Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Talk about Writer's Block. Or maybe life just got in the way. It is April now and Justin has been home for over seven weeks. So much has happened in our little life together that I hesitate to try to cram it all in to one blog post. Life itself isn't quite back to normal, but our life never really was that predictable.

I will try to sum up the feelings we experienced in the very beginning of this reunion. But it's so hard. Sometimes I have to rely on what others have observed, rather than what I was experiencing. It was similar to my wedding day- the way everyone always warns you that you will be so overwhelmed you will remember nothing at all. I remember my girlfriend Jessica Ditto, who was so loyal and loving to be present for the welcome-home ceremony, saying that when he arrived, I had been too calm and collected for my otherwise neurotic personality. We were having this conversation after the family had gone home and after Justin and I had gotten back into our routine. We were standing in our kitchen when she said it. I explained to her that if I'm given the time to prepare my emotions then I know how to get them in check. Throw a wrench in a plan I had at the last minute and I can hardly function.

But I had the time to prepare for this one. 325 days to be exact. I was standing in the Armory, a cold and sterile building, far from the romantic airport setting in which I had imagined us reuniting for so long. But it was 40 degrees farenheit outside and no one, not even for the sake of romance, wanted to catch pneumonia. I was wearing a black dress that had replaced my original choice of a dress with vintage airplanes on it (Mom decided it wouldn't photograph well). My hair was rolled that morning, with a little bobby pin holding up one side. Red lipstick, red nails; I was going for the pinup look. I even found a pair of vintage-looking stockings with the black line down the back (Calypso, Lexington). If the setting were going to be this ugly, I wanted to do as much with it as I could.

The airplane landed on time and we anxiously awaited their arrival, on foot, through the cold doorway. Their commander entered first, followed by a few other guys and then Justin, who was toward the end. I stood out from the line of awaiting family and waited until I caught his eye. Then I walked calmly into his arms and we kissed, right there in front of everyone, and we cried. Then he said, "Want me to dip you?" And that was it. The crowd applauded. We had an audience. They were probably all thinking, "Rookies."

About six weeks before he got home I made the decision to leave my job as national sales manager for Henry Brown. It had been a long and thoughtfelt process to get to that point, but inevitably I felt an overwhelming need to be available, both emotionally and physically, to Justin when he returned. I had a little over a month to get ready for his arrival. I relished every second of it- the anxiousness, the drive, with the greatest goal in mind- to welcome him home safely and honorably without him having to worry about so much as a car wash.

One week after I had been home from work, Justin called and said we needed to make a decision... fast. The guard unit was offering him another "school." It was his choice whether or not to attend the six-week course, and it would be at Fort Rucker, where we had spent the first year of our marriage. I sat there wondering how he could even consider it, given that he was still weeks away from returning from an 11-month deployment. Then he said, "It starts mid-April. Wanna go with me?"

It just so happens that Fort Rucker is less than two hours from the beach and less than 3 hours from all of our family members. It didn't take me long to say yes. We've been here less than two weeks and I have already visited all our old haunts. I'm taking Pilates at the new gym on post, framing lessons from the Art Center, and going antiquing without buying anything since we are now a one-income family. Justin's class schedule is less than challenging. He gets home between 1 and 3 each day and we play frisbee, grill out and occasionally attend cookouts or "Wing Night." We spent our first weekend at Pop's in Auburn, having drinks on his little patio and attending the 280 Boogy in Waverly, AL. Last weekend we made the trek up to Mom and Dad's farm in Clay County where we were visited by friends, Damian Cuttie and Jessica Pate. Lance Miller put on a fine show at the Ashland Theater, despite the warnings of a Category 5 tornado. Sunday, we put the canoes in Crooked Creek and had a fine time with David Mitchell and his gang of hellraisers. In all honesty, we feel a little spoiled. Yes, spoiled. It just doesn't seem right for anyone to have this much fun.

I would like to think we are living our life like "rookies" now. I would like to think that as we celebrate our five-year anniversary next month, we are still a little "green." I hope that's the case anyway. Recently, Justin asked me, "When are we going to stop acting like newlyweds?" One morning last week, as he waited for his ride outside our little on-post efficiency apartment, he turned to me and said, "I love you so much. I'll always love you. You are my best friend." Then he kissed me and got in the car.

I know people feel sorry for us. I know they think we have to suffer so much angst over separation and distance as a military family. But when I sense a little pity from someone, I respond this way: We get to experience a reunion, a romance, a feeling that so few others get to feel. Those emotions make me more thankful for what we have than any year together could ever accomplish. It doesn't mean I love him more because he's been gone. It just means I love him a little harder when he's here.

P.S. A special thanks to my cousin Eva Vaughan, our photographer at the welcome-home ceremony. Please visit her website at www.evavaughan.com.

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