Sometimes, when I look at a picture I haven't seen in a while, every specific feeling and memory of that time comes flooding back over me, and yet I am still able to marvel at the fact that so much time has passed. It doesn't happen with every picture, but it sure does with this one.
This was the year that Rob was called up with the Navy reserves. The year of Christmas (and every other holiday) without Daddy. The year that I hit the skip button every time I'll Be Home For Christmas came on, just so I wouldn't dwell.
It was the day before Thanksgiving 2004, and Rob got a call from the Navy reserve center. I could overhear him as I did prep work for the next day, and when he started asking questions like how long? and will I need any extra vaccinations? and when do I leave? . . . well, some things you don't really need to be told.
The reserve center, which didn't know that this was the first that Rob was hearing the news, said that he would be gone by December 15th. We had two weeks to make a family Christmas, and I hadn't even started shopping yet.
We did everything at an accelerated rate: we bought the first tree we found, we threw the decorations on it, I bought every gift we needed in a one day shopping marathon, we exchanged gifts. All while getting our paperwork in order, packing Rob's bags, making lists of anything in the house that Rob had been putting off doing . . . whatever he could squeeze in, he did.
And then, he left. And Christmas morning came without him, like it does for thousands of families who have loved ones in the military. We had fun, but there was always that gap in the table to remind us.
It's hard to believe that this was so long ago. In fact, it's been a lifetime ago. Two lifetimes, to be exact, Sally's and Bun's. Francie and I have some shared memories that we will pull out every now and then, but Fiver has no recollection at all. A tender mercy, that.
And so at this time of year, we like to remind ourselves how different one year was for our family. And exactly how thankful we are now.
For more Way back When-esday fun, visit Cheryl at Twinfatuation!