It’s a Friday afternoon at school. Our daycare is filled with children playing. Screams of delight, shouts of joy – their little voices sound so big in the little room. All is right with the world. I get into my car at 5:00pm to go home and hear on the news that while my little charges are busy at play in a safe, beautiful setting, miles away across an ocean tragedy is unfolding. Paris is under siege. I can’t believe what I am hearing: 53 dead, 66 dead and the numbers keep going up.
Arriving home, my husband and I turn on CNN and watch in shock at what is transpiring on the continent. My thoughts go to one of the families whose child attends our daycare. Chloe is her name. She is in grade 1 and is a lively, exuberant, joyful little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. She looks like her Mom, Natalie. Natalie is much more reserved, however.
Over the past year and four months I have gotten to know them. They are your average young family, living and working and raising their two children in a lovely quiet neighbourhood, a place for their children to grow and feel safe and free. There is one difference: Natalie is in the military. I only heard about this in the past few months when Natalie came to see me one day to ask me about taking Chloe out of daycare because their situation had changed. She was going to be deployed to Kuwait and felt that Chloe would be better off at home rather than in daycare while she was gone.
Her husband’s mother and her mother would take over duties as surrogate Mom while Natalie was in Kuwait. It was interesting and yet somehow somewhat melancholy to realize that Natalie was military and her job was taking her overseas, taking her away from her young children and husband, family and friends. Then it kind of hits you as to what kind of a sacrifice she is making for our country. Leaving her safe environment here in Canada to travel miles across the ocean to work in a place that may be very hostile in not only its logistics but in its environment and its culture.
A few days before Natalie was going to be shipped out she did us the honour at the elementary school of coming in to speak to our juniors – grades 1 and kindergarten -about the poppy. She graciously gave up her precious time to speak to the children about the poppy program and why we wear “flowers,“ as my little kindergarten children called them. We had all the groups in our daycare, and Natalie and her husband Francois, a retired reservist who served in Bosnia, spoke so eloquently to the children about what it meant to be in the military. The children listened intently and asked all kinds of questions and told Natalie stories about their Grandpas and Uncles and family who also served in conflicts around the world. I felt very privileged to have her with us to talk about Remembrance Day. How apropos it was, especially with the horrific details that hit the news circuits just days later on Friday with the Paris attacks. How vulnerable we all are to the threats of our enemies. It is our service men and women like Natalie, past and present, who have given up so much of their lives in order to give us the freedom we are so accustomed to.
While Natalie is away Chloe will be here with us at Christmas Park Elementary School and we will all look out for her. We will look out for her the way her Mom is looking out for us, miles from home. As Christmas approaches and as tensions between so many countries around the world seem to give us pause about the direction the world is going in, I find myself thinking of Natalie and her family. I want to thank her for her service, her bravery, and her courage to do something not many of us would find even comfortable thinking about. May all of our troops across all of the war-torn countries and those stationed with our allies around the world find peace and hope and the real meaning of Christmas this year. How fragile and delicate our little world is and how lucky we are to have Natalie and her fellow service men and women there to protect us from that fragility.
“poppy field” by Jon Bunting. Flickr Creative Commons . Some rights reserved.