Back then, I remember talking to a girl I worked with who was a few years older than me. She had been a military brat growing up, but was now settled in one place, married, with kids of her own. She told me how much she missed moving around, and that after a few years in one place she started getting antsy to try someplace new. I remember thinking that was the most bizarre thing I’d ever heard ---- who in their right mind would WANT to move all the time?
Then, the day came for us to go, and although I wasn’t technically kicking and screaming when I left that final morning in OKC, I was certainly a reluctant participant as we drove out of the Denny’s parking lot and left my family, waving behind us. I can’t remember exactly, but I think there might have been a discreet dabbing of tears. And an even more discreet mumbling under my breath of “This better be worth it, you military bastard, or I will be on the first plane home before you can blink” shot in Blaine’s direction. Just maybe.
It took us three days to drive to California, partly because we didn’t want to kill ourselves trying to get there in two, so we stopped early every night and had a nice dinner, and partly because I made Blaine wait on me every morning so I could shower, fix my hair, and put on a full face of make-up which just makes me laugh because hello? We were driving half-way cross-country and saw no-one but gas station attendants and hotel clerks who I’m pretty sure didn’t give two hoots if I had on mascara or not.
But at last we arrived in California and yep, it was a bit of culture shock for this born-and-raised-in-one-place gal.
That assignment was for training for Blaine, at Vandenberg AFB, and was only four months long. So we knew we would need to rent a furnished apartment, and that I would be spending most of my time there alone while Blaine was off doing whatever it is they do to prepare young men and women to be nuclear missile launch officers. Personally, I didn’t see why it would take four months ----- push a button and end the world, or don’t push the button. See? How hard could it be? (Ha! That shows just how stupid I really was because did you know? They don't even HAVE big red buttons down in those missile silos. Did you know that? It's all done with a KEY, not a button. A KEY that Blaine actually got to turn one time. But that's a story for another day. For now, I'm still babbling about what a baby I was the first time we moved. Read on.)
But nonetheless, we went looking for furnished apartments with the list of available and Air Force-approved places the base housing office gave us. Naturally, we started at the cheap end of the list because we only had “x” amount of money to spend each month on housing and hey, it’s just four months, how bad could it be?
Wow, pretty bad, actually.
Most of the apartment complexes were run down, shabby, and not too inviting. I’m not a snob, by any means, but when we came to one that had several big, fat, Mexican women, sitting in the doorsteps, smoking cigars and giving us the hairy eyeball (no offense to any large, cigar-smoking Mexican women who might be reading this blog) I turned to Blaine and said, “You are planning to leave me alone here every day for four months in this apartment, and if you think I’m staying **here** by myself, you are on crack …… let’s just jump to the other end of the spectrum right now” and
Anyway, I’ve gotten way off on a tangent here. The point was that I wasn’t crazy about the idea of moving in the first place, but after four months there, I was ready to move again. Temporary assignments have always been a little harder for me, because you’re not really there long enough to make friends or get comfortable. Just about the time you learn your way around, and find a new dentist, and a hairdresser you actually trust, it’s time to move again. I was eager to get to our next assignment, where we would be for four years, so we could settle in and make more of a home for ourselves.
And so we moved to Minot, North Dakota, the assignment where anyone who has never been there looks at you with a slightly horrified, slightly nauseous look on their face when you tell them you lived four years (and hence through four WINTERS) in Minot, North Dakota ….. but where the vast majority of people who have actually LIVED there, us included, will tell you in reality, it’s a really nice place. Sure, a little brisk in the winter, but a great place to live, especially if you’re like Blaine and like to hunt and fish --- or, as Blaine put it, North Dakota is GOD’S COUNTRY.
We made great friends; thanks to a departing squadron of fighter pilots we secured wonderful base housing above our rank; I worked for a year, then I went back to college; Blaine loved his job, and finished his masters degree --- all in all, a fantastic four years for us. (Well, except for those last few months when we had started trying to have a baby and we were all “WTH? We’ve been trying for three months now and I’m not pregnant, what is up with that????” Little did we know what lay ahead ….)
But I had to admit, after the four years there, I felt ready to move on. I felt a little “been there, done that, time to try something new” and that was the first time I felt like an authentic military wife. One who actually gets excited to move, and try new places and see new things.
We moved to Kansas for ten months (more training).
We moved back to OKC for three years, which was great for us because our family was right there. And leaving the second time was no-where near as hard because we had done it once and I knew I would survive the separation.
Then we went back to California for two years, a little more south than the first time, and I was WAY more than ready to move at the end because my GOSH, I am the only person on earth who didn’t like living in sunny Los Angeles, but ugh how I hated that place.
Then Ohio for three years, where we made some of the dearest friends we’d ever made. By now, we were in a completely different place as far as our lifestyle went. We had three kids, and loved what Ohio had to offer families. Leaving there after three years was the hardest move we had done, from an emotional standpoint. But we did it, because that’s what military families DO, and of course we survived it.
Then Alabama for ten months, which again, was a temporary assignment, and not long enough to enjoy what Alabama had to offer.
And then, Georgia, and now, preparing to move back to Oklahoma. So that’s nine moves in nineteen years, not counting the two additional moves we did (once in LA, once in Ohio) when we qualified for bigger base housing due to another baby each time.
