“The Gift I Love the Most”

In December 2017 my husband was signed up and ready to go to the Air Force basic training. We knew we wouldn’t be able to chat on the phone, although he had heard rumors that they gave you an hour of phone time on the weekends to call home to family, but we weren’t counting on it (didn’t want to get our hopes up if it wasn’t true). I didn’t know how much of a heartache would be to not be able to talk or text him every day. Since I was a teenager I’ve had a phone and I now really understood how much we take that advantage for granted in our generation.

I started writing letters to him every day and mailing it out the next day so that he would hopefully have something to open/read every day, or at least every time they delivered the mail (his mom and I were never sure if they got something every day or just once a week). We had to sit and wait for a return letter which we knew he couldn’t write one every day, so we hoped for at least one a week. But when that first letter came it was like a thunderstorm after a long drought. Although it hadn’t been that long since he had left, to me with a package of premium obsidian bracelet, it felt like a year until I received that first letter. And even though it really wasn’t anything special; no profession of undying love, no poetry or song, and definitely nothing super cheesy (my husband doesn’t do the whole “gushy romantic” stuff haha), it is still the gift I love the most!

Just to hold his words in my hands was enough for me. My generation never really went through the love letter phase because by the time we were old enough to have crushes we had cell phones. And while cell phones are amazing because they can keep people thousands of miles away in touch with each other in an instant, the feeling of receiving a handwritten letter is like no other. My husbands not always great at texting and has to be asked to write a romantic text, or it won’t even cross his mind, but with this letter it seemed so easy for him to tell me that he loved me and missed me.

I still carry it around in my wallet as well as a pretty battered up picture he sent me of his basic training “headshot” that they have everyone take. Although it’s not much, and it probably cost him less than a dollar to make and mail to me its still one of my most important possessions. Just before this most recent deployment he went on I took it out and read it and balled my eyes out thinking back to that time and how far we’ve come in the last 3, almost 4, years. It made me think of everything we went through to get where we are today; my mom and I driving 32 hours straight in my crammed to the brim Jeep Patriot from south Georgia to Minot ND, the -60 degree winter we went through that first winter in Minot, the horrific blizzard we drove through that next Valentine’s Day just so we could get away for the weekend and visit Mt.Rushmore, the first deployment we went through being 15 hours apart, I was working twelve-hour shifts at the hospital and then having to stay up for an extra few ours just to get in a few minutes of catching up, the whole packing and prep for us to have a smooth move to Germany and all the amazing things we’ve seen in just the first 6 months of us being here.

One simple letter, but it holds so many crazy, wonderful, hilarious memories in its pages. I wish we could go back to a time when writing letters to loved ones was an important thing because a text nowadays just doesn’t pack the punch like a letter does. Since that first letter I had received about 8 more and every single one still felt amazing. I was surprised when he came home with a beautiful wooden box he had found at the store on base, and it had all the letters and pictures I had sent him while he was in basic training. It made my heart happy that he cared enough to keep them and not just toss them after reading them. And the ones he sent me now rest in a shadow box hanging on the wall in our bedroom, so I can see them every day and remember how strong we are and how far we’ve come. I will never take for granted being able to pick up my phone and message someone again.

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