Many of us journey home for the holidays. Or, for a couple of weeks in the summer. Or, in September because we miss our moms, or our friends, or Imo’s Pizza.
For me, there is true comfort in going back to the place in which I grew up, where my family and childhood friends still live. I have roots there. And, even though my kids have never technically lived in my hometown, they have roots there as well. They have people outside of our four walls who count the days until they can be together.
It fills my heart with joy to see my girls in the company of people other than their father and myself who love them unconditionally. It makes me happier than I can describe to see my mom, who exclusively watches murder-related shows, snuggled in bed with her two little buddies and some popcorn watching Minions for the 78th time.
It thrills me to see my dad and my big girl pouring over their Sam’s shopping list, forgetting to jot down the mobile home sized Frozen castle and trough of Fruit Loops they always seem to bring home. On every trip.
I love going home.
I love getting to binge watch Real Housewives with my sister and go shopping with my aunt. I even love getting pestered to go work out by my old softball coach. I’ve been told my cardio is fine, but my strength needs a lot of work…..
Many of my military friends think it’s weird that go I home as often as I do. But, it makes me feel like a whole person again whenever I feel like I don’t quite belong.
All of this being said, it is primarily on me to make the effort to travel home.
I have taken more than 30 flights to and from St. Louis, 98 percent of which have been me flying solo with one or two small children. My oldest daughter, Kathie Lee, is a non-issue. She was born to travel, as evidenced by the funniest passport photo in the history of passports. My Little One, Hoda, on the other hand, is karma that is punishing me for not tipping well or littering in a past life.
All of these trips have been at the very least moderately stressful. Some have been 24+ hours door to door. Some have been equally as pleasurable as attending a 4th grade recorder concert, for 30 hours. I have sprinted through three terminals with a backpack, a Snacklebox and an infant strapped to my chest more times than I can count.
My first solo trip home I was told that I could board my connecting flight in Paris, but that 6-month-old Kathie Lee could not because she didn’t have a proper boarding pass. Naturally I flipped out, and asked the very fancy gate agent with the Hermes scarf where she supposed this enfant originated. I further inquired if she assumed I had fashioned this child out of Chanel No. 5, brie and macarons in the 23 minutes I had to run the 10k from my arriving gate. She was not amused. The Ugly American thing did not work, so I cried. We made it on the plane just in time.
These long trips also cost a lot.
A lot of money, a lot of marital capital and a lot of leave. We have spent money that could have paid off my student loan or money that could have purchased enough brie to actually sculpt a small child out of and then eat. Or, money to travel to Paris. My husband has always been exceptionally supportive of me going home, but the time away from his family and financial commitment are a tough pill to swallow when he is required to stay and work.
So, I have to eat smoked offal meats for a month and be really excited to watch him play Zelda. Again.
Additionally, when my husband has been fortunate enough to be granted leave and join us, it’s also costing him, or any active duty member, leave.
If I’m being honest, he’d much rather be drinking peaty Scotch that tastes only slightly better than jet fuel on a remote island in Scotland, so it’s a constant point of contention in our marriage. But, in the end, he knows how important it is to me, and how excited my girls are to swim with their cousins and friend cousins, so we go home. To my home and to his home.
I’ve got a good one.
It’s worth every bit of money and stress and argument in the end. I can deal with all of this because it is a blessing to have people in my life who want to spend as much time with me as possible.
What I can’t deal with is that after we have expended all of these resources, we are expected to figure out the logistics of each and every visit and then be the ones to make the rounds.
After we’ve traveled for a day and a half, we are the ones who get to drive the 15 or 30 or 60 minutes to visit everyone. Sometimes, it makes more sense to visit your people at their homes because of space issues, or kid issues or whatever, but it still stinks to have to always be the one traveling.
It’s stressful to try to equitably distribute your time in an appropriate way and not hurt anyone’s feelings.
STRESSFUL, I tell you.
I know in my heart that my family and friends are all coming from a good place, and in the end, that’s what matters. I know they are just excited to see us because they love us and miss us.
But, by the Hammer of Thor, give us a break, will you people!? We are trying. We want to see you. We also want to see everyone else. We also want you to watch our kids, so we can have a night out and not have to pay a babysitter.
Looking through this post, I notice that I have used the word “stressful” quite a bit. I have thought a lot about posting this anonymously because I know I am going to make some folks upset. I have a feeling everyone would know it was me anyway.
I hope that instead of hurt feelings, it helps everyone to understand how much pressure most military families and individual service members are under when they make the journey home.
There have been some trips in which we have left feeling exhausted. These trips are supposed to be, by their very definition, restful and relaxing. R & R, right?
Service members spending time at home in the middle of a deployment should be able to decompress. Families coming home to spend time with their loved ones should be able to enjoy themselves and not constantly feel like they are under the gun to make it to the next meet and greet.
They should be able to feel like after they have made the effort to travel home, that you want to be with them enough to drive the 45 minutes to meet them.
When your loved one comes home the next time, you be the one to offer up a visit. You come to them. I am certain they will excitedly jump at the chance to get together with you and be eternally grateful for the opportunity to actually relax on their vacation a bit.