“Brown Bear” by Marcee Davis

It is funny to think about the things you carry with you on deployments, to remember the life you left behind. For some, it was a good luck charm or talisman that was given by a loved one. For others, it might have been a picture of a happier time, in a happier place, or it may be the remnant of a blanket or t-shirt that faintly transports the sweet smells of home to distant lands and spaces.

The birth of my child changed my life at a young age. I never knew a love so profound as the one I carried for my infant son. The distance between continents and oceans could not alter the affection I felt for my son, though they tried. The cold frozen ground in Afghanistan was tough and rigid. I wore its camouflage every day. Lying in my hard bed, made out of plywood and hand-me-down mattresses, the world seemed so lonely and desolate. I longed for the warmth of my son, who would rest on my chest and touch his soft hand to my check.

Instead of a child made of flesh and bone, I would pull a small bear to my heart and draw in the sweet smell of my baby that faintly clung to the fibers of its synthetic hair. A cheap, small, brown bear carried all the love for my son in its stuffing. In a world where the desert was my home and a shack was my bed, the stuffed bear was my surrogate son.

Many years later, as I look around the room of my two children, I often wonder about the choices I have made as their mother. I wonder if I am doing enough, if I am raising them right. But then, just as I am about to fall into a never ending sliding slope of doubt, I catch the eye of a small brown bear sitting in the corner, on a high shelf, and I remember that I am here and I am present. And the doubt melts away.

Marcee Davis served four years on active duty and seven years as a reservist in the United States Navy. She was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom during 2004, 2005, and 2007 with Electronic Attack Squadrons 130 and 134. She is a California native, and is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara, while raising her two young children with partner, fellow Navy veteran turned student, Mario Moreno.