In military Drill and Ceremony, when the command, “Mark Time, March” is given, Soldiers march in place without making progress in any direction. According to Wikipedia, it can also mean to do a minor job or task whilst waiting for an opportunity to arise. Perhaps someone might say, “I’m just marking time flipping burgers until my big break comes along.” Sometimes, that is exactly how deployments can feel. Endlessly marching in place, but not making any progress toward re-deployment. Constantly doing the same thing day after day, just longing for that very last day when I will hold my Soldier in my arms once again.
I would like to propose a third definition: To keep track of the progression of time in regular intervals, as in: The boys and I have been marking time on a chart every week. Each Sunday, we cross another block representing 7 of the 365 days Daddy is to be gone.
There are many other methods for marking time. My sister used pieces of candy in a jars from which she and her children ate one piece every day. Sometimes, the candy is a Hershey’s Kiss, to represent a kiss from Daddy (or Mommy) every day. Another popular method is the seemingly endless chain made from 365 strips of paper and wrapped around the house, one link to be removed every day. Sadly, I do not have the discipline to eat just one piece of candy each day. There have been days in the last nearly 10 1/2 months that I would likely have eaten the entire jar. We also tried the paper chain when he was on a month-long field exercise last year. It was a miserable failure. Even right by the front door, I couldn’t manage to get the right child to take the right link off each day and I was left counting and recounting the links constantly. So, from my love of power point and excel, “The Chart” was born. And being a realist, I put 55 weeks on, just in case.
My boys are too young to really understand the concept of one year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days. But even they can see that we have now crossed off many more blocks on the chart than we have left. And they know that is a good thing!
It has also been fun to have our guests who have been here on Sundays participate in the ritual. Next to our friends who are “in the trenches” with us daily, it is the awesome people who have come to visit, distract and help that give us mini-milestones along the way. I am so grateful for the time they have taken to be with us!
Looking back, some things seem to have been so long ago, yet others feel as if they happened just yesterday. Time is such a fickle companion. We fill our days with things that make us think we can never have enough time to get them all done, but the loneliness of a deployment can make our hearts feel as though time is eternal. Then, on that sweetest of days when we are re-united a 10 minute ceremony can feel like a decade but when the command “Dismissed” is given, the passing of a year can disappear in the time it takes for that first kiss.