Josh and I have celebrated our fair share of homecomings during his time in the Navy. During the vast majority of them, no cameras were allowed so all those memories are stored in my wonky brain. (Scary!) Hopefully committing those memories here will preserve them forever.
This may sound crazy, but one of my favorite homecoming memories isn’t even mine. I mean, the memory is mine, but it comes from someone else’s life. I was just lucky enough to get to witness it. It was at our first homecoming at this command. (The distinction “this command” is important because it was far removed from our first homecoming.) Even though I was pretty sure that it would be many hours before my sailor got off the boat, I dragged the girls out to the homecoming festivities right from the beginning. I guess I was a little excited to see my sailor, too. 😉 I first saw her walking into the venue, this very young wife, dressed to the nines in heels and a clearly special dress. Her hair and makeup were perfection, but the excitement and love so clear in her eyes really completed the picture. My first thought was, “Man, I look like a hobo.” (In jeans, a t-shirt, and a dumpy sweatshirt, I was dressed not for effect but for comfort during a loooong wait.) My second was, “Josh would die of a heart attack if I showed up like that.” (He probably wouldn’t even recognize me. lol) As the afternoon dragged on, I continued to watch her. To be honest, I was waiting for the heels to come off and the slouch to begin. It didn’t happen. As buses full of sailors began to arrive, I watched her waiting for her sailor, so excited and just a bit nervous. When her’s wasn’t on the first bus, I saw her eyes dim just a little. When he wasn’t on the second, my heart ached as her eyes began to tear. But he was on the third bus, and I couldn’t help but tear up myself as I watched her run into his arms. They hugged and kissed and I-love-you’d for several long moments, and it was clear to me that even though the room was full, in that moment they were alone with one another. It was beautiful, and to this day, to this minute, it brings tears to my eyes to remember their happiness. Homecomings, especially submarine homecomings, aren’t quite like what you see in the movies. Bright sunshine, pier-side crowds, and rows of uniformed sailors waving at loved ones from their stations aboard a ship … that’s all lovely, but it isn’t our reality. Our reality is long hours waiting, watching as sailors leave, not submarines, but long white buses, and sometimes disappointment when your sailor isn’t on the first white bus, or the second, or the third. Our reality is also tender moments and heart wrenching hello’s. Our reality is babies who’ve never met their daddies and mommies who are afraid their kids won’t recognize daddies they might know only from photographs. But our reality is, well, our reality. It is beautiful and heart-wrenching and exciting and amazing, and I would wager I’m not the only wife who’d agree … we wouldn’t have it any other way.