I can see it in your eyes. You’re not happy. You think I’ve been ignoring you. You think I’m an awful friend.
Not too long ago, we were close. We talked on the phone. We had lunch. We met at the gym. We exchanged texts. I showed interest in your life.
But recently, I’ve been aloof. I haven’t called. I stopped meeting you for coffee. I didn’t “Like” that photo you posted of your kids on Facebook.
To be quite honest, I haven’t given you a second thought.
But before you jump to conclusions, let me assure you: I’m not tired of you. I’m not hanging out with other friends. And I most certainly haven’t forgotten about you. The fact is, I haven’t been thinking much about you, or anyone else for that matter, because our family is moving again.
Counting those few months we lived in that creepy townhouse with the shag carpeting in Virginia Beach in 1998, and the half year we rented that funky beach shack in Jacksonville while we waited for base housing in 2011, our Navy family has moved nine times since Francis and I married 23 years ago.
I’m not bellyaching. Many military families have moved a lot more than we have, others have moved less. Besides, I’ve enjoyed every place we’ve lived. (Well, except for that townhouse. We had to clap twice before entering the kitchen to scare off the roaches, and it had a strange scent that smelled like pickles packed in moth balls.)
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter how many times a military family moves – what matters is that every move – whether it’s overseas or across town – is a big ordeal. The kind of thing that destroys daily routines, challenges the strongest coping skills, and turns grown adults into moody little brats.
It happens every time Francis receives Navy orders. My behavior doesn’t change at first, but as time passes, and our move dates get closer and closer, I slowly withdraw into my own chaotic, stressed, little world.
My normal everyday thoughts about dog hair, power walks, coffee, defrosting chicken, and Friday night fire pits — are slowly replaced, one by one, with frantic ramblings and strange inner voices, until I become a military spouse precariously perched on the threshold of moving insanity.
“How did we accumulate all this crap? We need more plastic storage bins! What if I forget to call about turning off the cable? We have to spackle that hole in the wall before the housing inspection! What if we go over the weight limit again? Why haven’t I taken the numbered stickers off the furniture from our last move?!”
In the days before the packers arrive, I become so self-absorbed, I am incapable of normal social interaction. In a subconscious attempt to repel other humans and thereby minimize distractions, I stop showering, brushing my hair, and applying deodorant. I become so hell-bent on using up all the food in the kitchen, I concoct strange casseroles with things like pork chops, oyster crackers, canned green beans, raisins and tater tots. I walk around the house armed with a Sharpie marker and a clipboard, muttering something about ziplock baggies and duct tape, my left eye twitching from a stress-induced tick.
It’s not a pretty sight. But at this point, I really don’t care about my rat’s nest of hair, the drool on my chin, the neighborhood pot luck, the next episode of Survivor, or you. Because all I can think about it one thing: Our Tenth Move.
As I write this, I have one week until the moving company arrives to pack up every coffee cup, photo album, extension cord, lounge chair, lampshade, screw driver, text book, Christmas ornament, bicycle, pencil and picture frame we own.
The reason I like you is because you understand. Until our household goods arrive at their new destination, until we find the towels and sheets and dishes and TV remote and coffee maker, and until I flop down on the couch in our new home and take a deep breath — I won’t realize how much I really miss you.
Thanks, my friends, for always forgiving me.