New world awaits GI's homecoming
Christopher Anderson of Mount Clemens returns from Iraq to reunite with wife and meet his daughter for the 1st time. Kimberly Anderson misses everything about him -- his smell, his enchiladas, the way she feels safe when he's around, even that moment of exasperation when he leaves the toilet seat up.
He's been gone since July, guarding an air base in Iraq. She was supposed to be with him, but instead she's here at home in Mount Clemens, hoisting a 5-month-old named Isabell who has an I (Heart) Daddy T-shirt and the ice blue eyes of the father she's finally about to meet.
Kim thought Christmas was going to be the hardest day, but it turned out to be Thanksgiving. "Yeah," she thought, "I'm thankful for my daughter and my family, but man, I want my husband back."
Now he's on his way, or so she's told. The Air National Guard is careful with details, but some of their friends from the 127th Security Forces came by the other day and hung a banner in their front yard, welcoming him home.
Same house, same wife, different life
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Anderson will return to the same house, with the pumpkin-colored living room walls he sponge-painted himself. The same job, policing the U.S. Army TACOM compound in Warren. The same wife, whose only childhood ambition was to love a husband and some kids. But it's going to be different. "She's my world now," Kim says, settling Isabell on her lap. "I'm a totally changed person."
They are a traditional couple, she says. Christopher made the decisions. Then he was deployed, and she handled a problematic pregnancy while he did his job overseas and showed everyone the ultrasound pictures.
She knows Isabell's routine and the ways she likes to be held and the ways she doesn't. "He's going to have to learn all this stuff," she says.
Isabell closes her eyes. "I'm excited," Kim says, "but I'm nervous."
Ladybug puppet was lucky charm
Kim, 30, stands 6 feet tall. Chris, 36, is a shade shorter, with weightlifter muscles. They met on the job, in the 127th Security Forces, and when they married in 2008 she forsook all others and high heels.
They were both bound for Iraq until she found out she was pregnant. Christopher was still around for the baby shower, and he pounced on one of the presents, a ladybug puppet.
That's been their symbol, and his good-luck charm as Isabell developed with a mass on her lung that was pushing on her heart. He'd tuck the puppet into his duty vest, next to the extra ammunition.
Isabell is scheduled for surgery next month. When Kim delivered, she says, there were 12 doctors in the room, along with a throng of her family members -- and Christopher, via Webcam, on a tray at her shoulder.
"He was telling me, 'You've got this. You can do it,'" she says, and as usual, he was right. Now he checks in by phone or Skype and reads Isabell books at bedtime, recorded and sent along by the USO.
Kim has started wearing Old Spice so Isabell will know what daddy smells like. He's left 30 voice mails, and she plays them over and over -- for the baby, and OK, for herself.
Meantime, Christopher is heading home, or preparing to head home, or maybe getting off a plane right now at Selfridge, stepping into a world both familiar and strange.
That's the funny thing about war, even a modern one where you can watch your daughter being born from half a planet away. You're fighting to keep things the same, and then you come home to a house where things are different.
Isabell is crying, and Kim lifts her high and whooshes her through the air. "We're almost there," she says.
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