When I first got the news that my husband was deploying for six months, I was filled with an array of emotions, from worry to anger, to stress and sadness. I worried about our son who was just about to turn two. Would he miss his daddy or even remember who he was? Deployments in the military are inevitable but nothing prepares you for when they actually happen. I started to frantically plan the family photos, the vacations, the trips, and all the things we could do together as a family before we were separated again. As time moved along, his departure date finally arrived. The night before he left, I could barely fall asleep, and I was experiencing a depth of sadness that I have never felt in my life. I was absolutely crushed that he was leaving and did not know how I would make it through, especially with an almost-two-year-old.
The following Sunday morning, after my husband had left, I was feeling defeated. Our son played quietly with his train set in his blueberry oatmeal-stained pajamas with low music playing in the background as I talked with my husband. He wanted to know about our day and expressed how much he missed just being there for the simple everyday moments. With that one sentiment everything shifted, I suddenly realized that I had the gift of being present with my son, something I had taken for granted in the past. I realized the power of being there, even in the simple everyday moments. A wave of relief swept over me and I knew in that instant that we would be okay. Not every moment is instagramable but even the barely remarkable moments held value. Since that morning, I've accumulated hundreds of pictures that range from afternoon walks by the riverside to balcony picnic lunches during a rainy afternoon. And I've gotten in the photos, no matter how I look that day.
When I look back in a few years and this deployment period is just a distant memory, these pictures will remind me that I survived the long, hard days. I'll know that some days were filled with tears. Some days I just wanted a different life. But our son won't remember the pain of this deployment. He won't remember the bittersweet FaceTime ringtone or stealing my phone so he could talk to daddy by himself. He won't remember the closest thing to hugging his daddy was his daddy doll. He won't remember the missed birthdays and holiday celebrations.
The photos from that time won't be filled with pictures of elaborate family vacations with the three of us posing by the pool. Maybe our Christmas pictures won't seem as festive without all of us in matching pj's or decorating the tree together. But when he looks back at the pictures from this time, he'll remember the Sunday afternoon gelato we shared before the start of a busy week. The parking lot lunch dates with his favorite grilled cheese. And his mama reading his favorite book for the hundredth time.
I recall one slow Sunday afternoon after a day at the park and a PB&J lunch, my son and I snuggled on the couch as he started to wind down for his nap. It was storytime as he squirmed off the couch to collect his favorite books. He brought me the books and as I began to turn the page to read, he yelled out "Daddy!" He wanted his daddy to read so in an effort to avoid a toddler meltdown, I quickly grabbed my computer praying that my husband would be available. After several rings, he finally answered and my son was ecstatic to see him. For the next several minutes, my husband read and re-read my son's favorite book about a pouty fish until my son started to rub his eyes ready to sleep. It was not the same as snuggling up on the couch together as a family but it was enough.
In a few months, our family will be reunited, and we'll begin to start a whole new set of memories and traditions as a family again. There will be more free time for self-care and someone helping with bath time. This season of our lives will be just a memory. However, with the photos in our camera roll, I'll be reminded that no matter how hard a season of life is, there is still happiness to be found.