An Iraqi boy, about eight years old, runs across the street barefoot. He stops for a moment and looks at me and my unit as we patrol the war weathered town by night. He is frightened, but not by us, is it the climate of war in which he lives. His mother rings a bell, which calls to him; helps him find home in the dark.
That bell…that jingle…
My mind comes to life with Christmas memories
And the aroma of beautiful yesteryear fills the
War zone streets of a country without Christmas
Faded family movies suddenly flicker to life
Releasing the scent of home made gingersnap cookies
And the sound of children singing Christmas carols
To be in that wonderful place this year with
Those who warm me with their holiday joy;
Aunts pinching cheeks, uncles telling tall tales
I long to be in that place where the laughter is thick
And the holiday spirit runs over like a cup of eggnog
Or great grandma’s special apple-cinnamon cider
I long to see the children dancing silly around the tree
Filled with ornaments from forty generations
And couples stealing a moment under the mistletoe
To run around in the snow, have snowball fights,
Build Frosty’s, and warn the children away from making
Snow cones out of snow that is already colored
To pass around gifts and joke with each other about
What we got again, for the third year in a row or
Laugh when I open the sweater I bought Dad last year
To be lost in a sea of family and friends amongst
Those who have known me since I was a child,
Who tell embarrassing stories that I love and hate to hear.
I want to sit around the family circle sharing New Year
Resolutions to loose weight while we eat hand churned
Ice cream and fresh baked pumpkin and hot apple pie
To sing songs around grandma’s baby grand piano
And raise cider-filled cups as grandpa tells a tale
Of Christmas seventy years ago in the ‘good o’l days’
The jingle of the bell brings a bittersweet smile on my face as I realize that I am the one missing this year. I am here serving my country. Yet, as I look around at my brothers-in-arms, I can see that same look upon their faces. And I realize that we are all dreaming the same dream, missing the same precious family moments.
Looking back into the street I see that the boy is no longer there, and the bell soon stops jingling. I take a moment to hold my breath and soak in last fading echoes of yesteryear still lingering in the midnight air.
I am painfully missing family this year, but I will not be discouraged because I am now more determined to fight for this freedom. And if home is truly where the heart is, I have never really left. And with every mother that rings her bell, calling her little boy home at night, I to, am whisked a way to home for Christmas.
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