We’re coming up on our ten-year wedding anniversary. We have lived in 8 houses, in 4 states, and 2 countries. The thing is, even when we’re settled, even when our house is decorated, and it feels like our house and even when we have friends who will take our kids when there’s an emergency and even when we have friends to have over for Thanksgiving. We still miss the other places. Even the places that I thought I hated, that were hard. There are things from every single place we have ever lived that I miss. I’m leaving little bread crumbs of myself all over, not just in the US, but throughout the world. Or maybe I’m picking up the bread crumbs left me by others. I can’t decide who is taking and who is giving. I leave a piece of myself behind everywhere and I take little pieces with me. It’s messy.
It was a terrible realization. After our second Army move, we compared everything to the first post and everything fell short. Nothing would ever live up to that first one. But even in the midst of that drizzly, lonely time, there were good things that I miss. At the next post, I found myself missing things I hadn’t thought I’d miss. The problem was, I wasn’t supposed to miss that place. I hated that place. I was so glad to leave that place and it was such a hard place. But it’s still somehow a part of me. I want to be mad about it. I don’t want that place to live inside of me and yet, I took part of it with me.
One of the problems with this Army life is that we will always be a little bit in other places. We will always have a favorite unit or house and they might be in different states. At our birthday party, we’ll wish that friends from several duty stations could be there. We’ll pine for not only people and places but a moment in time, that time before the Longs moved and our group of friends was perfect and complete. I want Cottle strawberries from South Carolina and Olympia farmers market blueberries at the same time.
I guess other people do this, too. But when you change locations every two years and begin the process of making your house look like home, creating a friend group, and finding your place it is so much more glaring. And when we do have things nearly perfect, the pieces nearly the way we imagine them, the friends move, or we move and we start all over again.
I am scattered. The people and places I love are all over the world. Some of my best friends have children I have never met. It would be easy to mourn this scattering, this dividing of my love, my community. But it makes my community ever wider.
It also encourages me to let more people in. In this military life, you’ll meet a mom on the playground and thirty minutes later ask if she’ll be your kid’s emergency contact for school. Because you have to have one to register him for school, but you’ve been there a day and a half and you don’t know anyone else yet. She says yes and doesn’t even think it’s weird because she’s been there, too and oh my God, what a bizarre life we live. And you’ll bring meals to that new mom who showed up to PWOC only twice when her baby comes because you know she doesn’t have people yet. You may not be her best friend at this duty station but right now, right now, she doesn’t have people yet so, today, you are her people. People post in the spouse Facebook group, saying when their due date is, asking if anyone can keep their older children when they’re in labor. It’s so heartbreaking but at the same time, it’s beautiful because all these people say yes because they also gave birth just weeks after moving to a new duty station. That’s the life we lead. There is always room for one more at the table.
So I have all these friends all over the world who will watch my oldest child while my second child is being born. And I have all these people willing to be my emergency contact and people who will drop ginger ale and saltines at my door when we have the stomach flu and who will surprise me with a book launch party and help me clean my house before a move.
And it’s hard that they’re all not HERE, RIGHT NOW but there are so many of them. And you know what? There will be even more at the next duty station. I’ll find more people and things to love. I’m just dropping and picking up bread crumbs everywhere I go, finding my way. I’m widening the circle, inviting people in, enjoying the blueberries in spite of the rain.