It’s that time of year again…
Holiday parties are in full swing, trees glitter through frosted windows, and the eggnog pours freely. Festive movies dance across our television screens all month long; and if one were to pull away from the neverending lineup of fantastically sappy Hallmark productions, chances are good that a classic isn’t far behind. While I’m partial to the Disney version (I mean, who doesn’t love that old curmudgeon, Scroodge McDuck?), any rendition of A Christmas Carol is a welcome holiday treat.
These days, though, I find that it appeals not just to nostalgic whimsy, but to my experiences as a military spouse.
And no, it’s not because my husband is a veritable Bob Cratchet, working long, unforgiving hours at a job that often pulls him away from his family on important occasions. I’m not quite as jaded as Ebenezer… yet.
Instead, I find that my own ghosts of past, present, and future follow me through the years. Happily, like Dickens’s classic work, most of them are surprisingly positive. Unlike his tale, however, my ghosts persist—through new duty stations, new experiences, and new challenges.
And while they all make appearances from time to time, it’s the Ghost of Milspouse Friends Past that visits most often. This one sprinkles the memories of good times and good friends over my current reality, so that—unlike Mr. Scrooge—it doesn’t take a great epiphany near the end of my life to realize how blessed I have been.
The Ghost of Milspouse Friends Past presents itself at dinner parties, FRG events, coffee meet-ups, and even job interviews. It provides me a glimpse of people I’ve left behind through the eyes of mutual friends and common duty stations. It whispers “remember” with such repetition that not even the worst HHG moving day can keep me down for long.
And lest you think it’s a vague feeling of shared experiences, let me be clear: this ghost invokes memories of specific people at the most random times, reminding me that this military community of ours is uniquely special.
It showed me Meredith at a park halfway around the world,
and Meg at a New Year’s party eight years after we last hugged.
It revealed Anna in a chance meeting in my backyard
and Melissa around a kitchen table thousands of miles from our California abodes.
It reminds me of Sharon at Thanksgiving,
of Bethany when I pick up a good book,
Camay when I have a good laugh,
and Ali when I need a big hug.
I see the geo bachelors we loved through Christmases far from home
and those who loved me through my husband’s deployment.
Claire and Zee are with me as I write,
while Brittany is there every time I crack a joke at my husband’s expense.
Liz reminds me to fight for what I believe in, even when it’s lonely
and Stephanie appears any time I need a helping hand.
It shows me Krista when I need to let loose,
and Astrid when I sip a delicious Bavarian beer.
There are many more, as you well know. For we all have our own Brittanys and Annas and Stephanies and Alis. You have your people, your tribe. They haven’t all met, and never will. Many exist independent of one another, but they all work together to make you the person you are today.
To my tribe: I see glimpses of you—all of you, as I walk through this topsy-turvy military life.
You cross my mind more often than my postcard crosses your doorstep. And for that, I am sorry. But your continued presence in my life is as real as the laughter we shared and the tears we shed. The Ghost of Milspouse Friends Past ensures your memory is not lost to time but enriches my present and my future.
Luckily, because this friendly ghost follows me along my military spouse journey, the Ghost of Christmas Future will (hopefully) never present itself as the terrifying vision Dickins portrays—because every one of you keeps me grounded and successful. Even, and especially when, that happy ghost sends me a reminder of you seemingly out of nowhere.
While many people spend the holidays with the family and friends they love most, this simply isn’t possible in our world.
Our loved ones, to include these cherished friends, are scattered across every part of the earth. Because we are so lucky, they number far beyond any realistic get-together. Our military friends’ time in our life may be short or long—perhaps just a season, sometimes even less. If we’re lucky, the military grants us the gift of multiple years.
But our physical time together is always temporary, and that may be exactly what bonds us so closely. It’s intense and it’s memorable because it’s never more than a screenshot in the scope of our lives—just as fleeting and intangible as the scenes of Scrooge’s past.
So while the occasional “bah humbugs” may get us down, we milspouses are equipped with enough love and happiness to keep us merry. And we have our Ghosts of Milspouse Friends Past to keep us company during the holidays season and all year ’round.