"Daddy?" Five-year-old Lena is in the backseat of a heater-less car, along with her little brother Rain. It has snowed another 5 inches overnight, and winds are expected to gust up to 22 mph later in the day. It is below zero, it is windy, and I am grumpy. I have forgotten my Gore-Tex parka, the topmost layer to my Army cold-weather personal clothing system. The wind is cutting through my "black-bear" fleece jacket. I want nothing more than to drop the kids at daycare, and to drop my 13-year-old frozen-brick of a station wagon one of two places: At the dealer, or off the side of a cliff. Whichever comes first.
"Thank you for ... pro-tec-ting ... our country."
Her comment comes completely out of the blue, on this day that there is no sky. I instantly go from partly cloudy to 80-percent chance of precipitation. I feel weepy, and have to take a couple of breaths before I can reply with a halfway steady voice:
"Thank you, Lena. That was very nice."
I am searching for words. I'd like to give her a hug--right NOW--but we're both safely belted in and on the move. With my hands on the steering wheel, I can feel the teachable, reinforceable moment slipping out of my grasp ...
"Lena? Could you do me a favor? If you see Elam's dad or Sammy's mom at daycare, you should tell them that, too? In fact, if you ever see someone wearing a uniform--particularly one with an American flag on it--I don't care whether they're a soldier or a sailor, or an police officer or ambulance driver, could you tell them the same thing?"
That's my girl!