Friday, February 08, 2008

Taking Me Back

Somewhere upstairs inside a big storage box are yellowing newspapers, magazine clippings and photos. On top of them are bundles of hand-written letters in the small, familiar writing of my son. I never open the box, I never read the letters. Maybe someday.

Tonight while clicking through files buried deep in the darker corners of my laptop computer I ran across a photo that I don't even remember taking.

I couldn't even tell you what year my son left for the Middle East without counting back, it's a blur but I know it was February. I've forgotten alot of things about that year. The day before he left he had been promoted to Sgt. He called me one last time from the airport in San Diego before he boarded the plane and flew off to Kuwait. It was weeks before I heard from him again.

This is the picture.
It's his first letter home.

He wrote it on the inside of a MRE box, the box his meal had come in. I remember reading it a thousand times, studying every letter as if finding a special curve in an "L" or a "J" was a special message that would tell me he really, truly was all right. It was taped shut. There were grains of sand stuck in the tape. I carried that letter in my purse for a long time. I took it out in traffic and showed everyone who would give me a moment of their attention. Eventually more letters followed over the months until he came home safe.

I don't know why, but running across this picture is like driving down the freeway at 70 MPH and having someone reach down and pull on the emergency brake. It really brought my day up short.

It reminds me why I never open the box.

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