We are a military family. The husband is gone a fair amount of time, so homecomings are always a fun, exciting event. We have done so many of them, we could write a book about it. Right? WRONG. Take all those pictures of happy men and women in uniform, smiling kids and babies, balloons, posters, and music – and throw them out the window. Homecomings are a mess of emotions, time schedules, and planning that I am still trying to master as a 14-year military wife and mother.
Why is such a joyous, anticipated event so challenging? I think the waiting and the anticipation is the worst part. The kids are counting down to the big day when mom or dad returns home. Your spouse is busy packing, traveling, and is just as anxious to return home. Finally, you are busy preparing the house and the family for your service member to return home, on top of handling everything else you normally would daily. Every day seems to crawl by slower and slower than the last. Your nerves build up as you wonder so many things: what if you cannot get everything ready on time? What is you or both of you do not look the same? What if he or she has a hard time adjusting to life at home again? What if the kids are not as excited as you want them to be? What if he or she hates what you have changed or altered in your home or lives? So many questions, doubts, concerns, nerves, and excitement all hinged on this one moment – the homecoming. It is too much pressure!
Then, the moment arrives. They are home! I go into every homecoming with the best of intentions: the kids will be perfectly dressed. I will look more beautiful than ever. The sun will shine, there will be no traffic, customs will not delay my husband at the airport, and I will snap those adorable pictures of the kids running to dad. Here is the reality: the kids will be perfectly dressed for about 5 seconds. I will start out glamorous and soon become weighed down by humidity, sticky kid fingers, and the myriad of things I need to bring to entertain the kids in the event of a delayed arrival. The weather will be just okay, traffic will suck, the husband will get flagged for something with his luggage, and I will forget all about pictures after trying to keep all 4 kids in one place after waiting for so long. If someone were to snap the picture of this moment, it would not be adorable. Before I know it, the moment has passed and all we can focus on is getting everyone and everything back into the car and to our home.
So I’ve decided that homecoming photos are not for us. We are not that picture perfect family and probably never will be, but I love that. Besides, homecomings are not about the picture and that one moment. They are about all of the emotions – the joy, the fear, the anxiety, the stress – that are not easily contained in a photograph. They are about the butterflies in your stomach, no matter if this is the first or the thirtieth arrival home. They are about the awkwardness of learning to live with one another again. Homecomings are about the hugs and kisses, but they are also about the fights and frustrations of learning to live outside of a combat zone and inside a home ruled by tiny children. They are messy, uncoordinated, and challenging in more ways than one. This is our reality with every homecoming, and every one has been and is more different yet more wonderful than the last.
Our reality may not be frame worthy, but it is our reality. The Carpenters suck at homecomings – but that is okay with us. 🙂