The horrifying events from earlier this week have caused me to fall even deeper into my own little world. The fact that life continued on like normal despite the largest mass shooting on US soil in history just happened is absolutely baffling. The reasonable portion of my brain understands that this is necessary. But the emotional and slightly illogical side of me is screaming “Does this not bother anyone else?!?” The most terrifying aspect of it all is that this won’t be known as the largest mass shooting on US soil for long. It will become the second. And then the third. And then it will slowly be erased from our memories – only to be sparked in the future by a late-night Wikipedia wormhole.
However, I believe in humanity. I believe in good. I have to. I believe that light will triumph over darkness. The hundreds of stories that emerged from the terror showcased love, compassion, courage, and so much more about the human spirit that has yet to be summed up by words.
Because I don’t know what else to say, I guess I’ll close with my favorite pensive Tom Petty song, Angel Dream.
Sing a little song of loneliness
Sing one to make me smile
Another round for everyone
I’m here for a little while
For the past two years, we’ve been spoiled. Our year at Fort Leavenworth while Clay attended Command and General Staff College* lived up to its reputation of being one of the best years of our Army life. His schedule was the most relaxed it had been since he commissioned and we were able to experience a ridiculous amount of quality time as a family. Because of this and the friendships made during that year, Fort Leavenworth will always hold a special place in our hearts. Our move to San Antonio meant a transition back to ‘regular’ Army life. But while the hours were long and many weekends were missed due to work, TDYs were few and far between.
When Clay accepted this new position, we knew he would be gone. A lot. Separations are nothing new for military families and our little family has certainly gone through various separations – long and short – over the years. But because we’ve been spoiled over the past couple of years, the constant coming and going associated with this particular job has meant that the kids and I have been adjusting to it being the three of us a lot more often than it being the four of us.Of course I miss my husband while he is away. He is one of those mythical creatures who is a fantastic husband, father, and an all-around amazing human being. But we’ve been at this game for quite some time now so the constant stream of goodbyes and hellos has been our normal more times than not over the years. The kids are doing fine. I’d like to think because I am an outstanding mother. But more than likely it’s because they’re pretty easy-going and incredibly resilient. They’ll wake up asking, “Where Daddy is today?” and I’ll get to tell them a different place than the day before, which they seem think is pretty cool.
We have a simple cloth map hanging about our living room couch. The little guy drew a plane that we’ll use to track our soldier’s travels around the world. And when he comes home from these trips, we’ll welcome him home and smother him with love until he leaves again for another adventure. Deployments, constant TDYs, long-hours, and government-imposed separations are normal in the military realm. While we’ve been lucky these past couple of years, it is time for us to embrace the new normal for our family. It’s nothing we can’t handle. We can do it. We always do.
We hosted our first visitors over the weekend since returning to the national capital region, which meant we logged a lot of hours being tourists in our own city. Russell Baker once wrote, “The worst thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as a tourist.” He writes the truth.The kids had a blast exploring the National Mall with their cousin and hitting up some museums and the National Zoo. There is a lot less construction in the area since last time we were stationed here so in some ways, it feels like we’re experiencing the mall with fresh eyes as well. While this area does feel like home – at least more-so than other area we’ve been stationed – we still feel like tourists at times. Curse of military life, I suppose.The Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool was quiet while we were there. I am always struck by the dichotomy of how the tree-lined shallow pool has an aura of peace and the fact that it has been the site of many historical events, protests, and marches. And as our country currently struggles to find her balance between protest and peace, the atmosphere surrounding our national monuments, legislative, judicial, and executive buildings feels heavy. It could just be the humidity because Washington DC was literally built on swamp land, but I like to think that the buildings feel the weight, just like us.Whenever I am on the mall facing the Washington Monument, I am always initially startled by how close planes taking off from Reagan National Airport fly by the iconic structure. I always stop and watch. Quite frankly, there is something poetic about seeing a plane fly overhead distinctly American landmarks in our capital. I like to think that it is a testament to our resiliency.
During times of such political turmoil, I often find myself thinking smaller, rather than bigger. I focus on the tangible relationships within our communities – the heartbeat of our nation, if you will. It takes a village. Because of this, I seek ways that I can help locally. I celebrate the relationships between neighbors, regardless of race, sexual orientation, creed, etc… To be human is to love.
And perhaps that is why this bench at the National Zoo resonated with me so much that I had to take a picture. Perhaps there should be more benches for us to meet on in this country. We all have a story. Some more interesting than others but every single one of us has a story worth telling. Maybe more benches will help us listen better. It can’t hurt, right?