice, practice, practice.

Do you want to be kind? The world could use you right now.

Do you want to be creative? Don’t be a follower. Pursue your art.

Since my husband has retired and taken over many of the chores I used to do, I’m trying self-centered on for size. I think this is what has freed me up to try adding Writer to my psyche. It feels pretty good.

Who do you want to be? Try on a new label and see how it feels.

Socks and Gloves

We pulled into the library parking lot last Saturday morning.

As we got out of her CRV, I asked my friend, D., “How did you start doing this?”

“I saw it on the Internet,” she said. “The first time we were going to tie hats and gloves to poles around downtown, but people came from everywhere and we didn’t have time to tie them. So now I just bring a bag.”

She pulled a large black tote bag from the back of her car and locked it. Then we slowly walked across the lot toward three men who were waiting next to the parking lot, outside the church where they would soon serve lunch.

A tall heavy-set white guy with a beard stood on the curb smoking. Another smaller white man and a black man about the same height, all around forty, leaned against the brick wall. All were dressed in jeans, winter jackets zipped tight against the cold, hats pulled over their ears.

My friend called, “Hello.”

Smoking man called back, “Hello, how are you?”

“Good,” D. said. “I have some hats and gloves here. Is there anything you need?”

She slipped a strap off her shoulder to show him what was in the bag.

“Take whatever you want.”

Smoking man showed us a hole in one finger of his gloves and selected a stretchy pair of gloves to layer over them. Once the other guys saw what she had, one approached and took a pair of gloves.

Both men called, “Thank you!” as we moved away.

“Could you use a pair?” my friend asked the remaining guy.

“No, I’m good,” the man said without moving.

Smoking guy tried to get us to stay to chat, with a story about his brother getting hit by lightning and blown apart. We made sympathetic noises, but went on our way.

We wandered down the sidewalk toward the library and a group of about ten people standing near the entrance. Again my friend called out a greeting and approached the first person who answered.

A slender young man with prominent cheek bones peered into the bag.

“Looks like mostly girly things,” he said.

“Dig down,” D. said. “There are some guy things down in there.”

“Hey, you have socks,” he said. “Can I have a pair?”

“Sure,” she said.

“Thank YOU!” he said. “I can really use these.”

Once the other guys heard she had socks, several stepped forward and took a pair. A few took gloves. All thanked us. No one took more than one or two items.

“Could you use something?” I asked a young woman in a wheelchair, with various bags strapped to it.

“No thanks,” she said. “I just need my dad to pick me up. Dad, where are you!”

Meanwhile D. was talking to Slender Guy again. He asked if his girl friend could have something.

“Of course,” she said.

We headed into the library.

“Now we walk around the outside wall,” D. said.

As we walked around we nodded and smiled at anyone who made eye contact. Looking around I saw an older man sitting reading on a tablet, a girl reading with someone who could be her grandma, a few scattered people searching the shelves. A young woman, brown hair pulled back in a pony tail, came out of a side room to greet us. She was taking a pair of gloves when Slender Guy walked up.

“Oh, is this your girlfriend?” D. asked.

Slender Guy nodded shyly and they walked off holding hands. “Thanks!” they called back.

We came around a corner to a seating area with orange vinyl chairs and a couch. Five guys, anywhere from twenty to sixty, were sitting around. All the men were still wrapped up tight, hats on, coats zipped. A couple had small bags nearby. When D. greeted them, they seemed to know why she was there.  A man about sixty with his back to the window spoke up first, but the others soon accepted our Invitation.  After every pair of socks, each one looked my friend in the eye and said, “Thank you.” The manner was casual, but the thanks was sincere.

We continued around, stopping once or twice more before heading outside.

“So socks is the biggest need?” I asked.

“Yes, socks is big, but it all depends on the day. I have coats in the back of the car too, and some shoes. You never know.”

“Are there mostly men?”

“No, there’s usually more of a mix. A couple of weeks ago there were a lot of kids,” D. said.

I thought about the people standing in the cold for a meal, grateful for a single pair of socks, taking no more than they absolutely needed. I thought about children with cold hands and parents who wanted to but couldn’t give their kids what they need. I thought about the smiles and the thank yous for something so small.

As we got in the car, I turned to D.

“Next week,” I said, “I want to come back.”

Tech Troubles

Over the weekend I tried to help a friend figure out how to Facetime with her grandson. My friend has not bitten the bullet and switched over to the addictive smartphone, but she has a castoff from her daughter that will work with wifi. An in person lesson didn’t quite do it. She could Facetime me, but somehow not her grandson. So there we were the next day, trying to figure out the problem over the phone.

My friend has some tech skills. She can program her DVR, use a computer, and text on her not so smart phone, but it’s only when you are trying to explain things to someone new to a new gadget that you realize how much vocabulary and know-how you have come to take for granted. Swipe up! Push the home button. Try holding the power button down. Find the icon that….  It gave me some sympathy for my kids when they try to explain tech to me. I master one gadget and they replace it with another.

If you were an adult by the 90’s you remember the avalanche of technology that defined the decade- cell phones, Blackberries, pagers, not to mention the World Wide Web, digitized answering machines, next generation video games, and digitized home appliances large and small.

