Lessons learned: if it’s 1:00am and raining on a Saturday in Tennessee, that’s when it’ll be time to report to a Fort Campbell air hangar to await your soldier’s welcome home plane.
Successes: Remembering an umbrella. Bringing a fully charged Kindle equipped with the remaining 25% of Jane Eyre. Wearing wedges instead of heels. Securing a spot at the gate edge for deplaning (Read: Standing in a puddle to do so…courtesy of the wedges decision. I’m getting really good at this shit.).
Successes (cont’d): Not vomiting during the two hours of waiting! Immediately recognizing the back of Jonathan’s head. Mastering the zoom function on my iPhone camera. Using my unopened can of Monster Energy to save my spot on the bleachers. Bringing a sweater.
Less-than-successes: Forgetting a water bottle. Staying awake for 48 hours. Not paying attention to the specific place I’d need to drive my car after the ceremony. Bothering to straighten my hair.
In summary: 100% worth it.
The welcome home ceremony, a week and a half later, is still a 3am blur of soggy red and blue poster board and the same two blocks of Fort Campbell that I drove around for an hour with my windshield wipers on low, trying to find Jonathan’s company building. But when I finally found it, I was greeted by friendly faces and fresh homemade cookies, and eventually a tired but elated fiancé who’d already turned in his gun so I didn’t even have to deal with that part.
First priority upon Jonathan’s return: pancakes, beer, steak, and a brief introduction to all the inanimate objects in his new home that are shaped like animals.
Third priority was for Jonathan to go through the refrigerator and kitchen pantry to inform me that none of my food choices were good enough for a post-deployment army guy. He was punished for insulting my food judgment by the panic attack I had in the grocery store when he picked up a box of peanut butter Captain Crunch, and the screaming match the next day when he tried to justify also getting the Fruity Pebbles.
We haven’t killed each other yet, but we’re taking over/under wagers on how much longer it will be until our first knife fight. (I’m pretty sure it will be about whole-grain brown rice, which I’ve fed him at least three times in the past week, and with each meal he’s gotten at least 10% more homicidal.)
It’s a time of great adjustment for both of us: I’m extraordinarily lucky that Jonathan’s quick transition from wartime to mundane-home-life hasn’t shaken him into a strange state of terrified confusion. Although dealing with mattress salesmen is a little bit like being shot at, so maybe that explains why he’s taking to it so well.
My biggest adjustment, meanwhile, is remembering that when people in the south smile at you in passing, it’s just because they’re friendly and not because they’re lobbyists who want your money for their PAC. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. And honestly I hope we never are in Kansas, because I recently revisited how many army posts are in and around Tornado Alley, and I’m getting really uneasy about my future.
Tennessee will do just fine for now.