Saturday, November 12, 2005

Homecoming

I noticed all of the yellow ribbons many months back, but it didn’t occur to me to ask anyone about them as I walked my dog down the tree-lined street in my neighborhood. The ribbons were on trees in front yards in about a dozen homes on this particular street—far out of the ordinary for my neighborhood. Then one day this past summer I was walking the pup and a couple of the neighbors on this particular street were talking, and the one lady had her dogs running around freely so that they almost accosted my dog.

The lady reined them in with shouts and then leashes. As we passed by, I asked her why so many of the trees on this street had yellow ribbons wrapped around them.

“They’re for my son. He’s in Iraq, he’s a marine in Anbar province. He’s a jarhead,” she said.

I said I hope he is safe and comes home healthy.

She looked away for a moment, and took a drag from her cigarette.

“If I live that long,” she said ruefully.

I’ve often thought of that conversation as I’ve walked the pup past that lady’s house. I’ve wondered whether her son ever made it back, and if he was OK.

Several weeks ago, a Marine flag and a U.S. flag replaced the large ribbon around the tree in the lady’s front yard. The ribbons remained on the other trees in the neighborhood. I wondered if the flags meant that the young Marine had made it home safely. The other day, I found out.

As I was walking Max past the lady’s house, her dogs escaped through her front door and they both set on Max, with the getting very aggressive and almost biting him. She ran out after them, and the little baby pup of the two came out and comically chased my 75-pound pup and me down the street. As we were walking away, I called out to lady: ”Is your son back? Is he O.K?”

She got a big smile on her face. “He’s back and he’s fine,” she said.

I believe the ribbons are still on the neighbors’ trees. It could be some time before they are removed.

This story was previously published in Gist Blackridge.

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