As a child, my parents would often go on vacation without us three kids — who could blame them?
And while I was always excited for them to come home, I was equally excited about whatever gift they bought for me.
As soon as my mom would come in, I would beg her to bust open her suitcase and show me all the trinkets she bought. It was usually nothing more than a coffee mug or a T-shirt, but regardless, to know that Mom thought about me on vacation was exciting.
When my husband comes home from a trip, he’s learned I expect a surprise. For the record, my mom tried to warn him how much my dad spoiled us girls, so he knew what he was getting into.
Most of his trips aren’t really for fun though. They are deployments to war-torn countries. Regardless, my husband still finds something to surprise me.
From Iraq, he sent back two scarves with the most beautiful embroidery work on the edges. From his last deployment to Afghanistan, he was on a larger base with a market, so he brought back jewelry and the two softest pashminas — certainly better than the one I bought in Chinatown for five bucks one New York City winter.
But one other gift made its way home that confused me. It’s a small teacup with saucer. The word “Afghanistan” is scrawled on it with colors from the country’s flag splashed across it.
He bought it so he would have something to drink out of, but then brought it back, because he knows I like all sorts of mugs.
And this is true. When I travel somewhere, I always buy a mug. When I drink my coffee in the morning, I’m reminded of all the fun I’ve had in Pegosa Springs, Jamaica or San Francisco.
The problem is Afghanistan wasn’t a fun time. It’s not great memories for me or my husband. Just to see the teacup on the shelf, brings back feelings of separation and sadness. The first time I parked myself at the kitchen table with this mug, I cringed.
Part of me thought about tossing it into a box for Goodwill, but another part of me couldn’t do it. Even though this mug reminds me of a very long, difficult nine months, it also reminds me that my husband went across the globe to try to make a difference in that country.
I took a sip and thought about the mug as my small way of showing my support for the future of Afghanistan. Just like I have a Wounded Warrior Project mug, because I support their cause, why not Afghanistan?
As the Afghans continue to determine just who the next president will be and America determines just what kind of role it will play come January, the people need support now more than ever.
So while it doesn’t make me smile, this green, black and red teacup does remind me that not every child has parents who can bring back tie-dyed T-shirts from St. Martin or wooden shoes from Holland.
But thanks to the sacrifice of my husband and countless other service members, maybe one day they will.