Dear Mom…

It was gray and cold today, a day that followed yesterday’s 12 straight hours of chill-you-to-the-bone rain.  Stepping out the door to let the dog out earlier this morning, I shivered at the damp cold in the air and rubbed my hands over goosebumps on my way back inside.  Later, as I put my kids in the car, I recoiled at a few chilly gusts of wind, pulling my face into my coat’s collar.

That’s why, as I drove my kids to preschool, my eyebrows furrowed and my lips pursed when I saw a mom in a T-shirt walking down the street with her small son.  No higher than her hips, her son was yanking his long sleeve T-shirt down around his fists, attempting to pull his arms inside the rest of his shirt while shuffling to keep up with his mom.  He was cold.

“Why don’t you have a coat?” I exclaimed to myself aloud.  “It’s thirty-nine degrees outside!”

In the back seat, my two year old daughter questioned, “Ah wong, Mom?” (What’s wrong, Mom?)

I turned onto a side road and explained what I’d seen, ultimately promising, “No matter what, I will always keep you warm.”

After some brief self-reflection, I added with a drip of humor, “And that’s because I have a constant worry that you are cold.”

My daughter replied a not very convincing “oh” of understanding, and I quietly laughed to myself, knowing I’d inherited that constant worry from my own mother.

Growing up, there were many mornings that I’d awaken to find Continue reading

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All Funked Up

I’ve written a lot about the things I love about the military life.  But you know what?  I can get in a funk about it, too.  Sometimes I feel so over the TDYs, the deployments, the changes, the uncertainties… I’m done! I think to myself.  Just let me plant my roots!  I want roots!

I want the cute little neighborhood with neighbors I’ve known for years, the cracked window panes from rogue baseballs that we never got around to fixing, the dirt under my nails from toiling in my very own garden in my very own yard and the ugly sun hat to go with it (yes, Mike, I hear your objection to the sun hat and the request for a bikini and a killer bod).  I want to decide to put up a porch swing and to be able to just go ahead and do it – no permission from landlords needed, no “nice alternative” considered.  I want to walk into my house that I spent a substantial amount of time searching for and choosing, and I want to walk into it without thinking “it’s only temporary.”  I want to not have to worry so much.

All right, all right… that last line was too much.  Anyone who knows me knows there’s no chance that “worry” would someday not be synonymous with my name.  But anyway…

Sometimes I catch glimpses of all those “wants” in this temporary place we’re calling home, tantalizing suggestions that maybe life isn’t so lacking.  In fact, recently I’ve been catching handfuls of them, and they’ve gotten me thinking about Continue reading

“The House that Built Me”

“Won’t take nothin’ but a memory from the house that built me.” – Miranda Lambert

After you spend a number of years moving around, the  question “Where are you from?” becomes a bit comical to a military family, and it can be surprisingly difficult to answer.  The answer could be anywhere – the town where you were born, the home your parents moved to after you left, the assignment that you loved the most and that feels like home, the assignment you had before this one…

But recently I heard a song, Miranda Lambert’s “The House that Built Me,” which is about a woman retracing memories through her childhood home, and it got me thinking about where I come from… where I really come from: the place I came home to days after I was born, and the place I came home to every day for the next 21 years.  The place that’s in my mind’s eye when I think of home.

My childhood home was idyllic, a near-century-old home with creaky floors, single-sinked bathrooms, and a sprawling yard shaded by two 100-year-old oaks.  In the back, a long driveway that we called our alley was shared by ten houses.  Young kids trampled across backyards, rode bikes up and down the alley, and paid visits to the two elderly sisters living next door to us, who always had a stash of cookies.  Our mothers watched us through kitchen windows and called us in when it started to get dark.

Summers were dreamlike, with crickets chirping, children squealing, cicadas buzzing, breezes blowing, balls bouncing, bicycles whizzing, jump ropes slapping, chalk scraping, feet hopping, popsicles slurping, and cares… not existing.  The sounds of summer hung in that seemingly perpetual pinkish haze just before sunset, when the pure and blissful hearts of children gave exuberant life to a neighborhood that had existed for over a hundred years… and that would continue to exist for hundreds more.

It’s been fourteen years since my parents moved to a newer, shinier place, but when I sleep and dream of home, I’m back in that old house, walking through my bedroom or waving to my best friend across the yard.  And I wonder…

If I were to return, knock on the door as the woman in the song did, who would open the door?  What would I want to say to them, show them?  Would life exist for them as it did for us in that house?  Do they know, do they fully understand how special, how extraordinary  their  neighborhood is?

Do they know that my neighbors and my family experienced Continue reading