Last week we visited the Pretlow Library in Ocean View near our old house. When we came home, I discovered a book in the diaper bag that I did not check out. Love, Lizzie (Letters to a Military Mom) by Lisa Tucker McElroy. I'm not sure if C or D put it in there....but when I opened it and saw this image, I knew it was a sign. It looks just like my friend Mari and her little daughter M and it tells a very similar story of their lives.
I first met Mari at the Soap and Suds Laundromat in Ocean View five years ago. Both armed with new babies and loads of laundry we vowed to meet every Tuesday at 9 as the laundromat manager was a mean lady who disliked crying babies. Power in numbers, we stuck together as best friends do and our kids grew up close like brother and sister.
This summer Mari (who is enlisted in the Navy) was deployed overseas. She has been gone for a few months now and M's Daddy and Grandma are taking good care of her. It was almost ironic that the day after I found this book I got an email from Mari. I emailed her back a few short interview questions and these are her answers:
Tell us a little about how things are in Iraq, the landscape, culture, people.
Very dusty and brown. Hot. Wide open spaces....
I know that you miss your home. how do you keep in touch with M and Dan?
Her teacher helps her to email me from school and I call when I get a chance. With the 7 hour time difference and my work schedule, sometimes it is hard. I try to write letters, but don't always have time.
What things do you miss most, special foods, places that they don't have there?I miss my daughter and my best friend (you!). I miss freedom. I miss Azteca (Mexican Restaurant). I miss my own bed and my own house and privacy and long showers. And I miss cooking for myself. I miss feeling clean. I miss my cell phone and texting.
Do you ever get to roam around outside of your domain, shopping, eating cultural foods...etc? No.
What percentage of women to men would you say exists in your camp? Are there other moms to talk to? Ok. 10 males to 1 female. There are other moms here.
How many months will you be deployed? All together about 9 to 10 months.
Love, Lizzie is one of the best books published for young children on the tricky subject of how to handle the separation of overseas deployment for families. There are many children in America like Lizzie, whose parents are posted overseas. In her letters to her Mother, Lizzie speaks to all those kids,offering hope and asking important questions about war and her mother's service to America.
Each page is fully illustrated by Diane Patterson with wonderful drawn out letters and colorful maps of Lizzie's stories. On one page she draws a map of the stars and tells her mother to look up at night and "make a wish on the bright North star." "Use the Big Dipper to help you find it, like you showed me, and look for the Little Dipper too" "Hey! They're sort of like you and me!"
Diane's website is interactive with lots of fun things for kids to do and I just found out by visiting that she is the illustrator for several books and my most treasured childhood book "Fiona's Bee."
The very last page of this book gives tips to help kids through what can be a difficult time. Tips like planning ahead, physical reminders of the parent who is departing, keeping up with routine, being straightforward when talking about safety, connecting with other military families and to take advantage of the programs the military has to offer.
So Mari, we'll miss you while you are away.....especially on Halloween, but we'll see M on Saturday at the pumpkin patch and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures for you!