I calmly respond, "We all practice. Daddy practices being a soldier. And he practices making pizza on the Big Green Egg. And Mommy practices. I practice cooking dinner and making jewelry and blogging."
Oh wait. Lies. It's all lies. I don't practice blogging. But he can't even pronounce blogging. So, I got away with something there. But not with anyone who reads this blog.
The truth is, I lost my tribe and my life kind of feel apart.
I will wait for you to dig out your tiny violins from their tiny cases. Oh poor little Army wife...has to move all the time and have amazing adventures while the government pays for it all. Thank God I'm not her. That must really suck.
I know. It's ridiculous. Let me try to explain.
According to this NYTimes article that I read last year, the typical American lives less than 20 miles from their mom. The pretty pink graph under the headline shows that for Kentucky, it's even less. Six miles. I don't judge this tendency to stay rooted near home. It's actually quite the opposite. Sometimes, I'm overcome with jealousy. Especially as the mom of a young child. The article cites two reasons for this trend: the need to provide care for aging parents and the need for help in raising young children. Fortunately, my parents are healthy and self-sufficient so far (although I've made my mother swear that if she discovers one day that she can no longer smell peanut butter - one of the warning signs of Alzheimer's, according to Hoda and Kathie Lee - she needs to call me immediately). They don't need me to move in next door. And we've managed to raise a healthy and happy boy thus far, but a few more date nights would be fabulous. I remember spending a lot of Friday nights with my grandparents. I never saw it as losing time with my parents, who may have been on a date but may have also been home watching the news and eating TV dinners for all I knew. I saw it as special me-time with my Papa and Granny. I wish Blue had more of those.
And that is why we have our tribe.
I didn't really know we needed one until we arrived in Kansas and were inducted into it faster than I could say bourbon balls. I thought I had this. I thought I would join some museums, maybe a spouse's club, walk the neighborhood and let Blue run on the playground across the street. What I got was a group of ladies with a gaggle of kids who met me exactly where I was and kept me company everyday (literally, every day) for a year. I had the holy grail of neighbors. How do I know? Because this is a list of 10 signs and I had them all. I'm glad that both Neal and I knew what we had while we had it. I don't feel like I missed out on building friendships in Kansas. We simply ran out of time. And then we scattered.
It took awhile for me to be able to look through the pictures taken on Graduation Day, the last day we were all together. Even in photos, you can see the dread and anticipation on our faces. Our kids are sad. They aren't trying to hide it. The older ones know this is goodbye. Blue doesn't get it. But he will. It finally hits, on a sweltering day at the beginning of August.
After we had been in the new house for about a week and Blue was in time-out for the third time for going outside without me, he and I had a come to Jesus. Through genuine tears of sadness and confusion, he asked why he couldn't go outside to play with his friends. Because there is no one out there. Where is everyone? I don't know. When will they come out to play? I don't know. I want to go back to Kansas. So do I, buddy. We had this conversation 4 more times over the next month. I got frustrated and then I was simply heartbroken...for myself and for Blue and even for Neal. We missed our tribe. But we were also having a helluva time establishing a new one. It was like trying to put on a pair of jeans in January that fit like a glove last June. But 6 months and a couple hundred cocktails and platters of BBQ later, you're just busting out and uncomfortable. Nothing was fitting. Nothing was easy. No one showed up and said, "We're going to the park. Want to come with?" Blue was confused and I was lonely. And Neal, being a guy who can have friends or not, he's still the same person, went to work.
So, we joined the Y. Then I put Blue in preschool. Then I went back to work. And ever ever so slowly, we've started finding a niche for ourselves in Pennsylvania. It isn't constant companionship like it was in Kansas. The homeschooled kids played until the public school kids got off the bus. The moms supervised and swapped stories from the day until the husbands got home from school The husbands traded gripes and laughs from class until dinner was ready. We did it all again the next day. I miss that battle rhythm. I don't think I'll ever find another one that fits me so well. But life is change and finding a way to ride the storm until the sun comes out again is paramount.
Everyone always tells me that military kids are the most resilient children they have ever known. I'm sure that's true. But that status is hard-earned. They have learned how to say hello quickly, even though there will be a goodbye. They can pack up a bedroom almost as fast as they can unpack it. They find a way to fit in, over and over and over and over. And that's pretty amazing, considering the typical American lives less than 20 miles from mom.
I don't love Pennsylvania, but we are getting along. We are holding each other at arm's length, which I hear is consistent with the culture. We are using the manners our mothers taught us and showing our best selves. We are hoping that we when the time comes, we will miss each other terribly. Time will tell.
I am heartsick for my girls. All of them. My tribe.