LOVE LETTERS FOR AFGHANISTAN
Carmen, age six, Vanessa, four, and Lili, two, were sitting at the kitchen table with their mother. A map of Afghanistan was open in the center of the table. "I miss Daddy," Carmen said, frowning.
"Me, too," Vanessa replied. "Why did he have to go to Afghanistan, anyway?"
Lili, wanting to join in, trailed her little hand across the map (leaving a small smear of apricot jam). She put her finger on the spot where Mother had said their father was stationed. "Daddy here," she announced with conviction, and they all laughed.
"Yes," Mother said, "your daddy is in the Special Forces, working with a general to help our country stay free. He misses us, too, but is proud to be doing such important work."
"My teacher, Miss Evans, said that Veterans' Day is on November 11th. Is Daddy a veteran?" asked Carmen.
"No, honey, not yet, but when he retires, he'll be one."
"Miss Evans said that Veterans' Day is on the 11th day of the 11th month and was started in 1918."
Mother nodded. "What a good memory you've got. That was when World War I ended. Now, there are over 23,000,000 veterans in our country."
"A million is higher than I can count," Vanessa murmured. I can only go to ten."
"I can count to two," Lili said with a shy smile. Whenever anyone asked her how old she was, she held up her two little fingers.
Mother reached down and scooped her up. "Oh, you're so smart. Time for bed, everyone. Let's fold the map up for tonight."
"But," Carmen said, protesting, "I want to know more about that place where Daddy is."
"Do children live there?" Vanessa jumped down from her chair and snuggled against her mother.
"Oh, yes, Daddy said there are lots of children. Most of them have large, dark eyes, and the girls are so pretty and the boys good looking."
"Can they ride bikes and play jacks and hopscotch?" Carmen quizzed.
"We'll have to ask Daddy. I know the country has many mountains, and most of the people are very poor. Someone was telling me that out in the country, the little girls sometimes use sticks for pretend dolls and maybe the boys use stones for balls. It is a country where there is a lot of fighting. It isn't peaceful like it is here."
The children looked solemn as they trudged off to bed.
The next morning, Lili brought one of her dolls and put it on Mother's lap. "Give to girl," she said in a serious voice.
Mother thought for a moment then hugged Lili. "Oh, sweetheart, you want a little girl in Afghanistan to have your doll? That's so nice of you, but it costs so much to mail things there. You don't have enough pennies in your piggy bank for postage."
Lili looked as if she might cry.
"I've got an idea," Carmen bounced across the room. "Let's write letters for Daddy to give to some children there. We can tell them we love them."
"Yeah," Vanessa said. "Can you help me write? I can't spell too many words."
"I can't spell any," Lili said, as a tear squeezed from her eyes.
"But you make nice scribble pictures with your crayons. They are so pretty, and I will help you put a lot of XO's on the pictures, so they will know you love them."
"You have such good ideas," Mother said. "I'm sure anyone who gets your letters will know that you care about them."
"And while we are doing the letters," Carmen said, as her eyes grew big, "can we have a little snack?"
Mother laughed, "I will get a bag of bagels, and I have a great recipe for the topping."
All three little girls clapped at that good idea.