“Dear Lord,” I prayed recently while lifting another heavy cardboard book box from the pile left by the movers, “please don’t let one of my organs drop out onto the floor.” Since our move two weeks ago, I’ve been unpacking every day. Despite the danger of torn ligaments and internal damage, I’m determined to finish decorating my new study.
In all the homes we’d lived in as a military family over the last 24 years, I’ve never had my own dedicated office. In Monterey, California, my husband, Francis, and I plucked at our respective laptops in our base housing bedroom, looking over the crib in the corner where our first baby slept.
In England, the spare bedroom in our village house was frequented by too many visitors from the States to be used as a study, so we put a desk in the family room where we could keep an eye on our first, and then second, babies while they tried to jam cookies into their mouths and the VCR.
In Virginia, the room over the garage was too filled with our three kids’ toys to be an office, so the computer stayed on a desk in the kitchen where I could hear the oven timer and the dryer buzzer. And in our stairwell apartment in Germany, I regressed to working in our bedroom again, at a desk nestled among Francis’ kicked-off boxer shorts and slippers. In Florida and Rhode Island, I shared spaces with Francis and the kids again, always pining away for a study of my own.
But now, after our eleventh military move, we found a house with two extra rooms – one for Francis and one for me. When the movers brought in the “pro-gear” boxes (the serviceperson and spouse are given a weight allowance for professional gear during each permanent change of station move), we excitedly told them to take my boxes to the room off the laundry, and Francis’ boxes to the yellow room upstairs.
After years of holding back to accommodate the rest of our family, Francis felt free to fill his new study with his many awards, medals, souvenirs, and “Yeah, Me!” tchotchkes, earned during 28 years of active duty service in the Navy.
Francis’ décor is all pomp and circumstance. Glossy cherry, polished brass and braided gold ropes. A monogramed cigar box, a glass globe, a framed picture of Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, a leather chair, and a Persian rug.
Francis in a smoking jacket with a snifter of brandy is all that is needed to complete his vision.
I couldn’t wait to display my own personal selection of stuff.
Managing to lift the book box without losing any organs, I heaped dozens of cookbooks onto the shelves, alongside my favorite classic novels by Steinbeck, Updike, Salinger, Vonnegut, Hemingway, Lee and other 20th century American authors.
Another box held my antique typewriter, which I placed on the writing desk I bought while stationed overseas. I filled the misshapen clay pot that our middle child made in 3rd grade with pens and pencils, and placed it beside the computer. I hung my collection of vintage aprons like a valance above the window. And put the old goose-necked rocker — where each of our three children were swayed to sleep when they were babies – in the corner under the Art Deco wall lamp I bought at a garage sale.
I left a space on the wall for my law degree. Even though I only practiced for a few years before military life’s frequent moves and solo parenting made freelance writing a more viable career, I plan to hang my law degree prominently. On the days when I forget long division, or that my sunglasses are perched on my head, or that I already fed the dog, it will serve as a reminder that I am no dummy.
His looks over the sea. Mine looks over my vegetable garden. His is shiny. Mine is cozy. His is all about service and honor. Mine shows a focus on home and family.
We fought to have our own individual spaces, but ironically, both his and hers reflect one basic attribute – dedication to our shared military life.