A few years ago, I sat in my neighbor’s driveway and chatted while the kids played. My next door neighbor was there as well. It was just an ordinary afternoon.

The one woman’s husband was deployed to Iraq. My next door neighbor’s husband was TDY to Iraq. Bill was safely in Virginia (but Interstate 95/395 can be brutal, you know).

A strange car pulled into the driveway my next door neighbor and I shared. Inside were several people in Class A uniforms (not the ones from my previous post, but a more formal uniform…like what someone might wear on “official business”).

We all stopped breathing and waited.

Then the car backed out of the driveway and went back the way it had come.

We all exhaled.

“They’re for someone else,” one woman said. We went back to our ordinary talk.

I can’t imagine the additional stress a military wife has when her husband is in a combat zone. Bill was in Afghanistan for two days. I didn’t have enough time to get worried. When he deployed, it was on a peacekeeping mission to Kosovo. I had all the stress of single-parenting, but I didn’t have the daily worry about his physical well-being.

Jennie is worried about her husband. She’s been at it alone for nearly 11 months now. Her baby, a newborn infant when David left, is now a toddler. She needs our prayers. David needs our prayers. My family prays daily for “all the military people away from home,” but we’ll be adding an “especially for Sgt. C” until he’s safe in the arms of his beloved.

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Retro Day

subtitled: It’s all about the boots.The old Army uniform is rapidly approaching its “wearout-date” – the last date it can be worn. Out with the old uniform go too the black boots that required hours of polishing.

Old uniform. Bill in Kosovo.
The new uniform is comfortable (Bill refers to them as pajamas), low-maintenance (no ironing or starching allowed), and is accompanied by tan, sueded boots that need no polish. While I’m sure no one is sad to see an end to hours of ironing (or the expense of dry cleaning) or the effort at keeping boots spit-shined, I don’t think many people would argue that the new uniforms are “sharp.” The old uniforms with their heavy starch, tight creases, and polished boots gave an air of discipline and attention to detail that the low maintenance uniform can not project.
On Friday, Bill had himself a “retro day.” He dug out an old uniform and put on his favorite pair of boots. These aren’t just any boots, no sir, these are custom fit Dehner tanker boots bought back when he was an unmarried Second Lieutenant and payday cash seemed so abundant and the “Payment Due” date on student loans seemed so far away and the idea of saving pennies to buy an engagement ring for a girlfriend seemed much less important than having THE coolest boots a young armor officer could.

Bill’s boots. Bill’s feet.

From the company’s website: This boot style was designed by Dehner’s own H. E. Ketzler and General George S. Patton Jr. in 1937. Made for Patton’s Tank Corp, he wanted something easy and fast to get on, yet still giving firm ankle support. He of course turned to the Craftsmen at Dehner’s to fill the bill!

Of course.

I remember Bill carefully measuring his foot and lower leg. I remember him debating the options and considering the extra cost of an inch more leather. I remember tsking my disapproval at the extravagance – after all, a diamond ring was much more practical.

But boy, oh boy, were they sexy. His new ones, which he got as a 38th – 43rd birthday present (snicker: he turns 40 this year), just don’t have the same appeal. Those black Dehners are 15 years old now, and it’s sad to see them retired. They are a bit worn, despite being reserved for indoor wear only, so they would have to go anyway.

“Go.” Not really. They’ll be one of the few things I would never suggest tossing.

Easter Friday

What’s for supper?

You know it’s Friday, right?
Yeah, sure, Lent is over, but you have to do something. Them’s the rules.
For the last few years, I’ve continued to go meatless on Fridays. Most of the time, it’s no trouble at all. But every so often, something comes up: we go out to eat or to someone’s house, and not having meat is awkward or even rude. In such cases I might decide to drink water only or come up with some other substitution (acceptable on Fridays outside of Lent). But even then, I’ve caught myself surveying the situation (BBQ at friends’ house: steak, wine, homemade pie…hmm, maybe I’ll sacrifice something tomorrow) and picking something convenient.
A friend recently mentioned doing penitential prayers on the Fridays outside of Lent. I questioned her further, since I had no idea what she was talking about. She said her family did a litany on Fridays as a substitution. What a great idea!
I went through a list of indulgenced prayers, sought Bill’s opinion, and finally selected the Te Deum as a worthy substitution for meatless Fridays. I actually plan to observe meatless Fridays as often as possible, but for the Fridays I forget, or we’re traveling, or we are at the “mercy” of someone else’s cooking, I’ll have pre-planned my sacrifice.
As for us tonight, I’ve heard there’s a local place that sells British-style fried fish on Fridays. I’m going to check it out. If they don’t, I bought my own batter and some flounder. Yum yum.
Remember, it’s not the sacrifice as much as it is the obedience.
***UNCLE!!: Okay, I thought the exceptions were for Solemnities only! I’ll grant you the Octave of Easter (although I still intend to have fried fish tonight, because I like it!). I guess my post for next Friday is already done…

The Loveliness of Movie Night

I said to my husband:

I summarize her blog to Bill a lot, and I always begin the same way. I think he knows who Sarah is from the first mention of her name, but I have to say the whole thing, like it’s her title or something.

