Shortly after my last post, the computer finally informed me that HE was en route. Theoretically leaving our house at the same time that he left Atlanta, we got in the car, fought rush-hour traffic (going in the good direction, but nonetheless, traffic), parked the car in the hourly lot, and herded ourselves into the airport to the nearest arrival screen.

His plane was already here! It was not yet assigned to a gate.

I tried to get in a line to talk to an airline rep, but she announced that this was not a line to talk to her. Talk to the hand, folks.

We went upstairs to ticketing. The line was enormous. People were anxious and frustrated because a HUGE storm was heading this way, and they wanted to escape before getting stuck here. I can sympathize.

I left the kids in line and went over to the board again. A gate had been posted: seventeen. I pulled the kids out of line, and we went in that direction. I talked to the security man, and he told me that to get to the gate, I’d need a gate pass from that really long ticket line. But then he pointed to the hallway where the passengers would all come out, and suggested we just wait there (oh, you mean that spot right there with all those people standing and waiting?).

Checking the board, I saw that the plane was still not at the gate, so we walked just a bit down from that entry hallway to the big windows where, as luck would have it, we could see Gates 15, 17 and 19. There was a plane docked at 19, and another plane approaching. We watched it park – at 15. We waited.

Then Peter had to go to the bathroom, so I hauled everybody about 50 yards to the nearest one. When we got out, the boys who waited outside were hopping around: It’s here!

We got to the hallway and joined the crowd. Passengers were just beginning to stream off. Lots of soldiers. I watched a young Private being greeted by his parents and some teen aged girls: sisters, I assumed. One girl took a picture, and the mom was crying. I was crying.

More people came off. No Bill. The kids started getting antsy. They moved farther and farther into the hallway to try to get that first glimpse. Still no Bill. I started to worry about what would happen if he wasn’t on the flight. I didn’t think I could face my kids’ disappointment. Or mine.

We waited.

Finally, there he was. I saw him before the kids did. Our eyes met, and he smiled.. “He’s coming!” I told the kids who strained hard to see him over all these tall people who didn’t seem to understand that whatever their errand or destination or business was, it was not nearly as important as this business of ours, this reunion, this welcome home.

And then they saw him, and swarmed him. I stayed to the side with Mary, out of the way, watching, crying. Finally, some of the other people noticed our group, and recognized the significance of this soldier’s arrival. “Well, this is a Merry Christmas,” said one woman to my husband.

Mary squirmed in my arms, and I let her down to run to her Daddy. He lifted her and turned to me, wading his way with the weight of clinging, crying children. And then a welcoming kiss.

He’s home. What a marvelous Christmas this is.

I started to take a picture right after we met, but a woman passing by kindly offered to take one of all of us.

It took a while to get his bags, but we made it out to the van, loaded up and then headed for the McDonalds close to where Fritz was to play laser tag. Welcome home, hon, let’s dine in style! But it was getting late. Fritz barely had time to scarf down his food before I walked him over for his 8 pm start time, and it was 830 before we neared home with the snow beginning to fall.

When the little ones were asleep, and the older boy reclining on the sofa waiting for his roommate to return, we were finally alone. Of course, the clothes came off. I put down the Mom hat. Discarded the Strong Woman cloak. Laid aside the shield of Fortitude and the breastplate of Perseverance. Then the many layers of garments: Single Parent, Bill Payer, Sole Decision Maker, Lone Disciplinarian, One Who Never Sleeps, One Who Never Cries, Happy Face, Comforter, Good Fortune Teller.

Eventually I was left with just a few skimpy undergarments: Feminine, Emotional, Sensitive, Vulnerable with a sheer, frilly robe of Wife covering them. What then?

I sobbed.

Many times, I have cried. At the airport, it was joy and relief. Other times, it was worry or exhaustion or frustration peeking out like a too long slip. This, though, was an emotional release. In my husband’s arms, the trial was over. I am no longer alone. I can be strong, or not. I have a choice, whereas only a few hours earlier, I had to be strong no matter what.

He is home. My heart is at peace.

