Taylor looked out onto the all too familiar street. He hadn't been down here in years, but he was finally here.
He walked along the sidewalk with a stiff step that he had grown accustomed to these past few years.
His ironed and pressed uniformed pant legs rubbed up against each other, making a sound that fell deaf to his ears as he kept walking.
The duffle bag in his hand did nothing to slow him down as he walked forward with a purpose in his stride.
His mother's house was only a few feet away. Inside, his mom would be running rampant to get everything prepared before the rest of the family showed up with empty bellies.
His dad would be helping her as much as he could but after a while his mother would run him out of the kitchen with a spatula saying that 'he needed to get his butt out of her kitchen before she tanned his hide'.
His little sister would be on the living room couch waiting anxiously for the eldest to walk in with her beautiful baby boy on her hip.
Taylor had only ever seen the baby through pictures but that didn't make the boy any less precious in his eyes.
Talyor walked slowly to the front yard, stopping to stand at the head of the driveway and just looking at the yard he had grown up playing in.
It had looked bigger when he was younger and seemed more magically back then too. Now that he was grown his favorite climbing tree was a lot less Jake's magic beanstalk and more like a regular tree. Still, this regular tree was a million times better than any place he had been stationed in for the past three years.
Sadly, a desert such as Irqu wasn't exactly the best place to find big-or even regular-sized trees.
He watched soundlessly as flashes of his childhood surrounded him. Oh, the times he had in the small yard which was wrapped tightly by a classic white picket.
Flashes of him chasing his youngest sister with an almost dead worm in between his fingers, of his mother scolding him when he climbed too far up his tree or for staying out too late with some of his friends.
He thought back to the time he had to leave this very porch to catch a plane that was going to take him somewhere far away.
His mother had cried a lot that day. His dad tried to hold it together for Taylor's sake but Taylor could still see the unshed tears that piled up behind his eyes.
"I'll be back before you know it," he had told her as he hugged her for the last time for what would seem like forever but what was in reality only a few years.
"We both know that's not true," she said back with a sad but proud smile. She had kissed him on the cheek on last time before backing away and wiping a stray tear before putting on her brave face.
After that, she had told him to go be a hero but to be stupid. Taylor had only smile and promised that he would remember his home training.
Those three years had passed a lot slower than he thought it was going to. Each day felt like a month over there yet he would never change his mind about going even if he could.
Taylor's mind snapped back into the present when the front door began opening slowly.
His mother stood there with teary eyes and her mouth wide open in shock.
Taylor didn't tell anyone he was coming home for Thanksgiving so seeing her son in her front yard was a breathtaking sight.
The first thing her eyes did was access the damage, making sure all arms, legs, and fingers were all present and accounted for.
The second thing she did was smile brightly before hurling herself off the porch and running to her only son who was finally home safe.
Taylor dropped the bag in his hand and caught her with ease while wrapping his arms tightly around her thin frame. Wet tears fell onto his stiff uniformed jacket as his mother let out three years' worth of thankful tears fall freely.
For so long her tears were kept silent and in the dark; only letting them fall at night with the covers pulled over her head when she was sure her husband was fast asleep.
"What are you doing out there," his father's voice asked from the living room. He couldn't see his son yet apparently. "Do you want me to stir this dressing in here?"
"Don't you dare!" His mother yelled right in his year as she quickly pulled away from Taylor. "You know you don't stir dressing!"
His father now stood on the porch standing shyly while trying to look past his wife to see who was there.
"After all these years of her yelling at you over this, I would have figured you would have got it through your head that you don't stir that mess."
His father only stared at him with a blank expression and Taylor just let him; really, he was just glad to be back home even if they were all just standing around.
"Why are you leaving the door open," his youngest sister asked as she came closer to the porch. "You know it's cold in here."
Ella, the youngest, walked outside. Her arms wrapped around herself while rubbing up and down on her biceps. Then her eyes drifted to the front yard where she saw her only brother standing there all dressed up in his uniform, a backpack on his back, and a duffle bag on the ground.
Ella's face looked much like her father's. They both stood shocked, their mouths fell open, and they didn;t seem to know what to do.
Ella broke out of the shock first and ran off the porch just like her mother had. Tears fell down her face as well but she didn't try to hide them like her mother had.
"I missed you so much," Ella whispered to him as they hugged tightly like they would never let go again.
"I missed you too."
"You're not allowed to leave again. I won't let you." She hugged tighter at the last sentence as if to verify that she wouldn't let him leave a second time.
"I'm not going anywhere."
At some point, his father joined the rest of his family and they shared the first group hug as a family in three years.
"I'm not going to leave ever again." With his last sentence, the strong army man in front of them broke down into his puddle of tears for the first time in three years.