December 13, 2011

MilSpouse Holiday Blog Swap: Be Careful What You Ask For by Witty Little Secret

Riding the Roller Coaster
26 of us bloggers and 2 organizations are swapping blogs today, thanks to Riding the Roller Coaster! She was the mastermind behind a milspouse blog swap last Valentine's Day, and this time, I'm very lucky to participate. (And if you are a new visitor to chambanachik- welcome! I currently have the last 8 days of my big Christmas Giveaways series up, so make sure to subscribe and enter them while you're here.)

If you're looking for the post I've written, head on over to A Little Pink in a World of Camo. It is such a huge honor for me to be writing over at Mrs. P's- I had writer's block forever because I was so nervous! Between her DStripped magazine work and Lori of Witty Little Secret getting published in Reader's Digest, I had my work cut out for me.

Yes, that's right- Lori (above) just got published, and I'm thrilled for her! She also recently welcomed her husband back from deployment. She's a very talented writer, and it's a privilege to have her posting here today!

I loathe the annual requirement that befalls me each December 20: Christmas Gifts. That’s right, I’m not a Christmas Eve procrastinator, not quite, but pretty darn close. What I’ve come to accept is that it’s just not a talent I possess. Oh sure, if you’re six year old or if you think trinkets from the dollar store are the shazizzle, or if you really like basic chocolate chip cookies, then I’m probably your girl. But otherwise, I pretty much suck at gift-picking. I vehemently decry the commercialism of the American Christmas ritual mostly because I hate to shop for that perfect gift so very much. It all just stresses me out.

Point of fact, I was driving along peacefully this week singing radio carols when the Santa on the sidewalk twirling the UPS Store sign gave me a procrastination heart-attack. Not because his shiny white nylon beard was still the same shape as the neoprene packaging from whence it came, and not because my eight year-old was in the back seat eyeing him suspiciously after having been perched on the ledge of disbelief last year. And not even because he had blood-shot eyes and music device ear buds that were apparently delivering R&B Holiday tunes that allowed him to sync his twirling sign to the rap-tastic beat.

No, it was merely the content of his sign that induced panic. He paused for a radio station identification notification, and was momentarily still enough for me to read it:


The fact that I had not, up until that very moment, even contemplated that there might be an impending delivery deadline made me go into yuletide myocardial infarctions. I started thinking about gift lists, malls, grocery bills, navigating Toys ‘R’ Us at 7pm, and the blackmail that is Amazon’s free shipping racket. My head was spinning into oblivion. It was capped off with a stroke destined to put me into a holiday coma when my sweet daughter asked, “Mom, is that the real Santa?” Gah! I hoped Santa wasn’t watching as I pushed the pedal to the floor and replied, “Whoopsie! Didn’t see it. Sorry. Don’t know what yer talkin’ about.”

After dinner I calmed down and I sat down with a blank piece of paper, and I dutifully started scratching out names. I stared at the list with no idea what to write next to each family member. My Santa-doubting daughter sat down next to me and declared she would now be making her list for Santa. She looked at me sideways as she wrote, evaluating whether or not I was overly interested in her list. I stared at my own blank list instead and ignored her out of misery rather than parental strategy. In disgust, I finally tossed my pen down. I had eleven family members on my list and at the moment they were all getting cumin. Yes, the spice. I noticed that my daughter wasn’t faring much better. She had just one thing on her list, and it was numbered: “#1. iPod.”

“Um, are you stuck on what else to ask Santa for this year, honey?”


“Well … it’s not a very long list. You just have one thing there.”

“Yep. Just an iPod. That’s all I want.”

“Oh baby, Santa’s not getting you an iPod. You’re only eight.”

“Well that’s what I thought at first. But then I decided if I only put one thing on the list, there wouldn’t be anything else to get me. So that’s all I want. Just an iPod.”

Now I was depressed and in awe, all at once. It was horrifying and exhilarating. In a trump move to beat all holiday trump moves, she was actually extorting Santa. She was extorting me! She was successfully diverting her Christmas wish list right around the extravaganza that is the Dollar Store on Christmas Eve. I had to come up with the right answer, and fast. It rolled off my tongue eerily:

“Honey, I know what you mean about wanting that one thing so badly that you can’t think of anything else. But if you do that, you’ll have to be willing to wait until the time is right. If you really want it, it will be worth it, but you might not get it when you want it. I don’t want you to be disappointed.”

And darn it, that’s where Christmas came crashing down on me. You know that moment where something comes out of your mouth and you realize that what you’ve been thinking, what you’ve been obsessed with for the past week, just came flying out of your own mouth in the form of some sage advice to someone else? In my case, it’s usually something I need to hear myself say. In my case, I usually don’t like it. In my case, it’s usually said to my children who are all too ready and available at a moment’s notice to parrot the sage advice right back at me. Well yeah, this was that moment.

You see, last year about this time my husband was half way around the world in desert camouflage, avoiding a discussion with me about what it was like to have recently been under rocket fire for the first time. At this time last year I was sitting on the toilet, the only quiet place in my house, crying when nobody was looking and telling myself it was because I was allergic to guinea pigs. At this time last year I was standing in the Christmas Even candlelight service listening to my five year-old’s miniature voice singing carols, and wondering what it was like to pretend that sand was snow and cafeteria curry was a Christmas bird.

