Military family and the painful sound of tin foil. Memories that come flooding back.
Have you heard the painful sound of tin foil?
Well that’s an odd sentence.
In the spring of 2017 we moved to our current duty station. At the hotel on base they had a courtyard, and in the middle was a large covered playground.
Each morning we would take our two small children out to play, when one morning another women showed up. We chit chatted for a little bit and eventually exchanged Facebook information.
The next day our family moved out of TLF and into our new home off base, and that was that. But I knew this was my chance. My chance to make a new friend.
So being the odd individual that I am, I Facebook messaged her and invited them over for dinner at our new house.
Well that’s a stretch towards a normal conversation. The actual message I sent went more like this…
Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy
But we are hungry
Have dinner maybe?
No, I don’t know what’s wrong with me either, but she said yes!
The following day our families were enjoying hot pizza on the floor of our empty home.
And that was the beginning of our new military family.
Every birthday and holiday after that we celebrated together. Day trips were planned for pumpkin patches in the fall and we’d caravan to state parks to explore new hikes.
More friends were added to the group and before anyone knew it, we had 20 or 30 adults and children for Thanksgivings, Easters and the 4th of July.
We’d prepare so much food for every gathering that we’d end up having leftovers for days. Tin foil wrapped around every hot plate. Homemade mac and cheese, BBQ ribs, lumpia, rolls, tres leches cake, cookies and my boring strawberry feta salad.
Because someone needed to bring the veggies.
At Christmas the kids would have secret Santa while us adults did a white elephant exchange in the dinning room. Arguing about who did NOT want the salt shakers and throwing glitter wrapping paper at people gathered around the table.
The house was always filled with the sound of little feet running across the hardwood floor and the smell of fresh coffee percolating in the pot.
The laughter could be heard from the driveway as the big kids came in from playing outside…. Red noses and rosy cheeks from the cold.
Our girls would change into pajamas and we’d head home late in the evening. A silent car with two small children happily sleeping in the backseat.
Four years passed in a blink of an eye and then it was time to say goodbye.
But this goodbye was different.
This goodbye is their retirement.
They are going home!
Home, after 20 years of living away.
Home, after 20 Christmas’ across the country. Holidays with new friends and the occasional dinner in an empty house.
There is no optimistic hope that we’ll see them at our next duty station. But that’s ok, because they are going home.
A week after refusing to cry at their going away party, they were tagged in their first family gathering back home. The kids were playing with their cousins. Grandparents were chatting in rocking chairs and the counters were filled with hot plates covered in tin foil.
In that one photograph I could hear every Christmas, every Thanksgiving and every birthday with our military family. The tin foil being pulled off the hot plates, the kids laughing in the next room, the coffee in the pot….
And that one photo made it real. They were gone.
Friends don’t always come that fast or that easy, and I expect it’ll continue to get a tad more lonely as people leave here and head back home for retirement.
But how lucky we have been to have those late nights of laughter followed by silent sleepy car rides.
The next day I text her how hard that one photo hit…. And that from now on, for my sake, they were just going to have to use plastic wrap instead of tin foil.
We’ll see them again. But it won’t be because the military randomly places us near each other. It’ll be because we make the effort to keep in touch.
And we will. We’ll meet grandma in the rocking chair and the kids will play outside like not a day has passed. We’ll be welcomed with open arms and a counter full of hot plates covered in tin foil.
So repeat after me…
Hey, I just met you
And this is crazy…
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