Originally posted March 17, 2008
The comfort of my anonymous little existence, in which I mull
over major life decisions like meatballs vs. meatloaf (or take-out
vs. drive-thru), has for five years now been overshadowed
by the stark and sobering intrusion of war. Though most of us
have long since given up the daily vigil in front of our TVs, the
death toll creeps steadily higher toward yet another
"milestone." Nearly 4,000 American service men and women
(never mind the countless Iraqi soldiers and civilians) have been
killed in Iraq since March 19, 2003. Since the war started,
each milestone my children approach seems more profound, somehow,
and more precious.
I felt the impact of the war immediately. The day we
dropped the first bombs on Iraq, Baby Holly abandoned "Mama" for
"Mommy" while Noah graduated to calling me "Mom" for the first
time. It may seem like a small thing, but it meant that
they were growing up. Good, yes, but hard. Did they
know, while they snacked on goldfish crackers and apple juice, that
their blossoming could reduce me to a pathetic pile of
mommy-rubble, slumped against the kitchen door, my cheeks wet with
The day Noah set off for his first day of Kindergarten five
months later, on the cheerful yellow bus that spirited him away
from me, my arms were still fragrant with the gamey sweetness of
his little boyhood. I felt a mixture of relief and pride, but
oh, how I held my breath, anxious for his safe return several hours
later. And I wondered: did the mothers of the young
American men still fighting in Iraq realize - while they
helped their sons queue up for their first pairs of Buster
Brown school shoes - just how soon it would be before their boys
would be required to register for the Selective Service?
Their boys were near my son's age when the last Iraq war was
being fought. I get chills whenever I watch somebody else's
baby boy, all grown up, don his gas mask in the Iraqi desert
halfway around the globe. Will my precious son, who
still collects rocks and stalks ghosts with a plastic sword and a
makeshift cape tied around his neck, be ready for active duty in
I have watched the inevitable horrors of war unfold in my living
room, and heard countless stories of beautiful young men and women
already dead, whose love letters continue to arrive home - though
they never will. I read accounts of confusion and need, of
fear and bewilderment, from every front. I recall
seeing an early television news report which captured the mayhem at
an Iraqi hospital. Included in the coverage was a fleeting
glimpse of a small boy crying in anguish, bandages wound around his
small dark head. I wondered where his mommy was as his image
was captured by a dozen hungry photographers.
I wonder too, if war will ever directly touch my own
children. While I can, I ply them with Pooh bear and play
One afternoon a few months after the war started, Noah said he
wanted to play "bomb drop."
"What's that?" I asked, wincing; fear seized my heart as I
decided I'd ruined him by unwittingly exposing him to too much war
"That's when Daddy bounces on the bed with me and Holly," he
explained with a grin.
"Sounds like fun," I replied weakly, as I calculated the cost of
a new bed and regretted how easily war-language creeps in to our
But then I got a direct hit:
"What's war, Mommy?" Noah asked, momentarily letting me
have my old name back.
How on earth do I answer? I held my breath and
pulled him close for an extra moment, before he ran beyond my
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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