Updated: Dec 16, 2020
As a military spouse, you receive a lot of sage advice along the way. Sometimes it's so true you should find a local tattoo artist, because you are going to need it way more than once. When we got orders to the UK, I heard time and time again these wise words: "The first 6 months are hard, but make no mistake by nine months it's home." In my head, I imagined it to be much like a flight. The take off is turbulent, loud, and it makes you uneasy because there is a lack of control as gravity is trying to pull you back and momentum is pushing you forward. After a steady climb your breathing becomes consistent and you know you just have to wait for the six month ding. Suddenly, a calming voice comes over, "we have reached our cruising altitude and the captain has turned the seat belts signs off, you are free to move about the cabin. Ding." This is ironic imagery. I use to have a strong fear of flying. So bad, that it took me 6 months of counseling to be able to board a flight without rewriting my last will and testament or clutching the stranger's hand next to me. My past in-flight behavior attracts friends and enemies rather quickly. Our plane ride to England was the FIRST time I had no issues from take off to touch down. Personally, this was a pretty big deal as it was proof the money I spent, and the months of self induced emotional abuse had paid off. It should also be noted they did not serve alcohol on our flight, so I did it sans cocktails too. After exiting the plane, I remember thinking, okay, next step,I just need to wait for the proverbial ding for this place to feel like home.
Somehow, it's already December which marks a few important milestones: the final stretch to six months, the first time I have been on my own with three kids in a foreign country and my introduction to Christmas in London. Where in the hell are those brown paper sacks to breathe into when you need them? Are those still available on flights or is everyone sneaking travel sized vodkas these days?
Let's start with Zac's first official trip. The trip really consisted of a few days of meetings but due to Covid and quarantine the visit was inflated for safety. This, of course, is old hat for us. Periods of separation are hard for sure, but they are also guaranteed and so we make the best of them. What I am never quite braced for, is what military wives like to call "the curse." Basically, the moment your husband is out of reach, shit will inevitably hit the fan. From the dishwasher flooding to a kid breaking an arm, or even worse in my eyes, a kid coming home with lice. Ick, are you feeling itchy? I suddenly feel itchy. On that particularly dreadful occasion, I stayed up till three a.m. washing every stitch of fabric and coating everything with essential oils in the hopes that I did not have to burn my house down. I used so many treatments on my kid's hair that they started to look like scarecrows. When Zac phoned to ask how it was going mid way through my cleaning siege, military husbands always have impeccable timing, I could hear him trying not to laugh at just how comically bad it had gotten just a few days into his leave of absence. No, offense was taken. Mostly because I had to laugh too as my eyes were so irritated from chemicals and crying. "The curse" happens like clockwork and you really just have to gut check and get on with it. It made me no less apprehensive about Zac's trip. Most of the time I have zero fear, because I am usually surrounded by a legion of military wives who can change tires, jump batteries and fashion tourniquets at a moments notice. I jumped Zac's truck off on the way to pick him up from his last deployment which was fitting as the entire deployment had been a total turd in the punchbowl. This time though, in a foreign country... It's me, myself, Jack, Jim and Jameson. They can't fashion tourniquets but they do make a great old fashions! In fact, I had an old fashion on night two of Zac's departure. After my car stalled on the exit of a motorway sending cars swerving to miss my red mini, I had to get it going enough to have it looked at by a local garage. After finding out the repairs needed were substantial, I contacted the dealer only to have to chase and prod them into doing the right thing. Which was to activate the warranty that I paid for when I purchased the car. In speaking to the gentleman that sold me my car, he suddenly began to loudly talk over me as I began outlining the issues at hand. I stoped him. "SIR! Im not going to get into a pissing contest with you. You have two options here: To activate the warranty I paid for, or I will file a complaint detailing your poor attempt at fraud." The whole ordeal entailed a lot of research, scary lawyer terms and 72 phone calls back and forth but I managed. Right up until I was driving Zac's car and his "Check Engine" light came on. I screamed out, "Mother Trucker!" over the sound of British talk radio. "The curse," is really a thing.
What does it take to break a curse? The short answer: ONE magical day in London at Christmas time! The first week of Zac's departure coincided with the end of the second lockdown and so to get me out of my funk, I bought a morning train ticket into the city for a day adventure. There is nothing like a frosty morning, coffee in hand, boarding a train to do something... or nothing! It may just be my favorite. I love to sit back in my seat, my favorite music in my ears, "people watching" while the train carries me away. With not much of a plan that day, the closer the train came to Marylebone Station, the higher the lump of anticipation rose in my throat. It paled in comparison to what my eyes where about to see. After exiting the train we took the tube to Piccadilly Circus, note, it's not a circus, just a stop in the theatre district. When my feet reached the top of the tunnel stairs I was greeted to a large bronze statue of the winged guardian Anteros. It was breathtaking. Anteros, clutching his bow and arrow, looked like he was motioning us to continue on. "This way girl. You have arrived." Anterous is practically nude, beefy and pointing towards shopping. (I love this city.) Even under an overcast sky, the brightly lit windows and colorful displays at Fortnum & Mason, Liberty's and Carnaby Street overwhelmed my senses. Almost like when my eyes were burning from lice treatments but the opposite. Walking inside each store made me feel like a little kid. I wanted to touch EVERYTHING, buy EVERYTHING, take picture of EVERYTHING. Even ascending up the escalators at Selfridges was dreamy, like living in a music box full of light. I loved it all. But most of all I wanted to share and enjoy it all. From the whimsical to the classic, every Christmas niche was represented as we popped in and out of shops along Oxford Street. Best described, it was Christmas, on crack. It was enough to make me remember even through the lens of a pandemic, that this time of year is a beautiful thing.
Best described, it was Christmas on crack.
So, let's recap. I am cruising down the track, coffee in hand and my check engine light on. Would it be an adventure if there wasn't turbulence? As I round the corner to the six month mark there are some things that shocked even THIS military wife.
First, who knew this blog that began as a way to stay in contact with home, would become my creative outlet? Growing up, my mother would sometimes tell me to write down my honest feelings when things happened, so that in time, I could go back and see the growth in black and white. Mona wasn't wrong. Through writing our highs and our lows, I have been able to connect and reconnect with friends and family all while seeing how far we are from the people that stepped off that plane in July. Second, imagine my great surprise when subscriber emails I knew to be friends and family, lead to subscribers I've never met. Just stopping by to read about one family's relocation story and sometimes, share their own. It's a little like a community therapy session with strangers, but it helps! Third, I now have a place to house not only our overseas adventures, but our favorite family recipes, crafting attempts and cocktail endeavors. I have wanted to do that for years! Finally, I could never have foreseen how our friends and family would work so hard to stay in communication with us. Our current time zone is quite difficult to navigate, but technology and coffee at dinner time have kept us in such regular contact with our loved ones that home doesn't always feel so far away. So while we have all been asked to "socially distance,"somehow, this blog is like a bridge to our people, our past and our favorite places.
In my mind, I am still on the plane not quite yet reaching our cruising altitude. I'm getting comfortable in the turbulence. The good news, I no longer have to drink the warm vodka concealed in my purse to calm my nerves. Because I believe in the sage advice I've been given. Patience IS a virtue. I am just going to sit back and wait for the ding.
Hope you are having the happiest of holidays! Stay tuned! Putting together a list of the "Top 5 Favorite Christmas Traditions I've uncovered in England.
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