This I Believe

Terri - APO, New York
Entered on November 8, 2006

Tale of Two Septembers

2001: Dark green bags, zippered mouths gaping open, mar the order of our living room floor, and our lives. Military families know those bags – the ones that have to be packed and ready to go at all times. In more peaceful days they were forgotten, stacked on top of some boxes in our garage. Now they’re spilled out on the floor, demanding our attention, like the news footage from New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

My husband scrutinizes the scattered contents. T-shirts, camouflage gear, gas mask and other necessities strewn in a wide circle. One bag has a small American flag clinging by one corner. Stapled to the canvas as an afterthought, it is a reminder of another war more than ten years ago. In the peace of those years, it was easy to forget what is again clear to us. Life is uncertain.

Our children troop downstairs for breakfast and stop short when they see the bags. “Where’s Daddy going?” they ask. Collapsed skyscrapers and crashed planes hundreds of miles away were too distant to change the order of their lives. The sight of the green bags brings events home to them, and to me, but no one can answer all their questions. We can only tell them life is uncertain, but God is not.

2005: Dark green bags, zipped up and piled on the luggage cart, signal another September departure. The flag is still flying on one bag. I’m glad I sewed it on.

On the way to the airport we take two of our children for their first day of school. The youngest stays with me. As I drive away from the terminal, I feel I have said goodbye a hundred times. In the back seat my son is quiet, until he asks what we’ve already answered: “How long will Dad be gone?”