My most vivid memory of my father was the most magic and wonderful twinkle in his eye. That little twinkle would light up a room. They were the sunrise to my morning and the sleep tight to my night. Those eyes were sturdy like a rock but soft like a pond. I remember when the floods came into town and we were terrified. My little brother Tommy wouldn’t stop wailing as the water surrounded our home but all I needed to do was look into my father’s eyes and I knew that we were going to be alright. He cradled us in his arms, sheltering us from the bitter cold water that was rushing past us. Dad kissed me on my forehead and sang sweet lullabies to the three of us. To me, that happy twinkle was a flame that was forever awake and everlasting; nothing could dampen it or put it out. But forever is a long time for a flame to breathe. Particularly after witnessing the horrors of war.
World War One broke out later that year which inevitably took my father away, leaving my siblings and I with our heartbroken mother. With daddy in his uniform, mother held him close, kissing his cheeks and staring at his face. His beautiful face, with those eyes that were sturdy like a rock but soft like a pond. Father smiled at Tommy who is trying to be strong.
“Don’t worry, son; Everything will be alright. When you’re older you’ll understand that our country has called upon all of us to do our bit and defend our freedom. When you’re older you’ll understand why I must go. You are going to be the man of the house now; Make sure everything is well and report back to me at the dawn of my arrival!” Father said.
“Yes, sir!” Tommy squealed in excitement and embraced Father with one last hug.
Sarah sat on the steps of our house, staring solemnly into the distance. She was wearing her apron and had flour on her face from the morning cook-up. Daddy and Sarah were baking, which they would always do together. Sarah can do almost anything. She is very much like father in that way. She can cook, clean, bake, draw and sew, and she is very good at everything she does. Her and father would ride down to the town and sell homemade jams they made together. Sarah saved up for a whole year before she spent the jam money. When father made his way over to Sarah she let out a splutter of tearful emotions and hugged father tightly.
“Make sure you keep making the jams and selling them in town. We don’t want to disappoint anyone, do we?” Father said with a cheeky grin.
Sarah shook her head. Father was her best friend – he was everyone’s best friend.
Dad finally made his way over to me, eyes still glinting with that perfect twinkle. It was the only thing keeping me from crying in despair. Would I ever see him again? Father and I, every Friday night, would go to the roof, lay on our backs and watch the stars scatter in the sky. Father would show me the constellations.
Some of my happiest memories were on that roof with Father. I wondered, would we ever get to ponder the stars again?
“Aubrey, I want you to look to the Southern Cross every night. It will be your guardian while I am gone. It will be your good night kiss from me every night.” he whispered softly in my ear.
“I want you to share that good night kiss with your siblings, and share our stories that I told you on the roof.” Fathers said.
I nodded slowly, with tears that I can no longer hold back.
“You are the eldest Aubrey. You need to help your mother. Make sure to help Sarah and keep your brother out of trouble. You are important Aubrey. When I get back I want to hear about all your adventures! Do you promise?”
“I promise father. I promise”
I sat everyday for six months on the steps with Tommy and Sarah in the afternoon. Tommy had painted a welcome home sign and written a ‘Full Report’ about everything that went on in the house.
AuBrey Is SitTing
SaraH iS BaYking
I Am WoRkinG On My REporT
We ArE WAyTing FoR DaDDy Tooo Com HomEE
We ArR STiL WayTing. I MisS DaDdy.
Every day Tommy would write his report. His report got so big that Sarah had to sew a leather case to hold all the paper in. Sarah always left a jam jar out for father. Every afternoon we would just sit on those wooden steps with all of father’s gifts. Waiting for father.
Four long years went by waiting for our father to return from war. It had been nearly two years since we had heard from our father. Our mother had explained that he was missing in action but to not give up hope. Tommy got older and stopped writing his report, Sarah stopped putting jam aside and we all stopped going out to the steps. Father was slowly becoming more and more faded in our minds.
One hot summer’s day when the land gave off a vivid red outline on it’s horizon, trucks revved and growled out in the distance, driving towards the town.
“Tommy, Sarah, Mother! Look!” my voice loud and excited.
Their faces had a look of shock and curiosity – could it be father?
Families were coming out of their homes and standing outside. Everyone in town had the same idea. With held breath we watched the trucks park. There was silence. I heard feet hitting the dirt around the trucks as people emerged from the vehicle.
My heart quickens as I saw soldiers in uniform. Men with missing body parts limp towards families as tears are shed. My eyes scoured the faces of all the men, looking for my fathers twinkle.
“Is that him?” Sarah points to a thin man limping towards us.
We all stood frozen as we tried to find any recognition of the man we called our father.
“Father!” Tommy rushed forward and embraced the weak figure.
“I told you I would be back son!” His voice was shaken.
I searched his face, his hands, his eyes. He looked like father. He sounded like father – but his twinkle was gone.
All of us hugged him tight. But I asked myself, why do I feel like this man is a stranger?
That night, as we all got ready for bed, I found my father climbing out of the window and onto the roof. I quickly ran to the window to go sit with him. He sat staring at the stars and I noticed a tear going down his face. He then turned to me and gave me an unsettled smile and ushered me over to him.
“Do you remember sitting on this roof with me and watching the stars?” Father asked.
I nodded, trying to hold back the tears.
“Father, your twinkle has faded” I said hesitantly.
“Yes, my darling girl, I think all of our twinkles have. We will need to find them again.” Father said in a playful tone.
“Aubrey, I have seen things while at war. Frightening things I will never forget. I will never speak of them to you, your brother or sister or your mother. I’ve just got to keep looking forward, find courage and strength to make it now I am back home. Things have changed since I went away. Our family…does not consist of just your mother, your siblings, yourself and I – our family is much bigger than that now. The men who fought beside me, I love them as much as I love you. They are a part of our family as well now.” he said.
I didn’t know what to say. I had been speechless for four years, always hoping that any moment I would wake up from this nightmare of my father’s absence. With tears rushing down my face I grabbed my father’s hand and held it tight. I will find my father. I will fight for everything pure about him, and I will help get the twinkle back in his eyes. I kissed him on the cheek with all my love and we sat for the rest of the night watching the stars litter the sky.