The terrible, wonderful, no good, very good day. Every Navy wife, Navy spouse, military spouse knows the one I’m talking about … Homecoming.
If you haven’t lived it, you probably think I’ve lost it. Homecoming? Seeing your sailor for the first time in months? Wonderful and very good, yes! Terrible and no good? What the hell?!?
Let me explain.
Hollywood and the media would have you believe that “Homecoming” is one single day of pretty dresses and perfect red lipstick, happy children dressed in their red, white, and blue finest, and handsome sailors striding toward their families smiling broadly as they wrap muscled arms around a wife ever so tearfully grateful to see them, hold them once again.
Fade to black.
Hollywood and the media know nothing. Let me share.
Homecoming for me begins about two weeks before the proposed Big Day. It begins when I notice that the milk in my fridge will expire AFTER my sailor comes home. Unspoiled milk makes it real.
He’s coming home! He’s coming home! He’s coming home …
The list making begins in earnest. Entire household deep clean. Fantastic homecoming dress. Matching children. Happy children! Pull out the glitter, kids, we’re making homecoming signs!!!
Then the worry sets in … will he care that I haven’t lost the weight I swore I would lose when he left? Will he have lost more weight then me … AGAIN? Will he see that I cut my hair? Will he hate it? Love it? Notice?
Will he be different? Am I?
I spend 13 days of those two weeks in a panic. Is the house clean enough? Should I plan a dinner? Should I dress up or go comfortable for the inevitable hours long wait? Will it be weird seeing him again … sharing the bed, the remote …the bathroom.
The Big Day
He’s coming home today. There’s no turning back. Shower, shave, and beautify (as best I can). I decide to go comfortable but cute. I decide to let the kids dress themselves. I decide that the house is as good as its going to get, and I decide that he likes McDonald’s so that will do, too.
I decide these things because fear, self-consciousness, and LIFE have kept me too busy in the last two weeks to really spend much time shopping or tweezing or cooking more than the meals we have eaten. It’s amazing how life doesn’t stop because I want to plan the perfect homecoming.
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I still had to work. The kids still went to school. There were still grocery shopping trips, PTA meetings, laundry and dishes, boo-boos to kiss, bedtime stories to read, scholarship applications to proof, and homework to check.
Comfortable cute it is.
I am waiting anxiously. We do search a sea of faces for his. We do hug and kiss and cry and kiss some more. We do wave signs, and take him home with us …
And then the work of Homecoming begins.
He didn’t know we’d changed bedtimes. He yelled at the kids.
He didn’t know I’d rearranged the living room. He didn’t like his new seat.
He doesn’t like the new sheets; he missed the old ones.
He has grown accustomed to leading, to shouting, to people who just do what he says. I don’t “deal well” with following or being shouted at, and I’ve never been one to do as I’m told.
I missed cooking for him, but I didn’t know he’d eaten chicken every day for two months. I made chicken enchiladas on day 2.
I missed him, but I didn’t/don’t/won’t ever miss the “boat smell” that permeates the house for a few days.
I forgot how much less room there is in one bed with two people, one of whom has been sleeping in a confining rack for three months.
The kids fight for his time and attention as he adjusts to teenager huffs, toddler rambles, and four women of varying ages vying for his time.
To call it an adjustment is an understatement.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a whole lotta wonderful in those days.
Seeing his smile and the dimple in his chin that I’ve missed kissing.
Watching him read stories to the youngest and listen to teenager tales.
Sitting beside him on the couch I no longer have to sit on alone.
There is a lot of wonderful.
It’s just tempered by an equal amount of real.