Today, as I walked through Trader Joe’s, I had the semi-horrifying thought that I miss deployment.
I saw a mom of three, weary eyes, baby hanging from her body, two others walking beside her cart. She had the determined, focused look on her face—the look that says she’s doing what needs to be done. A Sunday afternoon, all kids in tow, filling her cart with sustenance to fill her family’s belly, as she takes one step at a time to fill their hearts. Of course, it was an instant. I have no idea her real story, but my story was written in her eyes.
And, that’s when I missed it. I was in a foreign world today, shopping by myself for the first time in 10 months. Some burden dramatically lifted and some mourning of a sweet, intense season complete.
To be clear, there is absolutely no doubt that together is better. Together we can dream. On my own, I can take only one step at a time. Together we can both nurture our way through sweet goodnight stories AND attack the kitchen clean up, with time still left over for sweet bites, hot tea, and sharing life from our seats on the deck.
And those magical moments, a week ago, as we waited for our long awaited embrace, for those tears that were sure to stream, for the bear hugs that were promised. Oh, they were truly divine, a gift.
Idealic, really. Picturesque.
Surreal. And perfectly real.
Foreign. And completely natural.
Elated and utterly relieved.
The four who left the house that morning were changed.
Their chapter is written, punctuated.
There was a journey in the waiting. There was growth. There was connection between mama and kids that would not have happened but for the family incomplete. There was time created for stories and breaking up fights and dancing to baby tunes and talking through toddler tears and delaying dinner to linger together a moment longer. There were wet sleeves from a bath time enjoyed as dishes from ALL day sat untouched. There was figuring out exactly how to get out of the house by 8AM, mostly clothed and fed. There was that extra handful of chocolate chips to drown out the infant needs that no one else could meet.
There was the noticing and capturing of each change, knowing only I could carry our abscent man along on the incremental moments with us. There was the community that rallied beyond compare, set up perfectly for us. The new, the old. There was a presence demanded of me—no checking out—and in that presence, a gift of closeness and of seeing.
And, it was the way it changed me. Grew my heart to notice. To notice the mom with three kids on a Sunday. To see that the small things do matter. A meal. An offer to pick up groceries. A couple hours of sitting to watch a sleeping toddler. Specific, intentional prayer—oh, so powerful and deep.
And, it was what it required of me. To be real, to feel, to pause, to breathe. To fall to my knees, holding two crying preschoolers and to admit that the only thing I know to do is to pray. To persevere. To push forward despite the wee hours, testing of limits, doubt of mind. To schedule down to the minute.
And, it was what it offered me. To see the beauty of it all. To laugh, hard. To make silly faces, every meal time. To listen to Frozen over and over, sung by professional and child alike. To invite others into our fold. To connect with daddy despite the distance. To practice patience. To have a different kind of space. To be creative. To give. To savor.
So, there is that small piece of me I found in Trader Joe’s today, that mourning piece. That admits that through the fragrance of utter joy, there is a scent of sorrow. So, I note it. These past 10 months wrote a special, unique, trying, remarkable, lonely, filling, challenging, smooth, connecting chapter. One that sheds light on the brightness of the future and brings absolute gratitude for being together.
And together, now, we are.