75 thoughts on “Homecoming

  1. Tell Bill “Thank you” and thank you too, Michelle, for your hard work for our country. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  2. Love the clothes metaphor! I melted along with you! Here's to your sweet reunion, a beautiful Christmas and a wonderful life!!!!!

  3. I'm bawling! Thank God your husband is home safe! Our prayers have been answered.

    Merry Christmas to you all. Now you can enjoy it 100%!

  4. I'm crying, too. Thankfully, blessedly home.

  5. Oh, Michelle. I'm bawling and my family's looking at me funny, but I love you and I'm glad he's home. Merry Christmas.

  6. Crying tears of joy for you here. I'm sooo glad he's home. Merry Christmas.

    What a beautiful post. You truly convey what we all go through.

  7. Beautiful post; I was crying the whole time. So happy that you are reunited! Merry Christmas!

    Love, The Hicks Family

  8. I am so happy for you both what a wonderful Christmas present. Your post has me crying tears of joy. You write so beautifully about all the feelings you experience through this journey we call life. Thank you for sharing the most intimate parts of yourself with us all. I am deeply touched and honored. God is sooo good and I know he will continue to bless you and Bill and your fantastic family. Merry, Merry Christmas and many blessings for the new year. I hope you can make it back to Jersey soon you are truly missed!!!!

  9. I can only imagine how you felt. I'm newly married with a 3 month only baby and my husband is at his Basic Training for the Air Force. He left this Tuesday. Our Merry Christmas doesn't exist this year.
    I pray for your family and continue to pray for all families like ours. Some people have no idea what we go through. A good friend of my husband's told me the other day that I needed to grow up and not cry.
    I'm glad to read that I'm not the only one who thinks it's okay to cry.

  10. Yay! Everyone looks so happy. Glad the long wait is over.

  11. First time to your blog and I'm balling my eyes out.

    Merry Christmas!

  12. Wonderful!
    Welcome home Bill! I ditto the idea of blowing up the photo to hang in your house. A pure joy memory.
    May God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

  13. SNIFFFFF. Wipe, wipe.
    Such a sweet sweet post Michelle. And that picture of you all is absolutely beautiful.
    Have a very very Merry Christmas.
    God IS good. All the time.

  14. Wow, what a GREAT homecoming. This gave me goosebumps. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  15. JMJ
    Breathe easy…you're not a single parent anymore ;-). Words can't describe the feelings I share with you, dear sister. Enjoy this sweet, sweet Christmas. Welcome home, Bill! God bless, Tanti.

  16. Wow. Those wide smiles say it all. The joy!!! I am happy for you. Merry Christmas

  17. This is so beautiful! Welcome home and a big {{{HUG}}} and thanks to your wonderful dh! This leaves me all teary-eyed. I waited for 5 years for dh to get out of the Corps until we could get married….I remember all of the teary reunions at airports.
    Doing the snoopy dance for you here in NJ and wishing you all every grace and blessing!

  18. I've never read your blog before, but was moved to follow Nutmeg's link. Welcome home to your husband. Thank you for wearing your many hats/clothes/armor for so long so that so many of us don't have to. Many prayers for a peaceful holiday, filled with all the things you and your husband and your family need and want. Merry Christmas!

  19. Happy tears for you! Merry Christmas!

  20. I was sort of having a “feel sorry for myself/yucky day”…until now. Tears of joy and prayers of thankfulness for your family have cured me of that!

  21. I am crying harder than I like to admit to.

    I am so, so relieved for all of you. What a joyful Christmas for all of you.

  22. Oh I was crying all the way through your post! What a wonderful gift to have him home in time for Christmas. I am an Army wife too (he is deployed) so I know how important it is.
    Have a wonderful blessed Christmas!

  23. I'm a new reader of your blog, and loved what I have read so far. Thank God your guy made it home to all of you safely. May you have a beautiful, blessed Christmas!

  24. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ! Our prayers are answered!

  25. Hey ~ Just found your blog through Faith & Family. So happy for you! My husband is Army and was deployed for 15 mo. in 06-07, so I know exactly what you're talking about. Except that I only had 1 little one at the time. We are heading back to Ft. Hood in June, so no clue whether a deployment is in the future. My bro is in Afghanistan right now. Praying daily for all our soldiers. God bless.

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