It was Thanksgiving day. Cold. Snowing. The typical Chicago winter. I stared out the window hoping my soldier would appear. Jack had been deployed for eleven months now and I had already received news he wouldn't make it home as previously planned.
"Mommy..." our six year old son, Kyle said as he tugged on my t-shirt. I turned from the window to look at him. He looked worried. Sad. My heart was immediately filled with a cloud of frustration and guilt.
My mother was behind Kyle setting the table. The aroma of turkey, dressing, and fresh vegetables corrupted the air like one of Jack's farts. But this was a smell I actually enjoyed. "Is daddy coming home?" Kyle asked, while his eyebrows struggled to find their way apart. "He promised to show me how to cut the turkey," he said as he continued to yank my t-shirt.
I could feel my eyes water up almost instantly. I turned quickly back to the window. The cold Chicago weather penetrated through the window, turning my face into ice. I had the heat on 75 degrees, but just a quick stroll past the window would cause one to shiver.
My heart sunk to my stomach and pounded like a drum. I clutched my left fist for comfort. I could feel the sweat running down my fingers. Still I was cold. I held the drapes with my other hand as my mind raced for a response to Kyle's question.
My eyes shifted back and forth from both ends of our narrow street. Every car that approached Clayton Lane presented me with another minor heart attack as I waited impatiently to see if anyone would slow down and pull into our driveway. No one did.
Maybe Jack was actually being honest, I thought to myself. Usually he's always pulling pranks on me. However, this time I was 99 percent sure he was really going to be spending his Thanksgiving in Iraq. Another five minutes of staring out the window and that 99 percent chance of not coming home would definitely be a perfect 100 in my mind.
Before I could respond to my son's frightening question of when his dad would come home, my mother chimed in. "Kyle sweetie," she said very calmly and ever so softly. "How bout you come help granny set up the table?"
I smiled nervously. I had already giving Kyle the bad news two weeks prior, immediately after I found out. However, just like me, he had faith that his dad was planning another big surprise reunion just as he had done five months prior for his sixth birthday party.
Once my mother and son finished setting the table, she asked him to go wash up. Apart from Christmas carols playing in the background, it was quiet in our cozy Chicago home. It was just the three of us and a few aunts and uncles who were in the living room.
I could feel my mother approaching me at the window. She placed a hand gently on my shoulder. "You can't look outta that window all night child," she said worriedly.
I slowly exhaled. I allowed the drapes to fall back into place as I dropped my hands by my side and turned from the window to my mother. I wept uncontrollably. I felt defeated. She brought me into her arms instantly and held me tight like a baby. I was suddenly warm for the first time today.
"How about you go get yourself together?" My mom said as she pulled away and reached for my hands. I nodded in agreement. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands and my face.
When I returned to the dining room, I witnessed my son gazing out of the window just as I had been doing all Thanksgiving Day. I felt even more miserable. I started to cry again. "Kyle, honey... I told you he's not coming..." I said very softly and slowly. I just knew my voice would crack once I spoke again.
I continued towards the window. My mother was in the kitchen next to us. I could see her from the corner of my eye getting some last minute things together for dinner. She was very particular about everything in life.
I took a deep breath in, slowly. I felt terrible for giving Kyle a false sense of hope that his father would be home for Thanksgiving to show him how to cut the turkey just as he had promised. I should have never allowed him to see me in this state. I needed to be strong for my son. I should have cried in private.
"Kyle..." my voice trembled. My son didn't flinch. I could tell he was angry. I could just feel my entire spirit breaking down inside. My face started to mush all together. "Kyle, he's not coming!" I finally cried out as I picked up the pace and ran over to him.
My eyes were so watery I was blind. I couldn't see a thing. Tears dropped as quickly as new ones formed. I felt around for my son and grabbed him. I wiped my eyes and gazed up at the window.
I froze. My heart sunk even further--from my stomach--to my feet. Outside the window was Jack! Jack was outside the window with a bouquet of flowers and the biggest smile I had ever seen. I've never seen so many teeth in Jack's mouth! "JACK!!!" I cried out. "JACK!!!"
I wondered if he could hear me through the thick glass window. I could feel my lungs almost collapse as I continued to shout with joy. I soon decided he could definitely hear my excitement for I had started to lose my voice just that quickly.
My mother rushed back into the dining room. "Oh my goodness!!" she exclaimed as she ran to the window. I could just hear the smile in her voice even without seeing her.
In a matter of seconds, my two aunts and uncles had migrated from the living room to the dining room window as well. We stood there smiling and laughing, staring at Jack as the snow fell on his army uniform.
"Daddy..." Kyle gently cried as he wiped his eyes. "You're just in time to show me how to cut the turkey..."
I cried. My son cried. My mom cried. Everyone cried. I ran to the door to let my husband inside. "Welcome home soldier!" I smiled as I tried to catch my breath. Jack immediately brought me into his arms. Everyone else joined for one big family hug. Jack was home for Thanksgiving!
"We got you mommy!" our son suddenly exploded with laughter. "WHAT?!" I exclaimed. Everyone broke away from the hug. By the look on everyone's face, our son was the only one that knew about this surprise. "Yeah," my son continued. "I even pretended to cry."
Everyone laughed. I gave Jack a nasty frown. He knew I hated surprises. But I was so happy so to see him! I hugged him again and believe I fell asleep standing up in his arms. I love my soldier.
Thanksgiving was perfect.