While preparing for an upcoming trip home — just me and my little one — I have been making a mental list of all the things that I will need to bring with us. You know the list: Clothes, toys, snacks, everyday parts of our life that will be packed up and dragged along for yet another “adventure.”
In the madness, I can’t help but to think about how nice it would be if I didn’t have to deal with all this. In the good old days, if I wanted to go somewhere, I just threw some stuff in a bag and left. Those days are gone, replaced with impending dread at the thought of another plane ride home with a toddler.
What would my family say about this? Most likely a smug, “If you lived closer, you wouldn’t have to get on a plane with a 1-year-old.” Well, duh. Thanks for that. And yes, I do question my own sanity sometimes, for the record.
Nevertheless, this is the life in which I have found myself, and I’m doing my best through the ups and downs, the glories and the hardships. So why does it seem like they just don’t get it? Most likely, because they don’t. At all. Why, you ask? Because I come from a non-military family.
It’s a common phenomenon, and I’m sure I’m not alone in my plight. It’s not really their fault — they just have no frame of reference. They want me back where I “belong.” In the area where I grew up, it’s rare to stray from the pack — even the most extreme haters soon find themselves back in the clutches of their past, or at least within driving distance.
Do I want to be near them? Absolutely. I miss my family — the carefree weekends spent at our beach house, the convenience of having the ones I love and trust nearby. I wish I felt like I knew my niece better than I do, and with a nephew on the way, I am already feeling the same regret. I am envious that my niece hangs out with my mom every week while a visit with Grandma is a rare treat for us — ditto when I hear about the goodies she brings to my sister’s while I’m schlupping to the store yet again, trying to think of something to make for dinner.
The problem is, I’m not sure where I belong anymore. I miss the seasons and landscapes of home, but have always hated the cold and despise the seemingly endless winters back East. I like Texas — its warm sun and funny little quirks. I like the sense of adventure, of discovery. The thought that we could pick up and go anywhere, start over, reinvent ourselves and our lives.
No matter how you slice it, military life can be hard. Really hard. This goes without saying that my husband and I are lucky to have family who will come visit us, instead of demanding that we always go to them. Regardless, any “vacation” is a family vacation. There is no time, or money, left to spend on trips for our own small family. Each visit home is a tangle of plans with people you haven’t seen for way too long. Every trip is peppered with questions about moving back.
Once again, your family doesn’t know what you’ve endured in your time apart. They miss you, but they cannot understand, and they will not — that’s just the way it is. It’s up to us military folks with non-military families to do our best to push aside any drama and enjoy each visit as much as possible.
When I married into the Army, my husband told me on my first trip home, “Enjoy the time you do have together. Appreciate every moment.” Simple, but essential advice.