The Costs of Christmas
The long trip home was worth it as I got to see my 4 year old son run around looking at the bounty that Santa bestowed upon him. My wife thinks that I had more fun than him putting together all the Thomas the Engine train tracks and setting up a rail road.
Its funny how play prepares us for life. These are his first lessons in systems engineering. Tracks must be connected and set properly. Routes must be planned and laid out correctly. This means moving furniture if need be or rolling up throw rugs which are in the way. Trains must be prepared and fueled (AA Batteries). Environmental issues must be dealt with. That meant banishing the dog as he keep kicking the track. Maybe that was a Vector Control issue; either way he was a pest about it.
He also had to make value added choices. "Do I play with Thomas or my new basketball hoop?" "Do I play alone or ask Daddy to play?" "Who is better at tasks I need help with, Mommy or Daddy?" "Do I eat or play?" "Why is Daddy's hair sticking out in 500 directions and did I have anything to do with it?"
While he had to make these decisions I was struggling with my own internal costs. Even though I knew I had missed too many Christmases already and that it was my turn to be at home I was still feeling a bit guilty as I left my friends, brothers, and troopers back in Iraq. No matter how many times I go home I never feel like I am totally there. Some little part of me is still in Iraq just as some part of me is always at home when I am in Iraq. Its hard to explain but it is a mental and psychological cost of the war. Those of us making the efforts here will never be the same. My Christmases will never be the same. I will always think of my Christmases in Bosnia and here in Iraq. I will think of the massive party at BIAP the first year, the fizzled out party at Taji last year and getting home this year. Part of the cost of Christmas for me is knowing that I will miss some more before it is over. I am willing to pay this cost so that my son does not have to. If I can make a difference by spending holidays in the Sand Box to prevent him from having to then the cost is worth it.
I guess I ramble but I just want to get across that there is more than monetary cost at Christmas. What should be a gathering of love and sharing always becomes a stress filled battle to make everything "perfect." Just ask my wife. She almost went into meltdown about the timing of the meal. Our family tradition is to eat a hearty breakfast and then have a feast around 14:00. The rest of the day and evening is for snacking on leftovers. Her family does a Christmas dinner. Since my dad had to go back to his home Christmas afternoon she was going to prepare two dinners. It took a lot to finally hammer home to her that she was doing this to herself and that two complete dinners was ridiculous. She finally caved and made the 14:00 meal at a real time of 15:00. Dinner was awesome though. Prime Rib and Dark Star Zinfandel followed by a full bottle of Tawny Port and cigars.
Mys sister's new boyfriend was playing games with her and we didn't know if he would show up. My step mother got wasted and spent the day in bed. My father in law got into the Scotch bottle in mid afternoon and was in full form by early evening. The dog, my son, and I played with the trains and attempted to be the happy ones. Ah yes, there is nothing like having all the family around for the holidays.