I remember getting a bread maker for Christmas one year. I got out the directions, assembled my ingredients, and pushed things out of the way on the counter to make space for its giant footprint. I made the first call to the bread maker support line when I couldn’t get the pan firmly attached to the base and it was jumping around violently. The friendly young man on the other end of the line talked me through getting the pan clicked in. I thanked him for his help and hung up.

Mixing was noisy but seemed to be going along okay until I heard beeping. Consulting the manual, the machine was supposed to beep twice when it was time to add additional ingredients, like the raisins in raisin bread. But it wasn’t that time. So I picked up the phone and called the friendly support man back. He asked questions, suggested checking various things, asked about the scheduled beeping, and finally sounded a bit concerned.

“I’m sorry,”he said. “But I really don’t know what could be causing that. As long as the machine is working right otherwise, you’re probably okay to let it run, but keep an eye on it and unplug it if you have any other problems.”

So we let it run and it made a wonderful, toasty brown loaf of homemade bread.

It was only later, after I turned off the bread maker and put it away, that I found my husband’s pager beeping away on the counter behind it.

Battling the Winter Blues

Now that the holidays are over and the gray days of January have come to stay, it’s time to pull out my bag of tricks to keep the winter blues at bay. I don’t think I’d get an official diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder (my sympathies if you do), but I need to start now to keep my spirits up through the long dark days of winter.

As I type this I’m sitting wrapped in a blanket with my toasty dog on my lap. The thermostat says it’s seventy in here, but I feel winter down to my bones. Staying warm is key. If I wasn’t typing, the cup of tea at my elbow would be warming my hands.

New Year’s resolutions aside, it’s time to rally my coworkers and get my winter exercise group going. It’s easy to exercise when the weather is fine and the sun is shining. Once we’re trapped indoors it’s tempting to hibernate, but that won’t help my mood. Since none of us are terribly athletic, the resulting laughter is mood-lifting exercise as well.

It’s also tempting to stay home when the days are gray, but getting out to visit with friends or see a movie can lift me out of my winter funk.

One of the hardest parts of winter for me is that gray view out the window. I spend all winter craving green. These days I spend enough time at work and home staring at screens that I change those screens to be the window views I’d really prefer. Spring is my favorite season, but that’s not what I’m going for here. I choose desktop photos that make me remember hot, humid summer days  when I was sticky and damp, but loving the day and who I was with. Here are some of my favorites.

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I was hiking at Effigy Mounds in Iowa with my brother and sister-in-law. The temperature was in the 80’s and as I look at this photo I can feel my shirt sticking to my back. We came around a bend to see this view through the trees.

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On a warm summer day, an old friend introduced me to a conservation area in Illinois called Emiquon. This photo only captures a fraction of the beauty of that day, but can’t you hear the flies buzzing in the heat? (Photo credit: Donna J. O’Day)

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Driving cross country with my daughter I captured this view in Utah. While she’s far away now, this reminds me of the uninterrupted hours we spent together. Can you feel the heat rising off the sand?

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Last summer my other daughter and I went hiking near Lake Superior. This is only one of the spectacular views we experienced that day. Looking out over the lake, I can feel the heat of the sun, the cool of the water and my daughter at my side.

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Imagine a stroll down a road heading out of town with your extended family while the sun sets. This view gives me a feeling of peace.

I feel warmer already!

I hope you stay warm and upbeat until winter is Gone!

Why I’ll Never Be an Action Hero

I just got back from watching Rogue One. Wouldn’t it be great to be an action hero? Brave, resolute, ready at a moment’s notice, up against the worst odds but endlessly Hopeful about the outcome. However, that could never be me. Here’s why.

Action heroes are ready at a moment’s notice. Hmm, better ask my husband about this one. Just getting ready to go on vacation has me in a tizzy.

The bad guys in full body armor shoot round after round, missing their targets 99 times out of 100, but the action hero shoots once and knocks out three men at once. Let’s just say my eye hand coordination is not the best.

Action heroes often end up outside a large, heavily protected multi-floor compound with long winding hallways. They not only find their way in to the hidden room containing the information to save the world, they also find their way out again without asking directions. For information on why this eliminates me, see Directionless.

Action heroes all have incredible arm strength. In the process of getting to the hidden room with the information to save the world and getting the information out again, action heroes always end up hanging off the edge of something by only their fingers, sometimes holding on with just one arm and shooting three people at a time with every shot. Hang me off the edge of something, I will simply fall to my death.

For the characters thrown in who don’t have all of a full action hero’s super skills, there’s always a spot for a techie. Action heroes always come up against technology they are not familiar with or need a password for, but in moments manage to hack it, right before they blow it up or batter it to keep anyone behind them from undoing what they’ve done. I, on the other hand, am often stumped by the technology I use every day. My super powers include knowing which techie people to ask and the power of Google.

So, no, I can’t be an action hero.(Rest in peace, Princess Leia.) But dang, wouldn’t it be fun?

