Sunday, July 25, 2004

I come from a long line of picture takers and scrapbook makers. My Grandma Jernigan kept baby albums for each of us 6 grandkids, and going through them was one of the highlights of any visit to Grandma's house. The photos blend together in my memory as an enormous visual salad of cute babies, visits to Santa, Calamine-covered chicken pox, and several graduations each, ranging from preschool to graduate school.

There are certain family photos though that stand out sharply for me. One that I can call to mind quickly and clearly is a photo that my father took of his brother-in-law, my Uncle Johnny, returning home from Vietnam. The image quality is typical for the late 1960s, but it made an impression on me as a kid because I always marveled at the fact that it was such a happy occasion and yet my mother was crying. How could that be? I was well into my teen years before I understood that overwhelming happiness and relief could move a person to tears.

We've been looking at photos of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan for quite a while now, but ever since Fred left they hit me a little harder than they used to. One picture in particular really made an impression on me recently.

Every day the Stars and Stripes publishes a 2-page spread that they call "American Roundup." This section features quick snips of interesting stories from various states and eye-catching photos from the Associated Press. A couple weeks ago, there was a shot of a father receiving a tearful homecoming hug from his 8-year-old daughter. I'm sure that it hit home for me because I have my own little blondie 8 year old who is missing her father, and I meant to clip it out. I got busy with other things though and eventually the paper made its way into the recycle bin.

I remembered it suddenly this morning when I read an article in today's paper about the homecoming ceremony for the troops from the 1st Armored Division. The article begins:

Looking up at her dad, Kayla Krings wiped the tears from her eyes as she began to ponder the question.

It seemed the more Kayla thought about what it was she wanted to do with her father, now that he is home, the more choked up she became.

“Everything,” the 9-year-old said, glancing back up at her father, Maj. Troy Krings, 2nd Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment. “I want to do everything.”

There's no accompanying picture of Kayla and her dad, but the story reminded me of the picture I had seen several weeks ago, the one I wound up tossing out. I've been on a mission this evening to track down that photo. I'm generally a Google girl, but it was Yahoo that came through for me this time. Here's the picture that has been on my mind:

Meet United States Marine Corps Sgt. Andrew Mrozik and his daughters, Autumn, 8, and Dakota, 2. Sergeant Mroznik, "an avionics technician assigned to the Pendleton-based unit Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, returned home after a seven-month deployment that took him to Iraq, Japan, Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand."

I can't wait to get our own pictures like this. I've already put my dad on notice that I want him at the airport next summer as my official photographer. After all, he did such a good job getting that one special shot of my uncle's homecoming.

I just wish we didn't have to wait so long to take the pictures. We're coming up on 10 weeks this Wednesday since Fred left. This feels like a group pregnancy, and I always know exactly how many weeks along we are. At 10 weeks though, you should be 25-percent of the way through any normal pregnancy. How fitting is it, with Fred sitting in the middle of a desert, that we should be growing a camel (406 days gestation) this time around instead of a human (266 days)?

We've been keeping busy, and 10 weeks has gone by faster than I had expected. But still. TEN WEEKS! When it has been twice as long as we've already gone, we won't even be at the halfway point. Stupid camels.

The day can't come fast enough for me that Mike and Annabelle learn a thing or 2 about happy tears. In the meantime, I hope that Kayla, Autumn, and Dakota are enjoying having their daddies back at home.

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