Well a few weeks ago my husband came home, and I have to say, it has been rough at times. We aren’t synced into each other’s routines, yet. Into each other’s spaces. We aren’t operating as a team. It feels … well it just feels foreign. Strange. Like we’ve been apart for fifteen months or something. And it’s frustrating, people. It’s frustrating that homecoming isn’t the magic pill that you swallow that makes the deployment go away. It’s frustrating that all of your friends think it’s the end of the mobilization when really it’s just the start of the next phase of readjustment. It doesn’t feel as good as you want it to. It just doesn’t feel like anything you expect.

And I’ve been focused on that. I’ve been focused on trying to cram my husband back into a hole where he doesn’t really fit any more, a hole that we kinda filled-in while he was gone. I looked down at my list and envisioned my own name there, with just one thing on my list: to have everything back to normal again. And I heard my own voice ringing in the air:

“Honey, I know what you mean about wanting that one thing so badly that you can’t think of anything else. But if you do that, you’ll have to be willing to wait until the time is right. If you really want it, it will be worth it, but you might not get it when you want it. I don’t want you to be disappointed.”

And I smiled.

My daughter hugged me, and she said there were probably other things that would make her happy this year, even though she really still wanted an iPod. And I told her that I probably had lots of things that would make me happy this year, too. I envisioned writing myself a list of all the things in my life that made me happy, and the girl in my arms was one of the things at the very top. I hugged her tight.

She suddenly squirmed out of my arms and reached for her list, satisfaction and delight twinkling in her blue eyes. She kissed me on the forehead and walked away, as if she was the parent, and I smiled as I looked down to see what she had written. And there it was, right after the iPod:

#2. A Parrot.

12 kind comments from you:

The Household 6 Diva said...

We've found reintegration to be one of the hardest phases of the deployment. And speaking from experience, any deployment lasting longer than 12 months might as well be 18... it's just forever long to get through, and the changes in seasons made finding our stride again as a family more of a challenge.

Instead of trying to have everything back to normal, a new normal will need to be forged through learning how each of your family members has evolved while apart... it can be a painful metamorphosis to grow back together after being separated for so long - but it is well worth the growing pains!

I love reading Lori's posts - because she always has a VERY witty punch line! :)

To the Nth said...

So, I'm dying to know, Lori... did you get her the parrot? ;-)

wittylittlesecret said...

A parrot? You're kidding, right? You've read the stories of my preschooler. If they had a parrot guaranteed not to learn curse words, I might consider it. But no. Oh my. No, no, no ...

Goodnight moon said...

bahahaha! that's pretty funny! i remember seeing a stuffed talking parrot in the stores. maybe that would be a good idea for her, you could tell her that she didn't ask santa for a real parrot;)

all my son wants is a nintendo ds, that's it! nothing else! when i asked him what other things he might want instead he told me, "mom i don't have to tell you want i want, santa can read my mind"....WHAT! gesh.....!

Julie @ Soldier's Wife, Crazy Life said...

That is a great story! I think there is always something we really want, whether it is a husband home from deployment or a new ipod :)

JG said...

All I have to say is, I see great things in that girl's future, either in law or politics. She knows how to get what she wants! ;)

Wife of a Sailor said...

What a fantastic story!

sanderlinr said...

aww...I so love this post! (but I hate that things aren't going super-smooth, though all that proves is that you're like the rest of us. Reintegration doesn't go well for anyone.)When I was single and dating I figured out that it takes half the length of the relationship to get over someone after a bad break-up. I've found the same is true for settling into normal after a deployment. For a year-long deployment, it's going to be a good 6 months before things seem normal again. The good news, though, is that it will get progressively better the whole time.

As for the parrot ... save your sanity and just get her an iPod. Maybe you've got one you don't use anymore? We broke down and gave my son (then 6) an IPHONE for Easter -- The Easter Bunny kindly included a note with it that explained that it fell out of his basket and that's why the screen was cracked and it kept shutting off. Ebay is a great source for these sorts of electronics...

Melissa Jaine said...

Today I am the child, and this post is my parent. I think I've been telling myself this advice about wanting one thing and having to wait, but I must say it is awesome to 'hear' it from someone else too. Thank you Lori!

Allie said...

Hahaha the parrot as number 2 made me laugh out loud at work!! I think the iPod might actually be cheaper!

Wonderful post, thank you for sharing.

Mr. Superman & Mrs. S. said...

Haha! This is epic. So funny!!

Wife on the Roller Coaster said...

Isn't it amazing when we stop and listen to our own advice to our kids? And even more amazing when we realize that that very same advice can be applied to our own adult situations? Reintegration sucks big time. And like you said in your radio interview, it's huge part of deployment that most people, military included, overlook. Hang in there, girl, it'll get better. :)

As far a parrot, I would opt for the iPod in a second. No way I'd ever in a million years buy my kids a parrot! An iPod brings headphones which brings silence. A parrot? Well, you're just asking for chaos. ;)

Thank you both so much for participating in the blog swap. Hope you had fun! Happy holidays Erika and Lori! xoxo

Post a Comment