Originally published in March 2009 issue of Military Spouse Magazine
I think there is an unspoken rule that all PCS moves are the military wives’ responsibility. It is the all too familiar military family cliché that when a major family event happens, like a PCS, the husband seems to always be MIA. Even if you choose a TMO move over a DITY move, the responsibilities still somehow all fall on the wife to orchestrate. From buying the sodas for the movers, to making sure that when the trashcans are packed, there is no trash in them, us “dependants” carry the brunt of the work.
As a newly married couple, my husband opted to make our first PCS a DITY move (from hell) from Virginia to California. I naively thought that after the horrendous cross county DITY move, the TMO move would be a breeze. Oh, to know then what I know now. Before we even started packing I sought advice from other military wives who had done many moves in their careers. Upon their suggestions, I ordered donuts, bottled water, and pizza for the movers. I packed anything I could not live without like, curling irons, make up, and medications in my car. Now, there was some advice I did not receive that I will pass on to you. Wives will tell you to pack and move your own family heirlooms, photos, and jewelry, but I also advise you to pack your intimate apparel. Let just say this, it was quite a treat to see the some what sketchy “gentlemen” from the moving company with his hands in a pile of my black leather and lace lingerie at the unpack. Ladies, anything that you may keep in your “nightstand” you may want to move yourself. Also, if something from your private collection gets stolen, I doubt you will want to report it for reimbursement. Yes Ladies, make sure you find out where those Boudoir photos are from that first deployment years ago, and take them with you in your purse.
To be expected, my husband was not present at our new home for the unpack. We had moved off base to Los Angeles, in what I call a “transitional” neighborhood. That means we moved fifteen minutes from the beach, and about two minutes from where they filmed “Boyz in the Hood”. At the unpack, I was alone with a house full of strange men hauling in my belongings. I greeted them with a cheerful attitude, plenty of donuts, sodas and pizza. They were not impressed. One of them finally spoke to give me a complement on my husband’s military college sword. He must have really liked it, because we never saw it again. Only an hour later they announced they were done and left. I was surrounded by a house full of half-unpacked boxes and lingerie that would now have to be burned. It was insane. I had to ask myself, was this really better than a DITY move?
After I had to unpack alone, I tried to get settled into my new house and neighborhood. I was afraid of the idea of not living on base any longer. I remembered how scared I had first been when we moved on base and were surrounded by tanks, helicopters, men with guns, and a big fence. Now I felt naked and insecure without them. I had to admit that living in LA was a lot like living on base, lots of random gunshots, sirens, and men carrying weapons. But those sounds used to make me feel safe, now I was scared.
I was even afraid to go outside and walk my dogs at night. I asked my husband to please give me some suggestions for self-defense moves. I mean what if I went outside to walk the dogs and someone tried to rape me? He told me to just start nagging and my attacker would probably get frustrated and leave me alone. I guess that the sound of a woman nagging is a universal sexual turn off. I learned really quickly our neighborhood had an appreciation for the arts. Our local neighborhood “Crips” representative welcomed us by letting us know we were part of his territory by spray painting that fact on the wall of our house.
One night my husband and I were driving home through our neighborhood when we saw the cutest little fur ball scurrying across the street. There was no on coming traffic so I begged my husband to stop the car so I could run out and get it. Jon knew I had always been an avid lover of animals so he slowed down. I jumped out of the car and started running after my new pet. My heart quickened with anticipation of an animal rescue! That is just what I needed to get my mind off how miserable I was feeling in this new city. I was sure if I put my energy and effort into an animal, my depression would fade instantly. I bent down to touch my tiny rescue and flinched as it lay lifeless on the road. I picked it up and held it close to my chest to give it warmth. I was so frightened; it was not moving! When I looked down I realized it was not an animal at all, it was somebody’s weave.
After my disastrous pet rescue I realized I needed a new strategy, and attitude. A new neighborhood, like a new base is what you make it. I was focusing on the negative. My husband and I set out to look for local attractions and restaurants to visit. We picked two a week and started looking forward to getting to know our surroundings. Instantly we discovered a passion riding bikes along the beach and all the local theatres. Before long there were more things to do than we had time for.
Oh, and my new pet; we kept her. I just could not bare the thought of her living out the rest of her life on the streets. She is really an ideal pet. She barely eats and only needs a good brushing once a week. We have not named her yet, but if you have any suggestions email me. She has not answered to any that we have tried so far. She sleeps in the bed with us at nights, but when it comes to private times between my husband and I, we do set her outside. My husband does not like the look she gives us when we are being “intimate”.