Entries in military wife & life (55)
below are the two letters i wrote ellie on the eve of each of ryan's homecomings -- while these are meant for her, an exchange between a mother & a daughter -- i'm working to grow braver & kinder about how i share in this space -- as glennon would say, to be a reckless truth teller, because each of our truth matters and gives us the best chance to know each other.
As I sit here, on the last night of our first deployment – yours and mine – I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that you’ve been my companion for the past six months. It took me 28 years to grow brave enough to face a deployment, and it took you only four short months. While many people would say you are a baby, and so it’s hard to imagine you could actually have these qualities – I know for certain you are strong and brave and loving and kind and intuitive and bright spirited. I know because they seem to be at the core of who you are – the way you wake up every morning, greet each new experience, and interact with others. Certainly, over the course of these six months you went from baby, to little person – showing so much of your personality and spirit. Your daddy and I are so beyond grateful for all the ways you strengthened Team Yonkman during this time.
five months into ryan's second deployment, ellie & i were cuddled up in the chair in the corner of her room, where we had been most nights of her life, doing what we do every night, reading a few books. i was, in a word, exhausted. that month had included the most moments of feeling like i wasn’t enough, like she needed her dad’s patience. his kindness. his presence. it was a night when i was reading, but really was phoning it in. i knew the words on the pages by heart, and mentally was honestly already downstairs having a glass of wine. it, in hindsight, was the hardest month of those 14 months of deployment, and i had so little left to give.
we’d reached a new stage of bedtime reading in that she could sit still for longer stories, with more text on each page, so long as there were beautiful, intricate illustrations. with a few books in particular, she would study each page – finding things she knew – dogs, cats, buckets, shovels, tractors, kids, babies. she was at that moment of development where most of her day was spent verbally affirming the things she knew – repeating them over and over again. each word also needed the same tagline: “mommy.” and so our whole day had been spent “mommy -- car!” “mommy -- truck!” “mommy -- slide!” “mommy-- strawberry!” we were at about the 7000th time that day she’d said my name.
the final book that night was miss rumphius, a beautiful story, i’d read growing up. it’s about a little girl, alice, who lives with her grandfather. she tells him that when she grows up she wants to go to faraway places and live by the sea. he tells her she must do one final thing – she must make the world more beautiful. & so, after she goes to faraway places, she finds her house by the sea, and sets out to do the final thing, by planting lupine flowers. one of the final illustrations is of her village – the church, schoolhouse, sea – all surrounded by lupines. i hadn’t even noticed the flagpole and American flag, but ellie had.