Sometimes we are packing our bags to go “home” for the holidays. I’m trying to pack the perfect outfits, figure out the configuration of the luggage into the back of the minivan.
The kids are debating what toys they will bring for the car ride as they cram the biggest toys and huge blankets into their bags. I’m packing mini games to keep them happy.
People are demanding we spend certain days and certain times with them, which of course, overlaps another family’s request so I’m stuck deciding which family is more important. Everyone has hurt feelings and no one sees that he and I are the ones stuck with the emotional burden.
I usually end that evening with a glass of wine and tears. We have a lot of fun, but it does not come without stress and emotions. When I look back on those years I see the exhaustion.
Sometimes we are preparing for our soldier to come home from a long deployment. There is a lot of sweet anticipation. Everyone is happy for us. They don’t see the fear, confusion, and fatigue. We are afraid of the changes. Confused about who we’ve become and who he is. We are all tired. He’s tired of being away from us. I’m tired of being the only adult. The kids are tired of Daddy’s physical absence and Mom’s mental absence.
When he arrives, we plan a huge celebration and we are all partially present as we battle our inner wars.
There are lovely pictures.
We cram in every event that he missed.
The outside does not see the exhaustion from reintegration, but we do.
Sometimes we are dreading the marks on the calendar as the day our soldier leaves looms upon us. He already withdrew from us. We already started crying. We go through the motions of celebrating the holidays, but we are essentially robots. It’s a juxtaposition of emotions-- outward happiness but inward sadness.
We look back on those holidays and see the gloom that appeared so vibrant.
This year, though, THIS year we are together.
He isn’t leaving.
He didn’t return.
We aren’t going anywhere.
We can do things at our easy pace. It’s odd because I feel like I should be planning and packing and preparing, but there’s nothing to do. We actually get to enjoy our time together. I think this is what the holidays are supposed to be. We are here.
Peace in our home.