Picture by Redvers
When I was growing up, Remembrance Day meant two things; a day off of school and the beginning of Mom's Christmas baking. We'd be in the kitchen helping to cut out sweet smelling shortbread while the snow fell outside and the radio in the background talked about soldiers and war. At 11 o'clock would be the call for a minute of silence, and as a kid I ignored it. Having never experienced war, it always felt like something on TV or in books. Sure, we learned about Flander's Fields, we would wear a poppy and go to school assemblies that talked about peace, but it still felt...distant.
"Daddy, can I have some juice?" A little girl with blond ringlets was pulling at her Dad's sleeve in the middle of a hotel breakfast bar in Colorado Springs. Her father, a tall twenty something in army greens and big combat boots poured her a glass. His wife was sitting at a table opposite to ours with a chubby cheeked toddler who was happily chirping to passersby. Our family sat at a table opposite theirs, and while we shared the commonality of kids and a hotel, that's where it ended.
Our family was on vacation. Theirs was sending their husband and father off on a mission.
As we watched, it was obvious that they knew it could be the last time they had breakfast together; the last time that he patted his toddler's head or helped his five year old with her juice. His wife was the picture of calm, yet I could see the fear in her eyes. They ignored the obvious and continued their family routine until he had to leave the room for the toddler's sippy cup.
"Dadddeee DON'T LEAVE!!!!" he threw his chubby little body against the heavy glass doors, pounding on them and screaming, tears flowing down his face. Mom scooped her baby up her arms and held him close while he struggled.
"Daddee?" he whimpered against her shoulder-his tiny arms outstretched towards the door.
"He's coming back," she whispered in his hair-almost more to herself then to her distraught child, "Honey, it's okay, he's coming back." As she turned I could see that her eyes were welled up in tears despite her efforts to stay calm.
Suddenly, Remembrance Day wasn't distant. It was right in front of us.
Minutes later, the glass doors opened and Daddy returned; much to the delight of the little boy who squealed and immediately ran to be in his father's arms again.
"Daddy DON'T LEAVE." he repeated, clutching onto his father with all his might, as if he intended to never let him go.
We finished our breakfast and as we rose to leave, her tired eyes caught mine. This young Mom of two small children, facing the uncertainty of sending her love, the father of her children, to war. This woman, who was doing so much more then I think that I could ever do.
"Thank you," I mouthed silently. She smiled back warmly. We may not even be from the same country; but if it weren't for families like hers, our world would be a much different place.
This year at 11 o'clock, we paused and remembered them.