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Kodak moments are not for everyone

Submitted by on Monday, 24 May 2010 No Comment

Two 20×30 posters – one of  mighty Big Guy at the bat and another of Boots’ first single  in tee ball – are on the wall behind Dad’s headboard. On the next wall, there are 16×20 collages, one of each of the guys’ greatest hits and misses on the diamond.

On Dad’s bed is a 12×12 pillow with a picture of the guys welcoming the new year. Somewhere in the room, there’s a digital photo frame filled with images of the guys from the previous year.

It’s a lot. For some, it’s too much. Another soldier in his company shook his head at the displays recently. “I couldn’t do this,” he said. “Too many reminders.”

Dad was hesitant at first, too. When we gave him the pillow as a Valentine’s Day present he balked. “I’ll just leave it here, so it doesn’t get messed up,” he said, pushing it aside as he packed to return from a too-short leave.  The real reason, as he explained after the guys were out of earshot: He didn’t want reminders of what he was leaving behind. He relented only because the guys insisted.

In a short time, he grew to love it and not just because he’d forgotten to pack bed pillows and it was the only place he had to rest his head at night. It took a week of wifely nagging to get the posters up  – “C’mon! The guys would love to see them on Skype!” – but they eventually found their place above Dad’s bed.

It took me a while to understand the reticence. I didn’t get it until the guys wanted to look at wedding pictures one night because they didn’t believe that someone could make a cake almost as tall as Boots is. We turned the pages, and a weird wistfulness overtook me as I recalled the day. The priest who threatened to cancel the ceremony because the license wasn’t in his hands three hours ahead of time. The champagne bought directly from the vineyard. The dancing, the dinner, the pure joy of having so many people we love in the same place at the same time.

I still don’t understand the wistfulness – it’s not as if there haven’t been many happy occasions since – but I suspect it might be human nature. If the grass is always greener on the other side, it’s really bright in retrospect. Yesterday’s bliss is far preferable to today’s struggles, because your brain filters out the bad parts of the memories. If it didn’t no one would ever have a second child.

And for someone a world away from their loved ones, I can see how sharing the good times in absentia could be troubling. I also can understand the need to mentally distance in order to function – Afghanistan goes in this box, home goes in this box.

For Dad, though, the posters, pillows and pictures have grown to be a comfort. That’s not the case with everyone, though.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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