April 23, 2012

Quite Contrary

This morning I woke up in a hotel room in WV to find three to four inches of snow on my car, with more coming down. Just to be clear, it is indeed the 23rd of April. It has officially been spring from more than a month. I’ve worn shorts; I’ve needed sun screen; but none of that matters when you’re dealing with mountains and Mother Nature.

I find today’s snow to be rather appropriate because it falls in honor of one Evelyn Tuckwiller’s birthday. She is my Grandmother-in-law, and today she turns 92. It’s been quite interesting getting to know her over the years as Josh’s girlfriend, then fiancé, and now wife. She is a woman of many contradictions and snow on her birthday is surely fitting for someone who would like you to believe that she’s as icy as she sometimes pretend to be. Truth is that under that façade is a warm spring just waiting to flower.

We surprised her on Friday night, arriving at Josh’s Aunt Sandy’s house, along with Josh’s mom and dad. She would never utter words like, “What a nice surprise!” Instead she wondered aloud why we’d bothered. She voiced similar sentiments the next day when her daughter Suzann, Suzann’s daughter, her husband, and their new baby all came in the door unannounced. They had flown in from California all night on the red-eye with a one-year-old. This nominates them for kid/grandkid/great grandkid of the year, if you ask me.

But however much MaMaw might try to put forth the idea that we needn’t have bothered and that she was only attending her birthday party to humor us, you could tell that she was very happy to have her family together. In fact she had on her Sunday best to attend her birthday party and sat patiently for group photos with all the family members who came to wish her well. The informal count put the guests at 82, 80 of which were directly related by blood or marriage. I would hesitate to say that I’m even related to 80 people on every branch of my family tree together, let alone 80 people who would come to my birthday party.

Growing up in an Italian family I am quite used to outsized family events, but I admit that I still struggle with the Tuckwiller family tree. I’m always grateful for my mother-in-law to explain for the umpteenth time who everyone is and how they’re related.

But by far the best part of the weekend was seeing MaMaw interact with her youngest great grandkids (she has close to 30 of them and 3 great great grandkids!). For each of them she has a special affection and loves to hold and cuddle them. Sorry, lady, but no one who sees you with those sweet little ones will believe for a second that you’re as brusque as you pretend to be.

So on this, her 92nd birthday, I’d like to wish her a very happy birthday and many more so that we all have an excuse to surprise her, put her out, and make her attend her own birthday parties.

April 17, 2012

It's That Time Again

The two most common questions you get as a military spouse, at any sort of military event, are, “When did you get here?” and “Do you have orders yet?” If you’re not coming in, you’re going out. We all seem to want to position people according to how long we’re likely to know them. It’s a rotating cast, and we all cycle in and out as the Air Force sees fit.

After a few false starts and several months, we finally got our own orders. We will be headed to the center of the country for a while to the great state of Illinois. I’ve driven through Illinois exactly once. Other than that, its entirely new territory for this East Coast girl. Just tonight, while enjoying manicures with some of the other spouses, I was asked many times if we’d heard where we’d be going, when we were leaving, if we were happy with the assignment, and where we were going to live.

In and of itself, really it’s no different from anyone else who is moving. It’s just that when you’re Air Force every relationship at every base has an expiration date because everyone will eventually leave. You arrive and know no one. You answer a lot of, “How long have you been here?” questions. By the time you leave, you’re either leaving every person you know or if you’re the last to go, you leave a place that has become once again strange.

We haven’t moved too many times yet. This is Josh’s third base; only my second. This is also my second military move. I have been living the nomad’s life though since college when I moved every single year, then the big move to grad school in Texas, and again to meet up with Josh in South Carolina. In the time I’ve been out of high school, I’ve moved eight times.

Of all the weird things about military life, moving is the thing I mind the least. If nothing else, it has cemented the idea that home is where the heart is. It also shows you how quickly, firmly, and sometimes irrevocably people can band around each other to form new families. My family has always been a close and insular bunch. It’s been both humbling and heartwarming to see the ways in which military families help each other. Meals brought to virtual strangers, last minute babysitting, jumping car batteries, killing spiders, getting mail, driving to airports—all the things that in normal life would be handled mostly by your family are seamlessly picked up by your military family. From my limited perspective as a pilot’s wife, I feel like this connection is even more pronounced in that community because we are so often single moms. Whichever husband is home sometimes becomes the fixit guy for the whole street.

While we know where we’re going and approximately when we need to be there, we still don’t know where we’re living (wait lists!) or when the movers will actually arrive (TMO-the moving people!). Clearly, as the seasoned pro I am, I am *not* at all freaked out about this. The only thing we have set up for sure is H’s preschool. We may end up in temporary housing, but at least she’ll be at school three days a week while we do it!

And yet, I’m excited about this new phase. Not only is it an entirely new state, but it’s a staff job. Josh will, in theory, have a normal working schedule that does not include random trips to parts unknown at the last moment. I could sign up for a class in the evenings and reliably count on him to watch the kiddo. He might actually get to trick or treat with us. He can take vacation at the holidays without relying on a lottery system. This is new and exciting territory that I believe some call “normal.” Add to this the fact that we have close friends five hours north in Chicago and rumors of a grocery store that delivers on base, and I’m all set.

Soon I’ll be with a new set of spouses answering the question, “So, how long have you been here?” All part of the cycle.

Printer Friendly