07 April 2008

Backwards...and in High Heels - The Life of a Military Wife

The military wife exists in a world where she is called a dependent. She is expected to do as her husband is told and to never question, complain, or allow a weary sigh to escape her lips. At the same time, she is also expected to be independent of her husband, not need his companionship or partnership for many days, weeks, months at a time, and be able to efficiently navigate the military bureaucracy's maze of paperwork on her own. All of this without bootcamp or formal training of any kind.

Not everyone can successfully carry the weight inherent with the job of military wife but those who do are impressive to behold.

Today I saw one of these women - a young spouse - pushing a luggage cart into the lobby of the Kanto Lodge. Stacked on the cart were two full-sized suitcases and, perfectly perched atop those, an infant's carseat. On the girl's hip, in the crook of her left arm, was the baby - probably all of six months old.

The young mother's curly blond hair was neatly ponytailed and out of the way. She was dressed comfortably in t-shirt, cargo pants, and sturdy Timberlands. A small backpack hung loosely off one shoulder. She smoothly guided the luggage cart and cargo into the hotel's commons area and stopped.

In an effortless series of moves, her right hand came off the cart, shifted the baby to a more stable position on her hip, reached backward to slide into the last strap of the backpack, and once more took control of the cart. All the while, her eyes never once left the flight schedules displayed on the plasma screen mounted near the front desk. She was taking a trip somewhere, traveling "Space-A", baby on hip, and looking absolutely fearless. There was nothing about her that would indicate she might be "dependent" in any way.

As I admired her calm, it occurred to me that she and her baby were perhaps minutes away from climbing into the jumpseat of a C-17, or a KC-135, flying away from Japan, over the Pacific Ocean, to one of the places listed on that screen - Singapore, Hickam, Travis - yet she was as cool as if she were simply traveling from her living room to her kitchen.

I couldn't help but think of Ginger Rogers, of whom it is said did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards...and in high heels.* And I realized how perfectly that old saying describes the military wife.

I didn't say anything to the girl. I left her to finish planning her trip, vacation, or PCS, by herself. She was "dancing" like a pro and the last thing I wanted to do was break her concentration.

~ jewls


* Quote attributed to Bob Thaves' 1982 "Frank & Ernest" comic strip. Link is here: backwards...and in high heels

8 comments:

CraftyLzrd said...

My fellow military spouses never cease to amaze me! :)

Anonymous said...

Military Wives Rule!!!! hehe =) I love the "backwards and in high heels" and I COMPLETELY agree with that!

Marna Krajeski said...

A beautiful blog post! Military spouses are definitely "high functioning" individuals and, in my experience, the last ones to recognize how efficient and strong they are.

UncleSamWife said...

I held my tongue until the Navy told us for the 7th time (not even kidding!) that our BAH would be in the next paycheck...they were wrong,and they were up to 3grand in owing us...And I swore that my husband better get out of my way,because someone would be cleaning the flight deck with a toothbrush very soon :)

Hell hath no fury than screwing with a new military spouses' dependency of BAH.

Anonymous said...

i love this!!! absolutely love it! thank you so much for everything that you do, your article is my weekly breath of fresh air!! --anna clark, navy wife

Spouse Calls said...

Julie, As is often true, we are in the same mind, but you are a month ahead of me!
I'm about to use the "high heels" quote in a column, googled it to check out the attribution and came up with your blog!
This is a wonderful description ... a great post.
See ya in the funny pages, Stripes Sister!
Love,
Terri

Nicole said...

I just PCSed with 2 year old twins and a 3 year old. While my husband was sitting at the base in Germany doing the post deployment paperwork. We flew on for over 24 hours and changed planes three times. By the time we got here, we were exhausted.

Military wifes are a different breed.

Lovell said...

I am so happy i read this....just want I needed to keep me going