It’s time for the kids to bounce off the walls, slide on the floor, and hang off the ceiling, but they can’t jump on the couch. It’s gone. The moving truck just left, taking with it all of your worldly goods. You are sans Legos and a few days from being temporarily homeless and friendless, once again. The kids look up at you, a tear in their eye for Barbies they’re sure they’ll never hold again. What now?
Empty house party!
We started this tradition when our more frequent moves began to correspond unnaturally with our daughter’s August birthday. There isn’t much that is more more miserable than a home-for-the-summer, preadolescent who just knows by the time her birthday comes that either all her friends will have moved on, or she’ll be the one in a new place with no friends.
The concept is easy. We have no stuff, so friends bring their stuff over to share for the event.
Over the years, the empty house party has evolved from an epic slumber party to an all day come-and-go affair for the whole family. The kids look forward to it for weeks, taking their minds off the fact that they will soon be without toys and friends. It also gives me and my husband a chance to relax and hang out with friends without worrying about cooking, messes, or breakage. It’s an empty house in desperate need of a good scrubbing. Do your worst munchkins and friends!
The empty house party isn’t just a fun excuse for a party, or a drawn out goodbye. It is akin to the song we play at the beginning of every road trip and the popcorn we painstakingly string at Christmas. It is a sign to our family that, although we may be moving on to the next post, those who have shared more holidays with us than blood relatives will remain an important part of our lives, regardless of where we may live.
The empty house party gives the littles something to look forward to when they are having difficulty with the transition. It also helps their friends. Seeing the empty house forces a concrete understanding that change is coming, and their friends really are leaving. At the same time, it allows all ages a chance to say their “see ya laters” in a casual unhurried atmosphere.
With its ability to give all ages a healthy way to peruse the myriad emotions a PCS brings to the surface, the empty house party will remain a cherished tradition within our family long after we have left this life behind, if only in our memories. Throughout the day, we talk, laugh, hug, and sometimes cry. Not until it’s over do we clean – symbolically readying ourselves for the next stop on our path to forever flowers.
Without a healthy way to channel the feelings and emotions we experience, they can take over, overwhelming our efforts, and leaving us firmly in their clutches. Traditions like this one allow us constants in our ever changing lives, opening up subtle pathways to process our emotions. Psychologically, traditions balance us. This life, full of ‘pleased to meet you’ and ‘see you later,’ would be too much for us if we didn’t have healthy ways set in place to handle the fallout.
Like everything, life as a Milfam is filled with its good and bad. PCS season embraces both edges of this sword. Leaving our home where we have carved out a place for ourselves to grow, love, laugh, and cry is never easy (and that’s before dealing with the rental company’s cleaning list!). We smile and say things like “See ya later” and “Maybe we’ll have a bigger house, yard, better shopping …” all with an unshed tear for the place and people we’re leaving.
My seven-year-old summed up PCSing best when she was asked about our move by the umpteenth well-meaning family member. She said, “The Army is making us go, so we might as well like it.” In our family, we refer to this as embracing the suck, and we encourage it.