MOTHER'S DAY, the celebration of nurturing coming up on Sunday, is the last thing on Diana Smith's mind. The mother and two of her three children are battling a stomach virus, on the very day Smith's husband, Roy, is scheduled to return home to Edgewood after serving with the National Guard in the 29th Air Traffic Control Unit in Saudi Arabia.
"It's been very rough. Everything that could possibly go wrong did go wrong" says Smith with a wry laugh. But as she recites a litany of traumas from children's illness to breakdowns of household appliances, she sounds upbeat. She cannot wait to be part of a whole family again, to have a shoulder to lean on.
"I tried to keep everything very cheerful," Smith says about her long-distance phone calls with her husband. "Roy sometimes seemed very depressed when he called, and after he talked to the kids, there was a lot of emotion. I told the family to tell him happy things, not to tell him the bad things going on. I didn't lie to him, but if he didn't ask, I didn't mention it."
Amber, Smith's 5-year-old daughter with Down's Syndrome, caught pneumonia. Her 18-month-old son, Daniel, came down with an ear infection in February that still hasn't gone away. Her 10-year-old son, Roy Jr., who idolizes his father, became rebellious because he missed him.
"I wanted to make life at home as normal as possible," says Smith, but on top of the kids' troubles, she had to take care of household disasters.
"Believe it or not, I had to go out and get a new car, and then the dishwasher broke down and the washing machine went up." Smith found replacements and repair work, something her husband would normally do.
"I learned to be very independent," she says with pride. "When Roy gets home, it's going to be a big adjustment for both of us. He's been in a different environment, and I know he has changed. We are going to have to re-learn each other . . . I'm glad to see him home. I'm glad it's over. There's nothing like having two parents at home."
Sheila Hurry, a lieutenant with Edgewood's Foreign Materiel Intelligence Battalion, agrees. Hurry was sent to the Middle East for four months, leaving her 2-year-old daughter, Jasmyne, behind. To complicate matters, Hurry's husband, Maurice, started a new job in Virginia and wanted to be nearby. Jasmyne and Maurice moved in with Maurice's brother and his wife.
"She had three people to take care of her," Hurry says with satisfaction, but she still worried about her daughter.
"The first month I wasn't able to talk to Jasmyne much, because I was where there were no telephones," says Hurry. "It really hurt. The only way I could bear the pain was trying not to remind myself of being home, and sticking to my daily duties. Most people say mail helped, but it didn't help me."
Hurry was reunited with her daughter April 22, and the family is living together in Edgewood, although for the time being, Maurice must commute 150 miles round trip each day to his job.
"I surely did learn that being in the military means dual jobs. Having to be a mother and a working spouse is quite a handful. I really haven't thought about Mother's Day, but I'm glad to be home," says Hurry.
Wendy Beard was six months pregnant when her husband, David, a lieutenant in the same battalion as Hurry, left
with his unit for the Middle East. It was the 24-year-old's first pregnancy, so she moved out of the couple's base housing at Aberdeen Proving Ground and back to Tennessee to be near her family and in-laws. There, she wrote a letter or card to David every day and waited for his weekly phone call.
"In the letters I would send messages like 'The baby says kick' or 'The baby says hi,'" says Beard. It was one way she felt her husband could remain close to the baby growing inside her. They worked on possible names for the baby too.
"I had tests and knew she would be healthy, so the pregnancy was pretty uneventful," says Beard. "People were a little kinder because they knew David was in Saudi Arabia. People would stop and talk to you in the store. Down in Tennessee, one guy didn't charge me near what it cost to fix my car because he knew."
David arrived home six weeks ago, four days before the birth of Katelyn Elise. The Beards have now returned to Maryland, where David continues to work at Edgewood.
The Mother's Day holiday this Sunday gives Beard special joy JTC because of the recent creation of her family. "It seems so strange because it doesn't seem like I'm really a mother yet," muses the new parent.
Sergeant Michael Jackson, who returned with the 29th Air Traffic Control Unit of Edgewood, is looking forward to making Mother's Day nice for his wife, Anita.
I'm trying to think of what I'm going to do -- maybe flowers or dinner. If we have dinner, we will bring the kids along, because they went through it also," says Jackson.