The Next Chapter: A Military Spouse Edition

tumblr_static_6gpu12epdoso8oowks4scg08sA (mostly) light-hearted look at my transition from Working Girl to Military Spouse. And why GEORGIA is on my mind…

Regular readers know that the past year was a flurry of change: I quit my job, got married, moved to Italy, learned another language, and assumed the role of military spouse. Conversely, 2016 was slated to be all kinds of laid back – travel, visits with friends, Saturday nights eating pizza on the couch. But these dreams were dashed when (dun dun dun!) Billy received an “exciting” leadership position in rural Georgia. Beginning in three months.

My reaction was nothing short of shock and awe. And anger. Definitely anger.

Welcome to the Family
In order to understand this reaction, dear Reader, we need to back up a bit. The Italian culture isn’t the only one I’ve been submerged in these many months; I’ve also been navigating (ever so tentatively) the terrain of my new military community.

Initially, it didn’t feel like my community at all. The self-important acronyms, the uniforms, the armed guards on my way to yoga – not really my scene. People were friendly though, often declaring, “Welcome to the family!” I responded as I do to all organizations that tout their mission or recruit too enthusiastically: with suspicion. But I had nothing against the military per se and, in my defense, I show the same ambivalence towards organized religion, political camps, and anyone who subscribes too fervently to the Paleo diet. The people were kind, the base was adequate… but it was Billy’s domain. Not mine.

Come to think of it… everything was Billy’s. The coworkers were Billy’s, the promotions were Billy’s, even the social security number given at my medical appointments was Billy’s! When asked to confirm my place in the organization, I routinely checked the box marked Dependent. Gross. Not that I didn’t have “opportunities” too – going to spouse luncheons or maybe taking an entry level job for a third of my normal pay… Ugh. Where was Independent Malia? I missed her.

Then, I decided to roll with it – we were only abroad for a year or so right? When we returned to the States, Billy would work on base and I’d be back in the office. Life would resume normally. So what if I was a housewife for now? It meant every moment William was home, the chores were done and all of our time was quality time. I made dinner every night (even though I hate cooking). I brought side dishes to the Air Force Family picnics (more cooking). I went to International Spouse Club luncheons (yes, that’s a real thing). I cleaned the house (laaaaaame!). I wrote blogs (is anyone reading?). I booked trips (okay, no complaints with this one).

But I did it all, assuming it was temporary. Sure, I was baking casseroles and being spousey, but I was doing it ironically. Like, “Hey guys, watch me wife so hard right now! Ha ha! Can you believe this shit? HILARIOUS!”

Living in rural Georgia made it…. real.

wow-honey-the-house-is-so-clean-was-the-internet-down-today   f9b94f16   9411-peaches

A Fact Finding Mission
So, dear Reader, I was angry. I felt duped, if by no one else than by myself. This new position requires Billy and I to live on base, placing my professional contacts an ambitious commute away in Atlanta. To make matters worse, everyone was trying to make me feel good about it! They said it wasn’t only an opportunity for Billy, it was an opportunity for me too – for me to support him and inspire other spouses by leading by example. Huh? Nice try.

But I didn’t need to be placated, what I needed was information. So I did what anyone scoping out a new love interest or job would do: I cyberstalked. First, I consult a map. Yup, social Siberia. But! The base housing looks nice – that’s a start. Okay, what about the local Spouse Facebook page (every base has one), surely they have some events going on. Let’s see there’s the…

  • Crazy Hat Luncheon – The First Of Its Kind!   (Mmm, no thanks.) 
  • Knutty Knitters Meet Up   (Tempting… but I’d rather be Netflixing.)
  • All Natural Household Cleaner Class   (That sounds so boring I might die.)

<<Scrolling… scrolling…>>  Ah! Job Opportunities. Here we go!

  • Frito-Lay’s now hiring warehouse workers  (What’s warehouse work?)
  • Looking for volunteers to work the upcoming dog show… on POOP PATROL!!   (Sweet mother of god. Am I being Punk’d?!)

I needed help. I couldn’t talk to Billy, after all it was his overachieving that got us into this Middle (of nowhere) Georgia pickle, was it not? No, I needed someone else. And that’s when I did something drastic (for me) – I reached out. I messaged the Spouse Facebook page, explaining our upcoming move and inquiring about the area.

To my surprise, I had a response within minutes: “I read your message. It would be best to talk on the phone.” Signed, Hope.

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Then There Was Hope…
Hope introduces herself as a long time Georgia resident and military spouse. For no reason I can pinpoint, I like her immediately. And I’ll say this for the woman: she made me no promises, she told me no lies.

“Listen. I’m not gonna blow smoke up your butt. You asked about restaurants and fun and I thought, oh no! I need to talk to this woman. Bless your heart honey, we don’t really have any of that here!” she chuckles. “Don’t get me wrong though. Georgia livin’ is pleasant, but sloooowwwww. The good news is, it’s a great place to raise a family. My kids can’t fart in this town without me knowing about it.”

………. a long, pregnant pause falls over the line (if you will)……

Ignoring that comment, I tell Hope this is Billy’s first command position. When she asks which squadron he will be commanding,  I venture, “Umm… the finance one?” The Comptroller Squadron, she informs me (glad someone knows what’s going on).

“So… this means you’ll be a Commander’s Wife!” she says, sounding almost amused.

Yes, I concede. But with no official authority to exact change, I admit I’m not sure what the role entails.