Good Advice

Here we are at the end of an eventful (to say the least) year. I don’t know about you, but my New Year’s resolutions tend to be the same every year, without much success. So instead maybe we should think about how we can make better choices and be better people. Here I’ll give you my best advice, Hopeful that you’ll find my pearls of wisdom useful.

Choosing a Career

Back when I was an idealist 17-year-old, I was struggling with all that was wrong in the world and how I might try to change it. My boyfriend from that time is long gone, but his advice stayed with me. Pick your corner of the world and work on it. This works equally well for choosing a career and dealing with the political fallout of the last year. Let’s work to make our own backyards be microcosms of the kind of country we want to live in.

Marriage

This advice is my own. Marriages are successful when you can live with the other person’s faults. Choose well.You may convince them to try Thai food, but you will never change who they essentially are. When it comes to faults, make sure you are the one judging. I have found that friends’ spouses have faults I’d never be able to stand, while my husband’s quirks would be deal breakers for them.

Not married? Here’s one from my mother. There are many worse things than never getting married.

Parenting

My parents strongly felt that a parent’s job is to raise children who are secure enough and independent enough to survive without them. We want our kids to grow up happy and we sometimes try to give them that happiness instead of helping them create lives that make them happy. Teach your kids how to live without you.

This next one came as teaching advice, but as parents, we are teachers too. Be careful what you teach because somebody might learn it. What you say is only part of what you’re teaching your kids. Everything they see you do is also a lesson for them. This also relates back to making your kids independent. If you step in to help them too often, you are sending them the message that they can’t handle things themselves. Be careful what you teach because somebody might learn it.

Living a Good Life

In this day and age, social media is front and center in many of our lives. My daughter shared this insight with me. Social media only shows a highlight reel of people’s lives. When you look on Facebook or Instagram and see picture after picture of smiling, happy, successful people, it’s easy to feel that your life is somehow less. Remember that those people have just as many moments they didn’t choose to share. If you start to feel envious of someone, picture all your problems as drops in a bucket. Then ask yourself, would you want to trade your bucket of problems for theirs?

Last I’ll share a quote attributed to Ian Maclaren. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Kindness is easy when others are kind as well. When you meet someone who is angry or resentful or rude, it’s easy to reply in kind. Instead remember that their anger, resentfulness, or rudeness are likely masking unhappiness. Be kind, always.

I hope you’ll share your best advice in the comments below.

Homecoming

There is something special about airports around the holidays. And when you live near a small airport that only has a few flights a day, the stories play out with much less hustle and bustle and angst.

Today as I walked in the airport I saw elderly couples sitting together, a family with balloons waiting to welcome a loved one, bored teenagers looking at phones while their parents glanced anxiously at the doors that the disembarking passengers would walk through.

I found a post to lean against and checked my phone to see if the plane was on time. A 40-ish slim woman dressed in a leather jacket, sweater and leggings walked by whistling Christmas carols. The first time past I think it was Deck the Halls. She stopped, shifted restlessly from foot to foot, then walked back and forth again. Eventually she stopped near me to strike up a conversation.

Looking toward security, she said, “Do you think you can still go to the gates?”

“You’d have to go through security,” I said. “I think you’d need a ticket.”

“You used to go right to the gates,” she said. “How fun would that be to have someone waiting for you just as you got off the plane?”

“You could ask,” I suggested.

She wandered away again, whistling.

A young mom with long dark hair stopped a few feet in front of me with her three kids. A girl about eight was holding the hand of a boy about three who kept trying to spin her in circles. Mom boosted a one-year-old to her shoulders.

The whistling woman wandered back to report.

“There aren’t any signs to say you can’t,” she said, “but you’d have to take off your shoes and belt.”

“Oh,” I replied, still doubting.

“My brother missed his connecting flight in Dallas. He was on the runway for four hours in L.A.”

“That would be awful,” I said.

“Yeah, they put you up for the night and buy you a meal, but by then you’re so tired. No one wants that. Who are you waiting for?”

“My daughter,” I said.

We chatted for a few minutes more about living in other places and coming home to family before she wandered away again.

The one-year-old was now toddling happily back and forth. She and her sister smiled at me as they passed. The little group stopped a few feet away and the one-year-old toddled toward me, arms wide. She cooed, then abruptly stopped and toddled back to Mom.

Mom said, “I think she likes your coat.”

In my red coat maybe she was confusing me with Mrs. Claus.

I asked who they were waiting for. She told me her husband had been gone for three months.

“In the military?” I asked.

“Yes, he was gone six months before that. He’s only ever home a few days or a week. We have two months the next time, then three, then we’ll be going to Okinawa. I can’t wait to see him,” she said, hoisting the baby to her hip.

Her older daughter smiled up at her.

“Then thank you for your service too,” I said. “It isn’t easy to be the one left behind either.”

About then they announced that the flight we were all waiting for had landed. Slowly people began wandering out down the hall. A young man came out and was hugged  first by his dad, then his sister, then his mom. A couple walked out arm in arm. A gray-haired couple hurried to greet a young couple coming out with a sleeping baby.

Just then the most important person on that plane came walking out smiling. I reached up to hug her and whispered in her ear, “Welcome home.”