(This piece was later published on Military Spouse’s web site. Click here to read.)
Yesterday, you showed up on our doorstep. I turned to my husband and said, “I can’t believe this is happening,” and he said, “You say that every time.” But I can’t believe this is happening; I can’t believe you’re already here again.
“It’s Moving Day,” you told me. “It’s Moving Day, and I’m going to spend the next eight hours piling your belongings into boxes. If you hear a crash, a bump, or a dump, just turn away. It’s Moving Day, and this what happens on Moving Day.”
You callously pushed past me, barged into my house like you owned it. You picked up my picture frames, rooted through my closet, emptied my drawers, boxed up my kids’ most precious keepsakes. You arrived at a home, but left it an unsettled, uncomfortable fortress of cardboard. What was once our sanctuary has been reduced to a staging area of labeled cargo. I can still sit on my couch, but in a moment you’ll remind me, “I’m going to need to take that. It’s Moving Day, and this is what happens on Moving Day.”
So I’ll sit on a step, lean against a wall, curl up with a book, a magazine, or a newspaper, and I’ll pretend to read, but you and I both know I won’t be reading. I’ll be watching you, instead. I’ll be pretending there are no knots in my stomach when you haul our custom-built Turkish furniture through the narrow doorways. I’ll blink away tears when you clear out my kids’ playroom, and I’ll blame it on the glare from my iPad. I’ll grimace when you drop boxes in my driveway like they have nothing more than blankets inside. You’ll look at me and shrug. “It’s Moving Day,” you’ll say, “and this is what happens on Moving Day.”
But don’t remind me that “this is what I signed up for.” As if I could ever forget that. And don’t act like you’re assuming control. You’re not. I’ve been preparing for you for months, and I’m onto your wiles.
In fact, I’ve seen you lurking around my home for weeks now, sneaking in and out of rooms, swooping through conversations, steering my car, wrenching muscles in my shoulders and squeezing my head. You’ve made me say things to my husband that I didn’t mean to say, and you’ve made him do the same to me. You’ve made my kids watch more TV than they probably should, and you’ve made them endure a very tired mother whose back is weary from bending low to pick up, wipe down, scour, and scrub. You’ve made me tell them, “I’ll play with you in a minute. Just let me finish packing, stacking, organizing, arranging.” Funny thing is, that minute never ends. You’ve made my husband bear heavy loads at home, even as he comes back from work exhausted from finishing important projects. You’ve made me guilty for asking him to help with things that I couldn’t finish; I wish I didn’t have to burden him. You’ve made my son look around at the changes and ask, “Mom, if this isn’t our home anymore then where do we really live?”
But here’s what I have to say to you, PCS, you sneaky little beast, who hides behind a vague, euphemistic, and somewhat faulted acronym:
I know who you are, and I know how you roll, and there’s nothing “Permanent” about this “Change of Station.” This is the time when we add another notch on our bedpost, another picture on our wall, another link in our chain, another thumb tack on our map. “This is from our time in DC,” we’ll tell visitors, and some will say, “I don’t know how you do it.” I’ll throw up a dismissive hand, and say, “It’s nothing.”
Because you are nothing. I know this is a part of the mad game that is military life. And I know that when you load the last box on that massive truck, turn around and smirk at me, arms crossed across your chest, you’ll think you’ve won. You, like some others, will take pity on me, but in a more sinister way, because after all you were the one who emptied my home.
But when you feel my heel connect first to your groin, then to your throat, you’ll realize that the three people standing behind me – my husband, my son, my daughter, and yes, even my loyal dog – they are my home, and you can’t ever, won’t ever, take them with you. You’ve got nothing on them. Stew on that.
I know you’ll visit us again, PCS, I know you will. But next time, please remember how I look standing over you, and remember how you’re too stunned and weak to get up. And remember what I whispered in your ear after I kicked you down:
“It’s Moving Day, and this is what happens on Moving Day.”