4th Grade Open House Night was full of the usual suspects - kids grinning gigantic, sticky, candy-faced grins as they caught up with friends they hadn't seen all summer, parents - arms laden with bag upon bag upon bag full of the school supplies too heavy to send in their child's backpack, and teachers - expectantly awaiting the fresh, new (although sticky) faces of their newly minted 4th graders, ready for another year of learning new things.
When we went into the room and found the groups of desks arranged in fours, each with a name tag neatly affixed to it's surface, Wyatt was so pleased to find that he was sitting with two kids from last year's class, along with a new one. He eyeballed the neatly stacked materials that his teacher had so thoughtfully placed on each student's desk. He inspected the bare and beckoning inside, which was just waiting for him and all his stuff to move in.
He tried out the blue plastic chair, just to make sure it "fit" right. And then declared the entire event and his new 4th grade classroom a success, pulling me over to the line of children and parents waiting to meet the new teacher.
Her hair was up, piled in an up-do atop her neatly dressed frame, so I didn't recognize her right off the bat. But there she was, the mother of two boys, exactly the same age as mine.
Our friendship was an easy one, sharing moments volunteering in kindergarten classrooms together and helping one another out in a pinch. I always knew that if one of my boys wanted one of her boys to come over, the other would come too - it was just easier that way and the brothers relished in their equally matched friendships.
We hadn't seen them all summer. Sleepovers were requested when the other was away on vacation and vice versa. We kept pretty busy and even though I know there were days when I would have sold my soul to get a little peace and quiet, I never called upon her to have her boys over - but knowing that I could, was comforting.
We exchanged the usual "how was your summer" greetings, but before I could finish my rambling diatribe about how "these kids really need to get back on a school schedule," she said, "He's been deployed."
He's been deployed.
Suddenly all my complaints seemed tiny. All my irritations, minimized as I stood there and absorbed what she had just told me.
I knew no words for this. A hug was all I could do and it was then that she teared up.
"I was fine," she said.
"It's okay," I said.
Her husband will be gone for a year. A year. He is a member of the National Guard and the last time he was deployed, the boys were little - too little to understand. Too little to miss him. Too little to be afraid of his absence. Too little to watch the news.
Suddenly, this war - The War - is taking on a whole new meaning for me. Even though I never placed it high on my list of priorities when looking at the politicians and their issues, it is right there - up on the top now.
And those boys . . . I just want their father to be safe, and I'll do whatever I can to support them throughout the year - whether it be taking the kids in the mornings when my friend has to commute to her student teaching job, or taking them to the movies on the weekend. They have to feel supported - they have to feel like they are being held - they have to know that whatever side of the issue people stand on, someone will be there for them.
And I will be hoping that he comes home safe.