Friday, September 17, 2010

The Big Tower

For weeks now, Caleb's been saying this exact line, or some version of it: "Guess what, Mommy? I'm going to go to the big tower."

I kept thinking it was something they were doing at school. Maybe a book they were reading? A song they were singing? I couldn't figure out what tower Caleb was talking about. I meant to ask his teacher, but never remembered when I was at his day care.

A few friends have suggesting that maybe he's talking about the air traffic control tower on base. But to be honest, Caleb is almost never on that side of base, so I didn't think that was it.

(P.S. This is totally not my picture. I nicked it from the Mildenhall website, which by the way, was the best in the Air Force last year! Way to go 100 ARW Public Affairs, and let me give credit to Sgt Tracy DeMarco, whose photography skills clearly exceed my own.)

Tonight on the drive home, we passed the Elveden War Memorial on the A11. We pass have passed this giant statue almost every day, often twice a day, for nearly four years now. I always wanted to stop and grab a picture, but for many reasons have never gotten around to it.

However, with a potty training two-year-old, I've found many occasions to stop on the side of the road recently. Not long ago, his need for a roadside restroom found us stopped in the layby next to the memorial, so I took the chance to snap a few pics. Yay! Mission accomplished. :)
Tonight during the usual Friday night stop-and-go on the A11, Caleb pulled out his standard line, "Guess what, mommy? I want to go to the big tower." And I gave my half-listening, "Yeah, baby. That sounds good," response.
He must have picked up my on less-than-enthusiastic response though, because he started freaking out. "I want to go to the big tower! I want to go to the big tower! I want to go to THAT BIG TOWER!" His little finger was clearly pointed at the memorial.
And suddenly, it hit me like a ton of bricks. So that's what he's been talking about all along! Even before we actually stopped there recently, he's been begging to go to the big tower he's passed nearly every darn day of his little life.
I can't even imagine how huge that monument must seem to him.
I remember as a kid going to New Orleans to visit my grandparents on my dad's side. Outside of the house he grew up in, there was a baseball park with a small stadium. My dad would always say how small it seemed to him in comparison to his memories of the place. It seemed strange to me, because it was huge!
Then a few years went by before we could get back to New Orleans to visit. I came back as a teenager and was shocked to discover it wasn't the huge, Major League Baseball stadium I remembered. It was just a medium-sized neighborhood baseball park. Sure enough, it was nowhere near as big as I remembered.
The Elveden war memorial, on the other hand, is proper huge! And I'm saying this as a girl whose been living in England for a few years and has seen her share of war memorials. It ain't no tiny tater.
But if it's this big to me, how mammoth must it be to my two-year-old? How much of his life is defined by our thirty minute drive into base, and weather or not we've passed the memorial yet? What does that giant "tower" mean to him? What does he think it is?
More importantly, will he have any memory of it in two or three years? Chances are, probably not. Sadly, this marker of his daily life will probably be nothing more than a picture on my computer that he'll see on a screen saver slide show one day and ask, "What is that?"
Ah, just another reminder of things I'll both miss and not miss about England. Passing the war memorial every day? Yeah, I'll kinda miss that. Stand still traffic on the A11 on a Friday night? Well, not so much that.
But at least I know what the big tower is now! As Winnie the Pooh would say, "This mystery is history!"

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