We've been doing some much needed upkeep on the house. I have Zach painting halls, bathrooms, the guest room and whatever else I find that needs to be painted. Keep in mind Zach's hungry for the almighty dollar so he can keep his gas tank full which means he's working extra hard to get paid handsomely for something I would otherwise have to do myself or hire someone...so, it's a win - win situation as far as I'm concerned...anyway, I digress and now...back to my story. As I was scouring the basement, and Stan's workbench, the other day for a Spackle knife I spied a stack of papers. Being ever so curious why there might be a stack of papers on Stan's work bench I reached up and pulled them down. And in doing so, I found a treasure.
In September of 1996 Stan was still in the Army and got orders to report to Bosnia for the beginning of NATO's peace keeping mission (Operation Joint Endeavor). The treasure I found were some of the letters Stan had written to me while he was in Bosnia (and right before he left while he was still in Germany). After reading through them, I went on a hunt through the house to find more and I stumbled across the mother-lode ~ letters from me to Stan, from his mom to him and letters to Stan from a multitude of friends. Reading through these letters, some with Stan and some by myself, has brought out raucous laughter, followed by pools of tears, followed by thoughts of "what the hell was I thinking when I wrote that?" and they have also given me a glimpse back in to the mundanity of my days with baby Zach.
They've given me such pleasure both yesterday and today I thought I'd share some of them with you. I won't bore you all with letters in their entirety ~just snippets of times gone by.
I'll start with the one letter I found first. It's a letter from Stan to me shortly after he arrived in Bosnia.
12, Oct. 1996
You need to get on email. Everyone here is talking to their honey on email daily. It's quick and easy and keeps you up to date. Do whatever you can to get on email. I talked to Jeff Smidt the other day to test out long range email and he wrote me back within 12 hours. See what you can do. It's not as personal but it's quick.
(I thought we were going to wet our pants laughing when I read this out loud...from the "long-range email" to the "he wrote me back in 12 hours"...oh, how time's have changed).
Take care & hug and kiss Zach from me. I love you all of the mud in Bosnia x all of the wheat in Kansas x all of the dust in Ft. Huauchuca x all of the beer in Germany x 100,000 + 1.
(Boy, did that part hit me hard....Stan has been writing me little notes like that since we started reading "Guess how much I love you" to Zach...I had forgotten it started way back then.)
Oct. 12, 1996
Well, we bought a new Jeep on September 30. (mid September, shortly after Stan left us for Germany and then on to Bosnia, Zach and I were in a head on collision in our Explorer, causing the search for a new car.) I was so tired of looking and ready to make a final decision.
At least the car shopping is done - but why don't I feel at all satisfied? In fact, I feel a little queasy about the whole thing. It's not that I regret buying a new car...How do I explain this? I went over to pick up things out of the Explorer yesterday and I got sad cleaning it out. I guess it's because that car was the first big financial decision you and I made together and I feel like that car is a part of us....kind of like getting rid of the car was getting rid of a part of you. I saw a burgundy Explorer driving down the street yesterday and I almost got sick. I know you must think I've lost my mind - but I guess my worry about your safety is manifesting in a need, or want, to hold on to material goods that has our memories tied up in them. Please be careful!
Here are some things that Zach can now do - he's on his hands and knees (still moves backward, though). He babbles da-da-da...ma-ma-ma...etc...And today he was sitting on the floor with a basket of toys by his side and toys all over the floor - well instead of reaching for one of the toys on the floor he looked into the basket, saw a toy he wanted and picked it out! It was amazing! Right now he's just starting to wake up from his morning nap - it's 10:55 a.m. He's in his crib talking to himself and laughing! What a little character he has become!
7 Sept, 96
Dear Jenni and Zach,
Well, I'm here, about 100,000 miles away from you guys and it really feels like it. I know this has to be the hardest thing about being in the army. Being away from your family really is terrible, much worse than I thought it would be. I think it's a combination of loneliness and tiredness that really magnifies the emotion. But I know that I'm not going to die. I know that every day from here on out is one day closer to us being together again.
I bought a calling card and it costs $1.54/min to call the US...there's a plan that has something to do with ringback that is only 37 cents/min. I think you have to have a phone to use it. I don't think they have a calling card type system. (WOW, did times ever change...even while we were in Germany we saw massive advances in being able to keep in touch with our family and friends who remained in the US)
Brush up on your German prior to coming over and stop speaking Pig-Deutsche (German) with your dad! It's really difficult to understand people because they speak so quickly.
I'm going to close. I love you a lot. Like a million times a trillion + infinity + 60. Give my love to Zachary . I'll keep writing as often as I can.
October 26, 1996
Well, it's been a while since I've written - but it seems so pathetic to write when I know you aren't getting my letters, cards and packages!
Things here are OK - nothing to write home about...Oh, that's right, we're homeless! (Zach and I moved in with my parents while Stan was in Bosnia and before we went to live in Germany so we didn't have a home of our own at the time.)
Zach is my pride and joy! He's so good-natured right now and I'm thoroughly enjoying him. He's everything a baby at eight months is supposed to be....personable, charming, easygoing and beyond that he's SO smart! He picks out different things on the pages of books - his newest accomplishment is to point out the pretty flower. .... He's also a great imitator. If you show him how to do something, he'll do it the exact same way you did! .... He's amazing! I'm going to enjoy him now because in the not too far off future, he's going to become a holy terror! (What a self-fulfilling prophecy that was!) He'll be into everything faster than I can blink and his favorite word will be no!
Anyway, that's life here in Manhattan. Things are OK. You've been in Bosnia 22 days - no more than 342 remaining. Everyday is on day closer! Before we know it the days in Bosnia will far outnumber the days remaining!
I love you and miss you like crazy. Please take care - Zachary needs you - I need you!
With love ~
I guess I finally did get on that email thing Stan was talking about. The handwritten letters dried up around the end of November. What a shame ~ these letters are my unexpected treasures inter-mixed with a pile of monotonous household chores. In these letters are laughter, tears and everything in between, for the love my children...