I hear my husband’s boots meet each stair. He squints into the movie room, an unexpected perk to our current rental.
After leaning down to kiss my head, he meets my gaze and asks, “What’s your ideal date to be there?”
His question needs no context. He has the answer we’ve spent weeks waiting for — when we’ll move next. I oscillate between impatient and annoyed, rolling my eyes.
“Whatever, just tell me,” I huff.
“No, no, if you could pick any date, when would it be?” Deftly, but lovingly, he yields to my need for control. Though in this aspect of our life, I have none.
Annoyed, I answer anyway. “I don’t know, I need at least a month home … ” my voice trails off.
“March 1,” he says. I don’t have to do the math to know we will be in our home for 30 days before leaving again.
READ: Spouse shares the challenges and triumphs of meeting and marrying a Marine
At 16, I became the “new girl” for the first time in my life. I transferred from my tiny private school to our town’s massive one. I only knew two other people and can still tell you what I wore on the first day. After much agonizing, I decided on jean capris with holes above the knees and a pink tank top. I didn’t like the color pink, and I hated how nervous I felt. Pink somehow gave the 16-year-old girl needing to feel accepted hope that it would be okay. But no outfit could hide how terrified I was of starting over. My new class had almost 300 students. I didn’t know any of the teachers and got lost daily for weeks.
On the first day, the teachers in each class introduced me. Some offered sympathetic glances at my discomfort. Some mispronounced my name, as many often did, adding a T where there isn’t one. Not wanting to stand with eyes on me any longer than necessary, I sat down rather than correct them.
My husband and I dated for four years. I knew I would marry him and we’d start a future together. I recognized the military would make most of our major decisions, but I didn’t know I would eventually be OK with it. Four times in eight years of marriage, my husband has come home to tell me our next location. Each time, it gets easier and somehow more difficult.
Before we move to a new place, I scout locations of parks and nearby activities for my kids. I scour groups and save posts. We will adjust flawlessly. It will be great. Everyone will love it there. We will all find friends instantly. The lies I tell myself sound good, but each transition comes with inevitable complications.
My daughter has lived in five different states before her 5th birthday. I lived in the same state until I moved out of my parent’s house at 18 to marry my husband.
“Won’t that be hard for her?” my mother asks.
“It is what it is,” I say through gritted teeth, shrugging off concerns I know I can’t control.
We moved last year. Shortly after, we had the option to join my husband at his training. This technically meant moving again. Half a year there, home, half a year elsewhere and home again. We rarely have the choice of staying together in this life, so we soaked up the unforeseen blessings of a year filled with upheaval. Despite knowing we made the right choice, it wasn’t always easy to adjust.
I used to wonder what would have happened if I stayed at that same school until senior year. Or what would have happened if I didn’t marry that boy in uniform and move away. I wondered what staying in those comfortable places would look like. Knowing I can’t go back, I blink away those questions with ease.
This life — constant new people and places, not flinching to three new addresses in a year, relinquishing control over the state we live in — has changed me. The confidence I feel now, as opposed to 15 or even five years ago, is unrivaled.
Among shifting and loose footing, it’s given me firm feet.
In my first months of motherhood, I saw a lactation consultant. On my second visit, l expressed my frustration at feeling dismissed by our pediatrician. In that tiny room behind the hospital’s maternity wing, this woman I hardly knew reached across the rocking chair to squeeze my shoulder. Gently but firmly, she took my hand and looked me in the eye.
“Mama,” she said, “sometimes you have to stomp your feet a bit.”
I’m not sure when it happened — when I started to stand rather than shrink down, or when I learned to stomp my feet. At some point, I adapted to a lifestyle I didn’t grow up in and choose to look at it with a new appreciation.
As it turns out, I’m kind of grateful for the recurring role of new girl.
Sometimes l still feel like that 10th grader in the pink tank top when we move to a new place. But I know I am far from her in so many ways. Each place arms me with a confidence I never knew existed before. I throw myself into finding the best place to live and exciting things for our family to do
I hope to give my children the gift of standing firm, even when their footing changes. I hope they’ll learn to stomp their feet wherever they go in life.
Oh, and these days?
I rarely wear pink. And when people get my name wrong, I correct them.Read comments