Spoke with my daughter Melanie in Iraq last night........she and her her dh were supposed to come back to the States for Christmas, but they didn't put in for leave soon enough and they're going to have to wait till next month. Which is OK for them since they'll get to be with the baby on his first birthday, but here I'd sent their gifts to the other grandparents' house, and now they won't get them until well after Christmas.
She was all sorts of cheery about it, told me not to worry because they knew they had something to look forward to. But this kid, she blew through about a thousand bucks just for gifts for the family---including a heated massage office chair for me (!)---and I'm just sick that they won't have theirs in time. She says, "Mom, we're making all kinds of money right now, we can afford it." I say she's incredibly generous, incredibly brave, and incredibly grown-up for someone who's turning 22 tomorrow.
So this morning I was sitting in the dining room, sipping my coffee and feasting aurally on the new Josh Groban Christmas CD, Noel
, when "I'll Be Home for Christmas" came on. That song has always made me a bit sad, even when I was a kid and my brother-in-law was in Vietnam, and I'd think of all the soldiers who couldn't be home for Christmas. But interspersed with Josh Groban's rich, smooth voice were recorded messages to and from servicemen and women in Iraq and their families, speaking of hope and love and longing..........and I just lost it. I hadn't cried in all the time since Melanie left, but suddenly I was bawling like a baby, right in front of my 16-year-old son, who is NOT used to such displays of raw emotion and looked rather alarmed.
I must credit him with enough presence of mind to ask if I was all right, and the courage not to flee when I had to admit I wasn't. The episode didn't last long---I regained my composure within minutes---but in the verses of that song were the anxieties and the desperate yearnings I've kept hidden away, in fact I buried them so deep that I didn't even realize they were there. Only in my dreams will my baby girl be celebrating Christmas at home this year; only in my dreams will she open her gifts and squeal with delight over each one, as if it were the best present ever. No, my child is half a world away..........twenty-two going on forty, with a thirst for adventure that I'll never understand and a life of her own waiting for her across the continent when she finally does return "home".
Someone much wiser than I once said, "We raise our children to leave us". It would have been nice if he or she had given a few hints about how to deal when an old song makes me wish (however briefly) that Christmas could once again be the way it used to be...........if only in my dreams.