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.