I said goodbye to my baby girl last night. Albany’s in the Army now.
As I think back over the last 20-1/2 years, I can’t help but smile. What a trip! Not all roses, but not all thorns either. We had our ups and our downs, our hugs and our spats, our laughs and our tears. Sweetness was followed by rebellion, which was always followed by sweetness again. The thing I’ve always loved about Albany — even admired about her — is her uniqueness. She doesn’t just march to a different drummer; she’s got her own band and writes her own music! She’s adopted my mother’s viewpoint: “I am who I am and if you don’t like it, then that’s your problem not mine.” Her uniqueness has been costly — in friends, in rejections, in hurt feelings, in self-esteem — but rather than break her, it seems to have made her stronger. She’s in the Army now.
I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with Albany. As I lay in bed that night, I put my hands on my belly, looked up to heaven, and silently prayed, “Lord, please let this baby be a girl. I’m not sure I can handle a girl, but I’d love to try.” My husband and 2 sons wanted a little girl so badly that I used to say I wanted another boy, just to temper their desires and to avoid disappointment if it were another boy. But, oh, how I wanted a daughter. And what a daughter I got! I wanted to buy her Barbie dolls; she preferred Ninja turtles. I enrolled her in ballet class with her friends; she preferred hunting with her brothers. I spent a lot of money on pretty little dresses, bonnets, and bows; she tore them off as soon as possible and put on jeans and a ball cap. I dreamed womanly dreams for her; she dreamed of being a mechanic. She’s in the Army now.
Many questioned Albany’s decision to enter the military. Many tried their best to talk her out of going. Many have been surprised by her resolve. Not me. Since the first day she talked to me about it, I’ve known deep in my heart that this day would come. “I need to find out who I am and to find some confidence in myself,” she explained. “I want something hard, something that will test and prove me. And I need something that I cannot quit; I’ve quit everything I’ve ever started.” Albany tried college but hated it. She preferred work — hard work. I’ve never known anyone quite like her, anyone who has such a love for hard labor and a disdain for the cushy jobs. She’s in the Army now.
On March 24, Albany raised her right hand and took her oath: “I, Albany Ann Lewis, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies…” As I watched Albany turn from a citizen into a soldier, I saw my “little blonde bomber” turn into a beautiful woman. I battled a lump in my throat and silently prayed for strength to let her go without tears — she can handle a lot of things but not tears! One last hug, and she was gone. After rain delays, bus delays, and over 36 hours of waiting, Albany finally reached Fort Leonard Wood (Missouri) last night about 11:00 p.m. She made one quick call before getting off the bus, knowing she’d have to give up her cell phone in just a matter of minutes. In a low, hushed voice she said, “Just calling to let you know I’m fine. We’re here. I’ll call you later. I love you.” Click. She’s in the Army now.
Writing this has been difficult; I can barely see the screen. As tears roll down my cheeks, memories are flooding my mind. Sweet memories — good, bad, and hilarious. But the sweetest of all is the memory of an answered prayer uttered in the darkness of night over 20 years ago. And I know He’s hearing my prayer today for that same daughter. He has calmed my heart, whispering to me in that still, small voice: Albany may be in the Army now but she belongs to Me forever. Trust Me. And I do. God trusted me to watch after her for 20-1/2 years. It’s His watch now and I can trust Him.
She’s in the Army now — but she’ll always be my little blonde bomber!