“Well, people may come to you for emotional support. And you need to show face for your husband’s sake but, honey, you don’t need to be one of those wives.”

<<Let’s sidebar, dear Reader… The military takes – and needs – all types. From postal workers to biochemical engineers, every kind of educational and socioeconomic background is present in this community. The same, honestly, can be said of military spouses. But what Hope is referring to here is the occasional spouse who hits the Kool-Aid too hard.

I once heard a woman expound that by doing dishes and folding her husband’s underwear she was allowing him to focus solely on work, thereby protecting our American freedoms and allowing millions to sleep at night knowing they are safe from terrorism. (Is that the national anthem playing in the background?). What in the amber-waves-of-grain was this woman talking about?>>

I tell Hope about this conversation and she laughs.

“Folding undies for freedom? Bless her heart!” (It’s at this point I realize the phrase ‘bless your heart’ can be used as a polite, Southern way to call someone a stupid mother fucker). “Here’s the deal,” she continues, “Be yourself, okay? You might need to host the occasional white glove tea party, but BE. YOURSELF.”

White glove tea party? I change the subject, “What about working in Atlanta? I have some contacts there.”

Hope says it’s a haul while stressing, “But you can do it.” I inquire about Macon, a city closer by, and she asks if I carry. A moment passes before I realize she means a gun. 

“…Because I do. I do carry. We’re off the map here but you never know with all this ISIS stuff going on,” she confides.

Judging by everything I’d learned thus far, an appearance by ISIS seemed too much to hope for.  But I did enjoy the idea of Hope and I attending white glove tea parties and strolling under dogwoods while packing heat in our handbags. I smile in spite of myself.

“Hope….what time is it there?” I ask, realizing it was early afternoon in Italy.

“Oh, it’s around 6AM. But never you mind, I saw your message and figured you needed to talk.”

This was a woman I had never met, with whom I shared nearly nothing in common, and she took my call at six in the morning? A small voice in the back of my brain whispers, Welcome to the family. I thank her profusely but Pistol Packing Hope waves me off, insisting I save her number because, “Girl! You’re gonna need it when you get here!”

I hang up the phone and sit quietly for a few minutes. Hope confirmed my small town fears, but I begin to think about why I’m going to Georgia – and it sure as heck isn’t for you, America! It’s for my William. Because, unlike other men before him, he isn’t put off by my independent streak. He never asks me to be a little less so he can feel like he’s a bit more. And because we both know, without question, that the two of us are simply better together.

So now, dear Reader, there’s nothing left to do but get excited about Georgia. In the meantime, I’ll be here – making America great – one load of laundry at a time. USA! USA!

9 thoughts on “The Next Chapter: A Military Spouse Edition

  1. Pingback: MilSpouse Musings | Little Girl, Big World

  2. Pingback: My Love Letter to Italia | Little Girl, Big World

  3. You are the best and do SO WELL expressing yourself with written word!!! I’m sure it’s only a fraction of the angst you feel, but damn girl you make it such an interesting read. I’m hear/here for you however you need, especially once you’re back in the states. When you just need a fellow Bostonian around to snark at people needlessly and ignore passer-buyers as if we didn’t see them, well, I’d be happy to oblige!
    Congrats to Billy, though! A successful Air Force Commander with a hot wife – he’s living the life! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Malia,

    I loved reading this!! So true that the “Where in the heck are you taking me?” happens more often than not. We are a short 3 hr drive away, so come visit! I’d love to get to know you. We’ve had some friends stationed there, so if you want their contact info let me know.

    Cheers to your last few months in Italy!
    Emily

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Malia,

    There are so many things I want to tell you right now. Suffice it to say I will stick with the most important things.

    Fist, I READ EVERYTHING YOU WRITE! I’m not very good at responding but I love what you write, how you draw me into your adventures and experiences. I love how the idea of hardship has never entered my mind before today because I have not heard hardship in any of your messages. I know you don’t have hardship but that everyone experiences events from their own unique perspective…. and again I love yours.

    Second, I believe your absolutely right in your summation. No valor, honor or patriotism can substitute in the loss or sacrifice one makes for the cause they support. While many believe the cause they support is patriotic, religious or honorable in reality the only thing a person can truly make sacrifice for is love. I told you from the beginning I knew you were special and what you are going through, what you will go through is the evidence of that fact.

    Lastly, I gave this speech to my new daughter-in-law when Erin married my son Ryan. We are family now! This means you are flesh-of-my-flesh and bone-of-my-bones. When you suffer I hurt, when you sacrifice I feel your loss. I will do a better job of responding to your experiences. I want you to know I’m here for you. I might be an old, fat man sitting in the middle of nowhere but I’m sitting here reading your posts and dreaming over your pictures. I’m closing my eyes and imagining what its like to be on the hike with you or tasting the wonderful food, or smelling the gunpowder the from the fireworks. I’ll be honest with you and say that I dont try to imagine doing your spin class but I’d like to think I’d enjoy going and watching you do it.

    I’ll close with this. Stay true to what you know… and what you know is the strong independent woman that you are and the love you have for your William. Keep posting and I’ll keep following.

    I’m so proud of you both.

    David Rosado

    >

    Liked by 1 person

    • David! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so happy to know you’ve enjoyed our adventures along with us (except for spin class)! This move comes as quite a shock, but we’ll have fun no matter where we go. Maybe we can arrange to see you and Mary soon! Much love.

      Like

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