Twenty-one years. That’s how long my husband has been a sailor in the United States Navy. It’s a fact we’re proud of and humbled by. I have been involved in all of those years. We’ve only been married for not even eighteen years yet, but we’ve known each other for over thirty years. We were friends when he joined out of high school and now we’re husband and wife and parents to three children.
Twenty-one years of this Navy life and it’s been…everything. From the availability of leave determining when we could get married to the realization that our 14-year-old has lived in seven different homes, not including the ten months we spent in our travel trailer. Our adult lives and the only lives our children have ever known have been this Navy life.
What does that all mean? Sometimes I have no idea!
Sometimes I think it’s probably not really all that different from any other kids growing up, getting married, figuring out life, having kids of their own, and realizing they’re on the verge of turning 40 and looking back at what they’ve done with the first half of their lives.
Other times I’m quite certain that Navy life is it’s own beast. Months of little to no contact with the person who balances me probably isn’t the most normal way of starting a marriage. Making friends and leaving them behind isn’t the standard way of settling into adulthood or raising children. Getting used to the quirks of new locations and learning local cultural norms time and again is not something everyone has to or gets to do in their lives.
This Navy life.
Sometimes it gets me down. Then I sigh in French. Sighing just sounds better in French.
Other times, though, this Navy life brings me joy. It brings laughter. It brings change and growth. It brings contented sighs at the end of long days. In English. Contented sighs are simply deep breaths let out for me. They’re centering and grounding.
This Navy Life.
Today we got a little care package in the mail. It was addressed to our youngest son, from one of his friends back in Washington, where we moved from most recently. He got some toys and goodies to play with. It was so sweet and thoughtful! And then we pulled out postcards signed by so many of our friends. We felt the hug of the people we used to see every day. It was such a small gesture, with such a big impact.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been juggling the question of, “Would our kids be the people they are today if they’d been raised in the same town their whole lives?” It almost seems ridiculous to type out loud. Of course they wouldn’t be. I wouldn’t be either. Would we be better off or worse off? Who knows and what’s it matter? I mean, really. Better or worse isn’t even worth wasting energy considering. But, let’s all agree that we’d all be different.
In that, I think it’s fair to say that the incredible people our children are becoming is, at least, in part due to this Navy life. It’s easy to see their tears when we pull them apart from those last hugs when it’s time to move. It’s easy to be worn down by the daily repetition of, “I don’t want to leave,” for months before we actually do. It’s easy for the hardships to be louder than what’s positive.
What I’ve realized, though, is that there is so much to be thankful for in this Navy life. There is so much to be content with.
Ah…this Navy life.
We have learned a little about a lot of places and people. A few years ago we learned about the Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, Dakotas, New Mexico, and Northeast…all by living in those areas or stopping at museums and landmarks on our adventurous relocation trips! Not out of books…but standing in the places they stood. A few weeks ago, on a field trip to an old tavern in Alexandria, our daughter, a Hamilton fan, excitedly told me, “LaFayette was here! Washington was here! Hamilton could have been here too…in this same tavern!”
We have friends that we’ve made in four different states. Those friends have also moved here and there. Our network of people is literally everywhere. Postcards mean love…and we spread it everywhere!
We’ve gotten to see the largest hot air balloon event in the world, twice. We’ve road tripped to the Grand Canyon, White Sands National Monument, Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, and Mt. St. Helens. We’ve eaten at the top of the Space Needle. We’ve visited the oldest settlement in the US, St. Augustine. We’ve learned directly from the descendants of the Natives who lived in Massachusetts exactly what the Plymouth Plantation was like. We’ve even wandered through Roswell. The memories we’ve made as a family are pretty incredible!
Excitement, connections, fond memories and pictures…
Ah…this Navy life.