When Alice was six years old, her father was sent abroad. The man had a job that took him far from home, like many others, but it was also very dangerous. He was a soldier.
When her father was away, Alice’s house was much quieter without his booming laughter and her mother was always a little sad. The little girl missed him and couldn’t wait for him to come home.
But time passed and her dad didn’t come home. Alice was getting more and more worried.
“Mom,” she would ask. “When is Daddy coming home?”.
Alice’s mother sighed.
“Oh, honey,” she replied. “I’m not sure. Maybe when we talk to him over Zoom tonight we can ask him, okay?”
So that night, mother and daughter sat in front of the laptop as a handsome man with a weary expression smiled and greeted them.
“Dad!” cried Alice. “When are you coming home?
Hope is what gives us strength to live through the pain of separation.
“Hello, little girl!” her father said. “How pretty you look! How was school?”
Alice jumped impatiently on the chair.
“It’s great, daddy!” she said. “But you haven’t answered my question! When are you coming home?”.
“Honey,” Alice’s father said softly. “I still don’t know…”.
Alice burst into tears.
“But I want you to come to my birthday!” she sobbed.
Alice’s mother hugged her daughter.
“Honey,” she said sweetly. “Your birthday is still six months away. We’ll see what happens…”.
“But I want Daddy to come home!” cried Alice angrily, and her father, who was watching her from the other side of the world, looked very sad.
“Daughter,” he said. “You know if I could be there with you and Mom right now, I would be.”
“Then why aren’t you?” asked Alice, pouting.
“Because I have a job to do,” Dad said. “You’ll see when you grow up that sometimes we have to do what we have to do…even when we’d rather be home with our family.”
But by now Alice was too upset and the tiredness from the hour didn’t help (it was VERY late when they did Zoom once a week). Her mother said goodbye to Dad and sent him a big kiss.
Then she took Alice to her room and tucked her into bed where the little girl started crying again.
“I’m sorry I yelled at Daddy,” she said. “I just miss him so much…”.
“I know you do,” her mom said softly. “And so does he. Why don’t you pray for Daddy and all his friends? And we’ll pray for Daddy to come home as soon as he can….”.
Time passes very slowly when you wait for someone you love to come home, and the wait is especially hard for children. For them, time passes slowly, endlessly.
For Alice, every day was like a week, every week like a whole month. She often sat at the upstairs window for hours and watched the road.
“Alice,” Mom asked. “What are you doing up there?”
“This is where you can see the farthest,” Alice explained. “I want to be the first to see Dad when he comes home.”
“I have an idea!” cried Alice’s mother.
She went up to the attic and, a while later, returned with a dusty black box. She opened the box and took out some old binoculars.
“Look,” said Alice’s mother. “With these binoculars you can see even farther. They were your father’s, when he was a boy like you. He used them to watch birds.
“And I can use it to watch daddy!” cried Alice excitedly. “THANK YOU, MOM!”
Every afternoon from then on, Alice sat by the window and scanned the road and the horizon for her dad. Somehow, time sped up and, before she knew it, it was her birthday.
“Will Dad be able to come?” asked Alice to her mother, who merely made a sad face and said she didn’t know. It was her birthday, and the house was full of guests, cake and treats.
But where was Alice? Upstairs at the window, binoculars pointed at the road, looking for her dad.
“Come down, daughter,” her mother said sweetly. “Your friends are waiting for you.”
Alice looked at her mother.
“Please, Mom!” she begged. “Just five more minutes!”.
Alice’s mother saw the look on her daughter’s face and sighed.
“Five more minutes,” she agreed.
Alice picked up the binoculars again and focused them on the road. Wait… What was that? There was a man walking along the road at the top of the hill? A man in uniform…
Alice screamed. “MOM! MOM! It’s Daddy!” Her mother came running, but suddenly, the man on the road turned and walked away again.
“He’s gone!” she said forlornly.
“Why is he gone again?” she sobbed, and her mother picked up the binoculars and looked through them.
A big smile came over her face and she handed the binoculars back to her daughter.
“Look, Alice,” she told her.
Through the binoculars, Alice saw that there were TWO men at the top of the hill. One of them was her dad, and they were holding a large banner that read, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALICE! DADDY’S HOME.”
It was the best birthday Alice had ever had, especially when her dad told her he was home to stay.