Another Autumn, Another Crisis ~
The Soldiers Wife Remembers
by Audrey Y. Scharmen
The pontificators tell us to get back to normal whatever that is. When was it anyway? Was it a three-day weekend? I think I may have missed it. Perhaps I was out of town. Maybe I simply slept through it one day.
On my television screen is the new normal. I see a precious girl, sevenish, swathed in robe-like garments and gathering yellow bags on a barren desert. The disembodied voice of a newscaster tells me the packages are foodstuffs dropped from the sky courtesy of the USA. On her head she balances a large orange bundle and smiles shyly at the camera as the voice goes on to say that the food gifts include pop-tarts, and the Afghan children seem to love them.
Thus I recall another autumn, another crisis, long ago: My own little girl sat with her brothers at the kitchen table in a small house on a desert airbase where we lived in the Southwest United States. It was the time of the Cuban Missile threat. Her father was a pilot, commander of a B-52 bomber, bearer of that eras latest designer weapon. He had gone off on air alert to fly a long and dangerous mission, and she was sad. She refused to eat her supper, and I scolded her with that old chestnut of a tale about war-torn countries and starving children who had no food at all. She began to sob as she replied: Please Mama, send them this pea soup.
I couldnt help but smile at the wonderful simplicity of her logic as I comforted her. That war didnt happen. Her daddy came safely home and her life returned to normal.
So it was that I went recently looking for some old familiar normal along my favorite backroads. I found flocks of monarch butterflies at Point Lookout State Park, and I wandered among them through the marsh where frothy white clouds of groundsel blossoms were a fantasy setting for the scarlet-winged blackbirds. No, they didnt sit on my hat nor did they perch on my hand. Actually they were as skittish as I on that perfect day. They too had come in the wake of a storm, their journey interrupted, and now they seemed unwilling to trust the sense of serenity that prevailed there.
The haunted old lighthouse on that southernmost tip of Maryland wailed a mournful warning to sailors just as it has for a century plus. I lingered a while and left to trail through the tawny marshes of nearby Cornfield Harbor, where pink gerardia lined the paths through comforting sameness. I headed back home. There is a nagging sense of insecurity that leads me quickly home now on these autumn evenings.
We went out at sunset to sit on the porch of the small blue house where we live in the towering shadow of a nuclear power plant and its neighbor, a liquid natural gas facility, which, incredibly, is awaiting reactivation along with the blessing of those who control such decisions.
In the yard there were golden finches feeding as always in autumn amid a raggedy patch of seeding zinnias beside the fence. They were oblivious to the scarecrow that presides there and waves a small American flag. We watched quietly the silver glint of fighter planes circling and landing at the big airbase across the river. On their way to sea, we mused. And so, it seems, were they.