The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Left Behind

It was 1972 in Mobile, Alabama, when a different meaning of war took hold in my second grade world.

On this hot, sticky evening, our neighborhood foursome was in my friend Becky’s bedroom belting out “I Am Woman” and hatching plans for our own rock band. When the song ended, we stepped out of her room to get a drink. Becky’s older sister, Sheila, was home from college. I didn’t know how old that made her, except that she drove a car and she could kiss boys, which is what she was doing on the front porch with the door wide open.

Sheila was sobbing loudly -- the wet, full, uninhibited kind that made me feel bad I was watching. I barely recognized her boyfriend, Jason, standing with her. He’d cut his long, wavy hair to the barest fuzz and replaced his denim look with a formal, tan uniform that looked so straight it would break at the crease. He was stroking Sheila’s long black hair, looking ahead without smiling.

Becky’s grandma caught me staring. “He’s leaving for Vietnam tonight.”

As I watched, Jason unhooked Sheila’s hands from his neck, kissed her cheek and trotted down the front steps without looking back.

Until that moment, war had always been an interruption, an inconvenience, something to fill air time, and adult conversations. An idea for someone to criticize or defend. Here in Becky’s living room, I saw the true story of war: war was about saying goodbye to people you loved and wondering if you’d ever see them again.

Thirty-six years later, I was sitting in the international terminal at SFO, watching six soldiers of unknown service pushing their luggage carts towards security. They walked quietly, solemnly, and I noticed the glint of a wedding band on one man’s hand. That’s when my childhood scene flashed back to me.

We could all debate and argue about the Iraq war, but it doesn’t change the fact that someone has been left behind. Someone who has begged her loved one not to leave and sits in their living room, counting the hours and days until he makes it home safely.

My nine-year old son noticed the soldiers, too. “I guess they’re going to Iraq,” he said.

I wanted to honor the soldiers by not turning away, and quickly donned my sunglasses to hide my tears.

“I know, Mom,” my son said, patting my back. “It’s sad.”

By Kimberley Kwok


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