James needed to be back today for a welcoming home party for a group of 26 from his unit cycling back from Iraq where they have been deployed for a year. I drove him up there, as our old car we planned on letting him borrow acted up last night with shuddering. So we will get the old van looked at one more time. (new tires!) (and just had $3,000 in work on brakes, transmission, leaks, oil change, master cylinder, etc.)
The weather was cold, but fine in Lawton. We left the Dallas-Fort Worth area at 6am, and arrived Lawton at 9am. Good time. light traffic. And I got in some cruise-control practice. Bob usually does ALL the driving, and so I had not gotten used to using the cruise control. And on turns and overpasses, or an overpass with a turn in the middle, the cruise makes you feel like you are losing control. But, I knew how to tap it off with the button or the brakes. And that stretch in Oklahoma where the sign says you can go 75mph just does NOT feel like a safe speed to me. Especially early in the morning when the pavement looked wet in places from dew or frost.
We made it back in plenty of time for James to get his uniform on, and we made a run by Walmart as he needed some shaving kit items (having left his shaving kit at home) and I needed more purse pack wet wipes. I love those things. I stash one in my purse, one in the glove box, and one on James' potty. Then we drove on post---always an exciting adventure for this old mom. You show your ID, and car registration, and sometimes they even do a random search. And these folks are NO nonsense. Lots of cars were streaming onto the post/fort for this welcoming home ceremony. I felt for the families, as this event had been jerked around for days, and postponed a few times as they waited for connecting flights from Kuwait to who-knows-where. The travelers had to be worn out, and needing a shower. And the gym was full of families in their finest---women/wives with their hair just so, and outfit just so, and little girls decked out in dresses you'd wear to a wedding. So, cute. Music was playing as we waited a few hours, and watched the little kids dance to the music, and run around the gym padded floor. These toddlers were precious. And the two sets of twin girls in their matching outfits loved getting just out of mom's reach. One little cutie was in a colorful dress with black lace at the bottom, and she had obviously had some dance classes---for she demonstrated her routine with flair---lots of arm movements and graceful steps. Another cutie patootie, was grinning at us on the bleacher seats as she slowly backed away from her mom, picked her nose and ate it before mom could intercept. Too funny. And two little blonde headed boys were running to the end of the gym and back, and collided in mid-floor with a whack. One mom was close at hand, but she comforted both as they rubbed their little heads. It was not long before their little cowboy boots were flying across the floor again.
It seemed cruel to make little toddlers wait for two and three hours---and it was getting on to lunch time, and nap time. The speaker promised a ten minute short speech, but damnation---he should have hired a auctioneer to give it. All we heard were the random words of "welcome...heroes....just back....supporting....give a round of applause"...and finally, he let the families at their loved ones. Women were leaping like gazelles and screaming, and crying---and I was crying by that point. And we got out of their way. Let the families have some privacy for goodness sake. Let moms and dads touch their sons, and then let them babysit for a week for crying out loud. It was wonderful to watch. We were given updates at to when they touched down, and when they were turning in weapons, etc. And finally the busses pulled up, and they entered the side doors of the gym as a unit. Caps. not the silly berets. Functional. Seasoned.
We sang along with the National Anthem, and the Army song, and cheered and HOOHAHed. It was great. I kept trying to get James to picture that this is what it will be like for his future wife when he comes home from a deployment. She will have waited for days and days, and kept that cell phone hot and ready, and gotten her nails done, and her hair cut just so, and then she will have been cooped up in a gym with hundreds of others and watched moms chase toddlers. And watched toddlers run until their little legs give out. And wind down like tops. And have to listen to tooo, tooo long speeches. And have to wait and wait for a chance to get her hands on her husband. Now he can warn her whatall to expect.
Thankfully, we were inside out of the elements and close to good bathrooms. But, bring snacks and water, and share updates with other wives and families. And don't be surprised if things get delayed days...then hours.
Now back home. Home before it got dark. Crazy drivers here in the metroplex. Crazy. I am glad we stopped in Decatur for a few shots of esspresso.
Glad to help James. Fun to make memories. No telling when he will let us do this again. Or even need our help. I am learning to grab the opportunities when laid in my lap. Seize the day. It did feel funny skipping church. I probably had perfect attendance for years...and don't want to make a habit of it. But, every once in a while---drive west in the early morning and east in the evening with the sun at your back both ways.