The car came to a stop at the driveway, barely missing two tricycles and several lawn toys. A man stepped out, smiling as his feet touched the familiar gravel. Swinging his bag over one shoulder and clutching his suitcase with a free hand, he slowly made his way up to the red door. Hesitating, the soldier pressed the doorbell with his elbow. Immediately, he heard children’s feet running down the halls to answer the door, and calls of “Der’s someone at dee door, Momma!” A slender young blonde flung open the door, exclaiming, “Jay!” and then hugging him. “Mary, I’ve missed you so much,” Jay whispered in her ear, and cried to the children, “Come ‘ere Mike, Lizzie, Ben - gimme a hug!” They joined in on the embrace, crying “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!” The noise drew an elderly couple out into the hallway; seeing his son, the old man shouted, “Jay, you’re back!” After that it was all tears and strong pats on the back, and the rare treat of homemade cookies enjoyed in the living room. Watching his son tug on his little daughter’s braids, and laughing loudly, the former marine felt tears stream down his weathered face as he remembered his first moments back home. Veteran Sergeant Mark Maldives lay back in his chair, sighing contentedly, knowing everything would be all right.
October 8, 2010