This last week, memories have been coming in hard and heavy, reminding me what military life can be like. Right this moment I feel like we’re living a somewhat normal life. My husband is on shore duty and we’re going to be in our own house for Christmas. But…this hasn’t been the norm.
There were all those special trips to see Santa – not just to tell him what Lego set was wanted that year, but with special requests. We’ve let a mall Santa or two know that we’d be staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s house on Christmas Eve. And there was the year we asked Santa if he could, please, come a day early because Dada had duty on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t sure if the mall Santa would get it, but he played along with a jolly laugh. “Of course I can! I was going to be really busy Christmas Eve anyway!”
These memories brought back even more. I thought about years where Scott wasn’t around for Christmas at all. A few years we sent a package of non-perishable gifts for him to unwrap. You might not believe me, but it can be tricky to find a Christmas card in August or September to send to sea with your Sailor. I remember the card he made me underway that showed up unexpectedly in the mail one year. The creativity that can be witnessed in military families makes me smile.
Prior to having kids I remember simply postponing the holidays sometimes. We wives might go home for the actual holiday or get together with some wine and chocolate that night. The feast, though, would be enjoyed after the boat got home. Ugly Christmas sweaters in February and everyone feels good and confident about that decision!
I enjoy sifting through the times we had with friends, with family, with each other…and without. I know that those hard years are in the past for us. We’re done with sea duty. My husband’s time at sea is in our past. I type that with mixed feelings, truly. There’s a lot of love that goes with sea duty – boat family, especially. I’m quite happy, though, that he’s back on land with us from here on out.
We’re just one family, though. There are still families trying to put up Christmas lights during refit. Essentially that means that the sailor is ‘still home’ but not really. His hours are insane and sporadic. It’s rough on everyone. And he probably doesn’t care about cookie day. But, he’ll go to a last minute one thrown together because two of the wives realize that their husbands should (fingers crossed) both be home on Friday night.
There are still families wondering if they should ask Santa to come early or thinking about how to package a little bit of tradition in a shoe box for him to open in a few weeks.
There are still families facing first patrols, first holidays without their boyfriend or wife. There are sailors trying to figure out how to have flowers delivered after their gone or who to give a few dollars for a box of chocolate that might hand deliver a letter he had a chance to write.
These cool winter nights, as you take your family to see the lights or enjoy warmed cider together while chopping down a tree, think about those families. Send up some extra love for those families.
I know this phenomenon isn’t restricted to submarine families or even Sailors. So, feel free to spread your love and energy around. And, for the record, it’s also not limited to Christmas time. Send a little comforting energy to the troops and their families during every season. Who’s it gonna hurt?