Friday, August 8, 2014

Home is Where...

{Previously published on my old blog}

Did you know today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day? {Edited to add this was May 10, 2013}  I didn't either until I was reminded on Facebook.  And since I'm smack in the middle of yet another crazy-hectic-whatever move courtesy of the ol' USN, I thought I'd pull out this essay I wrote for our squadron spouses' newsletter a couple years ago.  The feelings that prompted me to write this are stronger than ever now.  Love ya, military spouses!

Home Is Where…
Joy Nicholas {originally written in August 2011}

            You look at the shiny key in your hand, the one that opens the door to yet another house.  How many is it now?  You’ve lost count. 
You remember an essay contest in eighth grade, where the theme was to complete the phrase, “Home is where…”  At the time, you didn’t know what to say, and though you are older and supposedly wiser, you sure as heck don’t know now.  Back then, you made up some cutesy pat answer, but it didn’t win the contest anyway. 
You sigh and open the front door, and the kids immediately start crashing around the house, exploring the rooms and looking for hiding places in the new closets.
            “Home is where…” 
The phrase hangs in the empty room that will soon be overflowing with boxes to unpack.  Home is where… what?  Where the heart is?  Something about that just doesn’t ring true.   In the past decade or so, there have been dozens of times when it felt like your heart was nowhere near you, certainly not within the walls that enclosed you.  Sometimes it was on a plane somewhere, flying through the dark night away from you, or stationed on another continent for months, or on a ship in the middle of the ocean.  Or when your grandmother died or your dad was sick or your sister lost a baby, but you couldn’t be there, your heart couldn’t have felt further away.
            And what about those little signs so many have hung in their houses? “Home is where the Navy sends us.”  Again, it seems too trite to be true.  What about the times, months after moving, when you came into your house at the end of a long day, and your kids asked, “When will this feel like home?”  And you mustered a laugh and told them, “When we have to move again.”  Or the times (like yesterday) they asked, “When can we stop moving?” 
            The coming days bring the flurry of unpacking boxes and “settling” in, taking account of what made it through yet another move (hooray!) and what didn’t.  You make a new set of routines, find new favorite places to eat… and, after nights of indigestion, the places that should be avoided at all costs.
 You go through various stages of culture shock that come with a new place:
“I love the food here!” then, “Is that pick-up actually towing that car with an extension cord?!” then, “Ugh.  I hate the traffic here!  And the weather!  And the people!!  They are so weird!” then,  “This… just might… be okay.” 
  You celebrate victories and disappointments with your kids: “Yay!  You made a friend!” sometimes followed by, “Annnnd, that one's a psycho.” 
  You pray and try to trust that all this crazy moving isn’t scarring your kids for life.  The next day you pray that you’re saving enough to pay for all the years of therapy ahead – your own included.
But in the midst of it all, there are moments of clarity and gratitude, where you know that thanks to being a military spouse, you’ve become part of something… well, silly though it might sound, precious.  If you reach out in desperation, someone will be there to pull you up.  Through teary phone calls, social faux pas, Bunco nights, play dates, dinners out, girls’ nights in, and countless belly laughs, you have grown a group of friends so close that you’re being completely honest when you refer to them as family.  These are the people that understand best the heartache you feel when your spouse is gone, and the levels of happiness when he returns, as well as the reality of adjusting to being together again.  They know your kids better than many of your blood relations do; they remember when you went into labor and have actually been there, with you, to celebrate birthdays since.  The tides of military life might pull you apart from each other – even for years at a time – but when they draw you together again, you pick right up where you left off.
 So maybe you don’t know how to finish the sentence “Home is where…”  Maybe it will take you the rest of your life to figure it out.  But at least you can rest assured that you’re not alone.  You’re a military spouse, for once and for always, and that means you can reach out even in the dark and confusing times, and know there will be a hand to hold.

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