The white haired women stands by the gate, it’s late and the day has been long. Yet she waits. A while latter a blond bounds through the doors and over to her. Her walk is more of a bounce, a youthful skipping and hoping motion that to older eyes is annoying for its youthful vigor. The older woman is both perturbed and amused. “His plane isn’t here yet”, she offers.
“Oh good” the young girl giggles, “I want him to see me first”. The girl is a blond of the dish water variety; not magazine cover drop dead eye candy, more of a solid old fashioned, girl next door kind of cute. She’s not the school beauty but she runs in the top tier and most of the other girls probably envy her for being “the in crowd”. Her perky B cups defy gravity briefly as she hops around excitedly. “Oh he’s been gone so long” she sighs. She is still wearing her green Albertson’s grocery store apron and she’s popped out over the top. The older women just smiles at her exuberance and motions for her to “fix that” as another couple walk in.
The husband and wife come over to the gate. They too look like it’s been a long day. The wife has a cross look on her face as the blond introduces her to the first white haired lady. “This is my mom, Mrs. X” she coos. I can’t hear if the old biddy is actually saying hello or just nodding a terse acknowledgment. A boy comes running in and asks the father if the plane is in yet. The dad shakes his head in the negative. Another young man with a short hair cut comes around the display case and assumes an at ease position behind the family.
This solves the mystery of who these people are. The newest arrival looks to be all of 17 and is wearing a rust red jacket with an EGA on it. The guy they are waiting for must have just finished boot camp and is coming home for leave. I think I recognize the man. If I remember correctly he is a pastor at a local church. I don’t go to his church but I think I’ve seen him around town. It looks like two of his boys enlisted. That’s a proud thing.
A plane is taxing up to the gate. Some travelers come in off the tarmac. The youngest boy runs out the door. This is a security breech. The TSA blue crew sees, but does nothing. The kid is a freshman, not Al Qaeda. We still know the difference here. His dad gives the boy a nervous “get over here now” motion and the young man comes back inside. “I saw him” he says excitedly. “I can tell by his walk, he walks like you do” he says to his older brother. The young marine smiles and nods, but says nothing.
A very lean boy walks in the sliding doors and a blond girl bounces past his increasingly irate mother to get the first hug in. They start clapping for him. Then the passengers on his plane applaud, as do the other people waiting in the lobby. I’m by the baggage claim and join in. One of ours has come home, at least for a visit.
I get my first close look at the two brothers. They look young, I can’t believe these two kids are old enough to drive. The young man grabs his sea bags off the baggage belt, and sets them down. His mom and dad are making all kinds of arrangements, or rather his mom is and dad is trying to pretend he still has a pair. Mom has now brushed the blond to the back and SHE is taking charge. The girl looks rejected as her mother puts her hand on her arm and pulls her back. The drama is compelling.
That’s when I notice something else. The two brothers are both in civvies but they still wear combat boots. A dog tag is laced up next to the tongue with just the eyelet showing. The young man in the rust red jacket gives the new arrival a nod, as if to say “how was it”? He shrugs. No words are spoken, they nod and they know. I can see the airline tags on the marines sea bags, two of them are in Arabic, one says Okinawa to L.A. This isn’t a reunion after a 13 week trip to boot; this boy has been away for awhile.
Neither one of these young men tip the scales at 150. Neither one of them look old enough to drive. You’d card them if they tried to get into an “R” rated movie. The eyes tell a different story, a story older than their years. As the group moves towards the exit mom moves to block the blond girl from coming with them. I see the look in the girl friends eyes. She chokes back a tear; her eager enthusiasm has been thwarted.
I have heard it said that the number one thing a man dying on the field of battle asks for is his mother. A man returning from battle wants something mom can’t give. It's a kind of comfort but its more, it affirms life and manhood, in a way that momma can't. He’s earned it. "Hey mom, the innocence your trying to protect is gone, being a bitch isn’t gong to bring it back."