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Where is Yesterday?
by Phylenia French

Like a dash of cold water in the face . . .

I am awakened to the reality of my children's adulthood as the prospect of our son and his wife being called to active duty in the Persian Gulf War becomes more evident.

No longer am I needed to hold chubby little hands as we cross the street together. A handwritten excuse from home cannot exempt my child from participating in the dangers that lie ahead. This is not junior high school phys ed class. It's a different world now. A grown up world. A world that announces, "Excuse me, but your child is needed to serve his country for a time."

There is a sort of numbing effect to all that necessarily precedes a son's going off to war. Advice has come from the Army's legal advisers; power of attorney needs to be established; all these important things are turned over to parents for a while. But I don't like the way it feels. I want to yell, "But you didn't ask us. We're his parents! He's our son."

Yes, the waiting would seem long as he and his wife went to the Persian Gulf. I arose early each morning and reminisced. This particular day I began to pen my own personal emotions:

Where Is Yesterday?

The alarm clock jolts me awake at 5:30 a.m. with a discordant bleep! bleep!, accompanied by a loud instrumental version of John Denver's Annie's Song.

With automatic reflex I smack the snooze button, purposely delaying the start of a new day. I'm possessive of the quiet time which that little button allows me.

Calculating that it is now 1:30 p.m. in Saudi Arabia, I ask for Divine protection for our son and his wife as well as all the other troops. I ask for wisdom and courage for our military leaders and comfort and peace for all the families involved in this horrible conflict.

This day, as every day, will be filled with thoughts of our son and daughter-in-law. Once dawn has broken, I turn off the light that illumines the flag we choose to fly all night in honor of our troops. Two yellow ribbons adorn the lamp post which displays Old Glory. The flag and yellow ribbons have become commonplace. We're thankful for the patriotism exemplified by our fellow countrymen and women.

While lingering over my morning coffee, my eyes are fixed on the map of the Middle East which hangs on the kitchen wall just beneath the wood framed clock. With the area where our children are serving circled in red, I can at a glance feel remotely involved in their lives.

While our son is in a foreign desert land serving his country, I am here embracing memories filled with tender emotion; memories forced out of dormancy by a time of separation.

And I question, as many parents do, "Where is yesterday?" The time of youthful innocence, adventure chased with complete abandon. That time when we experienced fearlessness prompted by a trust in all humanity. Where is that trust, that innocence?

As I trace those endearing thoughts, my mother mind beckons yesterday to visit.

A trip to the closet is a trip back in time. I find items of baby clothing tucked away, though not ever so neatly, preserved for nostalgia's sake, they are "just there" with childhood memories written upon each fold.

The yellowed terry cloth bib, I thought, smelled of baby formula; those tiny infant sleepers (the kind you receive too many of at baby showers) were quickly outgrown as evidenced by the holes in the toe of the fabric. And for a fleeting moment I'm sure I caught a scent of baby powder and the lotion that made velvety smooth skin.

My mother mind has the amazing ability to recall memorable events of my children's infancy. I see a green vinyl platform rocking chair, the place where hurts were rocked away; but cuddling applied the real healing balm. I see little turned-up noses that were caressed with feathery touch, and soft angel cheeks that welcomed mother's kisses. That rocking chair was where tears of joy fell as I considered myself blessed to be their mother.

"WHERE is Yesterday?"

It is HERE. Tangibly present in an old pair of frayed blue jeans, dirty sneakers and a worn, leather baseball glove with dried mud embedded in the cracks. In ten speed bicycles retired after the driver's license became vogue. Yesterday is here in selected papers and books from kindergarten and elementary school; in rock and seashell collections from vacation trips to the mountains and beach, in Bible School certificates and awards from special events. And, oh yes, there are prized Mother's Day cards designed by chubby and awkward little hands that tell me I am loved and a beautiful mommy, poetry written in a way that makes me feel special because this honor belongs only to me.

"Where is YESTERDAY?"

It REMAINS HERE . . . ever present with me. But this is not a twenty-four hour ago yesterday as it seems. THIS yesterday was decades ago.

Weeks have passed since the onset of this war. I prayed for a quick resolve of the conflict and really hoped that it would pass much quicker than the yesterdays I remembered.

In my mother mind it has not passed quicker, but soon we can say it happened "yesterday."


Phylenia writes:
"This story is from my first literary project. Readers can read more at this link:
Phylenia French's writing

"I reside in Virginia, but I was born and raised in the coal camps in southern West Virginia. I am an LPN. I have been published in the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, The Roanoke Times, Blue Ridge Traditions and Appalachian Life magazine.

"I currently have a completed manuscript entitled These Were My Mountains, Life in West Virginia Coal Camps, and I am seeking a publisher."

Read another story by the mother of a US soldier in Iraq:
Unknown Heroes


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