And I can say, proudly, that I got the hang of this moving gig and actually started to enjoy it. Exploring new towns, making new friends, broadening my horizons --- all that crap. I liked it. And although I NEVER thought the words would come out of my mouth, I even started to feel antsy when we were in one place for very long.
But as you know, we got stuck here in Georgia for a long time --- five and a half years, the longest assignment we’ve ever had anyplace. I shouldn’t stay “stuck”, really, because that implies we haven’t liked it here, when just the opposite is true. We’ve liked Georgia very much --- we like our house, we like our neighborhood, we love our kids’ school. It’s a safe community, and my kids are active in local sports. It’s a nice town, with enough shopping and restaurants that it doesn’t feel “small town” but not too big, either. We’ve made lots of friends, although many of them have been military and have moved on, but local friends, too. And the state as a whole has lots to offer, which we’ve been lucky enough to see and do.
We *requested* to stay here, so Kendrie and Blaine could both finish their cancer treatments at their respective clinics, and the Air Force honored that request. Blaine had orders overseas that he turned down at the time of Kendrie’s diagnosis, and without our request to stay put, we’d probably have moved at least twice by now.
But we stayed here, by choice, and it was the absolute, best, without a doubt, smartest move for our family. And we like it here (have I mentioned we like it here?) so we didn’t mind.
And now here we are, poised after five and a half years to finally GO HOME, which has been our goal since Day One --- finish out Blaine’s military career with a final assignment back home, and then retire. Full circle, if you will. We’ve planned it, we’ve dreamed it, we’ve worked for it, we got lucky (sometimes luck has a large part to play in all this) and it’s happening.
So why then, after dreaming all these years that this would happen for us, after not only getting the hang of moving so often, but starting to truly enjoy these moves, and after being in one place for so long, and with our home town just sitting there, waiting for our arrival --- WHY do I feel such angst about leaving??? This is where the disgrace part comes in … what kind of military wife am I?
I can’t wait to go home -- I don’t want to leave.
I can’t wait for my kids to go to my old school -- I don’t want to take them away from the school they love here.
They will be with their cousins and will make new friends -- I feel guilty because they will miss their friends here.
Everything, EVERYTHING fell into place for our move. We found a house we love, in the school district we wanted (no small feat, which you already know if you were reading my blog last summer.) And after being told that there were no jobs available at Tinker, one literally falls in Blaine’s lap. In his career field. That he’s excited about. Not only does the job fall in his lap, but they want him to report six months earlier than we planned, which means our family doesn’t have to be apart during that time. Call it what you will; fate, destiny, providence -- God’s hand was all over this.
But I can’t help feeling this sadness about leaving Georgia. Sadness and worry and anxiety about a move that SHOULD be old hat by now. The kids will be fine -- they are smart and funny and genuinely nice kids and THEY WILL MAKE NEW FRIENDS. Every military kid on the planet faces this at some point in time, many of them face this numerous times. For us, though, this is our FIRST time for them to move after starting school and I feel such guilt about taking them from the place they are comfortable and happy and secure. Also, the security of knowing one of the best children’s cancer clinics in the country is only two hours away; I pray every night we never need it again, but I can’t believe its right here and we’re LEAVING it.
And then I’m all, “Oh, suck it up you moron, the kids will be fine and you’re certainly not the first or only person to do this and why are you having such a hard time with it???” and then I’m all, “Oh, my precious babies, I just want them to be happy and safe” and then I’m all, “Well, it’s reasonable to feel conflicted about leaving when you’ve been somewhere for over five years, cut yourself some slack. You’ve put down roots as a family, but you’ll do fine and put down new roots, just pull yourself up by your bootstraps for now“ and then I’m all, “But what if my kids hate it and wind up needing years of therapy because we’re ripping them from the bosom of security they’ve had for so long” and then I’m all, “OMG, woman, You are making me sick with your whining about this, would you just shut up about it already.”
See what I mean?
I am a DISGRACE.
I am a military wife. I’m supposed to be confident and capable and self-assured, poised to move my family into the future that is best for them, and to do so with proficiency and competence and mad-skills moving talents. I am NOT supposed to be a dithering nitwit who talks to herself and stress-eats chocolate by the boatload.
So don’t be surprised, when the packers show up in a few hours (I *think* we are ready … we’ll see how this goes) if there’s a bit of melancholy in the air. Also don’t be surprised if after discreetly dabbing a tear or two twenty years ago when I left my family for the first time, if I don’t discreetly dab a few more when we finally head back home on Sunday.
Because I am a disgrace.
And maybe a little bit insane.
PS. We are keeping the computer and taking that ourselves, because I told Blaine I couldn't bear to be offline more than a few days. And at that, I'll still probably try to squeeze in a trip to the local library to check my e-mail one last time after we pack up. And then curse the fact we are too cheap to buy a laptop. And the packers are not allowed to unplug the TV today because I need to see who gets voted off DWTS tonight. And they're not allowed to unhook the washer and dryer because I want to pack as many clean clothes as possible, right up until the last second. Obviously, my movers will think I'm insane as well.