thejuliemeister

Musings from an unsuspecting navy wife


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Farewell Newport

It’s almost time for me to leave Newport, RI. My husband, Cameron, and I tried to generate a list of things we’ll miss about the town itself. It consisted of:

  • Being able to walk to most places
  • The architecture is nice
  • The neat characters in town, including bongo man, who plays the bongos poorly along to his boom box behind a purple metal grate, and lacrosse man, who wears all black spandex and twirls his lacrosse stick as though he was the town’s drum major

That was it. The first item can generally be found by looking at specific neighborhoods in any town. The second is endemic to the whole of New England. The last item wasn’t specific Newport either. Most small towns have their fair share of oddballs. For years, a man in Santa Cruz, CA walked up and down the main street dressed in all pink and smiling broadly at all passersby.

The list of items we won’t miss about Newport is too long to recount here. Suffice it to say that we’re ready for a bigger house and eternal summer in Hawaii.

There is something we will pine for after we leave though: our friends. Cameron and I have connected with some of the kindest, funniest, most caring and intelligent people here. We will undoubtedly miss them.

When I first got to Rhode Island, I had a little trouble making many friendships. Mary-Jaq was my first friend who I regularly spent time with, then Sally. But I knew with every bond I formed that there would be an eventual expiration date. I didn’t want to put too much energy into something ephemeral. I could only handle a few companions.

Then I met Tricia and Jessica. Jessica is the wife of one of Cameron’s best friends, and Tricia and I should have met years ago. She married my friend, Ben, but prior to that she and I ran in the same circle in Monterey before either of us were in the military family. We all clicked.

Suddenly I felt like I had a group. I felt involved. I felt cared for by people other than my husband in this town. I felt like I wanted to spend as much time with my friends as possible before they went on military moves, instead of feeling like I should keep my distance.

Unfortunately, they all PCS’d within a few months of each other. It looked like I was on the friendship dating market once again.

Spouse functions seemed like a good place to mingle. I went to a few, hoping to meet a few ladies. Every time I met someone who acted cool, I’d whip out my phone and request digits. Moments later I’d take this information and facebook stalk my new best friend to make sure she was really as awesome as I’d assumed. This tactic is now lovingly referred to as “forcing my friendship” by a few of my pals.

After months of forcing friendships, I began setting up lady lunches with new best friends. A lot of the spouses in Newport, RI, are unemployed. RI boasts an extremely high unemployment rate, and many spouses are only here for 6 months. It was the perfect recipe for midday hangouts.

The first big lady lunch made me realize that I liked these gals. We were all around the same age and we’re all in Rhode Island because of the Navy. That was enough to get the conversation started.

The group decided to do weekly lunches, and we’d attend as our schedules permitted. One of the early lunches, maybe the second or third, took place at Pour Judgment Bar and Grille. We still didn’t know each other particularly well, but we enjoyed the company. Every now and then there was a brief lull in conversation before a new topic was introduced.

I have no recollection of how this came up, or in what way it was pertinent to the conversation that day. All I know is that after a brief pause someone said she had a friend with two vaginas. Manners were forgotten as mouths fell open. Nobody quite knew how to respond.

Then one gal piped up: “Did you see it? I mean see them?”

Now we were laughing. The vaginas had not been verified by eye witness. The questions and speculations started pouring in.

“Does she have two uteruses? Is that a word?”

“If so, can she get pregnant once in each for pseudo twins?”

I casually mentioned a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread from a man with two penises.

“Those two are meant to be,” somebody responded. Everyone guffawed.

Somewhere amidst the questions and laughter, I realized that this was my group now. I had friends. I had friends who responded with inquisitiveness instead of disgust when medical anomalies were introduced to conversation. I’d had a few friends still in the area before the group started up, and we’re all still friends, and I still love them.   But the larger group made me feel like I had a safety net. It gave me my first inklings of what the extended military family can really mean.

I have male friends and Navy friends here too.  There are too many to name, and I am so grateful for that fact. They will all be missed. Every time one of my friends has left I’ve felt the void of their absence, and it is now just dawning on me that my departure may do the same for those still here.

My last lady lunch is drawing near. I’m not sure where we’ll go. (Ladies, I’m thinking this looks good:)

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In the last 6 months or so we’ve done high-end and low-end locations, and even had one violin concert potluck. I hope I can make friends in Hawaii who make me feel the same sense of community.

At times I’ve felt like Newport wasn’t worth it. Many people love it here, but in my core I’m not meant for New England.  I despise winter, and I can’t understand a Boston accent. (Excuse me, Baaaaahhhhhstaaahhhn.)  Even with these inconveniences, I’m glad we came.  The people I’ve connected with have made it one of the most memorable and fulfilling experiences of my life so far.

