Homecoming

The days before Tim’s return were a flurry of nerves and COAs and maybes and possible flights. They sure don’t like to make anything easy.

I had a list a mile long of tasks I wanted to get done before his arrival, most of which had to do with cleaning up the house so he wouldn’t think 1) we’d been living in filth for 8 months and 2) that he had to start immediately cleaning up. However, the closer we got to the actual arrival, the less I cared about that. The only things that actually got crossed off of that list were: hang up welcome home banner; make welcome sign for airport complete with glitter; stock fridge with cheese and beer. You know, the important stuff.

Making the airport sign was sort of a rite of passage for Evie and me, and it was fun to do together. My favorite part was the glittery snail she inexplicably asked me to draw, because of course. What welcome home sign is complete without a snail?

welcome home 2His arrival date had changed so many times that we didn’t know for sure when he was coming home until the night before. Even the day of, weather delays necessitated that we remain super flexible. Which, as anyone who knows me personally can attest, is the exact opposite of my jam. He was originally scheduled to get in at 1:30pm…then 9pm…then 10:30pm…then midnight. The weather in Denver was so bad that they had to sit on the runway for almost an hour. Until I saw his plane take off on my flight tracker, I was convinced it would be cancelled and we’d have to do it all over again the next day.

Finally his plane was in the air and it was time to wake up Evie to go to the airport. She was sleepy and confused while I pulled on her boots and coat and put her in the car, telling her we were going to get Daddy. As we were driving to the airport, I finally believed it was real.

Evie and I brought in our sign and sat down just outside security to wait. People saw our sign and smiled. Luckily she was so sleepy I didn’t have to keep her entertained. In fact, she sat down on my lap and we just cuddled. We talked about how we were going to give Daddy big hugs.

signFinally, there he was. As soon as Evie saw him, a huge grin crept across her face. We were prepared for any reaction, so we took it slow. He leaned in and asked tentatively for a hug, and for just a moment she turned away like she wasn’t sure. A few seconds later, however, she was in his arms. From then until now, she has been his shadow.

airportShe wakes up and immediately asks for Daddy if he’s not there. If he leaves the room, she asks about him until he comes back. She wants him to strap her in her car seat and change her diaper and hold her on walks. For a few days, she even told me to ‘go away, Mama,’ so she could have him all to herself.

shoulders2 hendricksJust like pregnancy and childbirth, I never want to forget how hard this deployment was on all of us. I’m not sad to see it end. At the same time, it’s still the end of a ‘just the two of us’ kind of era for Evie and me and it makes me (already!) look back on it with some fondness.

While Evie and I snuggled in the airport minutes before greeting Tim, I whispered in her ear: “We did it. We did ok, didn’t we?”

And my little firecracker of a child sighed and leaned into me and said, “Yeah.”

jenn evie

 

Holding Pattern

sunsetFebruary is such a great month for countdowns. Especially coming out of the longest damn month of the year no matter what anyone says, January (31 days of post-holiday dreariness, no thank you). Getting to February was one of the last big goals of this deployment, and I can’t believe we’ve made it! I can’t give details of his return due to OPSEC and what we’ll call military flexibility, but I can say that it’s coming fairly soon. Soon enough for us to get excited, but far enough away that we’re still counting down. We’re to the point where when people say ‘it will be over before you know it!’ I no longer want to punch them in the face.

This deployment has been full of artificial targets I’ve imposed to try and get us through and make the time go more quickly. Just make it to fall. Just make it through our Missouri trip. Just make it through the holidays. Just make it through long, cold, gray January. With each one, I trick my brain into thinking that if we just make it through xyz, the rest will fly by (this is a damn lie, but it seems to work). Except now that we’re in February, it finally feels true.

I’m so proud of how we’ve been managing, but honestly the previous months have felt like we’re just keeping our heads down and putting one foot in front of the other every day. Making sure we’re both fed and watered every night is a remarkable feat. We bathe once in a while. Sometimes when I get a wild hair, I take out the trash or go grocery shopping. Really we’re just keeping it together until my buddy comes back.

Now that it’s February, we’re still in a holding pattern, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can start quietly making plans for family dinners and weekend getaways and catching up on Downton Abbey. It will be a long, slow process of readjustment, but we’re so ready to get started.