All holiday season I was asked a similar question over and over, all having the same meaning. “Are you happy to be home?” “Doesn’t it feel good to be home this year?” “You have to be happy that you are home this year.” Of course, my answer to all of these questions was a very strong and resounding, YES!
But here is the thing, I am happy to be home. I wouldn’t trade one moment at home with my family for anything else. Yet, this holiday season brought about a sadness and strangeness I had never known before. I was truly sad for my fellow service men and women deployed over the holidays. I know the feeling of just getting through the day, knowing that when you wake up the following morning there will be nothing special about that day and you are happy the holiday has passed. Knowing you are one day closer to going home and knowing there is one less day you’ll miss the memories everyone is making without you. My heart hurt for them.
There was extra pain and sadness because the weeks leading up to and after Christmas were especially violent in Afghanistan. Every time I read an article stating we had lost another service member to an Insider Attack or another improvised explosive device detonating killing more innocent victims, I cried a little more inside. Before my deployment, I never bothered to watch the news or read about a country on the other side of the world. Now I can’t help but be interested.
As a matter of fact, as I wrote this, I read an article about the Taliban’s negotiations this week in Qatar with the U.S. News stories like this give me hope, but I am hesitant to be too hopeful. I have seen what it’s like there and the fact that the Taliban are talking to the U.S.A, but the President of Afghanistan was not there, makes a strong statement on how this will go. The Taliban has also stated they want the U.S out of Afghanistan and there is a six-month flexible timeline to determine the U.S. exit plan. All of this could lead to progress, BUT…. I feel like BUT has been Afghanistan’s history and I’m hoping this will have a happy ending! Although I am not convinced it will. To help with happy endings, in early December TJ and I took a trip to Louisville for a long weekend. It happened to be around our wedding Anniversary, so it was extra nice to get away and spend time together. We had a great time just being together without the kids and being able to simply be alone together. Prior to that trip, our last night alone was when I came back in February of 2018 and we spent the night downtown Chicago when we went to see Hamilton.
An extreme added bonus to our trip was a good friend of mine who I served with in Afghanistan was also there for the weekend. Chris was there with his brother and father-in-law. Being able to see him was important to me for two reasons. One, and probably most importantly, was that I needed to see a friend of mine from Afghanistan not in The Stan. It was important to spend time together outside of a war zone and just be in the normal world together. The other important element of this trip was I wanted TJ to meet someone I spent my time with over the year we were apart. I wanted to bring him into a small part of that world. It was important for me to have him meet a friend from the year in my life he missed to help make it more real. The old saying, put a name with a face!
What else I know has a happy ending was how we spent our holidays. I was able to stay home for almost two weeks with my babies and I went for runs with my friends. The very best part was that I was home with my loved ones. We spent our Christmas Eve in our traditional way. A few years ago, we started ordering Chinese Food, Christmas Story style, for dinner. This year the kids all participated in the Christmas pageant at the Christmas Eve Mass. Then we went home and had a movie night where we watched Home Alone. Home Alone is a classic I remember watching often when I was Timyra’s age. All the time we were making memories together instead of half a world apart.
The memory making hit me the hardest last week Sunday. We were stuck inside all weekend due to extreme cold temperatures. To help burn off excess energy we had a family evening dance party. Some how I was able to embarrass TJ while dancing the Macarena in our own home, that speaks wonders to my dancing skills. Despite the questionable dancing, we were all laughing, being loud and just making memories. As I sat down to watch the chaos, which is my life, I started to cry. I was overjoyed just BEING HOME!