I’m not really sure who I saw first. As many travelers are, I was distracted and hurried. As I moved through the line I became aware of two young boys nervously chatting to a distant father. Their mother was trying to balance the family; she tenderly touched the father while graciously answering the rapid-fire questions each son continuously was asking. The mother was wearing sandy-brown army fatigues and there was no doubt that they were government issued. I suddenly began to feel as though I were a part of this family and what was about to happen to each of them. I moved towards them without actually feeling my feet move, my eyes were now leading my body, not my feet. “This is where you’ll be coming back to, mom,” said the younger of the two boys. He was pointing at an exact location on the worn, grayish tile floor where in 365 days he would see his mother again. “Yes, I see it,” she replied sweetly and with feigned excitement. I was already crying in my mind knowing that her three men, each brave and all so fragile, won’t have her home for Christmas. Not for New Years or Easter or any other day they will need her. Sensing they all could use a timeout from the tension of her leaving and going to the most dangerous part of the world, mom gave it her best. “I already wrapped your gifts and put them in the closet” she said. Tears immediately filled my eyes and still I needed to be closer, if not for my sake, then theirs. I tried wiping my eyes, but the harsh reality had already taken over my mind and body. I had no choice but to cry. We are at war and these little boys mother is going off to do her part in it.
Someone muttered something about boarding and it seemed everyone was moving now. I felt myself getting smaller as mom kissed and hugged each boy, fighting back her tears as each last second passed. Dad was last in line for goodbyes. He was basically silent throughout those final minutes. I flashed my boarding pass to the attendant and stopped prior to going through the security line. I pushed my way through the line and toward her, I had to do something. “Stay strong,” I said. I gently placed mine arm around her shoulders as she looked back at her family. Her smile was fake and pasted on her face to give her family, now at a distance comfort. Up front her hands were shaken and behind her eyes was unspeakable terror. The image was frozen in mind, dad holding one child in his arms as the other clutched his leg. Their eyes saw nothing but her as she made her way through the line and into another world.
I helped her with her carry-on bags as we both were now out of their sight. I reached for her as the sadness took hold of her and her tears flowed a million times harder than my own. During our conversation I promised to her that I would pray for her everyday and she promised me she would come back to her men that she left just minutes ago. “You’re strong,” I pleaded to her. I said knowing that she looked so vulnerable and I doubted my own words. I finally got around to seeing her name as I wiped away what I had hoped were the last of my tears. Lilly was her last name, black was her hair, and bright was her smile, though brief. Her gait was slow and stiff; panic was in charge of her body and her mind. I couldn’t help her anymore.
Congress recently passed a law allowing women in combat. The feminist in me celebrated while the mom in me cringed for the woman I have been praying for each night. We are at war and the mother of those boys is doing her part in it! Is this really a step forward or are we still stuck in time?
Serene Mastrianni, RPh is a pharmacist and a care management liaison for GSK. Serene is President and Founder of Negotiating You, a motivational company designed to increase the net worth of women in various work environments. She is co-host and co-creator of the popular radio show Radio2Women which broadcasts weekly on WBCR-LP 97.7 FM . She is hosting Interviews with Powerful Women for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers on March 15.
Previously, Serene spent the majority of her professional life as a top rated representative and sales manager in the fast paced world of pharmaceutical sales. As the only female on a team of eleven managers, Serene experienced the challenges facing women both in and out of the workplace.
Serene, her husband Chris, and daughter enjoy the many splendors of the Berkshires and live on the Housatonic River, located at the elbow of the Appalachian Trail in Great Barrington, MA.