Marianne and Jody skipped to the table ahead of their mommy. “We got here first! We win, Mommy!” Still holding hands, they climbed onto the table top and danced, their joined hands lifted up to the clear blue sky.
“Get down, girls! Come help me with the picnic basket,” Laura Marshall groaned as she struggled with the heavy basket in one hand and the blanket in the other. “Quickly! I can’t carry this much farther!”
The girls jumped to the bench and then onto the grass. “Let me get the basket…No, you carry the blanket this time…No! You got to…”
“Girls! Please!” Laura reprimanded them, setting the heavy load onto the table just as her strength gave out. Silently, Marianne and Jody glared at each other. Shrugging, they reached out to help Mommy unpack the sandwiches, the homemade potato salad, and apples.
With each item, they giggled. A picnic! They had not come here to this park in so long, not since Daddy went away on that trip. And, to this table, too.
Between bites, Laura told the girls about the table, how she and their daddy had their first date at this very table. “Your daddy sat there, Jody, and I…” Laura paused for a moment. “I sat over where you are, Marianne.”
“What happened next, Mommy? What did Daddy say?” The girls knew this story by heart, word for word. They knew how Daddy had reached across the table and held Mommy’s hand. They knew how she giggled.
Laura thought for a moment, and in a distant voice continued. “The rain began to mist through the trees, and soon it was really raining. We ran to the car, and laughed as we got soaked.” The girls nodded, as Laura’s face took on a softness that appeared when she talked about Daddy.
When every crumb that could be eaten was gone, the blanket was placed out on the sun-warmed grass. The girls sprawled on it, spreading their arms wide, and gazing through the tree branches. Filled with Mommy’s memories and food, they felt like they could reach out and hold their father.
They could see the rain, the wet table, and the dripping branches. Daddy had been here once. Maybe, someday Daddy would come back from Heaven and have a picnic with them.
This is a repost from 2011. Camp Pendleton is just over a hill from us. Last week we heard the bombs, saw helicopters flying overhead, as they held maneuvers. Many wives with children can see and hear it all, and wonder if their daddy will be home soon.