“…she’s hosting a Loveliness Fair. The topic is ‘staying connected to the ones we love.’ So, how do we stay connected?”

“OK. Hmmm…maybe you could write about how we’ve progressed to the oral *** stage: we pass each other in the hall and say ‘F*** you!’ “

I narrowed my eyes to wee slits. “That’s not very lovely.”

Or true. But my husband never lets the truth stand between him and a funny punch line.

***

On Saturday nights, we usually watch a movie together. We try to wait until the kids are asleep to avoid interruptions, which generally means we begin rather late. My body often would rather be sleeping, but such are the sacrifices we make for love. Sometimes we watch something silly, sometimes it’s not to my liking, or something I would pick myself, and sometimes it really gives us an opener for a conversation.

Occasionally, we skip our movie night. One of us is too tired or has other more “important” work to do. But we try to keep those excuses to a minimum. I miss it when we don’t do it. I’d rather watch a bad movie – with my husband there to groan with me – and face a mountain of dishes in the morning than not to have this regular time together.

Feeling Sentimental

My husband criticizes me for lack of sentimentality.

I prefer to call it “detachment” from worldly things.

Last night I dreamt that my younger children had “painted” the rug in our living room with spaghetti sauce. I was calm, but sad; upset, but hopeful that I had caught it in time and grateful that I owned a rug shampooer. I love that rug, but even in my dream, I knew it was just a “thing.”

But for the past few days, I’ve been on a rarely taken sentimental journey.

I started dating Bill when I was 18 and a freshman in college. A year later, he presented me with pearl stud earrings as an anniversary gift. They look a lot like these earrings, which are a close-up from this wedding photo. Please note that those earrings in that photo are NOT the ones he gave me, they just look like them. I had put the earrings he gave me in a VERY SAFE SPOT so that I would know exactly where they were and could wear them on my wedding day. They were, in fact, in a great spot – the box with my wedding shoes – but I didn’t remember it, and ending up wearing those substitutes. Even though they look the same, they aren’t, and I, despite all my so-called lack of sentimentality, can not forget that they aren’t the “right” earrings.

For our second anniversary he gave me a delicate gold necklace with a single pearl on it. He lamented that he couldn’t afford a whole string of them.

Anyway, Bill and I dated…and dated…and dated. And I was getting a bit annoyed that we were just dating. Our fifth anniversary was coming up, and I was confident that finally I would get the long awaited proposal. Bill’s sentimental streak is a mile-wide, and he couldn’t propose on any ordinary day. No, he had to do it on a right and proper day, like an anniversary. He’s just very predictable like that.

But he also knows he is predictable so he works hard to be unpredictable, in a predictable way. At several points in the months leading to our anniversary he mentioned that string of pearls he always wanted to give me. I think I was pretty clear in my disapproval of such a plan. He couldn’t afford a string of pearls and a diamond ring. I wanted the diamond.

So then comes the anniversary, and he presents me with a box.

A long box.

I struggled to smile.

He suggested I open the box. There was a string of pearls inside.

I was crushed.

Smiling and apparently oblivious to my disappointment, he suggested I put it on. Bravely trying to be grateful for the gift despite my conflicted and most unpleasant emotions, I agreed. And when I removed the necklace from the case, I noticed something attached to the necklace but tucked underneath the felt-covered cardboard.

A diamond ring.

And I looked up to see him laughing at me, since he knew quite well the torment he had put me through for five years minutes.

“But…you can’t afford both of these…?” I said.

“Oh, that?” he answered. “That’s a $10 necklace from Walmart.” It looked like this one, a close-up from the same photo. In fact, that is the $10 necklace. I am, actually, rather sentimental.

On Easter morning, I reached into my little box and pulled out my favorite string of pearls to wear to church. Unfortunately, little hands had been playing and the clasp was twisted and sheared off when my husband tried to bend it back into place. “We’ll get a new clasp,” he promised.

“Honey, it’s a cheap necklace. It would cost more to fix than it’s worth.”

But…I think I might be wrong about that. I think I might have to look into that, since I just can’t bring myself to throw it away. It’s worth more than $10, I think.