 

 

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How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?

My dad has a song for everything. I remember once watching “I love the 90’s” on VH1 when my dad walked into the room, changed the channel, and stated: “2000 zero zero party over, oops out of time.” I couldn’t even be mad. He’d partied like it’s 1999 to assert television dominance. Somewhere, Prince smiled.

Part of having a song for everything includes listening to obscure bands from bygone eras. He is, in fact, the original hipster. For a time when I was in high school my father worked from home, and occasionally I’d walk through the front door to music blaring from the turntable and my dad rocking out at the computer. That was how I was introduced to Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks, a Northern California band from the 70’s that still play in the area from time to time. We even saw them perform once.

“How can I miss you when you won’t go away” is a Dan Hicks classic song. When I left for college I bought a few Dan Hicks CD’s and this song was always a favorite that reminded me of home. In fact, I surprised my dad at my wedding by blaring this song during our daddy-daughter dance. We both laughed.  Here he is reacting to the song choice:

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But it was a bit sad, too. We all knew that my first military PCS would be two short months after the wedding. I’d never lived more than a car ride away from my closest friends and family. Now it was my turn to move 3,000 miles away.

Leaving my family has by far been the most difficult part of marrying a military man. Sometimes I’ll find myself on Google Earth looking down at my parent’s place and noting whether or not the red truck is in the driveway.

I used to visit every few weeks. My folks live just north of San Francisco in beautiful Marin County. It’s just a hop skip and a jump to the Carneros region with some of the world’s best wines. I felt a comfort there that can only come from feeling truly at home.

Now at least with technology it’s easier to stay in contact. We FaceTime on holidays, and we have a long-standing tradition of sending what we dub “neener-neener” pictures to tease each other like small children about whatever neat thing we’re up to. My mom, the other runner in our family, might send me a picture of herself holding a glass of bubbly wine at a picturesque winery. The same winery where as I child I had my first unexpected taste of sparkling water and in my disgust, and much to my mother’s horror, opened my mouth to let it dribble down my front. In response I might neener-neener back a view of the Atlantic coast from my run route.

In this case, all she needed to do to set off my jealousy was send a picture of champagne flutes:

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My dad sends me neener-neener pictures of him smoking a stogie while playing a new instrument. I’ve lost count of how many ukuleles he owns. I’ll send back an audio file of me playing classic rock. Every time I smell a cigar I think of him.

The one set of neener-neeners that always gets me are of my sister’s growing baby bump. I wish so much that I was there to see her grow. As kids, I begrudged my sister every glass of water she asked me to grab while I was up. Now I would happily get up of my own accord to get her anything, if only I could be there. I’ve yet to come up with anything I can neener-neener back.

At least I can see them all. 30 years ago if I wanted a progress report of my sister’s baby bump, or my dad’s ukes or my mom’s trips to wine country, they would have to use a film camera, wait for the photos to develop, then snail mail them across the country. Now I can get photos instantly or see them live when we talk, and for that I am grateful.

There’s a silver lining to the military lifestyle that I didn’t expect. All of the spouses that I meet are in the same boat. We’re all transplants trying to get along in new areas. We all have families elsewhere. I guess that’s where the military family comes in.

I have forged strong bonds with other spouses. I have been amazed by how women will rally to help each other. There’s a program to make meals for new moms, and there’s an unofficial support network to reach out to women (or men) while their spouse is gone. Last year Cameron had to be out of town for Valentine’s Day. I was bummed since it was our first married V-Day, and we hadn’t been in town very long. So my new friend Sally took me out to dinner to be my Valentine as her husband was also away. It made me feel cared for more than she knows. Little acts of caring are countless in the military family, and it helps to make me feel at home.

This year Cameron and I will move to the farthest reaches of the states to settle in Hawaii. I will still miss my family. That will never change, but I am glad to be able to see and speak with them easily. My mom has often told me that I can come home anytime I want while Cam is deployed, and I may. I may not need to though. From what I’ve seen and experienced spouses are good at banding together. I’m less anxious about this move because I know there will be a support network when I get there.

The past few years have been an amazing journey of growth and learning for me. I met the love of my life and went from a California hippie to a New England navy wife. I ran my first and second marathons and realized that I am stronger than I knew. I made friends that I truly love having in my life, even when they move half the world away. There have been numerous ups and downs, but even missing my fam, I’m actually happier now than I can ever recall.

I guess the Greatful Dead say it best, and I’m sure my singing father would approve:

Sometimes the light’s all shining on me

Other times I can barely see

Lately it occurs to me

What a long strange trip it’s been