A Message from the Sky

I couldn’t believe that I was standing in the middle of a field at seven in the morning on the day of my thirteenth birthday. It was dark, except for the few spotlights that my uncle had set up. It was cold—I estimated it was one hundred degrees below zero. But I wasn’t a meteorologist, so I may have been off by a few degrees. The field was covered in snow, except for a narrow strip of dirt that my uncle had scraped clear an hour before we arrived.

“Mom,” I whined. “Why are we here?” My father nodded in agreement.

“Your uncle wants to show us something,” she said as she inched towards the small bonfire my uncle had built. The ground around the roaring fire was a mixture of dead grass and mud. My mother didn’t seem to care. She had given up trying to understand her brother.

Suddenly, there was an explosion just twenty yards away from us. We turned and watched as the sky lit with fireworks. For the next fifteen minutes, I witnessed the most spectacular fireworks display that I’d ever seen. It no longer seemed so cold.

As the fireworks ended, I heard the familiar whir of a model airplane. My uncle had often flown model airplanes for us. I turned to my mother with a smile on my face and a question in my eyes. She just shrugged.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,” my uncle’s voice boomed over the unseen loudspeaker. “Please direct your attention to runway number one. In a moment, you will see a replica of a C138. This is the army’s primary airplane for delivering soldiers behind enemy lines. It will ascend to an altitude of 1,500 feet, at which point you will witness the deployment of a full regiment of paratroopers.”

The whir of the largest model airplane I had ever seen grew in intensity as it accelerated down the runway. Suddenly it was airborne against the rising sun. I turned to my mother. She just shrugged.

I stood there silently as the plane slowly rose in the sky. I had seen a similar sight many times before, but today it was different. Today, it was special and not just because it was my birthday.

After about five minutes, I could see hundreds of small dots shoot from the sides of the plane. And then those dots became small parachutes that slowly descended to the earth. I watched in fascination as they fell. They seemed to be out of control, yet they also seemed to be coming in my direction.

As they got closer and closer to the ground, I began to fear that they would all crash into me. I turned to my mother, and she just shrugged. I stood, trying to emulate her stoic demeanor while fearing for my life.

I watched as the small soldiers began landing ten yards in front of me. At first, I simply felt relief that they weren’t hitting me. Then I realized that they were landing in what seemed like a pattern. But the pattern was indiscernible. I looked at my mother. “Just wait,” she said softly, but confidently. She knew her brother.

Second by second, the small parachutes hit the group. Dot by dot, the pattern began to emerge. And then suddenly the pattern was clear. The tiny parachutes had landed with precision to spell a message: “Happy Birthday Brian.”

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