While Shaun and I were dating, I found a book in the library called Married to the Military*. It’s a handbook for military spouses, sort of a bootcamp-in-a-book on everything from how to read an LES (and what that stands for), to what to wear (or not wear) to military functions, to how to stay sane while PCS-ing (at least you can try). The summary states that “Whether you’re dating, engaged, or married to an active military servicemember or reservist—or you’ve just signed up yourself—you may feel as if you’ve somehow married the United States military!” Yes. That handsome man may be wearing a uniform, but sometimes the uniform wears him…and it comes with a whole bunch of strings–and more uniforms, and boots, and field gear, and paperwork–attached.
More than once over the six years of Shaun’s Army career, we felt as though there were an extra, unseen person hitched on to our relationship. “The Army” was something like an extra spouse or an invisible child to both of us–right down to waking us up in the middle of the night (hello, recall). It even took up as much space in the house as a third person might have, from two extra sets of boots at the door to a whole room which, at various times, was more or less dedicated to housing military gear.
At times I complained about all the extra space taken up by “The Army,” but I had no idea how much space it had actually claimed until Shaun was discharged six months ago. Army green and ACU digital camo–which, by the way, seems to camouflage with nothing but itself–was so much a part of our domestic landscape that I took its presence for granted. Cleaning out, I have been astounded by the volume of gear, and the way it has worked its way into every nook and cranny of our home. Moving it all out of our house is still an ongoing process, in part because I keep finding tiny items that were hidden away and forgotten, like acorns buried by a squirrel.
So far, the total for reclaimed space stands thus:
-Half of one closet
-One underbed bin
-Two bureau drawers
-Three small bins
-Five 18-gallon totes
-One 32-gallon tote
(And a partridge in a pear tree…)
Please note that this includes only gear, and not paperwork, which is a whole different can of worms which I am currently not even thinking of opening. Except to say that when I do, there will be a mighty big bonfire (for reasons of catharsis as well as security).
This kind of explains to me why the two of us have felt inexplicably cramped in a 1,200 square-foot, three-bedroom home for the last four years. It’s because G.I. Joe had basically moved in and spread himself around.
Time to move out, Joe.
*Link goes to Amazon.com, in case you are curious about the book, but just get it out of the library.