Under the Moon
The silver luminescent moon was beautiful in the late June evening sky. Mary Elizabeth watched as the clouds covered it for a moment, and then they would slowly move away so that the moon would be visible once again. She let out a soft sigh as she sat on the red velvet cushion which covered the window seat in her bedroom. She felt sadness overcome her again as she remembered the last time she had seen her father. This had occurred only a month ago, but it seemed more like a year to her. After all, she was only six years old, and to a six-year-old sometimes a day could seem like a week. She remembered when her father had told her that he had to go away.
“Mary Elizabeth,” her father said one night after supper. “Mommy and I have something important to tell you.”
“What is it, Daddy?”
Daddy and Mommy looked at each other in that way they always did when they knew something that only the grown-ups knew. Mary Elizabeth could tell they were trying to figure out how to tell her something. That’s what they always did, and she knew the look between her mother and father meant exactly that.
“Sweetheart,” her mother began. “Daddy has to go away for a while.”
“Away? Where are you going, Daddy?”
“I have to go to a place called Iraq, honey.”
“Why, Daddy? Why do you have to go there?
“Mary Elizabeth, do you remember how Daddy works for the Army? You’ve seen me put on my uniform and go to work every day as a soldier. The Army is sending me to Iraq.”
“But why is the Army sending you there, Daddy?”
“To do my job, honey.”
Mary Elizabeth thought about this for a while and then she asked, “If you’re working for the Army just like now, Daddy, why can’t you come home every night?”
“Because Iraq is very far away.”
“You mean we won’t get to see you?”
“That’s right; at least not for a while.”
“For how long, Daddy?”
“I’m not sure, honey.”
The reality of the situation hit Mary Elizabeth. A lump formed in her throat and the tears began to flow from her big blue eyes. Before long, Mary Elizabeth was crying, her little shoulders heaving with each sob.
Her mother and father both arose from their chairs and came over to Mary Elizabeth, putting their arms around her as she wept. They tried to comfort her as best they could, but it was a long time before Mary Elizabeth could fall asleep that night.
The night before Daddy had to leave, they took a long stroll in the park. Mary Elizabeth remembered that particular night had been much like this night in June. They stopped by the lake in the middle of the park, and sat on a bench. The three of them were quiet as they gazed up at the stars and the moon.
“Mary Elizabeth,” Daddy said, “see how we are both under the moon together?”
“While I am gone, whenever you look at the moon, remember that we are both under the same moon together, and that I will be thinking of you whenever I look at it, and you think of me, okay?
“Okay, Daddy. I’ll remember”.
He had given her a big kiss and hug, and Mary Elizabeth remembered how his cheeks were wet, and how Mommy had been sniffling.
The next day they went to a field where all the Army soldiers and their families were assembled together. Daddy said it was the going-away party for the soldiers. There were hot dogs and chips, cookies and cake, and soft drinks. Daddy even gave Mary Elizabeth a little American flag to wave. He told her she should wave it to him as his plane was leaving. Then there were people who stood at a microphone and talked about the soldiers going away. Mary Elizabeth remembered how a lot of people were crying, especially the mothers. Even Mommy was crying, although Mary Elizabeth could tell she was trying to hide it.
Then the time came for Daddy to leave. He bent down and gave Mary Elizabeth the biggest hug he had ever given her, and then he kissed her hard on the cheek.
“Honey, I have to go now. But I need you to be brave for Mommy. I want you to help her and be a good girl. Don’t forget to wave the flag as my plane is taking off. And remember, whenever you look at the moon, think of me and I’ll be thinking of you, okay? I love you so much, Mary Elizabeth!”
“I love you, too, Daddy. I’m going to miss you. And I’ll remember about the moon, I promise!”
After this Daddy had hugged Mommy and gave her a kiss right on the lips. Next it was time for him to leave.
One by one all the soldiers walked on to the big planes. There were so many planes which left that day. Mary Elizabeth watched as it was Daddy’s turn to get on the plane. Right before he went in, he turned around, smiled at them, and waved. Mary Elizabeth waved back with her flag and she kept waving it until she couldn’t see the planes anymore.
That seemed like a very long time ago. She missed Daddy so much. She knew Mommy missed Daddy, too, because sometimes at night she could hear Mommy crying in her bedroom. It made Mary Elizabeth sad to hear Mommy crying. Mary Elizabeth could hardly wait for her Daddy to come home again.
As Mary Elizabeth looked at the moon, she remembered what her Daddy had said about the moon. Daddy, I am thinking of you and if you are looking at the moon now, I know you are thinking of me, too. I love you, Daddy. I hope you come home soon