The walls of my beautiful home are closing in around me. If I spend too much time in here, I start to feel completely claustrophobic. In an effort to alleviate some of this anxiety, I've taken to talking short walks around the neighborhood, or just sitting outside on my low wall and watching. Today, as I walked outside, three children ran past. Two black children, I think they must be twins by the way they mirrored each other's movements, and a little girl with the most beautiful blonde curls I've ever seen. They looked at me, and the little black girl asked the blonde if I was her neighbor. For the record, I am.
"I don't know," was her quick response, making me smile.
"Can I see the baby?" The boy asked the blonde, running to catch up with her.
"Yeah!" They pelted down the lawn and disappeared between the wall separating my yard from the neighbors and I smiled. To be so young a full of energy. The little girl pounded on the door and I smiled again as she shouted, "Mommy! Open the door!"
After a moment, the door opened and a tired woman's voice emerged. "Say goodbye, honey."
The little girl parroted it, and again the woman's voice carried over the wall. "Say goodbye to the playground. We're going to our new house."
The little girl obediently repeated, "Goodbye, playground."
"Is she coming back outside?" This was the little black girl.
"No," the woman's said, wary. "We're going to our new house now. Say goodbye, sweety."
"Bye!" The blonde cried, her voice disappearing into the house.
"See you later!" The other girl said, already running back towards the playground.
A few minutes passed as I reflected on this. This, right here, has to be one of the worst parts of military life. My musings were interrupted by a high voice calling out "Bye!"
"Bye!" The girl on the playground called back, waving.
"Come here! Get a hug!"
The little girls ran towards each other and hugged, the little blonde giggling, "I"m so happy! Bye now."
"Bye!" said the dark girl, smiling. "Are you coming back?"
"Yeah." And the little blonde girl was gone, around the house and presumably into her car on the way to the new house.
As the little dark girl walked back to the playground, she turned to me and smiled. "Are you her neighbor?"
"I was," I say, smiling a little. "I think they are moving away now."
"Oh." The girl was quiet for a moment. "To another place?"
"Yes, I think so."
"So, she's not coming back?" The girl asked.
I must admit, I hesitated. I wanted to comfort her with my words, but at the same time I've always felt its best to be honest with children about these sorts of things. "I don't think she'll be coming back for a long time. But, someone else will be moving in here who might be your friend in a few weeks."
"Oh." The little girl looked down at her shoes then back up at me. "I have to go home now. Bye."
As she walked away her shoulders sagged and I felt my heart break for this little girl who'd just lost her friend. It's going to be a long tour.